DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — It'll be strange for many deep-rooted Floridians when they go to bed Saturday night without being able to boast of a victor in one of college football's greatest modern rivalries. Will it be three in a row for the Gators? Or will the Seminoles pull the upset?
Florida and Florida State fans will never know. At least not in 2020.
The Florida-Florida State rivalry, traditionally played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, has been bumped from the college football schedule this year, another casualty of the coronavirus.
Barring an intervention by Gov. Ron DeSantis, this will be the first year since 1957 that the Gators and Seminoles don't meet on the gridiron.
It's no secret that the Atlantic Coast Conference, when crafting its COVID-19 plan this summer, sought to appease Florida State by allowing each member institution to schedule one nonconference opponent, on the condition that the game be played in the home state of the member school.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the top brass at Florida State was none too pleased to learn of the Southeastern Conference's decision to play a conference-only schedule in 2020. The announcement, which came the day after the ACC's, essentially called time-of-death on the rivalry. Not to mention other long-running classic intrastate feuds like Clemson-South Carolina and Georgia-Georgia Tech.
Still, there was hope among fans that the rivalry could still see the light of day in 2020, particularly after DeSantis spoke in August about intervening to force the game to be played.
"I am going to see if we can make sure that rivalry game continues," DeSantis said at the time.
DeSantis, himself a former college athlete, said he believed the rivalry is "good for the state."
"So we're going to work to see what the options would be for that," DeSantis said.
However, as time passes, it seems less and less likely it will actually come to fruition.
The Gators have already had to reschedule two games that will now be played on the two Saturdays preceding the SEC Championship game, for which Florida is very much a contender.
One possibility is for the teams to meet in a bowl game, but even that seems like a long shot.
Florida State could, in theory, receive a bowl berth despite having a losing record. That's because the NCAA waived its minimum-win requirement for the 2020 season.
However, Florida appears poised to earn a spot in a New Year's Six bowl or even a berth in the College Football Playoff.
The Gators were due a trip to Tallahassee, but if the game isn't played this year, the next scheduled meeting is in Gainesville on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2021. Would the financially strapped athletic department at FSU really let the Gators go four years between visits?
When the current four-year contract, in place through the 2022 season, comes up for renewal in the near future, the gap could be a sticking point during negotiations.
No one from FSU or the governor's office would answer numerous requests for comment on the status of the rivalry.
Still, the fact that FSU and Florida are even playing football in late November is something for which fans of both teams should be thankful.
In the meantime, enjoy games against Kentucky and Virginia, because the Sunshine State rivalry remains on hiatus. That's so 2020.