No. 5 Florida State and Florida will meet Saturday in a game that is interesting not just because it is a rivalry matchup, but because it also is a war of the wounded as both teams enter the high-stakes showdown following injuries to their star quarterbacks last week. The Seminoles need a victory to keep their College Football Playoff aspirations on track, while the Gators need a victory to reach bowl eligibility.
FSU snapped a three-game losing streak in the series last season with a thrilling 45-38 home victory, but now it's traveling to UF's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to face its most hostile road environment since a Sept. 23 win at Clemson. How the 'Noles navigate the challenge with backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker will likely determine where they stand in the CFP Rankings entering next week's ACC Championship Game against Louisville.
Florida has dropped four straight since reaching a record of 5-2 (3-1 SEC) with back-to-back wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina. But a win over Florida State would help salvage some momentum from coach Billy Napier's second season and keep the Gators' streak of five straight bowl appearances alive. The effort will be led by redshirt freshman quarterback Max Brown, who entered in last week's loss at Missouri after starter Graham Mertz exited with a fractured left collarbone.
Follow along with LIVE updates as Florida hosts Florida State
How to watch Florida vs. Florida State live
Date: Saturday, Nov. 25 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- Gainesville, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: Fubo (Try for free)
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Florida vs. Florida State: Need to know
Tate Rodemaker's big moment: In a transfer-oriented college football culture, Tate Rodemaker has stood the test of time with Florida State. The redshirt junior has been in coach Mike Norvell's system since Norvell arrived, and he's completed 56 of 93 passes with seven touchdowns and five interceptions over 22 appearances as a career backup. While this stands out as easily his most important assignment yet, the former three-star prospect from Valdosta, Georgia, has played in other meaningful moments. He entered in place of an injured Travis at Louisville last season and led three scoring drives to help the 'Noles rally to win after facing a 21-14 halftime deficit. FSU trailed North Alabama 13-0 last week when Rodemaker entered following Travis' injury. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns as the Seminoles rallied for a 58-13 win. Though it was against an FCS opponent, Rodemaker played well under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Max Brown's chance to shine: Brown found himself unexpectedly thrust into the heat of a tight SEC East battle at Missouri last week when Mertz left the in the third quarter. Seeing the first non-garbage time action of his career, Brown guided the Gators to a couple of clutch scores before they fell on a last-second field goal from Missouri. Brown completed 4-of-5 passes and also rushed for 42 yards while showing an impressive element of elusiveness as a runner against a solid Missouri defense. The former three-star prospect was unheralded in the recruiting process and buried on the depth chart as a freshman. But amid attrition at the position for UF, he's meandered his way into being the starter for this huge rivalry showdown. If Brown is somehow able to orchestrate a season-defining upset against a fierce rival with CFP aspirations, it would catapult the previously unknown signal-caller to hero status at Florida.
Last year's epic battle: If the meeting is anything like last year's game, this could go down as one of the top games from Rivalry Week. The Seminoles escaped with a 45-38 win behind a huge game from Travis and a late defensive stand in the final minute. Gators QB Anthony Richardson's heave to the end zone fell incomplete with 39 seconds left, turning the ball over to Florida State on downs and effectively ending the highest-scoring game of the rivalry's storied history.
Florida vs. Florida State prediction, picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
Florida is playing for bowl eligibility against an arch rival at home after nearly beating a highly ranked Missouri team on the road last week. Beyond the motivation of extending their own season, the Gators will also be inspired to derail Florida State's College Football Playoff aspirations. With both starting quarterbacks out injured in a game with such high stakes, this one is destined to get weird. Look for the Gators to be in it until the end ... and maybe even win outright. Pick: Florida +6.5
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