Florida vs Florida State : The Florida Gators are 8-3 in Dan Mullen’s first year as head coach. Although there’s been some bad losses, the season should be counted as a success so far. Doubling the win total and knocking off a top-10 LSU team all contribute. That could all mean nothing however,
if the Gators don’t beat Florida State. FSU has won the last 5 matchups and have won most of them by a decisive margin. Florida is seeking to establish a foothold in the perennial power struggle of the state of Florida, but if they can’t beat the Seminoles it will become increasingly more difficult. No. 11 Florida travels to Florida State in a non-conference college football 2018 game at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida, on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. Central, noon Eastern, with the game to be broadcast live on ESPN. Florida is a 6.5-point favorite, according to Vegas Insider.
Florida is 8-3 this season, while Florida State is 5-6. The Seminoles have beaten the Gators five straight years, including 38-22 last season in Gainesville.
C’yontai Lewis’ losing streak to Florida State feels even longer than it actually is.
Not only has the Florida tight end lost all four games to the Seminoles during his college career, but the fifth-year senior was part of another setback in 2013. Lewis was on his official visit to Florida that year and witnessed the program’s worst defeat (37-7) to rival FSU since 1988.
So Lewis is essentially 0-5 against the ‘Noles.
“It’s the biggest game of the year,” he said. “I’ve just got to get a win against them. … I’ve just got to get that win, get the streak going. After we beat them this year, it’s never going to end.”
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Florida’s five-game losing streak is its longest in series history. The Gators need to end the slide Saturday in Tallahassee to remain in contention for a New Year’s Six bowl — a potential trip to the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.
“We got a great feeling about this game,” linebacker David Reese said. “We just want to get that feeling out our mouth, the losing feeling, the record, all that. You know we hear it, but it’s in the background. But we do hear it and we want to change that.”
The Gators (8-3, No. 13 CFP) have been outscored 157-63 during the streak, losing by an average score of 31-13.
First-year Florida coach Dan Mullen playfully noted that he won all four meetings against FSU during his time as offensive coordinator (2005-09). Florida actually won six straight back then, but the ‘Noles has dominated since by winning seven of eight.
“It’s huge,” Mullen said. “Every year it’s huge. You get in these games you’re talking about, right, you’re talking in-state rivalries, you’re talking a lot of neighbors against neighbors. You go to the grocery store you want to have bragging rights over your neighbors for the year. To get that win, it gives all of the Gator Nation the bragging rights over all of State’s fans.”
There’s more than bragging rights at stake, too.
Florida likely would lock up a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl with a win, capping an impressive turnaround after last season’s 4-7 debacle. They also have a chance to end the nation’s bowl streak. Florida State (5-6) has made 36 straight.
“That’d be great,” Mullen said, smiling. “I’d love to do it. That’s what rivalry games are all about, right?”
The Seminoles haven’t missed a bowl since 1981 — early in coach Bobby Bowden’s tenure.
“It’s very important,” first-year FSU coach Willie Taggart said. “We’re a prideful university. We pride ourselves on winning and you think about the streak, that’s winning. We have been winning every year. So it’s very important that we go out and give our fans, our alumni, our former players and coaches that have been here and our current players and coaches everything we can to see that we get this victory and keep it going.
“That’s important to us and we know what is at stake and we got to go take care of business.”
Florida opened as a four-point favorite — the first time since 2009 the Seminoles have been underdogs against the Gators.
Since that one, Florida has lost to FSU at home, on the road, on senior day and with postseason positioning on the line. It’s been so one-sided of late that Mullen doesn’t have any players on his roster who have experienced a victory against the Seminoles.
“In rivalry games, those are things that you don’t like,” he said. “If you’re on the winning side of it, it’s great to be on a long winning streak in rivalry games. If you’re on the losing side, it doesn’t feel good for you or your fans. So we have to try to start a new streak.”