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College Football's Great Rivalries: Florida State Vs Miami

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This profile of the Florida State and Miami college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1992 Big Ten Football annual. As the rivalry is renewed this week, we thought it was relevant to take a look back at the history of this epic showdown.

Florida State vs Miami: One of College Football's Greatest Rivalries

Bill Peterson, former Florida State coach, may have put it best with one of his malaprops.

"These are the kind of football games," he said before a Florida State-Miami game, "that coaches strive on."

It is a series that Miami certainly has thrived on lately. But then, the Hurricanes have thrived on just about every team that has gotten in their way while winning four national championships in the past nine seasons.

Florida State has strived better than any during that span. The Seminoles have beaten Miami twice in those nine years. But three times they have lost by a point, falling 17-16 in 1983 and 1991, and 26-25 in a memorable 1987 shootout.

"It's funny--well, it's not funny," says Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "Miami was the team of the '80s. With about two more points a game (against Miami), Florida State would have been the team of the '80s."

Incredibly, in a 35-game series that Miami leads 21 to 14, there have been six one-point decisions. Florida State has lost all of them. 

The others: 7-6 in 1959 and 1962, and 10-9 in 1980.

Bowden has been the victim of four of the one-point defeats. Two may have cost him national titles.

In a talk at Miami earlier this year, Bowden jested about his national-championship frustration as he waved a hand.

"I solved that business," he said, "I got me one of them rings."

Bowden moved his hand to eye level and read what he said was the inscription: "National champions 1991, '92, '93, '94. Love, Mother."

Bowden has been more involved in this series than any other coach on either side. His record against the Hurricanes is a frustrating 6-12, including 1-1 during his time at West Virginia.

During Bowden's 16 seasons at Florida State, Miami has had five head coaches. He lost to the first two (Carl Selmer and Lou Saban) as well as the last three (Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson).

When Bowden took over at Florida State in 1976, he inherited a team that had gone 4-29 in the previous three seasons. In his second game, Miami blew out the Seminoles 47-0.

"I was thinking we were finally going to win a game," says Bowden, noting that Miami had gone 2-8 the previous year. "They kick off. We fumble. They score. They kick off again. We throw a pass. They intercept. They score again. It wss 27-0 in the first quarter. At the end, it was 47-0. It could have been 100-0."

Bowden's teams got better. But Miami was usually a little better.

Twice in the last four years, Florida State has been a consensus preseason choice to win it all. Each time Miami got in the way.

Last year the Hurricanes dealt the Seminoles their first loss after 16 straight victories, including 10 straight that season. Bowden believes his team was so devesstated by disappointment of a game it lost when a last-minute field goal sailed wide right by inches that it precipitated the 14-9 defeat by Florida in the last regular season game.

A difference of inches mught summarize most of the unusal games between these two. But more than inches mark this relationship.

"This series with Miami," says Bowden, "differs from others in the fact that it has gained as much national prestige as any collegiate game in the country. The implications in the last five years have been greater than, say, Ohio State-Michigan, Auburn-Alabama, Southern Cal-UCLA, Notre Dame-Southern Cal--or any others you can name."

With such national impact, Bowden wonders if the series with Florida, Florida State's historic blood rival, is as big as it once was.

"To me, I don't know," he says. "To me, Miami is now our No. 1 rival instead of Florida. From my standpoint, developments have shifted the center of gravity to Miami, not Gainesville."

Miami seems ot have had the fates on its side. Strange things happen when these two play--bad thigns for Bowden's Seminoles.