TALLAHASSEE -- Welcome to Rivalry Week. With the first 12 weeks having come and quickly gone, we have finally reached the last game on the regular-season schedule for the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles. This is the week in Tallahassee when Gator tails are speared with skewers and served as Thanksgiving delicacies. In Gainesville, rare sightings of garnet and gold get chomped.

Seconds after the Seminoles and Gators jogged into their respective locker rooms in distinctly different cities following wins late Saturday afternoon, Rivalry Week 2012 officially began.

On Twitter, FSU fans have started the hashtag #UFHateWeek. Those supporting the Gators have claimed the one titled #FSUHateWeek.

Those of you reading this blog don't have to be convinced; these teams hate each other. They always have and always will.

(Some of that "hatred" got interesting over the weekend when former FSU defensive tackle Darious Cummings signed with the Gators to play in Gainesville next season. Cummings and linebacker Jeff Luc transferred out of FSU during the offseason. Cummings landed at a junior college in Mississippi before the Gators came calling)

This season, the hatred spills even further onto the field than it has in recent seasons. Sporting a pair of 10-1 records, the No. 4 Gators and No. 10 Seminoles promise to put last year's sloppy, defensive slugfest well into their rearview mirrors. Last November, the Gators were just trying to get to seven regular-season wins. The Seminoles were trying to prove they could beat an SEC team once again and wanted to build up momentum going into their December bowl game.

This season, BCS bowls and Top 5 finishes are on both teams' radars. With a win Saturday, the Seminoles believe they will be ranked next week among the five-best teams in the country in the "human" polls (The Associated Press and USA Today Coaches). In the BCS, however, where computer polls have great value placed upon them, there is a hope that such a big victory would shoot them from No. 10 to No. 5.

It's unlikely, though.

For the Gators, a win would keep them in the Top 5 with a chance to climb even higher depending upon how Notre Dame, Alabama and Georgia play this weekend.

In the meantime, though, whatever happens this weekend, a football game still has to be played in Tallahassee. So from the Seminoles perspective, let's take a look at what this week will hold. We'll do that the same way we do every week on the Chopping Block with a look at FSU's latest opponent. Let's get to know the Florida Gators.


First off, to any Gators reading this blog, welcome. If there are any new FSU fans reading this, likewise, welcome. As those who follow the Chopping Block know, these "Getting to know" blogs can be quite lengthy each week. We like to give stats, players to watch and just an overall good, early glimpse into the team the Seminoles are set to face.

Something we also like to do with thes posts is provide you with a group of newspaper reporters one MUST follow throughout the week for the latest information from the other side in the lead-up to Saturday's game.

We've had a lot of newspapers for certain games this season, but this week, we have a whole army of them to pick and choose from. We'll try to post links from most of these writers in the coming days.

First and foremost, though, if you aren't getting your Gators news this week from the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson, something is terribly wrong. If you haven't already, make sure to go to the Sentinel's Gators page and give Edgar a follow. He's also on Twitter @osgators and @edgarthompson.

The Gainesville Sun, naturally, does a very fine job explaining the ins and outs of the Gators athletics programs. College football beat writer Robbie Andreu @RobbieAndreu and columnist Pat Dooley @pat_dooley are two good follows from the paper.

Antonya English also has been covering the Gators for several seaons for the Tampa Bay Times. Make sure to check out her blog on the Times' website. Also, be sure to follow her on Twitter @TBTimes_Gators.

Finally, be sure you check out the Palm Beach Post's Jason Lieser, who also does very quality work tracking Florida athletics. He's on Twitter @PBPjasonlieser.


With all of that out of the way, let’s get to know the 2012 Florida Gators:

No. 4 Florida at No. 10 Florida State, 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC … 57th meeting. Gators lead the all-time series 33-21-2. FSU won the previous meeting 21-7 last season in Tallahassee. A Seminoles win would be their third straight in the rivalry. Next week, the Seminoles travel to Charlotte, N.C. to represent the ACC's Atlantic Division in the ACC Championship game.


