Florida and Florida State have faced off in top-10 showdowns before. But on Saturday, this will be the first time since 2000 that both teams are in the top 10 going into their regular-season finale.
A victory in the series gives a 365-day license to brag, but, this year, it also provides needed Bowl Championship Series cache. While both teams are 10-1, BCS No. 4 Florida and No. 10 Florida State still need help to reach the title game.
The Gators have a plausible path to play for a title. If Notre Dame (11-0) falls to Southern California on Saturday night, the door swings wide open.
Huge if, Florida coach Will Muschamp said of the Gators BCS title game chances.
The Seminoles would need a half dozen losses to be in the picture, an unlikely scenario even in this bizarre season.
Florida just needs a USC win. Notre Dame is the only major unbeaten team left in college football, save ineligible Ohio State. So the Fighting Irish would clinch a spot in the BCS title game with a victory over the Trojans.
BCS No. 2 Alabama closes out the regular season by playing host to Auburn, while Georgia Tech travels to BCS No. 3 Georgia. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs are both heavy favorites but, hey, anything can and has happened in college football this season.
Even if Alabama and Georgia win on Saturday, one will eliminate the other when the division champions face off in Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference title on Dec. 1.
A Notre Dame loss and Florida win over Florida State could pave the way for another all-SEC championship game with Florida against the Alabama-Georgia winner. Again, plenty of ifs.
"I didn't even know we were No. 4. I thought it was like 21 or something like that," Florida senior nose tackle Omar Hunter told GatorZone.coms Chris Harry. "It would be great playing for a national championship again, but we just got to worry about Florida State this week."
To say that Florida State is a longshot would be an understatement. The Seminoles 17-16 loss to N.C. State in October, coupled with a weak schedule has hurt Florida States BCS ranking. Florida State has played and beaten a top-10 team in Clemson, but the Tigers are the only Top 25 program that the Seminoles have played all season.
Florida State is behind a trio of two-loss teams - No. 7 LSU, No. 8 Stanford and No. 9 Texas A&M. So for the Seminoles to vault all the way to No. 2? They would likely need nearly every team ahead of them in the BCS to lose their rivalry game.
And even then, Florida State may be in good shape in the coaches poll but not in the computer rankings. The various computer polls have the Seminoles rated 17th, mostly based on the loss to N.C. State and the strength of schedule (West Virginia backing out on Florida State, and the Seminoles replacement of the Mountaineers with lowly Savannah State, also hurts in the eyes of the computers).
I think every year that we play the other schools in Florida, I think its always a respect that you gain from the rest of the nation, Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel said.
Granted that Miami isnt where theyve been the past couple years, but the fact that weve beat them and beat USF, and then if we can beat Florida it would be huge for us as a program.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has railed on the BCS, and the computer rankings in particular, for the past few weeks. But on Monday, he dismissed the questions.
Im not even going to answer the question, Fisher said. Were talking about Florida. Control what we can control.
Both Muschamp and Fisher reiterated their mantra on Monday of ignoring the clutter. The longtime coaching friends must hope their players focus on the game and forget the other chatter. Play the game on Saturday in Tallahassee, watch the other games around the nation unfold in the next few weeks and then let the BCS sort things out.