Miami, Florida State Intrinsically Linked


As Miami goes, so goes Florida State. As Florida State goes, so goes Miami. It seems that’s what the college football gods intended.

Both schools were at the top of the college football world in the eighties, and save for a few down years in the mid-nineties when the Hurricanes began to feel the effects of the NCAA’s sanctions, both were relevant in the nineties. Miami won a national title in 2001 and played for another in 2002*, but since the mid-2000s both schools have struggled to regain their footing at the highest level.

Miami, FSU Through the Years

Florida State emerged on the national scene in the sixties, but didn’t make the big move until Bobby Bowden took over in the late seventies. Howard Schnellenberger arrived in Miami in 1979, and led the Hurricanes to a national title in 1983. We can argue about the timing, but the dynasties began in the eighties.

The Hurricanes were the team of the eighties. After spending most of its existence in relative mediocrity, Miami football took home three national titles in seven years from 1983 to 1989. From 1983 to 1992, Miami lost 14 games—and five of those losses came in 1984.

The Seminoles were the team of the nineties. FSU took home national titles in 1993 and 1999. They never lost more than two games in any season in the nineties, and lost just 13 games in the decade with one tie.

Then Miami took off again, winning a national title and playing for another* early in the 2000s. But their national title hopes tanked in 2004 with a loss to North Carolina (damn you, Connor Barth). That began a pattern of missed opportunities and mediocrity in Coral Gables.

Around this time FSU was playing in some major bowl games (they continued to win ACC Championships despite losing more games from 2001 to 2004 than they did from 1990 to 1999), and the Hurricanes were floundering as they tried and failed to cling to national prominence.

The Canes and Noles Fall from Grace

Both teams’ fall from the annual national title race was evident in the final AP Rankings. Each year was lower than the last:

2003: Miami (5), FSU (11)
2004: Miami (11), FSU (15)
2005: Miami (17), FSU (23)
2006: Miami (NR), FSU (NR)

The 2006 season, of course, was one of the worst for both schools. The Hurricanes and Noles finished with 7-6 records, and a string of incidents marred the season for Miami.

In July 2006, Hurricanes safety Brandon Meriweather was involved in a shooting in which he returned fire in self defense after teammate Willie Cooper was shot in the buttocks; receiver Ryan Moore was indefinitely suspended for allegedly grabbing a woman by the throat and pushing her to the ground in August; an ugly brawl with FIU drew harsh media scrutiny in mid-October; defensive tackle Bryan Pata was murdered outside of his apartment building in early November; and head coach Larry Coker was fired at season’s end.

Florida State finished with its worst record since Bowden took over in 1976. The Seminoles would eventually vacate five of their 2006 wins following an academic cheating scandal. Florida State vacated all wins from 2007, too.

Since 2006, both schools have fought to return to the national spotlight. In 2008 Miami brought in what many considered the best recruiting class in the country. Then the Hurricanes were a hot early-season pick in 2009 after starting 5-1. Quarterback Jacory Harris even garnered some Heisman chatter.

Florida State’s recruiting class has been ranked by Rivals as a top ten class in every year since 2008. Their 2011 class is considered by many as the best in the country. They were ranked in the preseason top five of the Coaches’ Poll this year (#6 in AP), with many calling them a dark horse national championship contender.

But every time hope seems to peak its head, both schools have failed to meet the hype. Before the 2010 season, ESPN analyst Desmond Howard predicted Miami would play Alabama in the national title game. Before this season, Howard picked Florida State to play Alabama in the national title game. As we know, Miami’s 2010 season resulted in a 7-6 record as well as head coach Randy Shannon‘s firing, and the Seminoles fell out of national title discussion this year with an early season loss to Oklahoma, and then lost two more to Clemson and Wake Forest.

A New Chapter in Miami-FSU

Miami won the rivalry in the 80s (7-3) and FSU won it in the 90s (6-4). In the 2000s, Miami won the first six meetings, and Florida State has won four of the last six. There’s been four Florida State Wide Rights that either determined or strongly influenced the outcome of the game, and there was even a Wide Left.

Now the sides will meet again. Miami is all but out of the Coastal Division race, and FSU has to hope for a couple of Clemson losses if they want to play in the ACC Championship Game. When Miami joined the ACC in 2004 the conference title game was supposed to serve as an annual rematch of the Canes-Noles regular season matchup. That’s not been the case. The Hurricanes have never been to the conference championship game, and Florida State has been twice—in the inaugural 2005 game and again last year.

Much ado was made of Alabama-LSU last weekend, and other rivalries get plenty of well-deserved attention, but this is the rivalry in college football. Its chapters are some of the most watched in college football history—even when neither school is a player on the national level.

Miami-FSU Numbers to Chew On

  • Nine of the 25 largest home crowds at the Orange Bowl/Sun Life Stadium (2010 only) came to see the Florida State game, including three of the top five.
  • Just four of the top 25 home crowds at Doak Campbell Stadium came to see the Miami game, but the top two home crowds came to see the Hurricanes.
  • Since 1980, Miami has had 48 first-round draft picks. FSU has had 32.
  • Both teams have fielded an unprecedented number of All-Americans. *Numbers vary depending on which All-American lists you count.
  • Miami players have taken home 20 individual national awards. FSU players have taken home 17 individual national awards.
  • Both teams have had two Heisman Trophy winners. Vinny Testaverde (1986) and Gino Toretta (1992) for Miami; Charlie Ward (1993) and Chris Weinke (2000) for Florida State.