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Matchups That Will Make or Break the Gators Against the Seminoles

The final week of Florida's regular season is upon us and on an unprecedented Black Friday, what must the Gators do to take down their ascending in-state rival FSU?

Black Friday. One of the most hectic, if not the most hectic, Fridays every year in the United States, and this one might take the crown. 

The United States will take on England in a must-win matchup in the World Cup. Some families will be eating leftovers, some will have been sleeping outside of Best Buy for eight hours, and for two Florida universities, it will be game day. 

For the first time, the Florida Gators will face off on Black Friday, taking on the rival Florida State Seminoles, who have been shooting up the college football power rankings in recent weeks. 

The Gators are coming off an embarring loss in Nashville, falling 31-24 to the Vanderbilt Commodores, swiftly ending any momentum the Gators had entering the final week of the regular season. 

The Seminoles enter the matchup trending in the opposite direction, riding a four-game win streak with an average margin of victory of 31 points in that span. 

Florida State is blazing hot right now. Head coach Mike Norvell appears to have righted the ship in Tallahassee, and the only thing standing in between nine wins and the Noles is the Gators.

After a crushing loss to hand them their fifth of the season, the Gators must rally and play their best football this week to avoid embarrassing losses two weeks in a row. Who and what must Florida stop on Friday to end their season on the highest note possible?

The Gators' defensive line needs to go berserk

The Seminoles' offense is firing on all cylinders right now. They're consistently putting 30+ points on the board and are doing it from all facets of their offense. Quarterback Jordan Travis is playing some of the best football of his career, posting a career-high 90.9 offensive grade this season. 

During Florida State's four-game win streak, Travis has accounted for 13 total touchdowns (10 passing, three rushing). Florida has had trouble all season in containing dual-threat quarterbacks, and this week they face yet another. 

On this Seminoles' offense, one unit ranks below the rest: the Florida State offensive line. 

This season, Seminoles' offensive linemen have allowed a combined 94 quarterback pressures, which breaks down to roughly 8.5 pressures per game. Right tackle Jazston Turnetine leads the team in pressures allowed with 14, followed closely by left tackle Robert Scott Jr. at 13. 

If the Gators wish to disrupt the Seminoles' offense, it will have to be the defensive line to step up, especially with linebacker Ventrell Miller likely missing the first half of the game this week

Not only will the Gators' pass rush have to have a day, but the run defense will also have to match. The Seminoles have effectively run the ball this season just as well as they have attacked the air and the Gators will have to be on top of their game for a full 60 minutes if they hope to remain in this contest.

After being shut out of the pressures department last week at Vanderbilt, Gators edge rusher Princely Umanmielen will have to shake off the performance and bring his A-game to help contain Travis and the Noles' offense. Another player with a down week that will need to reemerge is defensive lineman Gervon Dexter Jr., who is second on the active Gators' defense with 20 quarterback pressures this year, only behind Umanmielen with 21.

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Interior defensive lineman Desmond Watson has been playing some of his best football as of late and will need one final strong performance of the regular season to help keep Seminoles runningback Trey Benson from having a big day on the ground. Keeping FSU's offense as one-dimensional as possible will be the key to winning this ball game. 

Win the turnover battle and no self-inflicted mistakes

The Gators repeatedly shot themselves in the foot against the Commodores, leaving valuable points on the field and glaring special teams turnovers that cost them a touchdown on a muffed punt early in the game. 

From there, the team continued to level points on the field after unsuccessful two-point conversion attempts and a missed extra point. The Gators will have to capitalize on scoring opportunities when they're presented to them and cannot hand away possessions and points to an already lethal Seminoles offense. 

The Gators will have to win the turnover battle if they want to stay in this game until the final whistle. Creating turnovers and scoring points on those turnovers will be the most important battle to win this game. 

A Florida defender who will need to show up is linebacker Amari Burney. Burney has produced four turnovers this season, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. In Miller's first-half absence, Burney will have to step up and make a play to help this struggling Gators' defense out. 

Burney has also been an effective pass-rusher this season, posting a 90.7 pass-rush grade while notching four sacks and eight quarterback hurries. This week, a big day from Burney could be the momentum swing the Gators' defense desperately needs.

A Heisman-like game from Anthony Richardson

UF quarterback Anthony Richardson will have to put the team and offense on his back this week, and he's shown this season that he's capable. Richardson has now thrown two or more touchdowns in his last three games and has posted at least one in eight straight games, after starting the season with three consecutive games of no touchdown passes.

Something that was sorely missed against Vanderbilt was Florida's run game. What makes Richardson special is he has the ability to blow the run game wide open and make a game-changing play with his legs. 

But we didn't see Richardson run the ball too much last week, only having three carries for 25 yards, which is nothing compared to the week before against South Carolina when Richardson compiled 11 attempts for 111 yards on the ground. 

Richardson's dual-threat abilities will need to be utilized to open up Florida State's defense, both on the ground and through the air. 

Two Florida State defenders the offense will need to keep its' eyes on are edge-rushers Jared Verse and Derrick McLendon II. Verse leads the Seminoles' defense with 28 total quarterback pressures, eight of which resulted in sacks. McLendon ranks second on the team with 27 quarterback pressures, of which only three are sacks. Keeping Richardson upright will be crucial for keeping the Gators' offense on the field and being able to score points.

It will be an uphill battle for the Gators to secure a win this week, however, the team possesses all the pieces needed to beat a hot Florida State team; the only matter left is whether they can execute and play to their potential. 

That question will be answered on Black Friday, seen on some brand-new TVs.

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