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54 posts from November 2012

November 26, 2012

And Then There Was One, Florida State Now Without Two Elite DE's

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It's tough to know what to take seriously during summer camp and the start of fall. Players and coaches talk everyone one up and with a limited body of work to evaluate and the compliments flying like they're going out of style, you start to take everything with a grain of salt.

One thing that definitely wasn't camp-speak heading into the season though was what Florida State had on it's defensive line.

"It's not only me and Brandon [Jenkins], it's me, Tank Carradine and Brandon," Bjoern Werner told me in August.

"Tank's playing on a level that's just amazing, for him to be called a backup is just crazy because he's as good as me and Brandon. All three of us know that and it's going to a three-way sack [race]."

Sadly that was never to be, but not because it was untrue. Rather after notching just one sack in the team's first game against Murray State Jenkins suffered a season-ending Lisfranc fracture and never played another down.

At that point Florida State had lost arguably its most nationally recognizable player, it's best draft prospect and a defensive leader at a crucial position.

In stepped Tank Carradine.

Carradine proved this year that Florida State really wasn't lying about having three elite ends, three first-round caliber defensive ends. It lost one this season, and another just stepped right in for him. There are NFL teams that can't say they have three first-rounders in their defensive line rotation.

Unfortunately, Seminoles fans never got to see what would have been a truly wicked rotation with three top-shelf ends cycling in fresh and terrorizing opposing passers. Jenkins' early exit sent that ship sailing after week one.

Instead Florida State fans were treated to arguably the best tandem of ends in the country. They combined for 24 sacks in 12 game. Carradine stepped up to the tune of a team-leading 80 tackles, 13 TFL and 11 sacks. A truly elite year that sent him on a mercurial rise up draft boards and had NFL scouts and TV draft gurus alike buzzing.

SG1L4913 (2)That is until late in Saturday night's game when Tank Carradine tore his ACL.

Now the Seminoles have lost two first-round caliber defensive ends this year. There might be two or three teams in the whole country who wouldn't trade their right arm for the duo FSU has standing on crutches on the sideline for the next two games. 

And frankly, Florida State can probably absorb this most recent blow too because they still have arguably the best defensive end in the country leading their defense.

You want to know who the real heart and soul of that Seminole defense is? It's Bjoern Werner. 

He's the guy who stood up after the NC State game and told his teammates not to check out on the season. Who kept on them to stay invested. He's the guy who got after his teammates when Florida State trailed Clemson at haltfime and needed a spark to come back in the second half. 

Last night he stood up at halftime in the Florida State locker room and rallied the team again. And much like he's done all season he backed his words with his actions on the field. He followed up two first-half sacks with a a sack and a half, plus a huge fumble recovery that helped the Seminoles briefly take the lead in the third quarter.

Unfortunately it wasn't enough. Florida had 30 minutes of possession time at the start of the 4th quarter and the Gators ran away with the game late.

"We lost a lot on technique, coaches always talk about 'just play your technique and the run defense will be there.'" said Werner. "A lot of people at criticial times lost their technique and tried to do too much and that's how you allow big runs.

"You feel every game when you play every snap at 100 percent it doesn’t matter if they have 10 more minutes of possession. Everyone was fighting hard and this is when you need young guys to step up too, especially where you’re this late in the season and in the fourth quarter."

This season Werner has 39 tackles, 18 TFL and a nation-leading 13 sacks. Nobody has been more disruptive than Florida State's Berlin-born junior this year, he is the leader of his defense.

And that's going to be especially big over Florida State's final stretch.

Next weekend in Charlotte without their leading tackler and his battery-mate, Werner will likely draw even more attention against Georgia Tech's option-style offense. And with younger guys like Giorgio Newberry and Mario Edwards Jr. pressed into more service, Florida State needs Werner's leadership more than ever.

"Next week we have the ACC Championship and I can’t wait to play that," said Werner. "I’m moving on right now. I can’t wait to play Georgia Tech and have a great game there and hopefully come out on top.”

