Throughout the 1990s, the annual football meeting between Florida and Florida State rarely came without a national championship on the line. From 1993-2000, the Seminoles and Gators combined to win three national championships while playing for three others.
In the 14 years since, the two schools have still managed to combine for three national titles, but the annual rivalry has been lacking in national intrigue. The teams have met just once with both teams ranked in the top 10 and only four of the last 15 contests have been decided by fewer than 11 points. Last season’s 24-19 FSU victory in Tallahassee was the closest game played between the teams since 2003.
Florida had seized control of the rivalry, winning six straight from 2004-09 with the average margin of victory being more than 20 points. Over the final four years of that stretch, the Gators notched a pair of national championships and three total BCS bowl victories while FSU finished 7-6 three times.
FSU has since taken four of five with the average margin of victory for the Seminoles being greater than 18. Florida State has claimed three straight ACC titles culminating in two BCS bowl victories, the school’s third national championship and an appearance in the first College Football Playoff.
The lone Florida victory over that stretch was a 37-26 win in Tallahassee in 2012 — the first top-10 meeting between the schools since 2000. Since then, Florida is just 12-14 in its last 26 games which includes home losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern.
But while the football rivalry has gone relatively stale from a national standpoint, the contests have been wildly entertaining on the hardwood and of national importance on the diamond.
Earlier this month, FSU watched a baseball season that resulted in its first ACC crown since 2010 come to an end at the hand of the rival Gators. Florida pounded the Seminoles in the Gainesville Super Regional, taking two games by a combined 24-9 margin.
The domination by the Gators in Gainesville came after the Seminoles took two of three during the regular season. The rubber game ended in dramatic fashion as FSU’s Quincy Nieporte blasted a pitch over the left-center field wall in a 4-3, 12-inning walk-off victory in mid-April.
Florida may have gotten the last laugh on the diamond this year, but the Gators watched FSU end their season in 2008 and 2010. In the last eight years, Florida or Florida State have combined to end the other’s season three times. Over that span, the teams have also combined for seven College World Series appearances.
The rivalry on the hardwood hasn’t had much national appeal, but the last two contests have been wildly entertaining as they’ve each been decided in the final two seconds and by a combined three points with each team winning at home.
Florida State won last season’s meeting in one of the more bizarre finishes in basketball history. With the score tied 63-63, FSU guard Devon Bookert’s 3-point attempt came up short, but was inadvertently tipped in by Florida forward Jacob Kurtz, who was trying to corral the rebound with less than a second remaining. The Seminoles snapped a 5-game skid to the Gators with a 65-63 win.
Florida reached the Final Four the previous year, finishing the season 35-3, but its closest victory of the regular season came against rival Florida State. Dorian Finney-Smith hit the go-ahead free throw with 1.3 seconds left, but FSU nearly stunned Florida as Ian Miller’s halfcourt heave hit the back of the iron and came off in a 67-66 win for the Gators.
Both schools enjoyed national championships this year in women’s sports. Florida repeated as Women’s College World Series champions in softball while FSU captured its first ever soccer title, holding its six NCAA Tournament opponents scoreless in the process. The lone loss for the national champion Seminoles in 2014 happened to be a 2-1 defeat to rival Florida.
But while the FSU-Florida rivalry has helped shape the national landscape on the baseball diamond and had two of the more bizarre finishes on the basketball court over the last two seasons, the feud between the Seminoles and Gators will always be most magnified on the gridiron.
Though it’s entirely possible that the rivalry will never come with the national championship implications it did with such regularity throughout the 1990s, it’s not unlikely that its national appeal dramatically improves.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has made the Seminoles a national force to be reckoned with once again while new Florida head coach Jim McElwain looks to follow in the footsteps of former offensive-minded Gators’ coaches Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, who each brought Florida national championships and multiple SEC titles.
Whether McElwain can right the Gators’ ship or whether Fisher can continue his outstanding pace at FSU will remain to be seen, but in the meantime, the two Sunshine state schools continue to each excel in a multitude of sports. Though the Seminoles have had the obvious upper-hand on the football field in recent years, the schools have continued to play contested games across the athletic prism and with no love lost.