at the hands of archrival Florida.
While both teams have one loss, the Gators are No. 6 weekly while the Seminoles are four spots below at No. 10. The difference, apparently, is the teams they’ve played.
The Gators, whose lone loss is to No. 3 Georgia, will be hunting for their third win this season over a top-10 team.
Florida (10-1) defeated LSU and Texas A&M and also has three Southeastern Conference road wins.
Florida State (10-1) has a marquee win over 12th-ranked Clemson while suffering its lone loss on the road at North Carolina State — which has lost five games and surrendered 62 points last week at Clemson.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said his team doesn’t need to worry about anything other than Florida right now. which is coached by his old buddy, Will Muschamp.
“It’s nothing about the BCS or rankings or anything else,” Fisher said at his weekly meeting with the media. “To play, compete and do well against Florida ... that’s our sole purpose.”
Fisher was more than a bit steamed last week at the way his team has been evaluated by the computers that figure into the BCS rankings. The computers give a low grade to the Seminoles’ body of work, which includes wins over Savannah State and Murray State — both of the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision.
“We can’t control what the computers are doing or what they have to say about Florida State,” senior wide receiver Rodney Smith said. “You hear people talk about it around the team that they feel it’s disrespectful.”
But, Smith added, they can quiet at least some of the doubters on Saturday.
“We just have to keep playing football and beat the next person that’s in front of us,” he said. “If Florida so happens to be that team, we have to beat those guys.”
Florida, meanwhile, looks to snap a two-game losing streak in the series. They’ve been outscored 52-14 in those defeats.
“Obviously we haven’t come up with the ‘W’ the past two years,” Florida linebacker Jonathan Bostic said. “But it’s another year, so we’re going to go in, preparing the best we can and try to come out with the ‘W.’”
And although Florida has struggled at times on offense, it’s a far different team than the one that showed up last year.
“Night and day,” Gators coach Will Muschamp said when asked to compare this year’s model with the 2011 one. “Offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff are all included.”
The Gators have gone 11-1 since last year’s loss to Florida State, starting with a bowl victory over Ohio State. A 17-9 loss to Georgia in the annual end-of-October showdown in Jacksonville last month is the Gators only slip-up since last year’s loss to Florida State.
Fisher’s teams are already 3-0 against Miami and would love to be the same against the Gators.
And for some reason the Seminoles seem to perform better in the big games with wins over not only their top rivals, but the likes of Notre Dame and South Carolina since Fisher’s arrival. They’ve also inexplicably lost to heavy underdogs like Wake Forest and Virginia last season and another at North Carolina State last month that may have destroyed any chances for Florida State getting to the national championship game.
But that’s all forgotten for a few hours Saturday.
“We want to finish strong,” Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel said. “We don’t want to come all this way and let up at the end.”
Manuel has a chance to join former Seminole quarterbacks Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke and Chris Rix with successive wins over the Gators over the past quarter century. And while Manuel is unlikely to win the Heisman Trophy like Ward and Weinke did, he’s be satisfied just the same.
And while he didn’t say it, maybe win a little more respect for his team.
“It will be a great opportunity,” the always diplomatic Manuel said.