"It's a very physical game," Brent Pease
said of the matchup. "I know, because you're playing against your friends, you're playing against kids that you've grown up with, not necessarily at your school, but other schools that you've played against in high school.
"You want to be at your best. You want to have that bragging right for a year. You want to have the credit to step out and be proud of what you've done."
The defensive side of the ball is what has carried Florida State this season. Currently in the third season under defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, that isn't a surprise to Pease. They've had time to recruit players that fit the scheme and given them years in the system to increase their understanding of it.
It's the benefit of having an elite coordinator at one school for an extended period of time, and it jumped out at the Florida coaches during their film study this week.
"They've got a lot of great players," Pease said. "I think they're difficult in many means because they've got all the ingredients to be what they want to be. They're built around speed. They've got good size. They've got good guys on the edges with (Bjoern) Werner and (Tank) Carradine. Their secondary is guys that play from sideline-to-sideline and can cover you."
The defensive line is what makes the Seminoles go on defense. That looked like it would take a hit when Brandon Jenkins was lost for the season, but it allowed Tank Carradine to emerge and become an equal threat off the edge. The pressure generated by Carradine and Werner forces opposing quarterbacks into bad decisions, and the speed at linebacker and in the secondary takes advantage of it.
Werner creates pressure on the quarterback
The Gators have seen elite defensive end already this season. During the fifth game of the season, LSU
brought a defense to Gainesville that featured Sam Montgomery
and Barkevious Mingo
— both expected to be first-round picks. South Carolina
came to Gainesville two weeks later with Jadeveon Clowney
, one of the top defensive ends in the country.
"I think it's very similar to LSU," Pease said. "They've got two kids on the edges, Carradine and Warner, that are great defensive ends. They've got speed and they know how to play run-blocks. They've got a couple of kids in the middle that can hold the point, and they present tough matchups because sometimes it takes two to be blocked. Their backers are pretty active in there.
"As far as that, those seven right there in front of you, there's not a lot of difference between LSU and South Carolina, what they've done, and what we have to do to make sure that we are accountable to those guys and the plays that we have."
The challenge for the Florida offensive linemen is obvious. The unit has struggled in recent weeks after holding up well against the pass rush of LSU early in the season. Since then, the offensive line has been regressing.
Part of it is because of injuries. The week after LSU, James Wilson had an eye injury that kept him out the next game against Vanderbilt. Left tackle Xavier Nixon and center Jonotthan Harrison both went down against the Commodores with injuries that have continued to bug them at times. Ian Silberman is now out for the season with a torn labrum and right tackle Chaz Green is dealing with an ankle injury.
The lack of cohesion has hurt the Gators on the line of scrimmage.
"It hurts a lot because you get a new guy in there," Pease said. "The guy you are used to working with in combinations is not the same guy. There is a loss of communication at times. It is kind of like being married – if your partner is not there, you are kind of looking around. It just causes inconsistencies."
That can't be the case against the Florida State defensive front. The Gators have struggled to pick up blitzes and keep defenders off the quarterback in recent weeks, but the Seminoles don't usually need to blitz to create pressure in the backfield.
"You've got to have some man beaters and got to hold up in protection," Pease said about the Florida offensive line. "All 11 at a time, you've got to be very sound in your fundamentals and compete. They're going to win some battles. Those guys over there are good. They're not going to be shut down the whole game.
"You've got to find your spots, and like the LSU game, you've got to compete and hit some plays here or there."
Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease will coach in the rivalry with Florida State for the first time on Saturday. He has long been an admirer of it from the outside. While spending time at Boise State, Baylor and Kentucky as an offensive coordinator, he was always impressed watching the rivalry on television. He'll be in the booth during it for the first time on Saturday in Tallahassee.
The Florida offensive coordinator has been watching the rivalry on television in recent years