40-Year Check: Florida State and Florida

The annual rivalry game between Florida State and the Florida fast approaches on Saturday and it’s no surprise that trash talk has ramped up. Florida State fans hold a 4-1 edge over the past five years of the rivalry, but that of course never stops the arguing and doesn’t give an accurate picture of who should be favored in this year’s edition.

There are essentially two types of rivalries: a “streaky” rivalry and an “even” rivalry. Streaky rivalries often have deceiving overall records, because the teams in it usually have eras where they win four or more straight iterations of a game (see the Third Saturday in October for an example of this). So while one team might be dominating recently, the overall record might not show it. Compare this to even rivalries that show no clear trend and are almost always toss-ups. For a long period of time, FSU-Florida was the latter.

We didn’t do this article in the offseason originally because the Ohio State and Alabama editions were more unique and the comparisons were not usually done. However, Florida State fans are all too accustomed to hearing their in-state counterparts claim dominance over their “little brothers” as they say. Many point to the overall record of 34-23-2 in the Gators’ favor and say that this accurately captures the essence of the rivalry. All is fair in love and football rivalry, so we decided to take a look at the past 10, 25, and 40 years of the FSU and Florida programs. As always, the question is: If you were asked “Who is the better program over the past 10/25/40 years” which would you choose?

10-Year Outlook

Florida State Seminoles Florida Gators
Overall Record 84-38 (.689) 94-36 (.723)
Bowl Record  7-3 7-2
Record vs. Ranked Teams 16-22 (.421) 20-29 (.408)
Record vs. Top 10 Teams 5-8 (.384) 11-17 (.392)
NC Appearances 1 2
NC Wins 1 2
Average Class Ranking 7.4 6.1

Some FSU fans might want to look away from this segment. College football has a dark sense of humor, which is why Florida experienced possibly its best football stretch in modern program history while Florida State did the exact opposite. Seminole fans are very lucky that head coach Jimbo Fisher’s tenure is helping even out some of the numbers.

Florida having much more games vs. ranked and top-10 teams can be explained by the SEC generally being much better than the ACC at this time. The gap becomes even more pronounced when looking at opponent winning percentage in the overall record: FSU’s opponents had a .573 percentage while Florida’s came in at a .636 percentage. The SEC was at its apex during this time, and a large part of that was due to the Gators’ success. One unexpected stat: FSU and Florida went to the same number of BCS bowls in this stretch with four.

TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Trey Burton #8 of the Florida Gators rushes   during a game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, FL – NOVEMBER 27: Trey Burton #8 of the Florida Gators rushes during a game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Gator recruiting rankings are upheld by six different classes that finished top 5 in the nation. For all the criticisms of former Florida head coach Will Muschamp, some deserved, his recruiting classes were still acceptable. While they may have been inflated by the sheer number of recruits in some classes, he was always able to bring in multiple college standouts to Gainesville. Then 4-8 happened in 2013 and we all saw the downfall imminent.

As for the head-to-head record since 2005, Florida leads 6-4. The Gators obtained five of those victories in a row from 2005-2009, while FSU has since won four out of the last five. Florida State has hung fairly well when one considers the events of the past 10 years.

25-Year Outlook

Florida State Seminoles Florida Gators
Overall Record 240-68-1 (.778) 239-78-1 (.753)
Bowl Record 17-8 (.680) 13-10 (.565)
Record vs. Ranked Teams 66-47-1 (.583) 67-67-1 (.500)
Record vs. Top 10 Teams 19-26-1 (.423) 28-43-1 (.395)
NC Appearances 6 4
NC Wins 3 3

The (arguably) greatest era of the FSU-Florida rivalry starts in 1990, which is what this comparison captures. Steve Spurrier arrived as the head coach in Gainesville in 1990 and instituted the “Fun n’Gun” offense that would vault Florida back into the national spotlight after a few disastrous years under Galen Hall.

Both teams were playing very tough competition (.602 for FSU opponents and .629 for UF opponents) and having major success. Florida State’s biggest edge occurs in its bowl record, where it was better by .115 points. This isn’t a result of lesser bowl games either — the Seminoles went to 15 major bowl games in this span while Florida went to 12.

