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Monday, November 19, 2012
Breaking down UF-FSU matchups

By Michael DiRocco and David Hale

GatorNation's Michael DiRocco and NoleNation's David Hale break down Saturday's Florida-Florida State game in Tallahassee, Fla.:

UF offense vs. FSU defense

Florida: The Gators have really struggled to move the ball during the second half of the season, especially through the air. Teams are stacking the box and concentrating on stopping RB Mike Gillislee (964 yards, 8 TDs). The pass protection has been inconsistent and the receivers, other than TE Jordan Reed, have trouble separating. UF isn’t able to mount more than one or two sustained drives against good defenses.

Florida State: The numbers speak volumes for Florida State's defense, which ranks among the nation's best for the second straight season. It starts with defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine, the most prolific pass-rush duo in the country. But from the powerful interior line to a strong secondary, there are few weaknesses. The Seminoles rank first nationally in total defense, fifth in scoring defense, first against the run and fifth against the pass.

Edge: Florida State

FSU offense vs. UF defense

Florida: The Gators rank third nationally in scoring defense (11.7 ppg) and fourth nationally in overall defense (281 ypg). The unit has excelled at forcing turnovers, too. They’ve taken it away 24 times (10 more than last season), including 16 interceptions. The unit’s strength is the secondary, especially at safety with Josh Evans (74 tackles, two INTs) and Matt Elam (58 tackles, three INTs), both of whom are having career years.

Florida State: It's tough to know exactly what to make of FSU's offense, which has dominated weak competition but struggled at times against the likes of NC State and Virginia Tech. Florida will be by far the toughest challenge of the season for EJ Manuel and the Seminoles, who have averaged 54 points per game at home this season -- the second-highest mark in the country. The key will be finding some success on the ground. FSU was stuffed against Virginia Tech, but ran wild against Maryland last week.

Edge: Florida

Special teams

Florida: P Kyle Christy and K Caleb Sturgis are semifinalists for the Ray Guy and Lou Groza awards, respectively. Christy has been a huge field-position weapon and he has 24 punts of 50 or more yards. The coverage units have been solid and UF has blocked four kicks, including a punt in the final seconds to beat Louisiana-Lafayette. The only negative has been a lack of big plays in the return game.

Florida State: There have been a number of highlights for FSU on special teams, led by Dustin Hopkins, the NCAA career leader in scoring among kickers. But for all the big plays by return men Lamarcus Joyner and Rashad Greene, there have been troubles, too. FSU has five fumbles from its punt returners this year, and punter Cason Beatty has averaged just 35.9 yards per punt this season -- the fourth-worst average in the country.

Edge: Florida

UF's Will Muschamp vs. FSU's Jimbo Fisher

Muschamp: Will Muschamp has guided the Gators to a 10-1 record and posted victories over three teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings despite an inexperienced quarterback and the struggles on offense. UF also still has an outside shot at making the national title game if it can beat FSU. The only negative on his resume so far is that he’s winless against UF’s biggest rivals: 0-3 against Georgia and FSU.

Florida State: Jimbo Fisher has had his share of critics during his first three years as the head coach at FSU, but the one thing he's had going for him is immense success against the Seminoles' rivals. Fisher has beaten Florida in each of the past two seasons, and after spending the bulk of this year hearing the talk about FSU's weak schedule he'll no doubt have something up his sleeve in hopes of proving some of the doubters wrong by thumping a top-10 SEC foe.

Edge: Florida State

Key individual matchup: Florida OT Chaz Green vs. FSU DE Bjoern Werner

Florida: The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Green suffered is nursing an ankle injury but is expected to play. He has been solid in the run game, but has struggled somewhat in pass protection, especially against quicker rushers. The Gators helped him out against elite pass rushers Jarvis Jones and Jadaveon Clowney by chipping, but he has handled them one-on-one at times.

Florida State: It's the pass rush that sets everything else in motion for FSU's defense, and speedy and athletic Werner is among the best in the nation. He's among the ACC leaders in sacks and TFLs, and he and fellow defensive end Cornellius Carradine have combined for 20 sacks this season -- the most prolific mark for any pair of teammates in the country. But it's not just about getting to the quarterback for Werner, who has managed to rack up seven pass breakups and seven passes defended this year, too.

Edge: Florida State