In their respective regular season finales, the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles both find themselves at 10-1, ranked in the top 10 of the BCS and have outside chances of making it to Miami for the national championship.
Florida State, which has faced only one top-25 team this season in Clemson, is scoring almost 30 more points than its opponents this season. The Seminoles boast the No. 1 defense in the country and have the No. 14 overall offense in the country.
Comparatively, Florida has beaten three teams in the top 12 of the BCS and owns the No. 4 overall defense. The Gators also have the top punter/kicker duo in the country, but are a staggering 106th overall in total offense.
However, Florida currently has the 10th toughest schedule in the country, compared to Florida State’s 61st ranked schedule.
In order to analyze how the teams will compete on Saturday, a statistical analysis is due.
As noted, Florida State has a potent offense and defense. The Seminoles are scoring nearly 43 points a game with a season high of 69 points against Murray State and a season low of 16 in their sole loss to North Carolina State. On defense, the Seminoles are only giving up on 13.1 points per game with a season high of 37 against Clemson and two shutouts against Savannah State and Wake Forest.
On the other hand, the Gators have struggled on offense, especially recently, but have a top-5 defense that has helped them to their top ranking. On offense, the Gators are scoring 25.8 points per game (80th in the country), with a season high of 44 against South Carolina and a season low of 9 against Georgia. On defense, the Gators are only giving up 11.7 points per game (third in the country), allowing a season high of 20 points (Tennessee, Louisiana-Lafayette) and a season low of 0 (Kentucky).
Continuing with the motif of offensive struggles with Florida, the Gators are only converting 17.1 first downs per game — good for 113th in the country. The Gators have converted 188 total first downs with 106 coming on rushes, 66 on passes and 16 via penalty. Florida State, however, ranks 30th in the country with 23.4 first downs per game. The Seminoles had a total of 257 first downs on the season with 117 coming via the rushing attack, 130 through the air and 10 by penalty.
Both Florida and Florida State have healthy running attacks with solid running backs and mobile quarterbacks. Currently, Florida State ranks 24th in the country with a 212.1 yards per game average and a 5.6 rushing attempt average. The Seminoles’ leading rushers are Chris Thompson (out for season) and Davonta Freeman. Florida, which relies on the ground game for much of its offense, rushes for 189.6 yards per game with a 4.51 rushing attempt average. Florida’s top rushers are Mike Gillislee and Jeff Driskel.
There are still question marks about the quarterback position for the Gators after starting quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered an ankle injury against Louisiana-Lafayette. Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel, who will play Saturday, is 125-for-193 passing on the season (64.8%) for 1324 yards (6.9 yards per attempt) with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Backup Jacoby Brissett, who started against Bowling Green and Jacksonville State, is 23-for-35 passing (65.7%) for 249 yards (7.1 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and 0 interceptions. Running the ball, Jeff Driskel has 97 rushes for 424 yards for 4.4 yards per carry with four touchdowns. Brissett on the other hand has seven rushes for minus-4 yards per carry for a minus-0.6 average carry and has one touchdown on the season.
Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel has been the starter all season and is currently putting up great numbers. The Seminoles signal caller is 203-for-295 passing (68.8%) for 2785 yards (9.4 yards per attempt) with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. On the ground, Manuel has 75 rushes for 181 yards and a 2.4 yards per carry average. He has one touchdown per game and is asked to rush nearly seven times per game.
Big Play Ability
Both Florida and Florida State rely heavily on long scrimmage plays and big plays that allow them to utilize their incredible playmakers. Florida State has had 31 plays for 30 or more yards, including four plays that have gone for at least 70 yards. The Seminoles’ 194 plays that have gone longer than 10 yards ranks 11th in the country.
Florida, however, ranks 98th with 133 plays longer than 10 yards, including 22 for more than 30 yards and three for 70 yards or more yards.
Turnover margin is one of the most important statistics for successful teams. The Gators, who were minus-25 last season in turnover margin, rank eighth in the country this year with a turnover margin of plus-13. Florida has forced eight fumbles and 16 interceptions. The Gators fumbled eight times and have only thrown three interceptions, which is ranked for fifth fewest in the country.
Florida State, however, has not been quite as “ball-hawking” as it ranks 66th in the country with a turnover margin of minus-1. The Seminoles have recovered nine fumbles and have caused eight interceptions. On offense, they have put the ball on the ground 12 times, 98th fewest in the country, and only have six interceptions.
If there is one decisive advantage the Gators have over the Seminoles it is in punting and flipping the field. Florida sophomore Kyle Christy, a Ray Guy finalist, ranks fourth in the country with a 46.3 yards per punt average on a 5.3 punts per game average. However, Florida State ranks 121st in punting in the country with freshman Cason Beatty averaging only 37.6 yards per punt. If there is a silver lining, Florida State is only punting 3.1 times per game — ranked for the 13th fewest per game in the FBS.
While the statistics seem to favor FSU in most categories, the level of competition is something that be debated and, ultimately, we will find out on Nov. 24 on Ron Zook Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.