November 25, 2012

Florida State Drops to 13th in BCS Rankings

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The Seminoles dropped three spots to 13th in the BCS rankings after losing 37-26 to the no. 4 Florida Gators on Saturday. 

The top five remains unchanged with Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Oregon staying put. Unfortunately one of those three SEC schools doesn't get a BCS bid because there's limit two per conference and Florida is guaranteed to jump the loser of the conference championship game. So essentially, win the SEC championship game and go play Notre Dame for a shot at everything. Or lose and the BCS slams the door in your face.

Kent State could also crash the BCS party if they move up to 16 (they're 17) and stay ahead of an AQ conference champion. The Big East currently has no teams ranked so if Kent State wins its championship game next weekend, it's possible they get a bid.

Also as I left the stadium and I thought about all of Jimbo Fisher's complaints about BCS computers I thought it would be funny if they all got together and voted for Fisher this week (you know, since computers are generally spiteful). Wouldn't you know it? This is the first week all six computers have FSU ranked...

Really, the ranking is irrelevant at this point. If Florida State wins on Saturday they'll go to an Orange Bowl and what has become the black sheep of the BCS family. But win and they're in. If they lose... Well if they lose I could see the fanbase starting to pass out pitchforks and torches.

Tank Carradine Tears ACL

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Tank Carradine got devastating news earlier today when he was diagnosed with a torn ACL suffered late in last night's loss to Florida.

The Seminoles lead  the game heading into the 4th quarter but a big turn of momentum and some huge plays against a worn out Seminole defense gave Florida the 37-26 win. To add insult to injury, Carradine tore up his knee after the game was already out of hand and potentially did damage to his draft stock come April.

"Yeah, Tank tore his ACL," said Jimbo Fisher earlier today. "The draft will still be fine, he'll rehab. That won't affect those guys, maybe a round at the most. Sometimes it won't.

"He'll still play in the NFL and be very highly drafted."

This is a blow for Florida State, but a much much bigger one for the senior defensive end. No player had made more money with his play in 2012 than Tank Carradine and on a single play late in last night's game, he potentially lost quite a bit of it.

With how late this happened and the number of talented defensive linemen potentially coming out, Carradine could see his stock plummet a lot further than just a round. It could also be a negligible impact, but given the circumstances it's tough to see how this won't end up costing the young man millions. 

The things Carradine does have going for him is that without a doubt he's one of the hungriest players to come through Florida State in a long time. That hunger's not going anywhere and I fully expect him to make a solid recovery and have a very good NFL career. But as Tank found out last night, nothing is guaranteed and as likely as he seems to translate well into the pros, he potentially missed out on a rookie contract that could have set him up for the rest of his life last night.

That really hurts.

As for Florida State, they still have a talented group at defensive end, albeit a much less experienced one. Giorgio Newberry and Mario Edwards were at times in over there heads against the Gators, but it's also important to remember that FSU isn't going to face anything close to that caliber of team again this year. Bjoern Werner is going to start getting even more attention over the final two games, but overall Florida State's defense should absorb this reasonably well given the competition over the final stretch.

Going Polling: Florida State falls to 12th in Coaches Poll, 13th in AP Poll

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As expected, after a difficult loss to the Florida Gators the Florida State Seminoles have dropped in the polls and no longer reside in the top ten.

The AP poll, which has been harder on Florida State all season, adjusted the Seminoles' spot the least. AP voters had the Seminoles at 10 last week and dropped them just three spots to 13 this time around. The top five in the AP poll are: Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Florida. 

The Buckeyes are postseason ineligible but finished their year 12-0 after beating rival Michigan on Saturday. Still, for all intents and purposes FSU is 12th in the AP since Ohio State can't factor.

The Coaches poll sent FSU tumbling seven spots down to 12th from number five. The coaches won't offer FSU much of a reprieve from the computers now that the Seminoles have two losses and some of the luster has come off. The Coaches' top five was: Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia, Oregon and Florida. 

