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College Football Picks: Florida at Florida State Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 11/22/2012

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Gators running back Mike Gillislee

It’s really too bad that Florida State had such a sad nonconference schedule, or the No. 10 Noles might be where the No. 4 Florida Gators are in the BCS standings. Here is FSU’s nonconference schedule so far this year: Murray State, Savannah State and a vastly disappointing South Florida team. Do you realize that FSU played outside the state of Florida just three times all year? You can’t totally blame the schedule on Florida State as it was supposed to play West Virginia in Week 2 but the Mountaineers bought their way out and FSU had to fill in with FCS Savannah State. But that lousy schedule, plus the fact the ACC stinks outside of Clemson, means the computers hate Florida State – it has the No. 93 strength of schedule.

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As for Florida, its nonconference schedule was equally bad: Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette (which should have upset the Gators but lost on a miracle) and Jacksonville State. Like FSU, the Gators have only left the Sunshine State three times. But unlike the Noles, UF’s strength of schedule is No. 19. And that’s thanks, of course, to the ultra-tough SEC slate.FSU will be the fourth Top-10 team that Florida has faced. UF beat LSU and South Carolina but lost a slugfest with Georgia. The Gators haven’t beaten three Top-10 teams since 1997.

This is easily the biggest UF-FSU game in years. Florida can sneak in the backdoor of the National Championship Game – in Miami, so yet another in-state game! – with a win and help from Southern Cal on Saturday night against Notre Dame. That’s because certainly the Alabama-Georgia loser in the SEC Championship Game won’t stay ahead of UF in the polls even though Georgia won the head-to-head game. UF also will be big fans of Auburn (vs. Alabama) and Georgia Tech (vs. the Dawgs) this week.

There is no conceivable scenario that has FSU playing for the national title – boy does that blown 16-0 lead at NC State sting more now! The Seminoles will face Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, but they’d love nothing better than to knock UF out of a potential BCS bowl with a win.

Florida at Florida State Betting Storylines

Remember back in the Steve Spurrier/Bobby Bowden heyday when the Gators and Noles had some of the best offensive talent in college football and the teams went up and down the field? Yeah, those days are long gone. Now both are built defense-first.

UF is No. 1 nationally in pass-efficiency defense, No. 3 in scoring (11.73), No. 4 in total (281.0 yards per game) and No. 6 in rushing (95.18 ypg). FSU leads the nation in total (236.3) and rushing defense (70.64), third in pass efficiency, fifth in passing (165.64 ypg) and fifth in scoring (13.1 points per game).

Clearly the Gators defense will be by far the best that FSU has seen. According to Tallahassee.com, Maryland is the only Top 20 defense the Noles have faced. The rest ranked 33rd, 69th, 73rd, 83rd, 87th, 95th, 104th and 112th, respectively (FBS opponents only). For what it’s worth, FSU did put up 41 points and 397 yards on those Terps last week. Florida, meanwhile, has faced a defense similar to Florida State in LSU. The Gators won that one 14-6 in the Swamp but managed just 237 total yards, including 61 passing.

And it’s clear that Florida State has a way better offense. QB EJ Manuel ranks seventh nationally in rating, completing 68.8 percent of his passes for a career-high 2,785 yards with 21 scores and six picks. FSU also has two excellent running backs in Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. And the Noles might have the best kicker in the nation – these aren’t the “Wide Right days” – in Dustin Hopkins, the all-time leading scorer for kickers in FBS history. Florida State ranks seventh in the nation in averaging 42.9 ppg. FSU’s 7.27 average yards per play tops the country.

The Gators are very vanilla on offense, ranking No. 80 in scoring (25.8 ppg) and near the bottom nationally by averaging 143.4 passing yards a game. I suppose it’s still good news that starting QB Jeff Driskel will return Saturday. He missed last week’s game with a sprained ankle. Driskel has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 1,324 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions. Perhaps more important is his mobility as Driskel ranks second on the team with 424 rushing yards. (Few defenses sack the QB more than Florida State.) Most days, the UF offense is simply 5-11, 210-pound workhorse back Mike Gillislee. He was the UF offense in the LSU win with 146 yards on 34 carries.

Florida at Florida State Betting Odds and Trends

At BetOnline, FSU is an eight-point favorite with the total at 44. 5. UF is 6-5 ATS this season and 3-7 “over/under”. FSU is 3-7 ATS and 5-3-1 O/U.

Florida is 1-4 in its past five nonconference games. It is 2-10 in its past 12 games after an ATS loss. FSU is 1-6 ATS in its past seven after a win. The under is 6-0 in Florida’s past six nonconference games.  It is 9-1 in the Gators’ past 10 vs. the ACC. The under is 11-1 in FSU’s past 12 non-conference games. The under is 7-1 in the past eight meetings. UF is 2-6 ATS in its past eight in Tallahassee.

College Football Predictions: Florida at Florida State Picks

FSU has won two straight in this series, holding the Gators to a single touchdown in each. Expect a game similar to last year’s 21-7 Seminoles win in Gainesville. UF was held to 184 total yards, which was actually 89 more than Florida State! But the Gators had four turnovers. Driskel didn’t play in that game, while Manuel was 6-of-13 for 65 yards and was sacked four times. The Seminoles had seven first downs.

Clearly the FSU offense has improved by leaps and bounds from 2011, while UF’s is about the same. And while I think the Gators are a bit overrated, FSU hasn’t proven it can move the ball against an excellent defense. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher improves to 6-0 against UF and Miami, but take the Gators, the points and for sure the under.

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