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No. 3 Florida State 30, No. 4 Florida 7
Associated Press


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida State made a strong case for a chance to defend its national championship, beating Florida in the game that usually gives the winner a title shot.

Chris Weinke fought off the flu and threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns -- two to Marvin Minnis -- as No. 3 Florida State had a surprisingly easy time beating its bitter state rival 30-7 on Saturday night.

Chris Weinke
Chris Weinke threw three TD passes in the rout.
"This is the best football team in the country right now and I think we proved it," Weinke said. "Beating the No. 4 team by 23 points should be convincing enough for people to realize the kind of football team this is."

The Seminoles (10-1) completed their regular season by beating the No. 4 Gators (9-2) for the third year in a row, but now have to wait two weeks to find out if they'll play for the Bowl Championship Series' title in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.

Florida, the SEC East champion, still has a chance to play in the Sugar Bowl if it beats Auburn in the league title game Dec. 2.

The Seminoles can feel good about their chances because the winner of the Florida-Florida State game has gone on to play for the title five of the last seven years.

"We got beat thoroughly," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said after his record fell to 0-5-1 at Doak Campbell Stadium. "Give credit to Florida State because they played well. We had to play our very best to beat them in this game."

Now comes the wait for the Seminoles.

Florida State, third in the current BCS standings behind Oklahoma and Miami, is expected to move ahead of Miami when the new point totals are released Monday. Miami (9-1) beat Syracuse 26-0 on Saturday night and closes its season next week against Boston College.

The BCS standings are based on four components -- the AP media poll and the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, eight computer rankings, strength of schedule and number of losses. Florida State is expected to gain ground in the strength of schedule and computer rankings. The final BCS standings are released Dec. 3.

"That computer better not betray me," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "I'd rather have the computer decide who plays for the championship than a person who may have some biases."

In the 45th meeting between these powers, a stadium-record crowd of 83,042 witnessed the Seminoles most impressive performance of the season.

Weinke completed 23 of 44 passes and his second TD pass of the game -- a 34-yarder to Minnis in the first quarter -- made him the Atlantic Coast Conference's career passing leader, moving him ahead of Duke's Ben Bennett. Weinke, who also enhanced his Heisman Trophy chances, has thrown for 9,789 yards in his career. Bennett had 9,564 yards. "Now that this game is over, we'll see what happens with the Heisman," said Weinke, who also threw two interceptions. "But it's fun to have a chance to play for the national championship and to have the opportunity to win back-to-back titles."

Minnis, who caught three TD passes in last week's win over Wake Forest, had eight catches for 187 yards. For Florida, Jesse Palmer was 17-of-30 for 180 yards and two interceptions. Rex Grossman, who took the first snap and didn't return until the game was decided in the fourth quarter, also threw an interception. He finished 10-of-16 for 98 yards.

"We played offense about like we played two years ago here," Spurrier said, recalling a 23-12 loss. "It's been a long time since we've played well here."

With the win, Florida State extended its unbeaten streak at home to 52 games, dating to 1991, and its home winning streak to 35 games, dating to 1994.

"Our seniors never lost a game here and it's just amazing what they have done," Bowden said.

Holding a 14-7 lead at the half, the Seminoles took control in the third period thanks to Weinke's passing and Florida's penalties.

William McCray capped an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run, but the Gators hurt themselves with two pass interference calls -- one against Lito Sheppard trying to stick with Minnis, the other on Todd Johnson, who was flagged for holding Minnis on the goal line. Florida was penalized 14 times for 116 yards.

The Seminoles extended the lead to 27-7 on Weinke's final TD pass -- a 51-yarder to Minnis with 1:08 left in the quarter.

When Palmer tried to bring the Gators back, the Seminoles' defense came up with big plays. First, free safety Chris Hope intercepted a pass intended for Reche Caldwell to stop one drive. Then, Tay Cody made his second interception of the game, this one off Grossman, and returned it 58 yards to set up Brett Cimorelli's 33-yard field goal with 10:42 left in the game.

When the game ended, fans rushed the field to congratulate the players, and oranges were tossed onto the field. Minnis was holding a plastic Gator head in his hands as he left the field.

"I told Chris I felt like every time they came my way, I was going to catch it," Minnis said. "I knew the game was going to be won by us."

With the presidential race taking a backseat for the night, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, his secretary of state Katherine Harris and about 60 state legislators were part of the crowd that saw a contest that was decided in 3 hours, 20 minutes.

Florida State didn't wait long to seize a 7-0 advantage. After forcing Florida to punt on the first series, the Seminoles took over and Weinke went to work, completing 6 of 8 passes for 70 yards, the final one a 17-yard TD toss to Atrews Bell just 5:49 into the game.

The Gators came right back on their next possession to make it 7-all on Palmer's 5-yard TD pass to Aaron Walker.

The tie was broken 56 seconds later when Weinke found Bell for 42 yards and, on the next play, hit Minnis for a 34-yard touchdown pass.

Weinke came down with flu symptoms Friday and spent eight hours in the hospital taking intravenous liquids. He slept at team physician Kris Stowers' house, and made it to the stadium healthy enough to lead the Seminoles to their biggest win of the season.

And perhaps a chance to defend their national championship.

Connolly: A Minnis to Gator society

Florida-Florida State notebook: Not a Minor role

The Spurrier Era: Florida vs. Florida State bowl projections

Conference races

 Chris Weinke finds Marvin Minnis all alone for a 51-yard TD strike.
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 Chris Weinke finds a wide-open Marvin Minnis 34 yards down field for a Seminoles TD.
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 Chris Weinke connects with Artrews Bell for one of his three TD passes against the Gators.
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 Florida State's Tay Cody intercepts Florida's Rex Grossman and returns it 58 yards into Gator territory.
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 Jabar Gaffney hauls in a Jesse Palmer pass to move the Gators 29 yards down field.
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 Coach Bobby Bowden thinks beating Florida should help in the BCS.
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 Chris Weinke can't think of a better way to finish his college career.
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 QB Chris Weinke salutes the senior class for remaining unbeaten at home.
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 Senior Brian Allen and the Seminole defense wanted to remain undefeated at home.
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