University of Florida

The Gators and Noles haven’t played up to expectations. But they are playing for this

Randy Shannon will coach the Florida Gators against the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday.
Randy Shannon will coach the Florida Gators against the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday. AP

Florida State’s “war chant” fight song blasted through speakers at Florida’s practice Monday. The song was intended to get the Gators motivated for Saturday’s contest against the visiting Seminoles, whose fans are sure to invade Gainesville with the song and the accompanying tomahawk chop. UF coach Randy Shannon was trying to add a little spice to a rivalry that needs it this season.

In what ought to be called the “disappointment bowl,” the Gators (4-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) will play the Seminoles (4-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coastal Conference) at noon in Gainesville in what’s become a year to forget for both programs. Rather than playing each other with national championship aspirations at stake, Florida will try and prevent Florida State from reaching a bowl game and snap a four-year skid against the Seminoles, while Florida State will try and remain bowl eligible and secure another win in the rivalry.

“It’s Florida State,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said when asked about Florida having nothing to lose this weekend. “They’re gonna play the same type of game that they would otherwise because it’s a rivalry, and that’s what this game means.”

UF and FSU entered 2017 with high expectations and with high-profile games in Week 1. The No. 3 Seminoles played No. 1 Alabama and the No. 17 Gators played No. 11 Michigan. Both Florida teams lost.

The downfall of Florida State was in large part to losing starting quarterback Deondre Francois for the season against the Crimson Tide. For Florida, it was to never having an effective offense. As a result, this weekend will mark the first time the teams play with neither one being ranked since 2011.

So with that as the backdrop, it’s clear this annual regular season-ending rivalry isn’t at its most glamorous. Nevertheless, one of the main motivations for the Gators is finally knocking off FSU after four consecutive losses.

Nobody on Florida’s roster has ever beaten the Seminoles, and for many of them, this weekend is their last chance. Players like receiver Brandon Powell, defensive back Duke Dawson and punter Johnny Townsend want to go out with a win. They’re hoping quarterback Feleipe Franks, who will enter Saturday as the only healthy quarterback on Florida’s roster for the second consecutive week, can make it happen.

“I feel like sending the seniors out on a good note is kind of the biggest thing,” receiver Dre Massey said. “I asked [Powell] how many times he beat Florida State as an example and he was like, ‘We 0-3 against them,’ so it’s in our head to send them out on a good note.”

Beating the Seminoles would also prevent them from reaching a bowl game.

“There’s not much to look forward to with this season,” Massey said, “so we’re looking forward to that.”

Saturday: FSU at Florida

Kickoff: Noon; Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville.

TV/radio: ESPN; WINZ 940; WFTL 850.

Favorite: FSU by 5 1/2.

Records: FSU 4-6 (3-5 ACC); Florida 4-6 (3-5 SEC).

Series: Florida leads 34-25-2.

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