The other BCS poll of record, the Harris interactive poll, will be released around 3 PM today and the BCS standings will roll out tonight at 8:30.

FSU still has two games left and can finish the season in the top 10 at 12-2 with a conference title and an Orange Bowl win if they win out, but after last night many in the fanbase are still likely to be licking their wounds and even an ACC title next weekend may not completely ease last night's blow.

I'll be back to update with the Harris and BCS rankings later in the day...

November 24, 2012

Wrapping Up: UF 37 FSU 26

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I'm wrapping up here at Doak Campbell Stadium for the last time this year. How we've already made it through an entire college season escapes me, but time flies when it comes to football.

Tonight was senior day for Florida State and this group of seniors went out with a disappointing 37-26 loss to their rivals. It was the first loss to an in-state rival suffered under Jimbo Fisher and it was surely not the way this group wanted to leave.

EJ Manuel did not play the type of game he would have liked to have finished his career in Tallahassee with. Manuel was pressured by a very talented UF defensive front all night and he made a number of costly mistakes that factored heavily into the outcome. 

"Honestly, I can't say whether it was mental or if it was something they did," said Manuel. "The interceptions were very uncharacteristic, especially three."

Manuel finished 18-33 for 182 yards, a touchdown and the three interceptions. He also had a fumble on what was arguably the key play of the game. On a broken play, Antonio Morrison made the hit of the night early in the 4th quarter when he blew EJ Manuel up, forced a fumble and gave UF field position deep on the Seminole side of the 50.

There's going to be a lot of discussion about that hit in the coming days, here's why: FSU maintains it was a rib injury, at least per Jimbo Fisher. But both Kenny Shaw and EJ Manuel mentioned he got hit in the head and Manuel was being evaluated on the sideline like a player with a concussion not like a guy with a rib injury.

I'm not saying EJ Manuel had a concussion, I'm not saying he didn't. What I am saying is that Florida State will need to monitor its senior QB closely this week. 

As for the impact the play had on the game itself, you cannot understate how much the momentum changed in the ten seconds that play took. UF punched it in a play later for a touchdown to go back up by three, and then took their momentum into their next defensive drive where they forced FSU into a three and out and scored again on offense.

"They were good," said Manuel. "I thought we could have executed better but they did a great job on defense. They had a good pass rush, great DB's, good linebackers. I'm not going to take anything away from them. They did a good job, I just thought I could have executed better."

EJ Manuel is going to leave Florida State with a complicated legacy. In many ways he's a victim of the expectations he came in with, and there will be many Seminole fans who are unhappy with his career despite him being the quarterback who helped bring FSU back to relevence. Look at where FSU was when Manuel entered as a freshman and look where they ended up after his last home game. 

Bear in mind that EJ Manuel had to bail FSU out of a losing season in Bobby's first year when he was just a redshirt freshman. By the time he was done he had FSU at 10-2 and competitive on a national stage. I can't imagine EJ feels good mentally or physically tonight, but personally I hope fans look back at his time on Florida State favorably. He's had a solid career.

Werner is Coming

Bjoern Werner had himself a day and a half, even if the rest of the Florida State defense struggled at times. Werner recorded 3.5 sacks and recovered a fumble in what will, in all likelihood, be his last home game as a Seminole. Right now Mel Kiper has Werner rated 10th overall in his draft rankings. That was before Werner dominated an SEC offense unlike any other SEC defensive end has done to it all season. 

I'm pretty sure Jeff Driskel leaves Tallahassee with a Werner shaped imprint between his shoulder blades and a rudimentary knowledge of German based on the amount of interaction those two had on Saturday night. Werner is an absolute force to be reckoned with on the Florida State defensive line and he is going to make a ton of money playing on Sunday soon.

Tank Carradine, As Always

While Bjoern Werner was making the flashy plays, Tank Carradine was just making tons of them. Once again Carradine lead the Seminoles in tackles, finishing with 11 and a half sack, despite leaving the game early with an injury.

