Decoding the FSU-Miami Football Rivalry

September 5, 2006 –
Florida
State University Seminoles versus the

Miami
University

Hurricanes. What a great a battle that was! This gridiron tradition is full of folklore, rivalry and enmity. Every year that these two schools battle it out, it is a slugfest hitting crusade. It is almost impossible to describe the vigor, animosity, and emotion that is displayed in this game. Just watching those two teams play the other night was emotional for me, and I was on the edge of my seat each and every play.

This year, the victory went to FSU. In a defensive battle of which only 3 total rushing yards were accumulated, FSU squeaked out of hostile
Miami
with a 3 point victory. FSU drew first blood early in the game with a field goal. However, a 68 yard punt by
Miami
resulted in a complete change of field position, which ultimately led to 10
Miami
points and a 10-3 lead for the Canes going into the half. The game was turned around by a 40 yard play by Running Back Lorenzo Booker that set up a Seminoles touchdown. A late field goal, set up by a similar play, led to another FSU field goal, which would end up being the game winner, in a 13-10 victory for the ‘Noles.

The game was marred by horrible offense. However, the apparent great talent on both offensive clubs hints at the fact that the defenses are just that good. And while the offensive coordinators could use some work, these defenses are probably going to be touted as two of the top 3 or 4 defenses in the nation by season’s end. But why is defense so prevalent in this great rivalry? Afterall, when you look at a lot of storied rivalries over the years, they all have their share of high scoring affairs. Texas-Oklahoma usually results in at least one team scoring quite a few points.

Michigan-Ohio
State

is almost always a 35-40 total points scoring game. USC-Notre Dame is always a high scoring affair. Even the great Auburn-Alabama rivalry has had 35+ point games all but once between ’91 and ’01, and 45+ point games in four of those. Therefore, I’m sold on the fact there is something special about Miami-FSU rivalry.

The extraordinary aspect of this rivalry is their intense personal differences.
Miami
football players are notably renowned for their deviance, their notoriety, their arrests, their hair, their gold teeth, their tinted face masks and even their extravagant night lives. The mere fact that they call themselves “The U” contributes to their infamy. On the other hand, you have Bobby Bowden’s boys from old
North Florida
. The Seminoles of Tallahassee are a much less revered group. They are known a lot more for their winning tradition than their off-field exploits, and if you ask any
Florida
resident about who is more likely to be on the 6 o’clock news for the wrong reasons, they are almost always going to say a football player from
Miami
over a football player from

Florida
State

.

So is that what it amounts to? Can this rivalry simply be dummied down to a battle of the good guys from the North versus the bad guys from the South? Yep. It’s that simple. The animosity between these teams is more pure then any of the other rivalries in college football, because the fact of the matter is, most of these players were not recruited by both schools. FSU’s Coach, Bobby Bowden, is intent upon bringing in good people before he brings in good football players; thus, the players he recruits are generally good guys.
Miami
‘s Larry Coker, on the other hand, is not so fixed on the idea that bringing in good people is a must for his program; thus, he recruits from an entirely additional pool of people to that of Bowden’s. Coker continually enrolls “troubled” adolescents and it carries over into the
Miami
program. So when the Canes meet the good guys from the North, you can’t bet there is a lot of good guy/bad guy acrimony involved.

The good guy/bad guy rivalry between these two teams is the reason for the paucity of points scored between them. When you’re the good guy, the Seminoles, you’re constantly trying to demonstrate that you’re capable of playing like the bad guys and are adept at beating them at their own game. So when FSU is trying to throw the long ball, get the big play, and trying to run it down the Canes’ throat, they are attempting to do things that their recent history has proven they are incapable of. That results a lot 0-yard gains, one too many turnovers and far too few points for the good guys from up North.

With
Miami
and their bad boy mentality, their objective going into the FSU game is to kill the other team. Not to literally kill them, but to kill them in a football sense, i.e. by hitting them so hard their helmets come off, by picking off every pass, and by running over people instead of running around them. This macho, bad-boy, killer frame of mind results in a lot of prideful antics on the field, and a lot of missed opportunities on the field.

Even the coaches get caught up in this good guy/bad-guy routine. The defensive coordinator for FSU seemed to take it personal every time the
Miami
offense threw a long pass on his defense. He would immediately follow up such an attempt with a near all-out blitz every time. And yet the bad-boy nature of the Canes’ disregarded this, and followed up a long attempt with another passing effort in order to say, “I don’t care if you blitz, because I’m going to burn you anyway.”

Or maybe I’m just blowing this whole thing out of proportion. Afterall, the reasoning for a low-scoring game could be as simple as saying that these teams are too talented on defense to play this early. A talented defense is always going to outplay a mistake-prone offense, and at this early point in the season, that’s all offenses are: mistake-prone. But that answer just seems too simple, doesn’t it?

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