Miami, Florida State meet again with title hopes on the line
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Miami and Florida State have more on the line than just bragging rights each time they play. National championships usually are at stake.
No college football rivalry in recent history even comes close.
"There are a lot of great rivalries out there. But how many of them have as much on the line every year for the last 20 years as this one?" Miami center Joel Rodriguez asked. "None."
So goes the story line Saturday, when the fifth-ranked Seminoles (5-0) host the second-ranked Hurricanes (5-0). For the first time since 1993, both teams are ranked in the top five for their matchup, which might seem unbelievable considering how often each has played for a title in that span.
Since 1987, the winner of the Miami-Florida State game has gone on to play for the national championship 10 times, with Miami winning four titles and the Seminoles two.
"Whoever comes out of this ballgame as a winner is going to be in good shape to compete for a shot at the national championship," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "If we can beat Miami, we can beat anybody."
And even in a loss, there is hope. In 1989, Florida State beat Miami, but the Hurricanes won the national championship. In 2000, Miami beat Florida State, but the Seminoles played for the national championship because the Hurricanes lost earlier to Washington.
"If they beat us, and we have a great year, you still have a shot at the championship game," Bowden said. "Or if we beat them, they still have a chance at the championship game. There is no doubt about it that this is a measuring ballgame."
There are several other intriguing story lines:
Will the game be decided by another missed field goal? Last year, Florida State's Xavier Beitia missed a 43-yard field goal wide left on the final play as the Hurricanes prevailed 28-27 -- the seventh time they've won a game in this series by a point.
Three previous times, Florida State lost because a field goal sailed wide right.
How will Miami quarterback Brock Berlin fare in his first start against the Seminoles? Berlin has had an up-and-down season, and playing FSU might not be the cure. Since 1987, Miami starters making their first start in the series are 3-8.
Seminoles QB Chris Rix, meanwhile, makes his third start in the series but has never beaten Miami.
Will the Hurricanes be able to run without Frank Gore? Their starting tailback is out for the season with a knee injury, and his spot will be taken by Jarrett Payton, son of late NFL great Walter Payton.
How will Miami respond to being underdogs? The Hurricanes are seven-point underdogs, just the second time in 38 games Miami hasn't been favored. Miami won the only time it was an underdog during that stretch: 41-16 last year at Florida.
"Being the underdog motivates me," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "And I think it will motivate our players."
Will Bowden have a chance to catch Penn State coach Joe Paterno for the most career victories among Division I-A coaches? Bowden, 337-96-4 as a head coach, is one shy of Paterno, who will send his team onto the field at Purdue about the time Florida State and Miami finish.
Though both teams enter unbeaten, they have struggled this year.
Florida State pulled out a 14-13 victory over Georgia Tech on Sept. 13, when Rix ran for a touchdown and passed for another in the final 7:09 of the game.
Miami scored 28 straight points to rally from a 33-10 deficit in a 38-33 win Sept. 6 over Florida, then last week needed a last-minute field goal to edge West Virginia 22-20.
Florida State is in its best physical condition of the year, regaining tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. The Seminoles also hope to have the services of junior guard Bobby Meeks, who was out with pneumonia.
The last time Miami played at Tallahassee, the Hurricanes snapped Florida State's 54-game home unbeaten string. The Seminoles want nothing more than to return the favor and put an end to the Hurricanes' 37-game regular-season winning streak.
With just 11 unbeaten teams remaining in Division I-A, Saturday's winner stands to get a leg up on yet another possible championship.
"We've been seeing them in our dreams and nightmare for years," Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe said. "You play other teams and there are three helmets on the ball. They will have six on the ball."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index