Like Werner, Carradine is a considered a sure-fire first round NFL prospect. On Saturday that was on display once again as Tank made plays against the pass and the run, while displaying the level of athleticism that Seminole fans have come to expect this season. Carradine, without a doubt, has been the biggest revelation on this Florida State team all year. Prior to the season Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner made it a point to give Carradine some hype. By the end of September it was clear they weren't kidding.

Carradine left the game with an injured leg. There's no word yet on his status, but Florida State could ill-afford to have him out for next weekend against Georgia Tech. 

Next Weekend

Next weekend I'll be in Charlotte as the Seminoles prepare to take on the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game. FSU can still go 12-2 with a BCS win and a conference title this year. While many fans wanted BCS title or bust, it would be hard to look at a 12-2 year with a conference championship (especially given the past decade) as anything but a resounding success. 

Of course, Florida State has to flush this loss and move on first. 

A loss next weekend and the season does become disappointing...

Rapid Reaction: UF 37 FSU 26

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It just wasn't in the cards for Florida State on Saturday night. The Gators managed to hold off a second-half rally and beat the Seminoles 37-26 after an exciting final 30 minutes.

Florida State fought their way back into the game in the third quarter before fatigue and miscues finally did them in. The Seminoles reeled off 20 unanswered points after going down 13-0 and actually lead 20-13 headed into the 4th quarter. But time of possession, turnovers and luck finally conspired to put the Seminoles away.

You just do not win a football game when the other team holds the ball for twice as long as you did. At the start of the 4th quarter UF already had over 30 minutes of possession and the over the last 15-minutes, fatigue finally started to work its way in.

For all intents and purposes, this game can be divided into two six and a half minute periods. 

After going down 13-0 in the first half, FSU reeled off 17 points in six and a half minutes to start the third quarter and go up 17-13. A Dustin Hopkins 53-yard field goal made it 20-13 as UF took over at the end of the third quarter.

Then started UF's six and a half minute response. Starting with a Caleb Sturgis field goal at the beginning of the 4th quarter, UF proceeded to put up two touchdowns of its own after an EJ Manuel fumble and a big punt return set the Gators up with excellent field position on two straight drives.

It took FSU six and a half minutes to come back on UF in the third quarter and it took UF just six and a half minutes to go back up on the 'Noles for good in the 4th.

Give Florida a lot of credit, they played a smart game and took what Florida State gave them. You could tell they were the more battle-tested of the two teams because they knew what to expect from FSU's defense and attacked it right from the outset.

That being said, Florida has arguably the best BCS-resume in the country, but they hardly looked like one of the top two teams in the nation tonight. UF tried their best to give this game away. They made more penalties than any team I've seen come through Doak in years, 11 for 90 yards and that was with a few waved off. If you hold the ball for twice as long as the other team and win the turnover battle 5:1, you shouldn't go into the 4th quarter trailing the ballgame.

Some late scoring will make UF look like they won this game a lot more handily than they really did. Florida State had the Gators on the ropes late and it took a lot for UF to pull this win out. 

That had a lot to do with the face that the Seminoles' backs broke in the 4th quarter defensively. After being on the field for most of the game UF scored three late touchdowns and put some distance between themselves and the 'Noles.

Florida may not have had an impressive offense, but they did have the better defensive front. And that made all the difference. Despite a 3.5 sack day from Bjoern Werner, Mike Gillislee ran all over the Seminoles and EJ Manuel was bullied all night. 

Now Florida State must turn its attention to Georgia Tech and winning the ACC for the first time in 2005. 12-2 with an Orange Bowl win is the best case scenario for the Seminoles now.

Statistical Leaders

Passing: Jeff Driskel (15/24, 147, TD)

Rushing: Mike Gillislee (24-140, 2TD)

Receiving: Rashad Greene (5-65)

I'm about to head down and talk to a few players and coaches, I'll be back up with the wrap-up later tonight...

Halftime: UF 13 FSU 3

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After writing all season that Florida State had the best defensive front in the state, the first 30 minutes of this football game have seriously thrown that assertion into question. 

