Florida and Florida State will meet for the 66th time on Friday night (7:30 p.m., ABC) at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The game between the longtime Sunshine State rivals will feature a number of firsts and “first time in a long time” moments.

It’s the 1st time the game has been contested on Black Friday, as opposed to its traditional spot on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

It’s the 1st time both teams have entered the game bowl-eligible since 2016, when the Gators were SEC East champions and the Seminoles advanced to the Orange Bowl behind All-American running back Dalvin Cook.

It’s the 1st game in the rivalry for Billy Napier, who has started his tenure at Florida a regrettable 0-3 in rivalry games, losing to Tennessee, LSU and Georgia, in succession.

It’s also the 1st time the Seminoles, ranked 16th at 8-3, have been favored to beat the Gators (6-5) since the Jimbo Fisher Era, which ended in 2017.

It will be the 1st win, if FSU prevails, for its head coach, Mike Norvell, in the rivalry game.

These are all interesting storylines, but the best storyline? That’s what it would be if for the 1st time in a long time Florida and Florida State played an instant classic.

There’s plenty of motivation on both sides to win.

Given the Black Friday kick, the primetime, nationally televised audience, and the fact it is 2 in-state programs clawing and fighting to return to national prominence in college football’s most fertile recruiting state, the stakes are higher than any bowl game the 2 programs are invited to come December or January.

Why not leave it all out on the field?

Considering the rivalry’s recent history of lopsided games, even a close game would do.

How lopsided has this rivalry been?

In the past decade, just 2 Florida-Florida State games — last year’s 24-21 Florida win in The Swamp and a 24-19 win by Jameis Winston and No. 1 FSU in 2014 — were decided by a touchdown or less. You have to go all the way back to 2006, when Chris Leak and eventual national champion Florida nipped FSU, 21-14, in Tallahassee, to find another game decided by just 1 score.

It’s also been a rivalry defined by dominant streaks over the past 20 years, with the Gators winning 6 consecutive games from 2004-09, FSU winning 5 consecutive games from 2013-17, and Florida winning the past 3 meetings. Very few of those games have been competitive, let alone close. In fact, during the past 15 years, 11 meetings between the schools have been decided by 2 touchdowns or more, and 8 meetings have been decided by 20 points or more.

While other storied rivalries have had 4th-down stands (Ohio St.-Michigan), the Kick Six and First and 99 (the Iron Bowl), End Zone Celebration Gate (The Egg Bowl) and multiple overtime games in the past decade (Bedlam), Florida and Florida State tends to be an exercise in sleepy submission, with the favored team covering on 13 of the previous 15 occasions and blowouts far more common than decent ballgames.

It’s time for that to end Friday night in Tallahassee. It’s time for a classic Florida-FSU game.

Last year’s squeaker in The Swamp, a 3-point affair that featured an interim Florida head coach in Greg Knox, hardly counts as a classic, though you could count Florida’s winning due to Florida State “executing” the worst onside kick in the history of the sport a classic moment in blooper history.

Yes, the game also brought this helmet torn off touchdown run by Dameon Pierce, a small preview of what he’s done as he fights for NFL Rookie of the Year honors this season with the Houston Texans. But even that run didn’t count.

To find a Florida-Florida State game that was a true classic, you probably have to go back to the 2003 “Swindle in The Swamp,” when No. 9 FSU beat No. 11 Florida, 38-34, on a late 52-yard Chris Rix touchdown pass to PK Sam.

The game, mired in controversy thanks to a host of glaringly obvious FSU turnovers and a defensive touchdown being overruled by referee Jack Childress, eventually became a vital moment in the history of the sport, as legendary Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley subsequently used the array of blown calls to usher in a faster, widespread implementation of replay to college football.

But in between the bad calls and boos, a truly epic, back-and-forth football game broke out, featuring a huge halftime comeback by Leak and the Gators, and 2 lead-seizing touchdown drives by both sides in the game’s final 5 minutes. Rix to Sam made the game an instant classic without the game’s long-term impact on the sport itself, but the controversy adds delicious seasoning to the story.

It’s been that long since these schools played a classic.

Saturday’s game has the trappings and potential to join the 2003 game, though.

The Gators need a signature win in Year 1 under Napier, and while his tenure opened with a win over then-No. 10 Utah, Florida has lacked a quality win since and, as noted, has yet to win a rivalry game under its new head coach. Florida’s 31-24 loss at lowly Vanderbilt last week also ratcheted up pressure on Napier for the 1st time in Gainesville.  A win over rival FSU would go a long way to quieting a suddenly uneasy fan base worried about progress and the foundation Napier is laying for the future.

The stakes for the Seminoles are equally as high.

Florida State isn’t recruiting as well as in-state rivals Florida and Miami. The Florida-Florida State game has always impacted recruiting immensely, and for 18 of the past 20 years the winner of the game has also inked the higher-ranked recruiting class. That is unlikely to go to 19 of 21 if FSU wins this year, but Norvell would love to be able to tell recruits about a big Seminoles win over Napier on the trail for the 2024 class. Even without a recruiting bump, the Seminoles could also crash the New Year’s 6 party with a win and help elsewhere, given their win over LSU is one of the better wins in the country in 2022.

As for the X’s and O’s and jimmies and joes, the 2 teams are relatively equally matched, talent-wise. Florida ranks 12th in the 247talent composite, while FSU is 17th. And the analytics, at least, suggest Florida won’t be intimidated by the matchup. Yes, FSU is 8-3 and quarterback Jordan Travis is marvelous. But FSU’s biggest weakness is run defense (52nd in overall run defense, 55th of 75 teams in success rate against the run), and the run game is Florida’s strength. If Florida can run the ball effectively, keep what is certain to be a rabid crowd seated on their hands and play keep away from Travis, there’s no reason this can’t be a fascinating, back-and-forth affair between 2 programs desperate for a victory.

Here’s to hoping. It’s been too many Novembers without an epic Gators-Seminoles game to talk about for years to come.

Why not Saturday?