Right next to Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan and Army-Navy in the college football rivalry ranks should absolutely be Florida versus Florida State. Its height came in the 1990s, when the Bobby Bowden-led Seminoles and Steve Spurrier-led Gators were ranked inside the Top 10 literally every time they played each other. National championship implications were almost always at stake during that time.
Though the game, played every year on the weekend after Thanksgiving, hasn’t carried quite the same weight on a national scale recently, it’s still, and will always be, a heated contest. Florida leads the all-time series 34-26-2, but FSU has won seven of the last eight matchups. The teams have played each other every year since 1958, so there’s no shortage of history, legendary games and iconic moments in the top-10 games of all-time.
10. Jameis vs. Muschamp’s Defense in 2014
This was Florida’s shot at ruining No. 3 Florida State’s chances at a College Football Playoff berth and a second consecutive national championship. Jameis Winston played the worst game of his career as possibly Will Muschamp’s best UF defense picked off the former No. 1 pick a career-high four times in the head coach’s final game as a Gator. Florida’s defensive attack couldn’t overcome the woes of Treon Harris, who couldn’t lead a receiver to save his life.
Dalvin Cook gashed the Gators on the ground in true Dalvin Cook fashion, and Florida missed two second-half field goals that would’ve each gave them the lead. UF’s Gerald Willis also took a swing at Winston on the sidelines, and this game was awesome for many reasons.
9. The First Matchup: 1958
The first ever game between the two teams land this one on the list. UF president J. Wayne Reitz negotiated a contract that launched the annual matchup, but early stipulations included that every game be played in Gainesville because Doak Campbell’s stadium capacity was so low. Florida won this one, 21-7.
8. Tebow’s Senior Day Demolition: 2009
It may not have been the closest game, but I couldn’t leave Tim Tebow’s name off this list. In the Gator great’s final home game — against the Seminoles nonetheless — he threw three touchdowns and rushed for two more in what became one of his many legendary performances. Tebow and the Urban Meyer-led Gators won, 37-10. This was also the last time Florida beat Florida State in the swamp.
7. The Catch That Wasn’t: 1966
The Gators won this one, 22-19, but what took place after made this game famous. FSU wide receiver Lane Fenner appeared to catch a game-winning touchdown with under a minute left in the game, but referees said he didn’t have control of the ball at the time. Newspapers the next day published photos that clearly showed Fenner in fact had control in the end zone. FSU even listed the game as a 26-22 win in its 2014 football media guide.
6. Ward to Dunn: 1993
Charlie Ward vs. Danny Wuerffel. How often do two Heisman Trophy winners square off in college? FSU fans will remember this one as “Ward to Dunn” and for good reason. Florida was within striking distance, down 27-21, with just under six minutes left. Ward flipped a pass to freshman running back Warrick Dunn, who ran it all the way for a 79-yard touchdown to seal the game. FSU won, 33-21, and won its first national championship that season.
5. Death in the Family: 1961
Florida had beaten FSU, which not long before was a women’s college, three straight times to begin the series before they tied 3-3 this year. After the game, Florida coach Ray Graves said the loss felt “like a death in the family.” The quote and the game ignited the rivalry for years to come.
4. No. 1 versus No. 2: 1996
Florida came into the game ranked first while Florida State was ranked second. The epic matchup resulted in a 24-21 loss in which FSU star running back Warrick Dunn rushed for 185 yards. UF quarterback Danny Wuerffel threw for 362 yards, but he was sacked six times on the day. Steve Spurrier accused Seminole defenders of hitting Wuerffel late multiple times, which only fueled their next matchup, which turned out to be a big one…
3. Rematch for the National Title: 1997
This time, Florida State ranked first and Florida ranked third heading into the Sugar Bowl, and the winner would be deemed national champions. Spurrier officially declared war on FSU and said “we’re not going to take the crap we took in Tallahassee,” a reference to his late hit accusations from their regular season matchup. Wuerffel threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns as the Gators blew out the Seminoles, 52-20, to win the program’s first national championship.
2. Swindle in the Swamp: 2003
Florida State beat Florida 38-34, but many Gator fans, players and writers questioned the officiating in this one. The Gators were denied five fumble recoveries by the referees, but FSU’s fumble recovery for a touchdown stood. One player, guard Shannon Snell, even went on to say, “the referees absolutely screwed us.” Even better was the fight that ensued between the teams after the game. Following this game, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley suggested the home team’s conference provide the officiating crew, a change that took place in 2005.
1. Choke at Doak: 1994
Long before the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl, the Gators blew arguably the greatest lead in the shortest amount of time at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. Florida led 31-3 entering the fourth and final quarter. That’s when FSU quarterback Danny Kanell led his team to four touchdowns and a demoralizing 31-31 tie for the Gators. The two teams met again in the Sugar Bowl that season in what became known as “The Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter.” FSU bested UF in that one, 23-17.