Several off shore sports books opened Florida State as 2.5-point underdogs for this game (BetOnline, for example) before a significant market correction took place courtesy of professional bettors who backed the Seminoles as underdogs. Now, Florida State is a 2-point road favorite at most Nevada and off shore sports books (as of 4 p.m. eastern time Monday) in what should be an extremely interesting game to watch.
I am sure that some of the market correction is a result of the team’s disparate results over the last two weeks. Florida State arrives in Gainesville off consecutive SU and ATS wins over North Carolina State (34-17) and UT-Chattanooga (52-13), whereas the Gators limp into their season-finale off lackluster wins over both South Carolina (24-14) and Florida Atlantic (20-14).
However, Florida’s extensive injury list consisting of eleven players, including some key contributors, played a larger role in the market move (as did the lack of market liquidity). Florida’s coaching staff also has to consider whether risking players like defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard, who is nursing a knee injury, is worth it with a one-game shot at the SEC title just a week away.
Florida’s success is predicated upon an outstanding defense that is allowing 14.5 points and 282 total yards per game at 4.3 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yards per play against a mediocre defensive squad. The Gators are also a perfect 6-0 SU at home this season where they are limiting opponents to just 15.8 points and 292 total yards per game at 4.2 yards per play.
Finding a weakness in Florida’s stop unit is nearly impossible as the Gators are equally successful against both the run (1.4 yards per rush attempt better than average) and the pass (1.3 yards per pass attempt better than average). Moreover, Florida does not give up big plays as evidenced by the fact that it’s allowing 19.5 yards per point to teams that would combine to average 15.1 yards per point.
Overall, the Gators’ defense is 1.3 yards per play better than average from the line of scrimmage, which is certainly good enough to slow down a potent Florida State attack that is 1.1 yards per play better than average (6.7 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.6 yards per play). The issue for Florida State is when they leave Tallahassee as the Seminoles are 2-2 SU and ATS on the road this season where they are averaging just 16.7 points and 297 total yards per game at 5.3 yards per play.
Life on the road won’t get any easier for Florida State against a rising Gator defense that is limiting opponents to 11.7 points and 225 total yards at 3.5 yards per play and 19.3 yards per point over their last three games. Florida possesses a slight 0.2 yards per play advantage defensively over the Seminoles’ attack, although that edge should probably be increased taking into account Florida State’s offensive woes on foreign soil.
The compelling question is whether Florida’s mediocre offense (5.4 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.4 yards per play) will be able to move the chains against the Seminoles. Florida State’s defense is allowing 17.0 points and 334 total yards per game at 4.8 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.5 yards per play.
Florida’s best chance to move the ball is through the air (1.1 yards per pass attempt better than average), but the Seminoles’ defensive strength is in their secondary that has been 1.1 yards per pass play better than average). Overall, Florida State possesses a significant 0.7 yards per play advantage defensively over the Gators’ pedestrian attack.
From a technical standpoint, Florida State is 7-15 ATS following a win and 2-7 ATS in its last nine non-conference games, whereas the Gators are 10-4 ATS in their last fourteen games, including 5-2 ATS in their last seven non-conference games and 5-1 ATS versus teams with a winning record. While I am not ready to take a position on this game at the current market price, the Gators would become extremely attractive if/when the line hits +3.