There was domination in the first half of this game, it came from the Florida defensive front and it kept the Seminole offense from achieving much of anything outside of a long completion to Rashad Greene on the opening drive. 

Right now FSU has just 109 total yards and they haven't seriously threatened since their opening possession.

The Gators came out and scored on a couple of field goal drives to open things up, they held the ball around five minutes both times and methodically drove down the field against the vaunted Seminole defensive front. You can tell UF is game-tested because they know how to attack a defense like Florida State's. Plays don't take too long to develop, they use a lot of misdirection and they take just enough yardage per play to keep the 'Noles on their heels. FSU's defense needs to wrap up better, but give UF a lot of credit for knowing how to attack.

UF could have gone up 9-0 early but a 4th down play inside Florida State territory turned the ball over and kept them off the scoreboard on their second possession. All in all, the Gators have called an efficient first half on offense and they've got the lead to show for it.

Conversely, FSU hasn't called a good game in the first half. On the opening drive everything took too long to set up and EJ Manuel was pressured on every snap. That drive was arguably the 'Noles best scoring shot though as they took the ball into UF territory before an EJ Manuel pick ended the possession.

The wheels fell off in the last 6 minutes though. Karlos Williams fumbled a kickoff after running it out of his own endzone and the Gators scored a touchdown several plays later. Then EJ Manuel threw a particularly inexcusable ball that was picked off on the next drive and set the Gators up inside Seminole territory once again. 

Florida State's defense FINALLY stood up at that point. A couple penalties and a big sack put the Gators back out of field goal range and the Seminoles were able to avoid going down by 16 or 20.

A late Dustin Hopkins field goal made it a ten point game, but the Seminoles didn't really take much momentum with them into the tunnel. 

Right now Florida State needs to regroup and come out with some fire in the second half or they're not going to have a chance to get back into this. For Florida, the name of the game in the second half will be ball control and letting their defense dictate the tempo of the game like it did in the first half.

FSU has its work cut out for it in the second half...

Statistical Leaders

Passing: Jeff Driskel (10-15, 77)

Rushing: Mike Gilleslee (18-75, TD)

Receiving: Rashad Greene (2-34)

Pregame: UF at FSU

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We're just about two and a half hours out from the kickoff of UF and FSU. Tallahassee is loaded with people right now, tailgates are spilling out into the streets and all is right again with football in the state of Florida.

These are the circumstances this game should be played under, both teams are in the top ten looking to play for a BCS title and finish their season with a big win over a rival. For Florida State, it's senior day for a class of kids that have been absolutely essential in the Florida State turnaround. When this senior class arrived in Tallahasee the program was down, they leave today after helping Florida State back into the national picture and with a shot at beating UF three straight times.

For Florida, this game is about sneaking into the BCS Championship. A win and a Notre Dame loss should set UF up with enough of a push to get them into the title game even without winning the SEC. Florida State is relegated more to the spoiler role today, but they can still make a move with a resounding win and some help out front. 

Regardless of the ramifications of this game, when both teams are 10-1 and ranked highly this game is always good.

I'm looking forward to another classic today.

Here's your game capsule:

Game Preview

Three Things to Watch For...

Injury List

TV: ABC

Announcers: Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (color), Holly Rowe (sideline)

Three Things to Watch For: UF vs. FSU

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This is the biggest this rivalry has been in a decade. While the passion this game has been played with hasn't waned over the years, it's been a while since both of these teams were up. Today's game has national implications like a UF-FSU rivalry game should.

Florida, who boasts the best BCS computer average, could back into a BCS title shot with a win today and a Notre Dame loss. With either Georgia or Alabama set to knock the other out in the SEC championship game the Gators could sneak into a title shot without even winning their own conference.

Conversely, the BCS computers hate FSU like John James Fisher is really named John James Connor. The 'Noles actually out-rank the Gators in the coaches poll but an abysmal computer average has tanked their BCS ranking and kept them out of the national conversation. FSU needs a resounding win plus some help from the pollsters and other teams ahead of them losing to hope to neutralize their computer average.

