No. 15 FSU looking for 4th straight win over No. 13 Florida
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, left, talks with Deondre Francois, right, in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State has had great success under Jimbo Fisher against in-state rivals Miami and Florida. So much in fact, that the 15th-ranked Seminoles are poised to enter unchartered territory.
If they can defeat the 13th-ranked Gators on Saturday, it would mark the first time FSU has defeated both Miami and Florida four straight years.
Fisher, who is in his seventh season, has a 16-1 record against in-state opponents, including 12-1 against the Gators and Seminoles.
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The importance that Florida State stresses on winning in state received some attention over the summer. Last year's Peach Bowl rings celebrated winning the mythical Sunshine State title.
“We put the goals in which we achieve on those rings, and that was one of the goals we achieved,” Fisher said. “The state of Florida is a dynamic football state. If you can play with Miami and Florida, you're usually in the national title hunt. It's always going to be important.”
With three losses, the Seminoles are left with two things to play for – the state championship and the program's fifth straight 10-win season. Florida though is headed to the SEC championship game after clinching the East Division.
The same scenarios were in play last year as the Seminoles posted a 27-2 victory. If FSU can win on Saturday it would mark only the third time in series history they have defeated UF four straight years and first time since 1990.
“We both recruited a bunch of the same guys, so there aren't a lot of secrets there,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said.
Both teams come into the game with plenty of momentum, especially on defense.
The Gators – who had a late goal-line stand to preserve a 16-10 win over LSU – are ranked third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 13.0 points per game, and fifth in total defense (262.1 yards per game).
Fisher said his biggest concern is containing Florida's front seven. The Gators though will be missing linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle), who leads the team in tackles with 56.
“The problem with these guys is you pick one guy to double-team, you're singled up with everyone else. You roll the dice,” Fisher said.
Florida State (8-3) has rolled to wins over Boston College and Syracuse by a combined score of 90-21 while limiting them to 379 total yards. The Seminoles lead the nation in sacks with 41 as defensive end DeMarcus Walker is second with 13.0.
Both teams head into the week with questions at safety. Florida's Nick Washington sprained his ankle against LSU and will not play on Saturday. McElwain said that freshman Chauncey Gardner Jr. could get the start. Two weeks ago safety Marcus Maye was lost due to a broken arm.
Florida State starting safety Tre Marshall is still nursing a bruised hip but Fisher was optimistic that he could play this week. However starting free safety A.J. Westbrook and backup Calvin Brewton are in concussion protocol and are questionable.
Both coaches are also looking to stop the other's running game. Florida's Jordan Scarlett has rushed for over 100 yards in three of his past five games, including 108 against LSU. Fisher said the one thing that concerns him about the sophomore is his power and change of direction.
Dalvin Cook set Florida State's career rushing record at Syracuse and has 4,166 yards in three seasons. The junior, who had 225 yards and four touchdowns last week, has rushed for over 100 yards the last two times he has faced the Gators.
“The big thing is, we've got to get people around the ball because he's going to make some guys miss and that's what makes him so special,” McElwain said.
This marks the 19th time since 1994 that both teams have met and are ranked in the top 15. Junior receiver Brandon Powell said he knows the bragging rights that are at stake.
“This game is like no other. Playing against guys you grew up with, you know, played against them in high school, they want to beat you just as much as you want to beat them so you know it's going to be an even game. I'm looking forward to this one,” he said.
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