One of those wins includes a 1995 Sugar Bowl victory over Florida dubbed “The Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter” after the two teams tied in the 1994 regular season finale in a contest dubbed the “Choke at Doak”. Unfortunately, it also includes a 1997 Sugar Bowl loss that gave the Gators their first national championship after falling to FSU in Tallahassee to conclude the 1996 regular season. Once again, this rivalry shows that some sort of cosmic karma exists in the college football world.

Florida State holds a slight edge in the head-to-head with a 14-12-1 record in this span. They do this by going 7-4-1 from 1990-1999, effectively controlling the rivalry in the 90’s. Even more astounding for both teams: every matchup from 1990 to 2000 saw both teams ranked in the top 10. That includes five top-5 contests. Add in Miami to this mix and you have possibly the greatest era of football in one state.

40-Year Outlook

Florida State Seminoles Florida Gators
Overall Record 365-116-4 (.757) 342-144-6 (.701)
Bowl Record 25-10-1 (.708) 16-16-0 (.500)
Record vs. Ranked Teams 85-74-1 (.534) 86-108-3 (.444)
Record vs. Top 10 Teams 29-45-1 (.393) 34-70-2 (.330)
NC Appearances 6 4
NC Wins 3 3

Bobby Bowden’s arrival in 1976 would forever change the face of the rivalry and make it a legitimate primetime event. No longer would Florida State be automatically assigned to the second or third most powerful school in the state — they would instead regularly contend for the top position and put together some of the best teams of the past four decades.

A .598 opponent winning percentages for FSU is only .019 points off of Florida’s opponent winning percentage, effectively being the smallest difference of all three outlooks. It is therefore telling that the Seminoles have an advantage in almost every category. The bowl record gap is expected, since they have one of the best percentages of any team that has played in 10 or more bowl games since 1975.

The other numbers however, are fairly surprising. Some would try and point out that Florida has faced more ranked/top-10 opponents and argue that this would automatically lead to a lower numbers. If FSU didn’t have near the same number that might be true. But when you start getting a larger and larger sample size, it stops becoming a fluke. This would also not explain why Florida has a much poorer record in bowl games, considering its gone to 12 major bowl games in this span compared to FSU’s 20.

To add in a few more tidbits: FSU has finished in the AP top 10 a total of 21 times while UF has done so 17 times. The Seminoles also performed better in non-conference contests, holding a .727 winning percentage while the Gators have a .701 mark in the same category.

Finally, the head-to-head record is the last thing to look at. Florida State edges Florida by a mere game: 21-20-1. As far as rivalry games go, there are few with a more balanced competition. The past 40 years of the FSU-Florida rivalry have brought about some of the most impactful and exciting match-ups in all of college football. The Seminoles do hold an edge as far as most stats are concerned, but the record between the two teams should make it clear that numbers don’t matter much when these two programs go at it.

Compared to the 1990’s, not many things are riding on Saturday’s match-up. A potential playoff spot for Florida could be in play, but it would need a litany of upsets for that to happen. The Seminoles are fighting for state supremacy and maybe a better bowl selection. But enough motivation exists between the pure hatred that the two teams feel for each other. On Saturday, two top-15 teams will face off in the Swamp in a virtual toss-up. As interesting as the history is…it won’t matter when the players step on the field.

About Clint Eiland

Clint Eiland is a current FSU student looking for a degree in communications and classics. Clint has broadcasted games since high school, where he set up an organization that worked with local groups (Fox, BrightHouse, FHSAA) to stream high school athletic events on the internet. Clint currently contributes to Noled Out and is the Chief Anchor of the sports department at v89, the campus radio station. Readers can tune in every Monday at 7:00 on the v89 website to hear Tomahawk Talk, where Clint is a frequent guest panelist. Clint is a more recent fan, having followed FSU back in 2009 when a family member attended the university and recommended it. You can follow Clint on twitter @ClintEiland.