“What do you know about the Florida State-Miami rivalry?" That question was directed at Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston shortly after the Seminoles had dismantled N.C. State last week, but most likely every college football fan in the nation could give an answer. Winston's response: "What is it, wide left or something? Wide right all those years?" An Alabama native, Winston grew up on Auburn-Alabama, but the redshirt freshman's limited knowledge speaks to the power and history of the rivalry — which was once one of the best in college football.
In those epic games in the 1990s and the early part of this decade (that included four national championship runs between the two teams), errant kicks decided the outcome five times. None were in Florida State's favor. In Winston's defense, one was wide left, four wide right.
Ten years since the last time the two met with so much national attention and national title implications on the line, No. 3 Florida State (7-0, 5-0 ACC) and No. 7 Miami (7-0, 3-0) meet tonight in Tallahassee, resurgent teams bringing back the success that was once synonymous with both programs.
And that, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said, is good for everyone.
"I think it's very good," he said. "It's good for both schools. It's good for the state of Florida. It's good for the ACC, and it's good for college football. I think it's good all the way around. It's one of the great traditional rivalries in college football, and it's great to see both teams up there. …
"It's very influential in the ACC race, very influential in the national championship race."
With the exception of season openers, this is the ninth time the Seminoles and Hurricanes will meet with unbeaten, untied records. The only other time they've met unbeaten this late into the season was in 1991 when they were a combined 18-0. No. 2 Miami defeated the No. 1 Seminoles 17-16 after FSU missed a 34-yard field goal with 29 seconds remaining in the game. Miami went on to win the national championship that season.
The last time both were ranked in the Top 10 when they met was the 2004 season opener.
For a Miami program that has undergone a coaching change and had an NCAA investigation looming for more than a year, the return to prominence is both a chance to honor the past while trying to maintain that success for the future.
"It's the passion, the tradition, how much the games meant in terms of the national spotlight or the repercussions in terms of postseason," Miami coach Al Golden said when talking about his memories of the rivalry's glory days. "It's exciting to have that opportunity. We want to continue to grow the type of team that expects to be in these types of games year in and year out. That's what we're trying to build."
Florida State has won three in a row over the Hurricanes, who are a double-digit underdog and have won their past two games by a combined seven points. But the Seminoles, who have won 11 consecutive ACC games, insist there's no way they'll underestimate this opponent.
"We definitely expect to get their best effort," junior wide receiver Rashad Greene said. "A team like ours, we're explosive, with a great defense, special teams, great offense, we expect nothing less than people's 'A' game and you have to treat everyone the same."
The Seminoles are playing their second Top 10 team in the past three weeks, and said they feel mature enough to handle the pressure and expectations this game will bring. ESPN's College GameDay is in town. The game is being played in prime time — on national television.
Just like back in the day.
"That's why you come to Florida State to play in big games and play in national championships," Winston said. "This is another week that we have to come ready and keep fighting. We're playing against the enemy right now."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A fast start …
The Seminoles, ranked No. 4 in the preseason Associated Press poll, went into the opener with heavy hearts after a grandson and a former son-in-law of coach Bobby Bowden were killed in a car crash. FSU was also seeking some revenge after falling to Miami 16-14 in the previous year's Orange Bowl. It seemed to be on track when cornerback Antonio Cromartie (right) scooped up a fumble and returned it 61 yards for a score for a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Winning with ease …
The Seminoles haven't been a serious championship contender for most of the past decade-plus but finished last season 10th in the AP poll, their first top-10 yearend ranking since 2000. Now FSU, third in both the AP poll and the BCS rankings, is pursuing its first national title since 1999 behind freshman quarterback Jameis Winston (right), whose sensational play has put him firmly in the Heisman Trophy conversation. Only Boston College, in a 48-34 loss to FSU in Week 4, has gotten within two touchdowns of the Seminoles.
A triumphant debut
The Hurricanes, who had left the Big East after 13 years, had to wait four days to play their first ACC game thanks to Hurricane Frances. The No. 5 'Canes rallied to tie it at 10 in the fourth quarter on quarterback Brock Berlin's 30-yard touchdown to Sinorice Moss with 30 seconds left, capping an 80-yard, five-play drive. Then future NFL star Frank Gore (left) finished it off with an 18-yard touchdown run in overtime. "Are all the games like this in the ACC?" Miami coach Larry Coker said afterward. "I may not like this league."
Out of the darkness
The Hurricanes seemed poised to be a perennial ACC power before a late-season collapse in 2006 and numerous on- and off-field issues. Now Miami — seventh in the AP poll and BCS rankings — is 7-0 for the first time since 2003, with a dragged-out NCAA investigation behind it. The Cardiac 'Canes, who have won their past two games by a combined seven points, will likely rely on star running back Duke Johnson (left) to help them control the clock and keep the explosive Seminoles offense off the field.
Tonight: No. 7 Miami at No. 3 Florida State
When/where: 8; Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee
TV/radio: Ch. 28; 820-AM
Line: Florida State by 21½
Weather: Clear, mid to low 60s, no chance of rain
Notable: UM's Stephen Morris has struggled with interceptions, and FSU's secondary excels at takeaways. In the past two games Seminole DBs forced a turnover on the game's first possession.
Scouting report, 4C