Remember when Florida-FSU was something that would spike the adrenalin.
At stake was a top-5 ranking in the bad years and a possible national title in good ones.
Now it’s the salvation bowl.
Win and you avoid embarrassment.
That’s what Florida State will take home with its 21-7 victory over the Gators on Saturday night in the Swamp.
The Seminoles finish the regular season 8-4 and 5-3 in a very mediocre Atlantic Coast Conference.
They beat a wounded Florida team that couldn’t get out of its own way.
“I know it’s a frustrating time to be a Gator and I know patience is a bad word, but you have to be realistic,” Florida head coach Will Muschamp said. “We had 15 freshmen and sophomores starting, which is more than anybody in the league (SEC), but you’ve got to gain depth. We are too thin on the line of scrimmage.”
FSU has its own demons. It suffered a 14-13 meltdown to Virginia last week that ended a five-game losing streak, and its secondary was torched for eight touchdowns without an interception in losses to Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia. They allowed 31 sacks coming into the game.
FSU was ranked fifth early in the season and felt if it got by Oklahoma the biggest hurdle would be Florida.
“Oh My” as Gators longtime announcer Mic Huber would said.
Then there is the team that occupies The Swamp. Florida can feel some solace because it is considered a lock for the Gator Bowl.
That’s probably good because it means the Gators will get an extra month of practice. It’s probably bad because we can only take so much.
“If you can’t run the ball inside you are going to struggle,” Muschamp said. “I told our guys we were not physical enough and I’ve said that before. But you can’t put your finger on one thing. We have made some improvements, but obviously it was not enough.”
Does the NCAA have a do-over rule?
If so, Muschamp should get the paper ork in.
The Gators’ season could qualify for a remake due to extenuating circumstances and probably make a best-selling novel.
The Gators’ season began with doubt, rose to great expectations and then sunk to despair.
It would be easy to blame the disappointment on all on the misfortunes of quarterback John Brantley, but the senior lost his “what-if savior” status when he threw three interceptions in the first half that FSU turned into 14 points.
Muschamp says he is not the problem. The lack of physicality is the issue.
“If you go back and look at first four games, we were a perimeter run team and had an edge in speed, but you can’t run laterally in this league,” he said. “The defenses are too good. We have tried to run the ball inside and haven’t had much success.”
The Noles came into the game with just one interception by a cornerback and had three in the first half. Brantley had thrown three interceptions all season and hadn’t been picked off in four games.
But this is the Gators. They have the worst turnover margin in the SEC and are ranked 108th in the country.
Brantley was knocked of the game in the second quarter with concussion-like symptoms and then we saw that his value was not really what he could do, but what his presence on the field could prevent.
His replacement, true freshman Jacoby Brissett, threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Brissett may be a great one someday, but his time is not now.
When Brantley went out the Gators tried to run the ball with diminutive backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps taking on an FSU defense that ranked third in the country in rushing defense and was allowing a measly 2.38 yards per carry.
Here is what FSU beat!
It defeated a Florida team (6-6) that lost to all five ranked opponents it faced this year and had not beaten an FBS team with a .500 record or better.
The Gators offense needs an overhaul. Their defensive front four has been a big disappointment and their secondary is small and inexperienced.
FSU can celebrate because it hadn’t won at Florida Field since 2003, which marked the last time the Gators lost on Senior Day.
Coming into this game, Brantley was the healthiest he has been all season since he injured his ankle against Alabama.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at (941) 745-2112.