The Florida Gators are playing for bragging rights against the Florida State Seminoles. That is the most important aspect of this Saturday’s night game in The Swamp. Doing the Gator chomp against the team Steve Spurrier wickedly called the “Semis” is always immensely satisfying, but the Gators have to win first.
By Matt Zemek
Beyond the emotional fulfillment of winning a rivalry game, however, the Gators are playing for something very specific on Saturday: Yes, a 10-win regular season, but more than that, Florida is playing for a New Year’s Six bowl. If the Gators win, they will be a lock for that prize. If they lose, they would be in real jeopardy of missing out. Being able to make an NY6 game for the second straight year despite a very limited quarterback situation would represent a manifestation of Dan Mullen’s coaching skill.
Yes, we can discuss Mullen’s inability to land a top-tier quarterback and jawdropping talent befitting the Florida football program, but that is a separate conversation for another time. Going 10-2 with Kyle Trask handling most of the snaps would be a terrific achievement. Let’s see what Florida needs to do to attain that feat:
1 – The basics
Many games require a team to do something extra, to go above and beyond. In this game, Florida State is the team which has to punch above its weight and do remarkable things in order to win. Florida is the team which just has to take care of the basics in order to prevail. When two teams or athletes play their best, who is better? When that question is hard to answer or litigate, special plays need to enter the equation on both sides. However, when that question is easy to answer – it is plainly true that Florida’s best football is better than FSU’s best – the superior side just needs to make routine plays consistently.
Florida doesn’t need spectacular plays. It needs to avoid spectacular mistakes. If the turnover differential is even, and the penalties are even, and if the bad lapses (such as a busted coverage or a missed tackle in open space) are even, Florida wins. The Gators have to commit more large-scale mistakes for FSU to have a real chance. Focus on the basics and lock them down.
2 – Cam Akers
Don’t let the opponent’s best offensive player beat you. This is who – and what – Akers is within the Florida State offense. Take him away and force someone else to win this game for the Seminoles. Don’t overthink this.
3 – First down
If Florida can rush for four yards or throw for six on first down in this game, Kyle Trask will be on schedule. He will consistently face manageable down-and-distance situations which will enable Florida to maintain a smooth tempo on offense and give Dan Mullen all the flexibility he needs with his line of attack against the Florida State defense. Some games magnify the importance of third down. This game magnifies the importance of first down.