Thanksgiving has come-and-gone, marking the final weekend of November. In college football, it has a different meaning.
That’s the case in the Sunshine State with the No. 11 Florida Gators (9-2, 6-2) meeting the Florida State Seminoles (6-5) for the 64th time. In this chapter of the storied rivalry, the two programs find themselves in different positions.
The Gators enter Saturday looking for their 10th win of the season, which would mark back-to-back double-digit win seasons for head coach Dan Mullen.
On the opposite sideline, the Seminoles are led by interim head coach Odell Haggins after letting go of Willie Taggart earlier in the month.
Florida enters Saturday as heavy favorites as they’ll be under the light of The Swamp and what expects to be a large crowd.
With that being said, here are the five Gators on the spot this weekend should they beat their rival for the second straight year.
- Kyle Pitts, Tight End
Opposing teams have had a hard time covering Kyle Pitts all season and Florida State isn’t going to fair much better. The Seminoles pass defense, well the whole defense really, has struggled this year and figures to have a hard time stopping all of Florida’s playmakers. This will likely allow Dan Mullen to do what he’s done all year and put Pitts in positions where he is seemingly unguardable. The connection between him and Kyle Trask has been well evident as Pitts has blossomed into the Gators leading receiver. Florida put up 41 points on the Seminoles last year without Pitts as a factor in the offense. He was left off the John Mackey Award semifinalist list as the nation’s best tight end, but was named a Walter Camp Player of the Year semifinalist. Pitts was the only tight end to make the list, which could mean another solid performance could result in an All-American brick with his name on it outside The Swamp.
- Jabari Zuniga, Defensive End
Once again, welcome back Jabari Zuniga. The senior was cleared this week and Dan Mullen he should be a full go come Saturday, which is bad news for the Noles. Florida’s defense has had a good year without the services of Zuniga for all but basically three games. However, they will welcome him back in open arms as his presence makes the unit that much more dominant. It’s no secret, Florida State doesn’t have much of an offensive line and they’re going to have a tough time blocking the Gators. If fully healthy, you can bet Zuniga will want to put just a few more sacks on his tape for NFL scouts. Saturday should be another dominant showing from Zuniga and the guy lining up on the other side of the Gators defensive line, but we’ll get to him later.
- Lamical Perine, Running Back
He had his moment against Auburn breaking the 88-yard score, but Lamical Perine is still yet to really have a complete game. Against an aforementioned bad defense, Saturday poses as the chance for Perine to go out with a bang. Florida State’s run defense is giving up an average of 149 yards per game which could finally give Florida’s struggling run game the chance to breakthrough. He silenced Doak Campbell Stadium a year ago with a long touchdown run and could very well create one last roar in The Swamp with another big run.
- Jon Greenard, BUCK
There’s just now way you can leave him off this list. Over the course of the season, Jon Greenard has continued to get better. At this point, he’s been downright dominating games himself and taking them over. He will have his sidekick back on the other side of him in Zuniga which should only make his job that much easier. Anyone remember the last time these two played together at 100% health? I do, it led to them combining for 4.5 sacks and 10 for the Gators defense as a whole. They probably don’t need him to win, but Greenard has proven to be quite the luxury. This will be the last time he plays in front of the Gator Nation in his quick stop in Gainesville. He may have only been here a year, but Greenard added his name to the list of Gator Great’s and will look to shut down Florida State.
- Tyrie Cleveland, Wide Receiver
You’re going to have a hard time trying to pick anyone on this team more deserving of a big game in The Swamp one last time. Since arriving to campus, Tyrie Cleveland has done all the right things. He may not have lived up to his high-star label as a recruit and Cleveland himself said he wishes he’d done more during his time as a Gator, but he fully bought into his role under the new coaching staff. That’s one reason why Cleveland is fully deserving of having big night and it’s not the only one. Pretty much every Gator receiver has had their moment this year. Josh Hammond sealing the win over Kentucky on the jet-sweep. Freddie Swain’s monster game against Auburn. Van Jefferson’s big night in Death Valley. Trevon Grimes’ 66-yard touchdown against Vanderbilt. Jacob Copeland’s breakout performance in South Carolina. There’s no way around it, Cleveland is due. And you can’t write a better script than his moment coming against an in-state rival. A year ago, Cleveland broke his collarbone in Doak Campbell stadium. Now in 2019, he will play against the Seminoles once again in his final home game. Any Florida receiver could go off for a big game Saturday, but Cleveland should be the one.