That doesn't look likely for Florida State but it could also make them dangerous.

Florida has something to lose in this game, their shot is still quite strong. Florida State has nothing to lose. That could make this interesting...

Here are three things to watch for...

The Battle in the Trenches

Both Florida and Florida State boast two of the top defensive lines in the country. Last year, those units dominated the game in Gainesville, but that came with the caveat that the FSU line was held together by sinew and duct tape. Immediately following the game several players had season ending surgery and in the Champs Bowl a month later there were four new starters in front of EJ Manuel. 

This year, as Devonta Freeman and Rashad Greene have told us, the 'Noles are healthier. A lot of that comes with improved depth, but it also has to do with FSU being a bigger, stronger, more imposing offensive line this year. What gives the FSU line even more confidence is the fact that all season, they have squared off against their own defensive front in practice. As Tre Jackson said on Tuesday, they're yet to see a better defensive front than they practice against all week. That should pay huge dividends today. If FSU can establish themselves in the trenches on offense and establish the run game, I'm not sure the Gators will have an answer.

On the other side of the ball the Florida State defensive front is rated the best in the nation. FSU is number one against the run and their ends have combined for 20 sacks this season. That means that UF will need to work even harder to protect Jeff Driskel and that if they can't establish their own run game early, that they'll be forced into a one-dimension offensive look with two first-rounder picks pinning their ears back all day.

This game will be won or lost in the trenches.

The Emotion

The emotion of this rivalry is always huge. From the time the bands take the field and face off against one another an hour before gametime all the way to the final gun, this game is emotional for all parties involved. Which team settles down first and harnesses that emotion will be the one who gets the early edge.

EJ Manuel has to have a career-game today, not from a numbers standpoint but in terms of the leadership he offers. Outside of Rodney Smith and Lonnie Pryor, there's a lot of youth around EJ Manuel and he's going to need to make sure those guys are keeping their heads on level and staying in the moment. Florida's defense is going to send plenty of pressure, if EJ can keep a cool head, make his reads and get the ball out quickly then Florida State should find its typical Doak-based offensive rhythm. But it's going to be up to Manuel to keep their emotions in check, or else mistakes can (and will) happen.

On the other side of the ball, Florida State has a very experienced defense that should be poised to play in this kind of atmosphere. FSU's defense hasn't missed a game all season (unlike the offense), they should come out amped up and ready to play. But just like with the offense, guys like Karlos Williams, Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith will need to dial it back and stay within themselves emotionally. All three are just a little over-excitement from a late hit and that's what FSU cannot afford today.

The team that keeps its head will have the edge...

Special Teams

If there's one phase of the game that Florida State could give things away in, it's special teams. Specifically in the punting phase. While FSU can ill-afford any special teams mistakes today, a shanked kickoff or a hold on a return wouldn't be nearly as detrimental as a miscue in the punting game.

Florida has snuck by with wins this year thanks to their special teams. If they have to line up on offense and outscore FSU the traditional way, I don't know if UF has the firepower. But if Florida State gives the Gators good field position and momentum with a punting miscue, that's all irrelevant.

UF is highly opportunistic, they'll take advantage of mistakes and penalties and Florida State has proven they'll make them.

This season FSU has let a couple punts get blocked and both Rashad Greene and Tyler Hunter have muffed returns. That absolutely cannot happen today and unfortunately for the Seminoles, that probably means sacraficing one of their most potent weapons– the return game. 

Unless the coverage team parts like the Red Sea, FSU needs to focus on fielding punts cleanly today (and not get caught looking downfield to set up the return). While it's true that anytime one of the Seminole returnmen touches the ball they could house it, there's about the same degree of probability they mishandle fielding the punt. You can play those odds against Wake Forest and BC, I wouldn't roll the dice with Florida...

I'll be back in a few hours with the pregame post...

