The fabled game is nearly upon us.
From Coral Gables, Fla., to Tallahassee, Fla., tensions are high as No. 7 Miami heads north for the annual rivalry matchup with the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.
And now, the stakes are especially high.
Both teams bring unblemished 7-0 records to the contest. In ACC play, Miami is 3-0 and Florida State is 5-0.
The Seminoles rank third nationally in points scored (52.6 per game) and fourth in points allowed (13 per game). Miami is 20th in scoring (39.6) and 11th in points allowed (17.7).
Florida State holds the longest winning streak in the illustrious rivalry: seven straight, from 1962-1972, and the Noles have also taken the last three. However, since the in-state rivals first faced off in 1951, Miami leads the overall series 31-26.
Coming off a pair of come-from-behind victories against North Carolina and Wake Forest, the Cardiac Canes have much to prove.
Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston has lived up to, and perhaps exceeded, the hype around his freshman year. A Heisman frontrunner, Winston has already passed for 2,177 yards with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Stephen Morris, Miami’s senior quarterback, has thrown for 1,463 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
On the ground, sophomore Duke Johnson has carried the Canes with 823 rushing yards, averaging 6.7 yard per carry. Florida State’s leading rusher, junior Devonta Freeman, has 561 yards (6.4 average) and six touchdowns.
But if tradition tells us anything, Saturday’s 8 p.m. game at Doak Campbell Stadium could come down to the golden foot of the kicker – UM’s sophomore Matt Goudis or FSU’s freshman Roberto Aguayo.
The rivalry has been highlighted, at least for Hurricane fans, by a series of errant kicks with the game on the line.
Florida State’s “Wide Right” curse began in 1991 when place kicker Gerry Thomas sent the potential winning field goal sailing to the right. The misfire gave the No. 2 Hurricanes a 17-16 win on the road over the top-ranked Seminoles.
Just one year later, FSU kicker Dan Mowrey followed suit. His directionally challenged field goal went off to the right, handing Miami a 19-16 nail-biting win that kept them undefeated.
In 2000, the Hurricanes held on to a 27-24 lead at the Orange Bowl when Seminole kicker Matt Munyon was unable to cap off a last-minute scoring drive. Wide right again.
But in 2002, Florida State turned the tables … sort of.
With only minutes to play, Miami took a 28-27 lead, but allowed for Florida State to drive into field goal range for a game-winning attempt. Xavier Beitia broke history, sending his kick wide to the left as Miami escaped.
College football is all about tradition though, so 2004 brought more of the same. Beitia blew his chance at redemption with yet another wide right – an error that cost the Seminoles the lead as time wound down.
But the past is irrelevant as the Canes prepare to renew their rivalry this weekend.
True to his mantra, coach Al Golden is just taking it one game at a time. He believes Canes can make the necessary adjustments for the strong, physical Seminoles.
“We’re blocking better, let’s be fair, let’s be honest – Randy [‘Duke’ Johnson] couldn’t run the way he ran the other day last year, he was 12 pounds lighter. Now he’s dropping his pads and finishing runs. The offensive line is bigger and stronger and better. The tight ends couldn’t block like that a year ago,” Golden said. “So we’re making progress, but it’s all relative. We’re going to get tested on Saturday. It’s a great challenge for our guys and an even greater opportunity.”
Not just for kicks
The fabled game is nearly upon us.