TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Will Muschamp doesn’t have any doubt where his team’s next stop should be: Miami for the BCS championship game on Jan. 7.
And the sixth-ranked Gators made a strong case for consideration Saturday by crushing archrival Florida State.
Mike Gillislee ran for two touchdowns and Florida scored 24 straight points in a span of less than nine minutes in the fourth quarter to keep its national title hopes alive with a convincing win over the 10th-ranked Seminoles.
“We have a really tough football team,” Muschamp said he left the field for Florida’s locker room. “We should be playing for the national championship.”
Florida (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) came into the game fourth in the BCS standings, and could find itself in position to earn a spot in the national championship game if No. 1 Notre Dame loses to Southern California. The Gators lone loss was in late October to third-ranked Georgia, and it will keep them out of the SEC title game.
“Hopefully we can sneak in,” said Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. “We’re a resilient team.”
He’s not likely to get any argument from Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who hoped a victory over the Gators would not only persuade pollsters that the Seminoles belonged among the elite, but win some positive attention for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage up front,” Fisher said. “They have a very good team. They did a great job.”
The game matching two of the nation’s best defenses went back and forth with the Seminoles scoring 20 unanswered points to take a 20-13 lead late in the third quarter. They wouldn’t score again until the final play of the game and victory out of reach.
“Our guys understand that it’s about all 60 minutes,” Muschamp said. “We just really needed to be patient and wear them down.”
Did they ever.
Florida regained the lead for keeps at 23-20 on Gillislee’s 37-yard run with 11:01 left in the final period on the first play after Florida State’s EJ Manuel fumbled, his fourth turnover of the game. Gillislee finished with 140 yards rushing, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the season early in the game.
Florida State (10-2, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) was hurt by five turnovers in the game. The Seminoles will play Georgia Tech next week in the ACC title game.
Florida State was hoping to keep its own long shot national title hopes alive with a third straight win over the Gators, but couldn’t.
The Seminoles had been so dominant at home, outscoring opponents 324-54 in six previous games here with Clemson doing the most damage when Florida State prevailed in a 49-37 shootout in September.