November 23, 2012

Werner, Carradine Have Caught on to UF-FSU Rivalry Quickly

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This weekend when Florida and Florida State renew their rivalry, the top-ranked Seminole defense will be lead by a pair of NFL-ready defensive ends that just a few years ago had no concept of the significance of the game they’re about to play in.

Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner have combined for 20 sacks this season on a defensive line that may be the best in the country.

On Saturday they’ll play a major part in one of the most historic rivalries in college football, however with neither growing up in Florida, it’s an affair they’ve had to learn on the fly.

“I knew about the Florida State-Miami rivalry but I never knew about Florida,” said Carradine, who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and never followed the rivalry before arriving in Tallahassee.

For Bjoern Werner, originating from Germany, it was even more foreign.

“[I didn’t know much about it] but I picked it up fast,” joked Werner. “My freshman year when we played here and I got some playing time, that was intense, I said, ‘hey!’

“I played the whole season against other teams, I played Oklahoma and stuff like that, those are all good teams but when you’re on the field [with Florida] you see it’s different.”

“It was [different] because people were talking about the game way before the season went on,” recalled Carradine. “You’d see a lot of people out on the streets talking about the game, everyone was just hyped about the Florida State-Miami game, and the Florida Gators and Florida State game.”

This year’s UF-FSU game feels like a throwback to the rivalry’s Spurrier-Bowden glory days. Both teams are in the top ten and the excitement around the state is mounting as the game approaches.

“People are excited because they’re 10-1 and we’re 10-1,” said Carradine. “Everyone’s excited about this game. It’s the game of the year.”

It’s also Florida State’s last good shot to make a national statement. Unlike the Seminoles’ midseason rivalry game with Miami, this game carries national implications and a chance for the Seminoles to gain a much-needed BCS boost.

“We practiced really hard for Miami as well, but this week we’re really really getting after it,” said Carradine. “This is the game right here. We were never expecting to lose to Miami we were expecting to play hard as well but it’s like this week, Florida, it’s everything.

“Because all we can think is if we can beat Florida we’ll go up in our rankings. As you’ve seen we’re staying at number 10 for the last couple games. It’s really big.”

Because of a weak schedule the Seminoles have been weighed down in the BCS by unfavorable computer rankings. FSU has maintained their spot at ten while several SEC teams with two losses have jumped up ahead of them.

Florida, conversely, enjoys the highest national computer average. A win over UF could offer the kind of BCS boost Florida State needs to get into the conversation.

“Yeah, a lot of the top teams in front of us, Florida already beat,” said Carradine. “They lost to Georgia, but all those other teams in the SEC, those teams in front of us, Florida beat. So we think if we beat [the Gators] we should jump up pretty high.”

“All that BCS stuff, at the end of the season we’re going to see where we stand,” said Werner. “That’s how a lot of people on this team think and that’s good. We can’t get distracted by it.

“We’re just going to finish the season strong and at the end we’ll see where we stand.”

At the end of the season Florida State knows that the only thing they have control over is their own record, but a win over BCS-darling UF on Saturday would help with their national recognition quite a bit.

And that all starts up front with arguably the best tandem of defensive ends in the country.

Werner and Carradine will have a huge impact on Saturday’s game. Beyond the heavy pressure they’ll apply to Florida QB Jeff Driskel and their ability to shut down the run (FSU is ranked first in the country against the rush), the impact they’ve had in practice all year will pay big dividends come game-time for the Seminole offensive line.

UF boasts one hell of a defensive line themselves. They have the 4th-ranked defense in the country. But to the Florida State offensive linemen– who have to square off with the Seminole defensive front in good-on-good portions of practice all week, all summer, all spring– that’s nothing.

When I asked Tre Jackson if he’d seen a better player on Saturday all year than the guys he goes up against in practice every day he actually laughed because he didn’t think I was serious, then when he realized I was he settled down and offered an emphatic, “no.”

A decade ago neither Bjoern Werner or Tank Carradine had any idea the significance of the Florida-Florida State rivalry.

Come Saturday, their fingerprints will be all over it.


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