No. 11 Gators look to end home loss skid to Seminoles

NCAA Football

Florida playing Florida State always stokes talk of the game’s recruiting effect.

“I don’t ever know if it has much of a recruiting effect, to be perfectly honest with you,” Gators coach Dan Mullen said Tuesday. “Certainly, the ‘taste in your mouth effect’ is huge.”

That taste, as well as pride and intrastate bragging rights, will be on the line again Saturday night, when the Seminoles visit the 11th-ranked Gators in Gainesville, Fla.

Florida (9-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) will be trying to finish unbeaten at home and strengthen its case for a top bowl appearance. The Gators are 5-0 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The Seminoles (6-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) are bowl eligible despite the firing of head coach Willie Taggart at the beginning of the month. Florida State is 2-0, with wins against Boston College and Alabama State, under interim head coach Odell Haggins.

Haggins, a longtime Florida State assistant, also played against Florida as a Seminoles star nose tackle in the late 1980s.

“The things I remember is a very intense football game,” Haggins said of the rivalry. “You better be ready to play because both sides gonna be ready.”

Florida State has won four consecutive games at The Swamp. Florida’s last win over the Seminoles there was 2009, when Tim Tebow threw three scoring passes in the 37-10 victory.

This time, the Gators will be led by Kyle Trask, who has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,293 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. He replaced fellow redshirt junior Feleipe Franks after the latter suffered a season-ending ankle injury in a Sept. 14 win at Kentucky.

Trask this week addressed talk he might bolt for next year’s NFL Draft.

“I still have a whole ‘nother year here, so I don’t plan on leaving,” he said.

Florida State’s quarterback situation is less set. For the first time in several weeks, fifth-year senior Alex Hornibrook and redshirt sophomore James Blackman both are expected to be healthy and available.

Blackman has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 1,945 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He started the last two games, both victories. Hornibrook has completed 68.9 percent for 986 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.

“We’re going to find out who’s playing the best in practice. That’s who is going to play,” Haggins said when asked about the starter. “(Offensive coordinator) Kendal (Briles) and myself, we get together and talk about the situations on offense that we need to talk about.”

The teams are Nos. 59 and 60 nationally in total offense. Florida State is averaging 417.1 yards per game and Florida 416.5. The Gators are 19th (292.3 yards per game) in passing offense and the Seminoles are 30th (277.5). Each team averages less than 140 rushing yards.

With both teams dependent on aerial offenses, Florida State’s ability to defend the pass could go a long way in determining the outcome. The Seminoles’ pass defense is ranked No. 114 (273.8 YPG).

Overall, Florida is ranked No. 12 (303.5 YPG) and Florida State 96th (433.2) in total defense. The Gators are 23rd (193.0) against the pass.

Each head coach said his team was relatively healthy. Mullen said defensive end Jabari Zuniga (ankle) was cleared to play, and linebacker Amari Burney (knee) “might be available.” Haggins said running back Cam Akers (undisclosed injury) and center Andrew Boselli (ankle) would return.

The Gators won last year’s meeting 41-14 at Tallahassee, Fla.

–Field Level Media

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