It’s been a successful, if tumultuous start to the season for the Miami Hurricanes. Hurricane Irma forced a layoff, and a game with Duke on a Friday scrambled the normal routine.
None of that matters now. The Canes come into Saturday’s game against the Seminoles undefeated, with a chance to open ACC play 2-0 — both wins on the road road — and position themselves to finally win the elusive ACC Coastal.
And to beat Florida State.
Miami and Florida State is the rare rivalry that grew out of greatness instead of proximity. Yes, ostensibly both schools are located in Florida, but they’re so far apart it can barely be considered a geographic rivalry.
Instead, it was greatness that drove this series forward, routinely pitting two of the best teams in the country against each other. The closest thing to an NFL game on Saturdays.
And so often it came down to a kick. Wide Right I, II, and III, Wide Left… the mere mention brings a smile to any Miami fan’s lips.
But lately? Nothing to write home about. Everyone knows the Canes last won a game against Florida State in 2009, but the tide turned long before that… starting with a kick malfunction the other way, a dropped snap on a chip shot field goal that gave FSU the victory in 2005, and set off on a streak that has seen the Seminoles win 10 of the last 12 matchups, including last year when the Canes failed to execute on an extra point. It’s always the kicking game with these two teams.
Everybody wants to rule the world
For the last two years, Clemson and Alabama have figuratively and literally distanced themselves from the rest of college football. Not only have both teams played for the last two national championships, but this year they are flatly rolling over everyone. It appears those two reside in the “elite” category, while everyone else battles for best of the rest.
That used to be Miami. In fact, Miami used to be THE program everyone was trying to dethrone. Fifteen years ago, you could not have a college football discussion without devoting significant time to the Canes.
But 15 years of out of sight and out of mind allows this sort of ranking to happen, where the only criteria appears to be “not Miami.” Unfortunately, when you spend more than a decade struggling, media has the luxury of dismissing you.
Miami will never get the benefit of the doubt. Everything the program has been and continues to be has had to be earned by swimming upstream, fighting the current of all that want to dismiss the program. In a sport where for the majority of its history a popularity contest determined the winner, the Canes had to convince voters to “hold their nose” and vote Miami No. 1.
And they routinely did that.
Now that popularity contest is removed, as has been the Canes’ success. There is scant little time being devoted to discussing this game nationally. Part of that is because this is the worst FSU team in at least a decade, and part of that is that Miami can still be ignored. The brand can’t, but the team can.
We saw that play out last week, as Duke quickly became the trendy “upset” pick. Nothing could cause the Blue Devils to revert back to a “basketball school” faster than getting blown out by the Canes. Faced with two options: (1) dump on Duke, or (2) promote the Canes, the national media lined up in the predictable column.
Don’t you forget about me
But beating even this version of FSU can’t be ignored. Miami is presented with opportunity on Saturday. I’d call it a “Golden” opportunity, but let’s just not do that.
The winner of this game always gets a bullet by its name, even if one of the teams is not up to its usual standard. FSU built off of wins against the Canes over the last seven years to haul every trophy imaginable.
Now is Miami’s turn.
College football has moved on without the Canes, while we futilely tried to convince ourselves that Patrick Nix could be an offensive coordinator. That it wasn’t important we turned the ball over faster than Devin Hester runs a 40 yard dash. That the “cloud” was off the field and not on it. All while months ran into years, and years into a decade.
And yet, like a volcano, this program has remained dormant, waiting to erupt. Is Saturday the day?
You’re out of touch, I’m out of time
I’ve seen various versions of the statement that if the Canes don’t beat FSU this weekend, they “never” will. Obviously, those comments are facetious.
But it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity for Miami to beat FSU. And it’s also a better version of Miami to break FSU’s streak. This team is so Miami:
- The coach played at Miami
- The defensive coordinator is the son of a former mayor
- The team is loaded with local products
- The throwback jerseys
- And the turnover chain, oh the turnover chain
The only way this team could be more Miami is if Pitbull and Trick Daddy lead them onto the field while cortaditos rained down on them from the heavens.
These kids not only make you cheer for them because they represent The U, they make you proud to be from Miami because they are Miami… with all that that encompasses.
As they head north to the great wilderness sometimes referred to as Tallahassee, they carry with them our hopes and dreams, and the fears of the rest of the college football world. That after years of false dawns, the sun will once again rise on the Miami Hurricanes.
And perhaps that’s what the Miami-FSU series does more than anything else: It alters program trajectories. The Canes are in the ascendancy but a win in Tallahassee will be like a shot of NOS to the program that can catapult them into the lead in the ACC Coastal and set them on a collision course with Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.
The Miami Hurricanes will be back in the high life again. All the doors that closed one time will open up again.
All with a win over a familiar foe.