The last three times No. 1 has played No. 2, there’s been one constant: Florida or Florida State has been on the field. This time, both are.
When the top-ranked Gators (10-0) play the No. 2 Seminoles (10-0) on Saturday, there’s more at stake than state bragging rights.
“The winner of this game can go on to the national championship game,” Florida State linebacker Daryl Bush said. “And with all this build-up, it’ll probably be the biggest game in the schools’ history.”
Or, as ABC’s Keith Jackson says: “It’s the game of the century - this week.”
The Gators are 0-1 in 1-vs.-2 matchups, losing 62-24 to No. 1 Nebraska in last season’s Fiesta Bowl.
“We were in one of these last year, and the No. 1 clobbered the No. 2,” Gators coach Steve Spurrier said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen this year.”
The Seminoles are 1-2 in 1-vs.-2 games, beating the No. 2 Cornhuskers 18-16 in the 1994 Orange Bowl after regular-season losses to No. 2 Notre Dame (31-24) in ‘93 and to No. 2 Miami (17-16) in ‘91.
It’s the 31st time No. 1 has played No. 2, with the No. 1 team winning 18 games with two ties. Eleven of the 1-2 games were in bowls.
If Florida wins, it still must beat No. 15 Alabama in the SEC title game on Dec. 7 to gain a Sugar Bowl bid. A loss to FSU and Florida would likely end up in the Orange Bowl.
If Florida State wins, the Seminoles would move into the No. 1 ranking and play in the Sugar Bowl against the highest-ranked bowl alliance team, most likely the winner of Friday’s Colorado-Nebraska game. A loss, and FSU would probably go to the Fiesta Bowl.
“There’s never been a bigger Florida State game than this one,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. “For the first time in a long time, the Florida State-Florida game has national implications. People in Hawaii are going to be interested in it.”
And everywhere else, too.
The game could hinge on whether the Seminoles’ top-rated defense (208.1 yards a game) can pressure Danny Wuerrfel, who has thrown for 2,862 yards and 30 touchdowns.
“We have to get to him fast,” Seminoles defensive end Reinard Wilson said. “We have to get some passes batted down, sack him, get him rattled.”
Florida State’s Thad Busby should start despite spraining his left knee last week, but the Gators’ defense (276 yards a game) is much improved over last year.
The Gators haven’t won in Tallahassee since 1986, going 0-3-1 since then with a 31-31 tie in 1994.
Seems like the time is right for Florida to hit the win column at Doak Campbell Stadium… . No. 1 Florida (minus 4) at No. 2 Florida State … FLORIDA 31-24.
No. 5 Colorado (plus 18) at No. 4 Nebraska (Friday): Loser drops out of national title contention… . NEBRASKA 35-21.
Vanderbilt (plus 25-1/2) at No. 9 Tennessee: Vols’ Peyton Manning (3,124 yards, 20 TDs) could be playing his last regular-season game… . TENNESSEE 31-21.
No. 10 Notre Dame (no line) at Southern California: Could this be USC coach John Robinson’s last game, too? … NOTRE DAME 35-31.
No. 20 Virginia (plus 2) at No. 17 Virginia Tech (Friday): Cavs set for Carquest Bowl, Hokies penciled in for Gator against North Carolina. … VIRGINIA TECH 27-24.
No. 19 LSU (minus 11) vs. Arkansas, at Little Rock (Friday): Win or lose, Tigers appear set for Peach Bowl date against Clemson… . LSU 31-17.
No. 23 Miami (plus 8) at No. 16 Syracuse: Orangemen shooting for ninth straight win, Big East title and Orange Bowl berth… . SYRACUSE 28-17.
Texas A&M; (plus 4) at Texas (Friday): Aggies need win to qualify for bowl game; Longhorns need win to reach Big 12 title game… . TEXAS 33-27.
Last week: 14-7 (straight); 12-7-1 (spread). Season: 188-47 (straight); 108-115-6 (spread).
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