FLORIDA GATORS (10-1, 7-1)

2012 record: 10-1 (7-1 Southeastern Conference) Beat Jacksonville State (23-0) on Saturday

2011 record: 7-6 (3-5)

Coach: Will Muschamp is in his second season leading the Gators. As you can tell from the numbers above, Year 2 has gone dramatically better than Year 1. Once a graduate assistant at Auburn, Muschamp coached alongside FSU's Jimbo Fisher when the two were in southern Alabama in the mid-1990s. Although they weren't together long and went their separate ways after 1996, they still kept in touch. Yes, their families have shared a beach house.

With respect to his coaching style, Muschamp is a defensive-minded coach who has spent his brief tenure turning the Gators into a true defense-heavy program. While their offense has come under fire since the departures of Urban Meyer two years ago and then Charlie Weis last season, the defense has been strong, stout. A former safety at Georgia, Muschamp had deep-rooted SEC ties long before he arrived in Gainesville two years ago from Texas.

Florida’s 2012 stats:

Rushing yards per game: 189.55

Passing yards per game: 143.36

Rushing yards allowed per game: 95.18

Passing yards allowed per game: 185.82

Points scored per game: 25.82

Points allowed per game: 11.73

Pass efficiency yards per game: 91.76

Total yards per game: 332.91

Total yards allowed per game: 281.00

Sacks allowed per game: 2.91


Florida’s 2012 season

Week 1: Beat Bowling Green, 27-14

Week 2: Beat Texas A&M, 20-17

Week 3: Beat Tennessee, 37-20

Week 4: Beat Kentucky, 38-0

Week 5: Bye

Week 6: Beat LSU, 14-6

Week 7: Beat Vanderbilt, 31-17

Week 8: Beat South Carolina, 44-11

Week 9: Lost to Georgia, 17-9

Week 10: Beat Missour, 14-7

Week 11: Beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 27-20

Week 12: Beat Jacksonville State, 23-0


Stats of note from the season:

—Florida ranks first in the SEC (and first nationally) in pass efficiency defense (91.76 yds per game) and net punting (41.58 yds per punt).

—Florida ranks second in the SEC (and fourth nationally) in total defense (281.00 yds allowed per game), scoring defense (11.73), rushing defense (95.18) and turnover margin (1.19 turnovers gained to lost).

—Florida ranks 114th nationally in passing (143.36 yds per game) and 104th in total offense (332.91 yds per game).


Players to know:

QB, Jeff Driskel. We'll know in the coming days whether or not Driskel will actually play against the Seminoles this weekend. The sophomore suffered an ankle injury a couple of weeks ago that caused him to be held out of last week's game against Jacksonville State. There is a tought that the Gators' anemic offense wouldn't be able to hold its own against FSU if Driskel doesn't play. In 10 games this season, he has rushed for 424 yards and passed for 1,324. A mobile quarterback who has been somewhat accurate in the passing game -- he only has three interceptions -- Driskel can tough to defend. At times this season, he has demonstrated the type of leadership necessary to pull out close wins or stage late comebacks. The win over Texas A&M was a prime example of that.

QB, Jacoby Brissett. If Driskel is deemed unavailable, Brissett would get the nod behind center. The sophomore has only appeared in five games this season, and was part of the defensive slugfest that played out in last year's FSU-UF meeting. Another athletic player, Brissett can both escape the pocket and stand in it and deliver throws. He hasn't had much of a chance to run throughout his brief career, though. With Driskel injured and the Gators' suddenly slacking schedule, Brissett has seen his greatest action these last two weeks. Against Louisiana-Lafayette, he passed for 64 yards and a touchdown on six completions. Against Jacksonville State, he passed for 154 yards and no score. He has thrown for 249 yards this season.

