CORAL GABLES — The national championship is not at stake. The tops of the national polls will see no effect. This game might not even have much impact on the race to decide the ACC title.
None of that matters to Florida State and Miami. To them, without question, it's still The Game.
"It's the point on the schedule," Miami quarterback Ryan Williams said, "that everyone looks for."
And it's here.
Florida State and Miami are set to square off for the 57th time, the next installment in the series coming tonight on the Hurricanes' homefield. Some tickets are going for $1,000 on the secondary markets. ABC is showing the game to more than 80 percent of the country in prime time, and it's Miami's homecoming — albeit one where the visiting team is a 21-point favorite.
The Hurricanes (4-3, 3-1 ACC) won't win the national title. The 12th-ranked Seminoles (6-1, 3-1) already face huge odds in the title chase, even with only one loss. But to the schools involved, the significance of this game never changes, regardless of the records or the rankings.
"I think it's one of the great ones in the history of the game," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I mean, rivalries nationally, how people think of rivalries is not what people think internally. This is one of the games you come to Florida State to play in. It's one of the great traditions."
For all the things that have made this series what it is — the Micheal Barrow hit on Tamarick Vanover 20 years ago, where the Miami linebacker and now Hurricanes assistant freelanced a bit from his assignment and delivered perhaps the signature tackle of the series; or all the wide rights and wide lefts that decided games; or the 47-0 romp by the Seminoles in 1997 that still stings Miami — there is a thread that ties them.
Somewhere along the way, respect was born from the rivalry.
"The utmost respect for each other," Miami running back Mike James said. "They've got great athletes. We've got great athletes. All of us, we've played in high school together or against each other in high school. I've got two guys on Florida State who I played high school ball with. It's crazy. … Think about the guys from Miami in this game. The genre of this game, it's basically a high school all-star game."
UM has a big question mark: the health of quarterback Stephen Morris, who sprained his left ankle in last weekend's loss to North Carolina.
The Hurricanes control their Coastal Division destiny in the ACC race regardless of what happens against FSU, and Miami coach Al Golden has been asked plenty of times this week if that will factor into the decision about playing Morris against the Seminoles.
Golden's answer: If Morris can play, he'll play. And the reason is simple — no one wants to miss a chance against Florida State.
"We should be mad that they're up there right now," Golden said of FSU's current success. "If you look at the way this rivalry has gone, it's up to the other school to respond. I recognize that."
Golden and Fisher preach the same sort of basic principles, like focusing on the game in front of you and treat every game the same way.
Even they'd acknowledge that seems hard during UM-FSU week.
"It's all about respect," Seminoles defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said. "No hate or anything, It's just fun. It's all about love to me. But when that 60 minutes is on the clock, I don't have no friends, no family. You're either with us or against us, that's how I feel."