By Curt Weiler, Tallahassee Democrat
TALLAHASSEE – A lot will be on the line Saturday.
Florida State’s 36-year bowl streak and 41-year streak of winning seasons. A five-game winning streak over the Florida Gators that the Seminoles would love to keep for another season.
No one around the program is shying away from the multi-fold importance of this weekend’s matchup.
However, there’s a belief that if FSU (5-6. 3-5 in ACC) is to knock off No. 13 UF (8-3, 5-3 in SEC), it’s going to come down to what FSU is able to do as opposed to what the Gators aren’t.
“I don’t think it’s about Florida, it’s got to be about us and about what we’re doing and we got to be on our ‘A’ game in what we’re doing. We feel like our ‘A’ game, if we’re on our ‘A’ game, we feel like it’s good enough,” FSU head coach Willie Taggart said at his Monday news conference.
“We have to be on that and again against a good football team and we can’t make the mistakes that we have been making. We got to be sharp on everything we’re doing and doing it at a high level.”
FSU enters this week riding off after it snapped its three-game losing streak and maintained its opportunity to get bowl eligible after a fourth-quarter rally led the Seminoles to a 22-21 win over then-No. 22 Boston College.
“I was excited not only with the win but how we won. I thought our football team needed to win a game like that and hopefully that can propel us on to better things moving forward,” Taggart said.
“We’re going to build off of that from last week and knowing that it’s going to be another physical ball game this week.”
Talk of the streak arose during Monday news conferences both in Tallahassee and Gainesville.
“It’s very important. Like I said after the game, we’re a prideful university, we pride ourselves on winning and you think about the streak, that’s winning. We have been winning every year,” Taggart said.
“So it’s very important that we go out and give our fans, our alumni, our former players and coaches that have been here and our current players and coaches everything we can to see that we get this victory and keep it going. That’s important to us and we know what is at stake and we got to go take care of business.”
Asked what it would mean for the Gators to end the Seminoles’ NCAA-record streak of bowl appearances, first-year UF head coach Dan Mullen told reporters, “That’d be great. I’d love to do it.
“That’s what rivalry games are all about, right?”
For the second straight year, FSU needs to defeat the Gators to keep its bowl streak alive. It did so last year in a 38-22 win in Gainesville that became Jimbo Fisher’s last game as head coach.
This year, the Seminoles have to beat a UF team that could play its way into a New Years’ Six bowl with a win Saturday.
In spite of the odds — FSU opened as a three-point underdog when the spread was released Sunday — there was palpable confidence radiating from the postgame interviews after the win over BC.
“That’s all we’re playing for right now. It is do-or-die at this point so we can’t afford anything else but a win,” FSU cornerback Stanford Samuels III said.
“We’re going to win next week. We’re going to beat the Gators.”
Added FSU running back Cam Akers, “We’re fighting for a bowl streak. We’re going to practice and play like it.”
If the team is able to carry over what it found late in the BC win, there’s confidence that Saturday’s outcome will be favorable.
“It’s the last game of the season, we need to practice that way, we need to meet that way, we need to walk that way and then do it on Saturday,” Taggart said.
“We got one last opportunity at home in Doak to put it all together and so it’s more about us. If we can do what we need to do, we feel good about it.”