The Florida vs. Florida State showdown: National stakes, local emotion

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It’s rivalry weekend!

Florida and Florida State will square off in Tallahassee on Saturday night in what will be one of the most impressive tailgating scenes of the entire year. For the first time in a few years, it feels like either team can pull this game off.

Recently, the ‘Noles have had the Gators’ number, winning five of the last six meetings. But historically, the Gators lead the series 34-24-2.

This year, both teams are ranked. Florida State comes in at No. 14 and Florida at No. 15. While it’s a longshot, Florida still has a path to the College Football Playoff. In other words, the stakes are more than just in-state bragging rights.

Many fans remember the crazy 1990s where Florida and Florida State were essentially two heavyweights going head-to-head each year led by legendary coaches, Steve Spurrier and Bobby Bowden.

Florida and Florida State rank 2nd among all major rivalries in terms of how many times they’ve met when both are ranked in the top 5 of the AP poll (6 times). Only Ohio State vs. Michigan have more top 5 meetings. Simply put, this rivalry matters both locally and nationally.

But the local arena is where all the emotion resides.

Like many bitter rivalries, the tailgating scene can be quite an adventure. In-state rivalries tend to have more evenly split crowds even as the teams rotate hosting the game. Despite being in Tallahassee, many Florida fans will be in attendance rocking the orange and blue.

These environments are ideal for making fun of the opposing teams. Who can forget when Steve Spurrier called FSU “Free Shoes University” when FSU were dealing with allegations regarding inappropriate gifts to football recruits? Or, when FSU’s Peter Warrick had an incident at a local Dillard’s store and fans were holding up Dillard’s bags on giant poles in the background of ESPN’s College GameDay broadcast? Oh, rivalries…

So, have at it. The competitive element is part of what makes college football so great. Make fun of Florida fans’ jean shorts. Take a shot at some of the historical controversies surrounding the Florida State program. Just keep it all in good humor.

With the 8:00 PM kickoff, a full day of tailgating awaits. Enjoy the sunshine and the football. It doesn’t get much better than this. After you make fun of an opposing fan, perhaps offer him or her a Bud Light.

After all, it’s just a game, right? Ok, nevermind.

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