Friday, November 23, 2012
Game preview: Florida vs. Florida State
By Michael DiRocco
No. 4 Florida (10-1) at No. 10 Florida State (10-1) Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla. ABC
Gators to watch
Mike Gillislee is nearing the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
RB Mike Gillislee: The senior needs just 36 yards to become the first Florida player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. He’ll certainly get his chance. The Gators are going to try and pound the football, similar to the way they did against LSU. The running game might not gain much early, but the hope is that the OL eventually wears down FSU’s DL and Gillislee will have more success in the fourth quarter. Gillislee hasn’t rushed for more than 100 yards against an FBS school since he had 146 against LSU on Oct. 6. He had a career-high 34 carries in that game and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t get at least 25 against FSU.
NT Omar Hunter: FSU is averaging about 100 yards more per game rushing this season than during 2011 and the Noles have run for at least 237 yards in two of their last three games (they had minus-15 vs. Virginia Tech). Stopping the running game starts with stopping up the middle of the line, and that’s Hunter’s job. The fifth-year senior is having his best season (36 tackles) and is a big part of the Gators’ success against the rush (95.2 yards per game, sixth nationally).
CB Marcus Roberson: Roberson has a tough job on Saturday because FSU’s top three receivers are a handful. They’re big, physical players -- especially Rodney Smith (6-foot-6, 219 pounds) and Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 242) -- and Roberson is not exactly the most physical corner. UF plays almost exclusively man coverage so he’ll match up with each of them and the Gators need him to keep them from making big plays down the field. Plus, he’ll likely return punts again this week. He did a good job last week of running up and making a fair catch in traffic to save the Gators yardage. He needs to do that against the Noles.
Seminoles to watch
RB Devonta Freeman: When Chris Thompson went down with a knee injury against Miami, Florida State turned to Freeman to be its feature back and he hasn’t disappointed. He has run for 247 yards and four touchdowns in the past three games, including 148 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland last week.
DE Cornellius Carradine: Not only does he lead the Seminoles in sacks (10.5), he also leads them in tackles (69). That’s pretty significant because the last time a defensive lineman led FSU in tackles was 1996 -- and it was All-American DE Reinard Wilson. Carradine also has a team-high eight QB hurries.
K Dustin Hopkins: He is the NCAA’s career leader in scoring by a kicker (448 points) and needs 23 more points to become the all-time leading overall scorer in FBS history. He has made 22 of 26 field goals attempts, which includes kicks of 51, 52 and 56 yards.
Reed is UF’s top receiver (40 catches) and pretty much the only reliable weapon in the passing game. He’s a matchup problem for defensive backs because of his size (6-foot-3, 243 pounds) combined with his speed and athletic ability. He’s not as physical a player as he could be and he tends to leap tacklers instead of taking them on. Joyner (5-8, 195) will have a size disadvantage dealing with Reed, but he’s a fantastic athlete (he averages 25.6 yards on 13 kickoff returns). He has picked off one pass and broken up four others to go along with 39 tackles.
By the numbers
1: Florida’s strength of schedule, as determined by the NCAA. FSU’s is 61st.
7: Times Florida State has rushed for 200 or more yards this season.
25: Percentage of third downs that FSU’s opponents convert. That leads the nation.