It is now one of the most celebrated rivalries in southern college football. It is the yearly meeting between the Florida Gators and Florida St. Seminoles. This weekend will be the first installment in years where both teams enter their yearly meeting with only one loss and/or in the top-10. This rivalry had a rough start, but eventually it did grow into a great rivalry. And it was, like many great rivalries, a particular coaching rivalry that sent this rivalry into the stratosphere. That was Steve Spurrier (Gators) Vs. Bobby Bowden (Seminoles). This is my list of the best games between the Gators & Seminoles listed in chronological order.
1. How great the game itself was
2. The importance of the game to each team’s seasons
3. The historical importance of the game itself
1966—Florida 22, Florida St. 19
The Gators ended up with the win here, but this was the rivalry’s first big controversy. The controversy came when Seminoles receiver Lane Fenner appeared to catch what would have been a game-winning, 47-yard touchdown for his team, but the play was called incomplete as the ref didn’t believe Fenner had control of the ball when he rolled out-of-bounds. Later, pictures of Fenner making the catch and made it into Florida newspapers, only intensifying the rivalry.
1993—Florida St. 33, Florida 21
The Seminoles came into this one ranked #1. They had finally gotten past the Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes and though they lost to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Fighting Irish lost the week after they beat the Seminoles. The Seminoles built a 13-0 lead early, but the Gators never went away. So much so that the game stood at 27-21 late before eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward hooked up with Warrick Dunn (only a freshman at the time) for a 79-yard scoring play that gave the Seminoles the win. They ended up winning the national championship with an Orange Bowl win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
1994—Florida St. 31, Florida 31
“The Choke at Doak.” This was on its way to being Spurrier’s biggest coaching win with the Gators. They held a 31-3 lead going into the fourth quarter, and then all hell broke loose. Four different Seminoles scored touchdowns in the final quarter to tie the game and the Gators ran out of time on their final bid to win the game.
1995 Sugar Bowl—Florida St. 23, Florida 17
The rematch. The Gators knocked off an undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide team to win the SEC, and the Seminoles were waiting in New Orleans. The Seminoles may have had a mental edge due to the fourth quarter just months before because they were in control of this game almost from the beginning. The Gators were once again forced to play catchup the whole game and came up short.
1996—Florida St. 24, Florida 21
The only number one versus number two game in the rivalry’s history. This one almost turned into a rout when the Seminoles scored 17 points in the opening quarter. The Gators’ defense began to stop the Seminoles, Danny Wuerfful got going, and the game ended up being close. The win was still a conclusive one for the Seminoles and should have settled the issue that season. But it didn’t…
1997 Sugar Bowl—Florida 52, Florida St. 20
The rematch II: Spurrier’s Revenge. The only time in this rivalry’s history that a game between them was literally for the national championship. The Gators were able to get their rematch by winning the SEC and ending up at #3 in the polls with the Seminoles obviously at #1. The #2 Arizona St. Sun Devils had lost the previous day in the Rose Bowl, so this game was for it all. Both offenses flourished in a domed environment and the first half was a very offensive and entertaining first thirty minutes that saw the Gators up 24-17. The lead would get down to 24-20, but it’s here that the Seminoles seemed to run out of gas as the Gators were going into another gear. The Gators scored 28 unanswered points to turn the game into a rout and give Spurrier his only national championship.
1997—Florida 32, Florida St. 29
Many believe this is the greatest game to take place at Ben Hill Giffin Stadium, also known as “The Swamp.” I’m going to double down and call this the greatest game in the history of this rivalry. This was the rivalry at its action-packed best. The fact that the Gators weren’t in the SEC or national title hunt didn’t matter once the game got going, but that’s when the Seminoles being number one in the country did. The Gators clawed back from an early 17-6 deficit to lead at halftime. The whole second half was a back and forth battle between the teams and it ended up being the Gators that made enough stops and enough big plays to earn the upset win. For the second straight season, the Seminoles’ national title hopes had been dashed by their in-state rival.
2003—Florida St. 38, Florida 34
The last truly intense and close game in the rivalry’s history. This was a very nice offensive show that was a bit overshadowed by some questionable officiating, the fact that they were an ACC officiating crew only amped up speculation after the game. The Seminoles won with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Chris Rix to PK Sam that came after Rix converted a fourth & 17 on the drive. The game is also known for the brawl that broke out after the Seminoles win when the victorious team ran to mid-field and began jumping on the Gators’ F logo, inciting the Gators into a fight.