Down years don’t change the Florida-Florida State rivalry

If you’re a native Floridian you’ve uttered the phrase before. If you’ve visited Florida you’ve probably heard it more than once when rain clouds come rolling in out of nowhere on a nice afternoon.

“Welcome to Florida. If you don’t like the weather wait 15 minutes.”

It’s the nature of the Florida weather where it could be 80 degrees by 9:00 am. And then thundering and lighting before noon, only to be sunny again, although now humid, shortly after the rain began.

It’s apropos of the climate in with the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles will play under this Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. With both teams sitting at 4-6 it will be the first time the two teams have met with losing record since 1959. That, by the way, was the second time the schools had ever met on the football field.

Florida won’t go to a bowl game this season. A win Saturday wouldn’t get them to the six necessary for bowl eligibility and Florida won’t reschedule its game with Northern Colorado, one that was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. Florida State is also on a quest for bowl eligibility, but the Noles have already rescheduled their game that was cancelled by Irma. They’re trying to extend an active streak of 40-consecutive winning seasons and 35-consecutive bowl bids. FSU would have to win out, which means Florida has the chance to play spoiler this weekend.

It’s a long fall from where this series once was. Since the nineties the Florida-Florida State game, played every Saturday after Thanksgiving, has had serious implications — National Title implications.

The fact that both teams are limping into this weekend’s matchup doesn’t hinder from the rivalry. Try telling that to Brandon Powell and Duke Dawson, two seniors who are 0-3 against Florida State in their careers. Growing up in Deerfield Beach Brandon Powell wore Garnett and Gold and watched every FSU game. He came to Florida but has felt the sting of defeat to his childhood favorite team three times. He can’t fathom leaving college without feeling what it’s like to walk off the field smiling while the Noles retreat, heads down, to their locker room.

“That would mean everything,” Powell said of beating Florida State. “This game, Florida State, to beat them. It would mean everything to me.”

Don’t tell Randy Shannon that this game doesn’t mean anything. Shannon is getting his first opportunity since to run a football program in seven years. This will be the 25th game he’s either played in or coached in against Florida State. That’s a long history in the rivalry and he has a 14-10 record to uphold.

“This is a rivalry game. This is a state game. These teams always challenge each other no matter what. So no matter what the record is and what the talent level is on both sides of the football it’s going to be a very hard, physical game that you want to be a part of,” he said. “And the fans will be here. The Florida State fans will sneak into the stadium, they’ll have their fans here. So it will good. It will be good.”

There are no National Championships on the line. Florida’s season will end on Saturday, while the Noles will play Louisiana-Monroe in a makeup game on Championship Saturday.

For the most part Florida fans are more concerned with who will be the coach next season than what will happen this weekend. Florida State fans have complained about Jimbo Fisher, but may be second-guessing those complaints now that Fisher’s name is surfacing on the coaching carousel.

Those things may be more important in the long run but the long, storied rivalry deserves your attention this Saturday. It means more than you know to the guys who participate in the game. Guys that grew up together playing Pee Wee Football throughout the state will line up and go toe-to-toe with bragging rights on the line that they’ll bring up when they’re old and grey and are telling their grandchildren about how they “beat the Noles” or “never lost to those Gators.”

There may not be a National Championship on the line. The seasons of both universities went off the rails months ago but for three hours on Saturday that doesn’t matter.

It’s Florida-Florida State.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC