And so it has arrived: The Florida State Seminoles vs. the Miami Hurricanes

The game that once meant everything on the national stage still matters more than anything else locally. There are always enough narratives around this series to write several books about.

National Championships won and lost on a field goal.

The Seminole Rap motivating Miami to throttle the Seminoles.

Scott Covington being thrown into the goal post as a symbol of Miami cratering during probation.

This game has always been about athletic explosion. Even when the teams aren’t great, the athleticism is. And this year is no exception. On Saturday, we’ll see NFL players galore. It’s why the game is in primetime, even with FSU at 3-2.

This will be fun.

Anything can happen in a rivalry game but it usually doesn’t

One of the cliches around rivalry games is that anyone can win. Throw out the records.

But one of the more fascinating things about the Miami-FSU rivalry is that there are rarely upsets. This is the results of the Miami-FSU regular season game the last 20 years, with each team’s’ final AP Ranking:

There are three takeaways from that chart:

  1. Randy Shannon and especially Al Golden were just abhorrent.
  2. The series has been very streaky.
  3. Only one time in the last 20 years did the “better” team lose, which was in 2005.

The third takeaway is particularly surprising and fascinating. With all of the NFL talent on both rosters, it would seem that upsets should be more common. Instead, this game doesn’t create greatness, it reveals it.

And that trend bodes well for Miami, which is certainly in position to finish the season ranked ahead of FSU at this point.

Why Miami should win

If the “anything can happen” cliche doesn’t apply to this rivalry, then who should win?

One team is undefeated, relatively healthy, playing at home, and has a junior quarterback playing in this rivalry game for the third time. The other team is 3-2, has a ton of injuries, and is starting a freshman QB.

Most people take the first team, and that team is Miami. All of this is set up to end FSU’s winning streak. In fact, based on the matchup, the Canes should win comfortably.

But that’s the other thing with this series. While the “better” team by ranking at the end of the year usually wins, the margins are usually razor thin.

FSU’s been clearly superior the last six years, winning each game, but half were by less than one score, including two against a coach that was completely out of his depth yet managed to keep the game close. From 2000-2004 the Canes won six in a row, but only one was by more than one score.

These games are close, and that is scary for a favorite. But on paper, Miami should win.

What this rivalry means to me

This rivalry is a bit difficult to define. You’ll see some Miami fans say they respect FSU for at least playing the Canes, in contrast to Florida. You’ll see FSU fans reciprocate, again contrasting Canes fans with FSU.

Then again, every year, this is the game circled on the calendar, and it’s not because of “respect.” I can’t define this rivalry for everyone, only for myself.

And this rivalry is about family for me.

My first time attending a Miami-FSU game was in 1996, two years after my family moved to Miami. My dad, a professor at Miami, had bought season tickets that year. I don’t remember much from that game, other than the Canes losing.

In 2000, after Wide Right III, I remember walking around the Orange Bowl parking lot with my brother, who was a senior at UM and had never seen his school beat FSU. I remember the huge smile on his face.

In 2002, after Wide Left I, I remember hugging my sister, a freshman at UM.

In 2005, I remember being down 10-7,  watching Kyle Wright drive the Canes 95 yards from their own 3 to the FSU 2 yard line. I remember yelling at the TV, “we’re tougher than them, that’s why we win,” while my family looked on in horror… right before we proved we were in fact not tougher than them, and failed to get into the end zone, before muffing the snap on the field goal.

In 2006, I remember my girlfriend looking at me like a psychopath when I picked her up after Charlie Jones scored to put us ahead. A year later, in 2007, it looked like the Canes would lose to FSU again, when Kirby Freeman of all people rescued the game. My girlfriend had her head on my shoulder, consoling me when I jumped up off the couch. That she avoided a trip to the emergency room is a miracle. That she still tolerates me a decade later is an even larger miracle.

In 2010, I remember sitting with my friend as the stadium emptied out in the second half of a shocking blowout, coming to the realization that we were going to have to start over ’cause Randy Shannon had to go.

These moments are inexorably etched in my brain. My circle of family and friends is indelibly tied to the University of Miami. And regardless of where we drift in our lives, and move in the world, there is one time where collectively, everyone in my life focuses on one thing — this game.

And it makes it so much more than a game. That’s what this rivalry means to me and so many others.

It’s not about who is better over time, largely because with the series history so close (the Canes lead the series 31-29) there is no big brother/little brother syndrome. We all have a lifetime of heartbreaking losses and exhilarating wins from this series.

No, this is about family, both my actual family and my Canes family. That’s why I care so much about this one game. Because I want to add more happy moments to my mental FSU scrapbook. There is no high like winning the FSU game, no low like losing it.

It’s been six long years. With a renovated stadium, a new coach, and a new attitude, it’s time for the pendulum to swing back our way.

To emerge from the Golden abyss into a new era.

To vanquish the greatest of adversaries.

To send them back to Tallahassee with their tomahawks firmly planted in their backs.

To move this program forward.

Yes, this series does not create greatness, it reveals it. And it’s time to see Miami in all its glory.

There is no greater stage to do that on.