Tomorrow’s game against the Florida Gators is a huge one. But not only because Miami, with a victory, can maintain their No. 1 ranking in both the ESPN/USA Today Coach’s poll and the AP poll; and Florida can make a nice leap from their current position at No. 6 in both polls, but because of what else is at stake.
For those of you who grew up somewhere outside of the state of Florida, I can’t help but think that you do not have a full appreciation for how important this game is. Not only for the players themselves, but the fans as well.
This is more than an intra-state rivalry between two top 10 teams – it is a recruiting battle, and a war of pride-for everyone involved.
Take into account the fact that there are 18 Hurricanes and 22 Gators that went to high school together in 13 different schools around the state. Add in that Miami’s Aikeem Jolla and Florida’s Sylvester McGrew went to high school together in Louisiana and you’ve got a rather volatile mix of guys who were teammates and now enemies.
Trust me when I tell you that just because Florida defensive end Steven Harris went to high school with Jonathan Vilma, that the guys will not be holding hands walking out to the field like they did when they were Coral Gables Cavaliers just a couple of years ago.
As noted, this is a huge game for the players on both of these teams for so many reasons. But let me explain the mindset of a University of Miami student who went to high school in the state of Florida. We went to UM along with maybe two or three of our friends from high school. Almost everyone else we were friends with: Gators.
So for a moment, forget the fact that the winner of this game is going to have a huge advantage in the rankings of college football and understand that we, the minority, do not, under any circumstances, want to drop a game to the hated Gators. I’m a junior this year, and so far the Hurricanes football team is 2-0 against Florida State and 1-0 against Florida. Everyone my age has had complete and total bragging rights over everyone else we went to high school with; heck, Dorsey and company have only lost one game since we came to UM-not to mention that they are the defending National Champions.
This same attitude applies to the players, too. I’m sure that Vilma and every other guy on this team who is from Florida is fully aware of the ‘Canes perfect record against in-state opponents since 2000.
Sure these guys will be playing for position in the polls, an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and for recruiting dominance in the talent-rich state of Florida; but they’re also playing for an incredibly deep sense of pride.
And those of us who went to high school in the Sunshine State will watch and cheer, rooting on the Hurricanes to continue their dominance of their opponents-not only because we like the ‘Canes to be No. 1, but because we just cannot stomach a loss to those Gator kids.
Jesse Agler is a graduate of Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, same as UM running back Jason Geathers.
You can reach Jesse at firstname.lastname@example.org