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Can Dalvin Cook find space and other questions about FSU-Florida

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Five questions to ponder about the FSU-Florida game.

Can the FSU Seminoles run on the Gators?

We’ll see. So far, Florida State has played three teams – Louisville, N.C. State and Boston College – who rank higher against the run than the Gators, who are  20th in the country. But those are just numbers. When healthy, this is the toughest defense the Seminoles have played.

The thing is, Florida isn’t completely healthy. But teams seem to play harder in their rivalry games. The Gators have seven starters – five on defense – who are expected to miss the game. Still, it’s hard to dismiss the Gators. They are third in the nation in scoring defense and fifth in total defense. Except for the Arkansas game, and the second half of the Tennessee game, the Gators have been very difficult to move the ball against.

Can Florida’s Austin Appleby take advantage of a sketchy FSU defense?

That’ll be a challenge. FSU’s defense has struggled against big-name quarterbacks for most of the season, but Appleby doesn’t really compare with Lamar Jackson, Mitch Trubisky, Deshawn Watson, Brad Kaaya or Quinton Flowers. And FSU does have some weapons: Demarcus Walker is second in the nation in sacks and Tavarus McFadden is first in interceptions.

Overall, Florida ranks only 102nd in the nation on offense? That’s low enough that their season has been a surprise. For instance, Las Vegas is 101st, and it’s 4-7. Virginia is 104th, and it’s 2-9. It’s a compliment that the Gators have achieved what they have.

The two schools really aren’t that far apart in the AP top 25. Why is there a difference in the way they’re viewed?

FSU’s season has been a disappointment; they were second in the nation at one point. Florida has the look over an achiever as it heads to the SEC title game.

Most people knew that Florida’s offense would swim upstream all year with a new quarterback. But FSU had Cook and a good group of receivers. Still, you get the feelling that FSU’s best football is still to come.

Over the past few years, FSU’s receivers have struggled against Florida’s secondary. Will it be any better this year?

Florida has great cornerbacks in Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson. It’s missing both of its safeties, which could play a part. In 2013, Kelvin Benjamin had a monster game against the Gators (nine catches for 212 yards), but except for that, however, FSU has struggled.

What is Florida’s best chance at a upset?

On offense, the Gators have to run Jordan Scarlett, and then run him again. With 725 yards, he’s the Gators’ most consistent performer. Defensively, Florida has to keep the score close. A timely play-action pass might figure in, too.

FSU needs to ride Cook, who is sixth in the nation in rushing, but it also needs to take advantage of its edge at quarterback in Deondre Francois.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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