RB, Mike Gillislee. The speedy senior tailback is one of the Gators' biggest weapons. He sits just 36 yards from the 1,000-yard rushing plateau, and he has eight rushing touchdowns. Gillislee's 964 yards rushing rank fourth in the SEC. In the pass-catching game, he has caught 13 passes for 124 yards. Gillislee has played against FSU the last three seasons, but it was his first -- the 2009 game -- in which he had his best statistical showing. On six carries against the Seminoles as a freshman, he rushed for 44 yards. He has gone over 100 yards four times this season, including last week against Jacksonville State.

TE, Jordan ReedFlorida's most prolific pass-catcher, Reed is a tight end who will be looked to a lot Saturday afternoon. He has caught 40 passes for 498 yards this season. Used effectively in the Gators' various offensive schemes throughout his career, the junior had 34 catches in his first two seasons. Most tight ends aren't possession receivers. Many teams who still use them pass in their direction seldomly and use them primarily as extra blockers. FSU sophomore Nick O'Leary is following a similar career arc as Reed, although he likely won't have 40 catches as a junior. In the middle of his second season, O'Leary has 28 receptions.

WR, Quinton Dunbar. While Reed will be doing the bulk of the pass-catching for the Gators, Dunbar will be one to watch, as well. The sophomore has 27 catches for 281 yards and three touchdowns. Amazingly, that 281 yards ranks second on the team to Reed. They are two of just three Gators with more than 200 yards receiving this season. By comparison, FSU has seven players past the 200-yard mark, including O'Leary. Dunbar's season high for yards is 40, which he caught in the loss to Georgia.

DB, Josh Evans. On defense is where Florida really makes its name, and Evans is a big reason why. The senior leads the team in tackles with 74, including 4.5 for loss. He also has tried to have a nose for the football, as his two interceptions indicate. Evans' 12-tackle performance against Missouri was his high. That same week, he also came away with one of his interceptions.

DB, Matt Elam. Arguably Florida's best overall defensive player -- maybe the team's best player, period -- Elam will be a sure-fire, early-round draft pick whenever he decides to enter the NFL Draft. Although he is a junior this season, Elam would be eligible for the Draft this year. Speaking of having a knack for flying to the foobtall, Elam has precisely that. The defensive back has three interceptions this season and 58 tackles. His tackle total is second only to Evans. Elam has five career interceptions. Last year, he had eight tackles against the Seminoles.

LB, Jonathan Bostic. This senior linebacker also has 58 total tackles this season and has a proven ability of getting into the backfield in order to record stops. Bostic has 7.5 tackles for loss this season. He also has a pair of interceptions, including his 7-yard interception return this weekend that ended in a touchdown. Don't let the interception numbers fool you, though. In addition to dropping back in coverage, Bostic has displayed an ability to rush the quarterback, too. He has four hurries this season and three sacks.

DB, Loucheiz Purifoy. A sophomore, Purifoy can be easy to overlook because of Evans' and Elam's play. But Purifoy has been a defensive star and special teams terror this season. He ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 45. He also has broken up five passes and forced a pair of fumbles. Where he has been most valuable, at least lately, has been on special teams. Two weeks ago, his blocked punt against Louisiana-Lafayette resulted in a last-minute, game-winning touchdown that led to the narrow Gators win. Without the block -- his second of the season -- the Gators may have been upset by the Ragin' Cajuns.

DT, Shariff Floyd. Floyd made headlines last week when a USA Today story by the Sentinel's former Gators reporter, Rachel George, exposed an NCAA loophole regarding Floyd's status as an adopted player. His adoptive parents have funded a lavish lifestyle for him; all since around the time Floyd committed to Florida and began playing there. Teammates have, by default, been able to take advantage of some of those benefits provided to Floyd by his new, but un-related, family. In a technical sense, they did nothing wrong, but it does show a quirk in the system. All of that drama aside, though, Floyd has had a solid junior season. He has 40 total tackles, including 10 for loss. He also has a blocked kick.

Email me at coharvey@orlandosentinel.com, and follow on Twitter at @os_coleyharvey.