Florida Cup

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For the first time in series history, the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles will play on Black Friday.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving has been the traditional date for the Sunshine Showdown but Mike Norvell had a different vision for this year. The Noles (8-3) opened as an 8.5-point favorite.

“It’s always important and we’re on Friday night. Friday night lights,” senior linebacker Amari Burney said. “It’s very important any time you play Florida State. It’s a rivalry and everybody knows that so we have to strap up and come ready to play.”

It will be the first time that Mike Norvell will be the favorite in the rivalry game. Norvel’s first season at the helm was in 2020, so his introduction to the rivalry was in 2021. The Gators, despite having fired Dan Mullen just six days before playing the Noles, edged out a 24-21 win at home.

After starting the season unranked, Florida State University broke into the Top 25 in September following a 4-0 start, however they quickly fell back out after their fair share of losses.

The Noles have been on a tear of late, winning their last four games. If FSU wins this Friday, it would be the program’s first nine-win season since Jimbo Fisher was Head Coach in 2016.

The Florida Gators are just 1-3 on the road at this point of the season, and Florida State is 4-2 at Doak Campbell.

The line sits at 8.5, home teams typically get three points on a betting line as home-field advantage, meaning Vegas views this as a one-score nail-biter.

This will be the 66th all-time matchup between the Gators and Seminoles. Florida owns a 37-26-2 lead and an active three-game winning streak.

Florida State’s Mike Norvell is well aware that anything can happen in the world of college football, and that his team is far from unbeatable. Any coach on the planet is well aware of what this game means to either of these programs.

FSU has already taken out Miami, and in a humiliating fashion. Now, the Gators are gearing up for a prime-time showdown against the hot-handed Seminoles.

From the looks of things, Norvell has Florida State on the right track. They’re playing week to week hammering potential bowl teams like they’re Cumberland College.

The Seminoles’ first-team defense has only given up one touchdown in a month, and their offense puts up yards and points like it’s 1993. But losing to this rivalry is different; and there is a sour taste in the losing team’s mouth

Forget that it’s Year 1 under Billy Napier, who was tasked not only to replenish UF’s thin roster, but also with rebuilding the entire culture Dan Mullen left behind, let’s not talk about the new “Gator standard” on and off the field.

Florida has one regular-season game to play under their new head coach, and best of all- it’s at their bitter rival Florida State on Black Friday.

Make no mistake, this game matters immensely to the Gators. It’s the rare game that impacts recruiting directly (especially in state); the last thing Florida wants to do is lose convincingly and allow FSU to sell their program as on the rise and the top option in the state.

After embarrassing Miami, could you convince a recruit toward Miami over Florida State?

Win, and Napier cools the heat of his defeats (almost instantly) and gives the Gators a bit of juice heading into the final stretch of recruiting.

Lose, and, well, the Gators are 6-6, off to a low-tier bowl game, and paying lip service to the importance of bowl practices while keeping one foot, if not both feet, on the recruiting trail for a top-level SEC program.

It won’t be played on Saturday, but it’ll be special like always, no matter the final score.

My prediction: Billy Napier will be the first Florida coach not to beat a single rival in a season since 1979. FSU 42   Florida 20

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