College Football Battle for Florida: (15) Florida Gators at (14) Florida State Seminoles

Could this be Jimbo Fisher's last season at FSU?
Could this be Jimbo Fisher’s last season at FSU?

Florida-Florida St
Time: 7 PM (CT)
Spread: FSU -7.5
Total: 47

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

This 2016 season, by and large, was a disappointing one for the No. 14 ranked Florida State Seminoles. With three losses coming to Louisville, North Carolina and Clemson, the Seminoles killed any early season aspirations of a championship over a month ago. FSU has won three-straight with wins over NC State, Boston College and Syracuse, and now looks to close its season on a (super) strong note with a win over embittered rival Florida at 7 PM (CST) on ABC tonight. College football oddsmakers have set the line 7.5 points in favor of the hosting Seminoles with a low over/under of 47 points for the affair.

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With a 5-3 record in ACC play, the Seminoles for once find themselves on the outside looking in on the ACC title game. Both Louisville and Clemson have had far better seasons, but a win against Florida would be sweet redemption for what could possibly be Jimbo Fisher’s last season in Tallahassee. Speculation has been abundant that he may seek to take the LSU coaching job, and that would be the end of an era for Seminoles fans and a transition for the program—but with its storied history and stellar track record, the recruits will keep coming and FSU will keep clicking, howsoever a new coach changes any of it, really.

The Seminoles still have some strong statistical standouts in a disappointing season, as would likely be expected. Quarterback Deondre Francois has had his struggles, but when this season completes he will still have over 3,000 yards and a passer rating of over 145. He has completed 60 percent of his passes and has 17 TDs to his five interceptions, with an 8.62 yard per attempt average. It is hardly a disappointing freshman season, and as Francois matures the Seminoles will undoubtedly rise again next season with more recruits and its usual strong stable of wide receivers.

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Francois has posted a passer rating of 175 and 172 the past two weeks while completing 34 of 52 passes combined with five TDs and one INT (in the 45-14 win over Syracuse last week). He is not much a threat rushing the football, but he is a true QB with talent and FSU is not going to overhaul anything to replace him due to three losses that basically spelled this season. He threw interceptions in two of those three losses, but perhaps his biggest weakness was the 32 sacks he incurred this season, of which a large portion of the blame can, of course, be ascribed to the Seminoles OL.

Florida State’s standout this year was running back Dalvin Cook. He rushed for 1,467 yards with 17 TDs on the season, including a 75-yard TD and a 6.1 yard per attempt average. He basically was the entire Seminole backfield, however, with no one else rushing for more than 350 yards (Jacques Patrick on 59 carries, along with four TDs).

Francois did rush for three TDs, but he also averaged just 1.4 yards per carry on his 89 attempts. The result for the Seminoles was a No. 41 ranking in rushing yards, while its pass game was good for No. 27 in the nation. The offense largely clicked in scoring 35.6 points per game (No. 29), but FSU’s defense was mediocre at best, allowing 25.5 points per game and ranking No. 48 in the country. Florida State will have to remedy its defense before becoming the powerhouse it usually is, because it is not frequent to see this club ranked entirely out of the top-10 and as true non-contenders.

No. 15 Florida is sort of in the same place as FSU, but not really: The Gators are 6-2 in SEC play and will take home another Conference title at the conclusion of this season. Florida skirted the LSU game due to the hurricane, so its only two losses came to Tennessee in Week 4 and Arkansas in Week 9. The Arkansas loss was sort of the inexcusable kind. But the Gators have been a pleasant surprise of sorts, and they held off a very hyped Tennessee team to secure the SEC. The Vols have just a 4-3 conference record, and this was a season that Florida easily could have lost the conference to a surging program in Knoxville.

Quarterback play was an issue for Florida this year, with Luke Del Rio throwing just 56 percent for completion and launching as many interceptions (eight) as TDs. He also averaged just 6.76 yards per completion and was replaced by Austin Appleby two weeks ago, after sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury.

Appleby fared better against South Carolina, but then came back and stunk it up in what was still a 16-10 victory over LSU last week in a makeup game for the contest postponed by the hurricane.

Though Florida won 16-10, Appleby was just 7 of 17 passing the football (41 percent) for only 98 yards. The poor quarterback play is a large part of what should give FSU the thrust to be able to take out the Gators. While the Seminoles defense has struggled, the Gators are no sort of offensive powerhouse at all, averaging just 25.2 points per game and ranking No. 92 in the country. Florida’s defense has been truly elite, allowing just 13 points per game and tying for No. 3 stingiest, but this is not a team that is gong to get out and run up the score—hence the low betting total set by college football oddsmakers.

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