The Daily Nole

Hot Take Tuesday: Florida and Florida State is a Rivalry in Decline

Ross Obley/FSU athletics

Florida State fans know there is no more bitter rival than the University of Florida. Gator fans would likely say the same.

The rivalry certainly has its fair share of history and for many fans, the day of the annual Sunshine State showdown can feel like Christmas morning. With that said, the football rivalry isn’t quite what it used to be.

Throughout the 1990s, the rivalry may have been the most consequential in the entire country. For 11 years from 1990-2000, both Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles and Steve Spurrier’s Gators were ranked in the top 10 for each rivalry contest.

Aside from the high national rankings, the number of big-time moments was not at a shortage from Warrick Dunn down the sideline in 1993 to the “Choke at Doak” the following year to No. 1 vs. No. 2 in 1996 to two Sugar Bowl rematches to the “Greatest Game Ever Played at the Swamp” to Marcus Outzen to Peter Warrick. There was probably no better rivalry in college football.

Since Spurrier decided to try his hand at the NFL and FSU fell into a “Lost Decade”, the rivalry has become more of a regional one than a national one. That’s become even more true in recent years.

From 1990 to 2000, the longest winning streak for either team was three for FSU to close that span. Florida never won more than two in a row against the Seminoles. In 1996, the Gators beat the Seminoles for the national championship in a season where the teams handed each other their only losses. The following year, Florida ruined FSU’s perfect season. The Seminoles ruined Florida’s national championship hopes the following three years.

The teams have split the last 18 meetings, but even then, they haven’t been all that competitive. Since 2007, the teams have met 12 times and only four times have both teams been ranked in the top 25. Florida’s 37-26 win in Tallahassee in 2012 was the only contest where both teams entered ranked in the top 10. For the most part, the favored team has won big and playing spoiler has been a fruitless endeavor in the rivalry.

Over the last 12 seasons, FSU’s 24-19 home victory in 2014 was the only one decided by fewer than 11 points. From 2004-09, Florida won six straight with the average margin of victory being nearly 22 points. The Seminoles won seven of the next eight in the series with FSU victories coming by an average margin of more than 19 points. The Gators defeated FSU last season to snap a 5-game skid, 41-14.

Although not nearly as consistently as the ’90s, FSU and Florida have both have decent amounts of success over the last decade-plus with each winning division titles, conferences titles, major bowl games and national championships. Winning the annual rivalry contest is still a prerequisite for winning bigger titles and has a significant bearing on recruiting. The rivalry itself however, has underwhelmed.

What the future holds for both programs remains to be seen. Florida enjoyed its first 10-win season in six years and its first major bowl victory in nine years last season under first-year head coach Dan Mullen. Willie Taggart will hope to lead FSU back from its worst season in 43 years in his second season in Tallahassee.

Taggart and Mullen ever elevating the rivalry to the levels it reached under Bowden and Spurrier is probably far too tall of a task. Making it one with national implications again isn’t out of the realm of possibility. While few FSU fans would ever root for the Gators and vice versa, there’s no arguing that is when the rivalry is at its best.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at Mike@TheDailyNole.com.

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