Florida-FSU matchup will expose why Seminoles' turnaround is additional alongside – The Florida Occasions-Union
One phrase can describe not solely why the soccer packages at Florida State and Florida are in a unique place proper now, however may also probably be the deciding think about Friday evening’s matchup at Doak Campbell Stadium: timing.
The No. 16-ranked FSU Seminoles are much better positioned within the third yr of Mike Norvell’s rebuilding job than the Gators are in Billy Napier’s first season.
Since FSU’s first yr underneath Norvell was severely impacted by COVID-19, the 2021 season felt extra like his teaching baptism in Tallahassee. That’s when the ‘Noles completed 5-7, had been maddeningly inconsistent, and Jordan Travis confirmed solely flashes of potential as a substitute of being a seasoned quarterback.
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That situation would aptly describe the state of the Florida program proper now with Napier. He’s making an attempt to determine the best tradition, making some particular strides in that respect, however the Gators are too immature general and talent-challenged on protection to ignite the turnaround their fan base expects.
Quarterback Anthony Richardson’s efficiency this season, very similar to FSU counterpart Travis as soon as he took over in 2021 for McKenzie Milton, is a blended bag. You see superb potential on some explosive performs, each passing and working, however there’s too many situations of an absence of rhythm and instinctiveness from Richardson.
Like how on the final play of the Vanderbilt sport Saturday from the Commodores’ 34, trailing 31-24 and underneath minimal duress, does Richardson throw a move 10 yards out of the again of the top zone? That’s only one small instance the place Florida and being centered go their separate methods.
This season, the Gators and prosperity are like repelling forces. They’re adequate offensively to play with nearly anyone, however lack self-discipline and in-the-moment consciousness, each frequent points for groups with first-year coaches.
Constant ‘Noles vs. Inconsistent Gators
Now you have a look at the Seminoles (8-3) on each side of the ball they usually have a circulate about them throughout their present four-game win streak, albeit all in opposition to mediocre opponents hovering round .500.
However it may’t be ignored FSU has been constantly dominant throughout this stretch, outscoring its foes 173-39 and outgaining them by over 1,000 yards. That’s the mark of a mature, ascending workforce to not play right down to their opponent, which is a textbook trait of the Gators.
Take into consideration this: every time Florida has put collectively something near its greatest sport, which occurred in opposition to Utah and South Carolina, it adopted the following week with a head-scratching efficiency. In Week 2, the Gators blew a 16-3 lead in opposition to Kentucky, a sport that turned on Richardson throwing a pick-6 to Keidron Smith going 65 yards the opposite manner. That was adopted by a slender 31-28 escape of a dreadful South Florida (1-10) workforce at dwelling.
Final week, on the heels of a 38-6 pounding of South Carolina, the Gators had an avalanche of self-inflicted errors, leading to 14-point underdog Vanderbilt beating them in Nashville for the primary time for the reason that Reagan administration. Good groups don’t experience that form of a curler coaster.
Proper now, and this higher not be the case subsequent season, Napier has a workforce that places forth a commendable effort, however the Gators’ traditionally dangerous protection (408.5 yards, 27.3 factors per sport allowed) and lack of in-game maturity is sabotaging them.
Napier had it proper on Monday when he reminded a media corps, which might generally endure from lack of perspective as a lot because the followers: “This can be a course of. You don’t simply flip a light-weight change and the home is constructed.”
On no account is FSU’s program fully rebuilt after a mixed document of 8-13 the previous two years, however momentum is lastly trending within the correct path.
Whereas everybody within the ACC nonetheless trails Clemson by a big margin, you possibly can make the argument the Seminoles have moved as much as second-best or third-best in that 14-team pecking order. They had been considered no higher than middle-of-the-pack when the season started.
That’s as a result of Norvell, identical to Napier for the time being, wanted time to reshape the FSU program in his picture. He endured questions on whether or not he had the acumen and recruiting capability to tug it off, particularly after an 0-4 begin final yr and blowing a 17-3 halftime lead final month at North Carolina State in the course of a three-game dropping streak.
Not so way back, it was FSU’s protection that couldn’t get off the sphere. The Seminoles now have the nation’s No. 11-ranked protection and are nineteenth in third-down protection, getting opponents off the sphere 40 instances of their final 51 third-down conditions.
As weakside linebacker DJ Lundy put it after Saturday’s 42-17 beatdown of Louisiana: “Each week, we are saying we obtained to dominate our opponent. We play with swagger. That is the way it’s imagined to be.”
Indicators level to FSU redemption
Even when Florida had survived Vandy — this system’s most inexcusable loss since getting trampled 38-17 by Missouri at dwelling in Dan Mullen’s first season in 2018 — it might nonetheless really feel like Friday’s assembly is FSU’s time to rebound from three consecutive losses to the Gators.
The Seminoles have their act collectively on each side of the ball. FSU is top-20 nationally in third-down offense, third-down protection, dashing offense, passing protection, sacks, complete protection, complete offense and factors per sport allowed (18.0).
Florida is a dumpster fireplace on protection more often than not and a yo-yo on offense, although fairly respectable when its Fifteenth-ranked dashing assault (209.3 yards) is in a groove.
Aside from its dramatic edge on protection, FSU deserves being nearly a double-digit favourite as a result of the sport is in Tallahassee and Travis is solely a extra dependable quarterback than Richardson, whose completion share of 55.7 is among the many worst within the nation. Plus, Richardson’s reluctance to run regardless of a 6.5-yards per carry common stays considerably baffling.
Nonetheless, whenever you see South Carolina hanging 63 factors on Tennessee proper after managing simply six factors the week earlier than in opposition to Florida, it’s a reminder how a lot the script can flip at the moment of yr.
The Gators can definitely play with FSU, however rather a lot will depend on which Florida workforce will present up. A sobering reminder: UF’s 5-11 SEC document the previous two years is its worst since 3-9 in 1978-79.
That doesn’t imply it may’t flip issues in a single week the best way South Carolina did. Vanderbilt debacle apart, Richardson is satisfied this system is on observe for a serious revival underneath Napier as soon as he has his personal recruits within the constructing.
“I really feel like he’s on level with all the things,” Richardson mentioned. “He is aware of what he desires. He is aware of what he’s going to get. So belief in him and perceive he’s going to have nice individuals round right here, simply a lot time till nice issues begin to occur.”
Richardson could be right within the long-term. However for now, with Napier holding his breath each time his protection is on the market and his rebuild nowhere close to as far alongside as Norvell’s, the timing is best for the Seminoles to correctly end off a turnaround season.
FSU 34, Florida 26.
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Gene Frenette Sports activities columnist at Florida Occasions-Union, comply with him on Twitter @genefrenette