Kim Klement/U.S. Presswire
Jon Bostic and the Florida defense will have to be top-notch against Florida State.The Florida Gators still have a (slim) chance of playing for the national title, but they'll have to beat a Florida State team that's better on defense than the Gators are on offense.
Let’s look at a few key stats related to this matchup, which starts Saturday at 3:30 ET on ABC.
What the Gators have to overcome
Florida will need to find a way to generate offense against a defense that, statistically, rates as the best in the nation. That could be trouble for a Gators squad that has not done much offensively this season.
Florida has exceeded 350 yards only once in the last five games, and scored just five offensive touchdowns in their last four games.
In the last five weeks, Florida has averaged 278.4 yards per game, the fourth-fewest in FBS. Last week, Florida managed just 356 yards against FCS school Jacksonville State.
The Gators have also allowed 32 sacks this season, and Florida State has been excellent up front. Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner have combined for 20 sacks -- that's tied for the most of any duo in FBS (with Arizona State’s Will Sutton and Carl Bradford).
Against Texas A&M and Georgia, the best two pass-rushing SEC teams Florida has faced this season, the Gators allowed 13 sacks and scored just two touchdowns.
Key for Florida: Effective tackling
Considering the Gators have scored only seven points in each of their last two meetings with the Seminoles, Florida’s best shot at winning may be to limit Florida State on the offensive side.
Our video review shows that the Gators have missed only 45 tackles this season, fewest among AQ schools and 11 fewer than any other SEC school.
Key stat for Florida’s defense: Limit QB E.J. Manuel's deep throws
Last season against Florida, E.J. Manuel did not complete any of his three passes thrown 20 yards or longer. It was one of three games last season in which Manuel did not have any completions on such passes.
EJ Manuel Throws of 20+ Yards
This season he's completed at least four passes thrown 20 yards or longer to four different players (Kenny Shaw, Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene, Rodney Smith), with all four catching at least one touchdown.
Florida has allowed 10 plays that have gained 25 yards or more, four fewer than any other FBS team. and the Gators are the only FBS team that has not allowed a rush that gained 25 yards or more.
Mackenzie Kraemer and Tobin Petipas contributed research to this piece.