Where does Miami-FSU rivalry stand?

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
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Sports fans in Miami are notoriously fair weather -- even more so in the case of the Hurricanes. Miami doesn’t typically set out home games, but there has always been one certainty: Florida State.

If the Noles are coming to town, every seat in the stands will be filled.

Two days from kickoff between the two longtime rivals, and that is not even a certainty anymore.

[+] EnlargeAl Golden
Kevin Liles/US PresswireAl Golden has work to do as he tries to restore the Hurricanes' proud tradition.
Check Ticketmaster or any other ticket-selling site, and seats remain. There are ads on the school's website promoting tickets for all remaining home games, including Florida State. The good news is Miami officials are expecting a sellout come Saturday night at 8 p.m.

But seeing Miami with tickets remaining this close to game time might be much more of a statement on where this rivalry stands today. Though countless stories have already been written lamenting the loss of its marquee place on the national scene, it is worth revisiting nonetheless.

First, it should be noted that Miami-Florida State is not even the headliner in the state of Florida on Saturday. Rather the spotlight is five hours up north in Gainesville, where No. 2 Florida hosts No. 7 South Carolina. At the height of the Miami-Florida State rivalry, nobody would have ever predicted the Canes and Noles would lose their place to a team from Columbia, S.C.

The last time Miami and Florida State played as top-10 teams was in 2004. Mind you, top-10 matchups between those teams happened at a near regular interval -- 12 times between 1987 and 2003, including seven straight matchups between 1987 and 1993. Four times in that seven-game span, Miami and Florida State were ranked in the top 5.

But the matchup this year marks the fifth time in the past six seasons that at least one of the teams is not ranked in the Top 25. Before 2007, that had happened only four times since 1980.

This speaks volumes in a variety of ways. The most obvious is coaching hires. Take a look at Miami, in particular, which has had the most coaching instability of the three state teams.

Back when Miami was a perennial Top 25 team, the Hurricanes were able to continue with their success despite a variety of head coaches. Four different head coaches won national championships (Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Larry Coker).

But that has not followed of late. Let us compare to Florida. The Gators have been able to rebound under second-year coach Will Muschamp. Miami, once a perennial top-10 mainstay with the Gators, has not been able to rebound under second-year coach Al Golden.

Florida and Miami have changed coaches at roughly the same times in the past eight years. Florida hired Urban Meyer in 2005; Miami hired Randy Shannon in 2006. Muschamp and Golden were hired the same year. Miami has been unable to get back to its glory years; Florida has won two national championships. As for Florida's opponent Saturday, this is all we need to say about South Carolina: Steve Spurrier.

Now, none of this is to say Miami will never get back on top. But there has to be an increasing sense of urgency to get there, watching Florida and Florida State climb back into the top 15 this season. At different points this season, both have been in the top three. Last season, Florida, Florida State and Miami all universally struggled -- the Noles were the only team to finish in the Top 25 at the end of the season, at No. 23.

Now, Miami is the one that is struggling.

"From a Florida State standpoint, we have to catch up to where they are right now," Golden said on the ACC coaches call. "They are ahead of us right now. And that is what makes this game and this rivalry so good, because the other teams have always responded, and if you look at through the years, it wasn't really just an 'every other year they exchanged wins.' It's somebody gets hot and the other organization has to respond, and then it turns around, and then you have to do that.

"So right now, they are ahead of us ... in the rankings and they were favored to win the ACC, and we have to catch up. That's what we are trying to do here."

Beating Florida State for the first time since 2009 would help. Maybe more fans would buy in then.

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