Florida State vs Florida Prediction: NCAAF Bettors Debate Friday’s Point Spread
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Florida State vs Florida
I know it’s been a tough ending to the year for the Gators, but 10 points? After Florida has won three straight games against its in-state rival? And with Anthony Richardson still under center for the Gators?
I don’t know, but this line smells fishy.
Richardson’s dual-threat ability should create enough yards to keep up with his rival. The Seminoles are not an excellent rush defense, ranking outside the top 50 in Rush EPA per play allowed and outside the top 75 in Rush Success Rate allowed.
The Noles faced Malik Cunningham earlier this season and allowed the Louisville dual-threat to pick up 127 rush yards and two scores on 17 carries (7.5 YPC).
And Florida still has Montrell Johnson (742 rush yards, 5.8 YPC) and Trevor Etienne (576 rush yards, 6.2 YPC) to fall back on, not to mention an offensive line that ranks top-35 in Line Yards.
That’s all Florida has needed to go 4-0 against the spread as an underdog this season. The Gators have produced letdowns in plenty of other spots this season, but they’ve all been laying points.
Plus, you must think Florida State is in for a letdown. They’ve played an uninspiring gauntlet over the last month, beating Louisiana, Georgia Tech, Miami and Syracuse.
I’m expecting a much-more inspired effort from Florida against its rival, especially after last week’s disgusting effort against Vanderbilt. That should be enough to cover this monster spread.
It has really flown under the radar what an excellent job Mike Norvell has done in his third season at Florida State.
After taking over during the 2020 pandemic season and having quarterback issues last year, the Seminoles are sitting at 8-3 and having their best season since 2016.
After Jordan Travis took over as the full-time quarterback last season, Florida State went 5-2 in his starts. With a full offseason as the guy, he has taken a massive step forward this year. Pro Football Focus gives Travis the fourth-best grade of any quarterback in the country.
He has tossed 21 touchdowns to just four interceptions and is second in the ACC with a 65.3% completion percentage. He is dangerous with his legs too, averaging 53.5 yards per game with seven touchdowns on the ground.
For all the hype that Anthony Richardson received after one game, Travis is the better quarterback in this game. Richardson is completing just 55% of his passes with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His 12 turnover-worthy plays are twice as many as Travis has.
For all the talk about his athleticism, Richardson averages just two rushing yards per game more than Travis. The Florida offense is just 70th in the country in Success Rate. It’s 69th in rushing and 79th in passing — and that is the side of the ball the Gators are best at.
The one area Florida has had any success is with explosiveness. Well the Florida State defense is 11th in the country at defending explosiveness. The Noles are especially good at taking away big plays on the ground.
Safety Jammie Robinson is an elite tackler and has the third highest tackling grade among all safeties, and 10th among all defenders in the nation. He won’t let this explosive Gators offense get behind him, which is the only way they’ve been able to have success moving the ball.
Florida State has dropped three straight meetings of the Sunshine Showdown and is now a nine-point favorite against the Gators. That should indicate how much better this Seminoles team is than Florida.
McGrath: Travis is having a good year but has slowed down considerably. He’s posted his worst three PFF per-game grades over the last three weeks, making one big-time throw to three turnover-worthy plays during that period.
Again, those three games came against Louisiana, Syracuse and Miami. None of those three teams are world-beaters, specifically on defense.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Travis struggle against Florida’s pressure. The Gator defense is weak but is still a top-40 unit in PFF’s pass rush grades.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles weakness is blocking for Travis. The ‘Noles are 71st in PFF’s Pass Blocking grades and 64th in preventing Havoc. And Travis isn’t that great when pressured, as his adjusted completion percentage drops 20 points when he’s not kept clean.
Among quarterbacks with at least 35 dropbacks under pressure, Travis falls to 43rd in PFF’s passing grades. He’s made four big-time throws to three turnover-worthy plays in those dropbacks, and his YPA drops under 7.0.
I don’t see the Noles getting past a double-digit spread with Travis throwing under pressure.
Meanwhile, Florida should produce enough offense on the ground with or without explosive run plays. Sure, the Gators were stifled last week against Vandy, but they rushed for a whopping 665 yards against Texas A&M and South Carolina.
The Gators are fifth in Rush EPA per play against a lackadaisical rush defense.
Schematically, this game sets up well for Florida. I don’t know if the Gators have the talent to win, but I highly doubt this one gets out of Billy Napier’s hands, especially when they can just run the clock out and keep crooked numbers off the scoreboard.
Ianniello: Florida does have a pair of solid running backs and should be able to move the ball on the ground here. But it’s going to have to do so with slow methodical drives.
