Through 11 games, Florida State has had a renaissance under third-year coach Mike Norvell, but all of that will be tempered if the No. 16 Seminoles fail to do their job on their home turf on Black Friday.
Their mission: Beat the University of Florida.
On a rare Friday evening matchup on rivalry weekend, the Seminoles will host the Gators in Tallahassee, Fla., in the 66th meeting between the schools.
Following Saturday’s 49-17 walloping of Louisiana, Florida State (8-3) sits with a chance at a nine-win regular season, which would be its first since 2016 — an improvement that represents a major upturn in the program.
After Norvell started his tenure in the state capital with a dismal 3-10 mark in 2020 into the first four games of 2021, the former Memphis coach and his Seminoles have won 13 of the past 19. They finished 5-3 in the ACC’s Atlantic Division this season, trailing only 8-0 Clemson.
Across their last four contests against Georgia Tech, Miami, Syracuse and Louisiana, FSU has won the scoring battle 173-39.
Despite the Gators (6-5) being inconsistent in 2022 — beating then-No. 7 Utah in the season opener and losing last week to SEC East Division doormat Vanderbilt — Norvell sees a dangerous squad under first-year coach Billy Napier.
“You see talent, this is a talented team,” said Norvell, whose group has won four straight games on two occasions. “Great size, speed, athleticism. You’ve seen them play at very high levels at different spots of the year.
“They’re in the first year of a new staff, new schemes, different things like that. It’s a talented group we’re playing.”
Napier opined that hitting on all cylinders isn’t happening on a regular basis — in Gainesville or anywhere else.
“I think we live in a time where you just see a lot of inconsistency,” he said Monday.
The Gators lead the all-time series 37-26-2, but that inconsistency was out in full force in Nashville, Tenn., last weekend. Napier’s club did the nearly unthinkable in its SEC finale: Losing to the one foe it consistently defeats.
In a mistake-filled showing against Vanderbilt, the Gators dropped a 31-24 decision after trailing almost the entire game, once by as many as 16 points.
The Commodores recovered a muffed punt for a score late in the first half. They then received three touchdown passes from Mike Wright for a 28-12 third-quarter lead that Florida could never equal, much less overcome.
In the Music City, the Gators authored a teary gridiron ballad in front of mostly their fans who had traveled to see an easy win.
They committed 80 yards in penalties, went 4-for-15 on third downs and rushed for 45 yards in losing on the road against the Commodores for the first time since 1988 — ending a 15-game winning streak.
Said Napier after the ugly showing: “It’s a setback, no question … I saw a lot of Florida beating Florida.”
The Gators will be without Ventrell Miller (targeting) for the first half against Florida State. Two of their top wide receivers, Xzavier Henderson and Ricky Pearsall, are questionable to play.
–Field Level Media
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