Portal prowess on display in Florida, No. 16 FSU meet

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The transfer portal has been kind to Florida State coach Mike Norvell.

Florida’s Billy Napier should expect similar success when he takes a deep dive this offseason.

The 16th-ranked Seminoles (8-3) are likely to start seven offensive trades when they host the rival Gators (6-5) on Friday night. The list includes dynamic quarterback Jordan Travis (Louisville), leading rusher Trey Benson (Oregon) and leading receiving Johnny Wilson (Arizona State).

The trio have been the backbone of a team that has scored at least 38 points in four straight wins, each by more than three touchdowns.

No one would be surprised to see them do the same for Florida, which is coming off a humiliating loss at Vanderbilt and has already gained 400-plus yards in seven games this season.

FSU is a 9 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. It’s the biggest point margin for the Seminoles at home in the series since 2000. Getting to this point has been a credit to Norvell, who blew the portal for 35 guys in his first three seasons.

“If there’s a suitable player who can have a little more experience or can come in and make an immediate impact, still fit into our locker room and what we’re building, then obviously we’ll explore all of those things,” Norvell said.

Norvell’s starting lineup is full of transfers: three offensive linemen, the team’s two best tacklers and its best pass-rusher.

Napier used the portal sparingly in his first year, bringing running back Montrell Johnson and right guard O’Cyrus Torrence with him from Louisiana-Lafayette and adding Arizona State receiver Ricky Pearsall. All three have been integral sums. Johnson leads the team in rushing, Torrence is a likely All-Southeastern Conference selection and Pearsall leads the Gators with three TD receptions.

Napier is expected to move deeper into the portal group in Year 2, especially since the Gators are losing nine scholarship students to graduate and have already seen eight other guys leave the program in the past month.

“I think sometimes it’s a shame when they do it before the season is over,” Napier said. “I don’t necessarily think that’s a positive. But those are the rules we’ve been given, right? You can sit and worry about it or just focus on the things you can control. … I think we all understand that it is happening everywhere.”

GATORS BEARINGS

Florida could lose three key starters, one of them during the middle of the game. Linebacker Ventrell Miller, the heart of the Gators’ defense, has to sit out the first half due to an ejection against Vanderbilt. The Gators could also be without safety and leading tackler Rashad Torrence and leading receiver Xzavier Henderson.

Miller’s absence would be the biggest setback considering the Seminoles have rushed for at least 200 yards in six straight games, the longest active streak in the nation.

“It’s going to be a big loss,” Florida safety Trey Dean said. But we’ll be fine, I promise.

NOVEMBER REIGN

FSU’s Travis is completing 81.6% of his passes in three November games. He has 11 TD passes and just nine incompletions in wins over Miami, Syracuse and Louisiana-Lafayette. Travis has 21 TD passes, five rushing touchdowns and one TD reception this season.

NOT SO SPECIAL

Florida is coming off its worst special teams performance of the season. The Gators missed a punt leading to a touchdown and missed an extra point in a seven-point loss at Vanderbilt.

Since returning a punt 48 yards to set up a score against Missouri in early October, Napier’s team has done little to turn games around in that phase.

Meanwhile, Florida State units have flourished under Norvell and could have an advantage.

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