The Seminoles are 16th in the country at preventing rushing explosiveness. They have allowed just seven rushes of at least 20 yards all season, and only 10 teams have allowed fewer.
While the Gators are capable of running the ball, they aren’t perfect. And when they do get stopped on early downs, it spells trouble. Florida State ranks 41st in Success Rate on passing downs, and the Gators aren’t going to be able to throw the ball at all.
They rank just 79th in the country in passing success and things will be even more difficult on Saturday. Florida’s leader in catches, Xzavier Henderson, is out. Their leader second-leading receiver Justin Shorter, also out. Third-leading receiver Ricky Pearsall is questionable. Tight end Keon Zipperer is questionable.
Every receiver with at least 10 catches this season is on the injury report for Florida. That’s going to force the Gators to be even more one-dimensional than they already are and let the Seminoles stack the box a little more.
Louisville ran well against Florida State’s defense, but that was in Week 3, and the Noles has a ton of injury issues. Since that game, they have allowed just 129 yards per game, and no team has averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry.
Florida State has allowed just nine total rushing touchdowns all season, 15th-best in the country. Since that Louisville game in Week 3, it’s surrendered just five total in the last eight games. Even in Florida can move the ball on the ground, it’ll have trouble rushing it in.
McGrath: Do you think I’m angry about slow, methodical drives? I’m betting on a 10-point favorite for crying out loud.
That’s exactly what I want! And I think Florida State will let Napier do just that.
Florida hopefully uses Richardson in more designed runs or option sets, which should give Florida State fits on defense.
And will Florida have issues putting the ball in the end zone? Florida State is 93rd in Finishing Drives on defense and 75th in red-zone scoring percentage allowed.
The Seminoles’ defense is good, but I disagree with your analysis and think the above might be the weakest area on the team. And we know that Finishing Drives is the stat most correlated with covering spreads.
Concerning injury issues… everybody is a little banged up in November. Florida State lost two receivers to injury just last week. Florida’s going to want to run the ball, and the offensive line is healthy enough to get that done against a weaker FSU front seven.
Ianniello: Florida might have trouble in passing situations and ranks just 58th in third-down conversion rate, which could cause drives to stall out. Well, I don’t see how the Gators get any stops in this one.
The Seminoles are going to be able to get whatever they want on offense. Florida ranks 99th in the country in Defensive Success Rate. It’s horrible. It ranks 94th at defending the run and 94th at defending the pass.
While Florida State can take away the big play, Florida cannot. If the Gators do manage to get a stop on early downs, that just puts the Seminoles into a passing down. That’s where the Florida defense ranks 129th in Success Rate.
The chains should be constantly moving in this one against a Florida defense that is dreadful in passing downs, against a Florida State offense that is sixth in the country in third-down conversion rate. It moves the chains at a 51.4% clip.
To make matters worse the Gators, linebacker Ventrell Miller, who is one of their best players and the leader of this defense, was ejected for targeting last week and will miss the first half of this game.
Florida State should be able to move the ball up and down the field on this Gators defense. It’s scored over 37 points in four straight weeks and rank 10th in the country in yards per play.
Johnny Wilson, Ontaria Wilson and Mycah Pittman can all make big plays in the passing game, and Treshaun Ward and Trey Benson each average over 6.6 yards per carry.
Florida State can probably name its number in this one.
McGrath: Bet Florida +9.5
This is just too many points.
It’s a rivalry game. Florida State and Florida don’t have anything to play for outside of a potentially better bowl game. This game is destined to be close.
It’s also the perfect game script for a large dog to cover. The Gators boast an excellent rushing attack playing a lackadaisical rush defense and are catching over a touchdown in the process.
They’ll keep it close. Florida is 4-0 ATS as an underdog for a reason.
Richardson has had his ups and downs this season, but like his team, he’s played up and down to competition. Given he might be gone to the NFL next season and beating your in-state rival would be a great way to go out, it’s a pretty good spot for Florida to play up to the competition.
I’ll take the points.
Ianniello: Bet Florida State -9.5
Historically speaking, this has been a competitive rivalry. Florida leads the all-time series, 37-26-2. Since 1990, Florida State leads the series, 17-15-1, with both teams going on five-game win streaks.
However, when you look at a game-by-game basis since 2007, just two of the last 14 meetings have been decided by less than 10 points.
Tanner keeps saying that Florida just needs to keep it close? These games have rarely been close. Over the last 14 years, the average margin of victory has been 20.4 with each team winning seven of those games.
Florida State is 6-2 ATS in their last eight games as a favorite against Florida, and when either team is a favorite of at least eight points in this rivalry, the favorites have gone 7-0 since 2003.
When a team in this rivalry is much better than the other, it steps on the gas and blows the other out. Florida State is much better than Florida.