Take Five Breakdown: Florida-No. 5 Florida State Preview

Florida State Preview

by Chris Will
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Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

Rivalry week is upon us. The last week of the season comes with much still on the line. Florida fights for bowl eligibility. Florida State looks to break into the college football playoff. The kicker? They will each do it with their backup quarterbacks. To get a better look at the Seminole squad, Inside the Gators caught up with Ehsan Kassim of the Tallahassee Democrat for a full preview

Five Florida State Seminoles to Know

Tate Rodemaker, Quarterback, Junior

  • Rodemaker comes in to replace the injured Jordan Travis. With five touchdowns and no interceptions this season, Rodemaker has shown competency. Kassim said his only start came against Jacksonville State in 2020 when he was benched for Jordan Travis, who came back to win the game. “Your second career start being at The Swamp is not ideal,” Kassim said. However, in 2022, Rodemaker came in for a hurt Travis to beat Louisville.

Keon Coleman, Wide Receiver, Junior

  • The Michigan State transfer has launched himself into being a top-five wide receiver in college football. He leads the team in each major category including 11 touchdowns. “He made his debut against LSU scoring three touchdowns and has not slowed down,” Kassim said.

Johnny Wilson, Wide Receiver, Junior

  • At 6-foot-7, 235-pounds, Wilson has a unique frame for a wide receiver. He presents an incredible challenge for any defensive back, let alone a defense that also must look out for Coleman. Wilson had two catches for 46 yards against the Gators last season before exploding for 202 yards against Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl. This year he has 100 yard games against LSU and Boston College. “He’s hard to defend,” Kassim said, “Especially if he’s able to hold on to the ball, which has been a struggle at different points throughout the season the last couple of years.”

Trey Benson, Running Back, Junior

  • If the passing game were to be a struggle, Benson remains a top offensive option in the backfield. With over 700 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns, Benson may see more action under a quarterback with less experience in a rivalry game. “He has not broken tackles at the same rate this year,” Kassim said, “He’s not getting the same yardage, but is still a very good runner and still a very good player.”

Patrick Payton, Defensive Line, Sophomore

  • At 6-foot-5, Payton has eight pass deflections this season. With an inexperienced Max Brown under center for the Gators, a pass rush with the ability to bat down balls could cause some frustration. Brown has a significant baseball background which helps with arm angles to get around the rush, but with Jared Verse also coming for the ball, Brown is in for an active starting debut.

Five Fast Facts

  • Florida has won three of the last four meetings in the series including two straight victories vs. FSU in The Swamp
  • Across 15 meetings dating back to 2007, only three games in the UF-FSU series has been decided by single-digit points including each of the last two (2022, 2021, 2014).
  • Florida and FSU both rank top-10 nationally in TD-INT ratio. The Noles sit second (12.5) while the Gators rank 10th (5.0)
  • Florida closes out the regular season vs. two top-10 opponents for the second time in team history (1956: No. 5 Georgia Tech, No. 6 Miami) and is one of two teams (Oregon State) in the FBS to finish 2023 with two top-10 opponents.
  • The Gators have won 13 of their last 16 games in The Swamp (including eight of 10), but are 2-16 in their last 18 contests outside The Swamp and 2-12 in their last 14 true road games.

Five Game Day Storylines

Bowl Game Prevention

  • Florida came a game-winning field goal away from beating the Missouri Tigers on the road. Now, they need a win against their in-state rivals to secure bowl eligibility. Giving additional fuel to both teams to ruin the other’s day. “[FSU is] never going to talk about that,” Kassim said, “They’re never going to admit that because they never want to give the opposition bulletin board material. They’re going to say they’re focused on themselves.”

CFP Stunner

  • Despite losing Jordan Travis against North Alabama to a significant leg injury, the Seminoles still left with a 58-13 win. However, the College Football Playoff Committee saw something they didn’t like. The Seminoles dropped to No. 5 in the CFP poll. While it seemed likely FSU would have to be undefeated to make the playoff anyway, there may be an added pressure to win out dominantly. “Fans are not shockingly pissed off,” Kassim said, “They’re not thrilled.” However, with Michigan and Ohio State playing this weekend, it is more than likely that FSU will move back in with a win against the Gators.

Life After Travis

  • Undoubtedly, Jordan Travis was the heart and soul of the FSU team. His 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions had him in some people’s Heisman discussion. Now, the sixth-year quarterback has played his last game for the Seminoles leaving Rodemaker to lead the team to glory. “[Travis] was two games away potentially from being a game in the College Football Playoffs, probably two games away from getting a trip to New York in December for the Heisman Trophy,” Kassim said.

Max Brown

  • Florida faces a similar situation, Graham Mertz exceeded expectations for the Gators this season. After breaking his collarbone, redshirt freshman Max Brown will step up to the plate. The multi-sport athlete has limited game experience at the college level, which leaves expectations to be unknown. Kassim said FSU will likely go watch HUDL to get a full scouting report on Brown. “Adam Fuller, the defensive coordinator of Florida State, at the press conference Monday, was asked about that and his first response was ‘That play where he picked up 27 yards. That opened my eyes.’ So they already have a ton of respect for Max Brown, and I think they see that athleticism,” he said.

Big Names Return

  • Brandon Spikes will kick things off in front of the Florida crowd as the Honorary Mr. Two Bits. A night game, in The Swamp against FSU with Spikes pumping up the crowd, does it get any better? Well, Tim Tebow will also make an appearance as he is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.


  • Chris Will: FSU 24-21
  • Ehsan Kassim: FSU 27-24

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