Most of the best college football rivalries have a long history that dates back generations. But Miami vs Florida State is rare in that, despite having played for the first time in 1951, the schools have made up for lost time with a competitive spirit and games that have annual national championship implications.
WATCH- Saturday Traditions: Rivals Unite- Miami vs Florida St.
Saturday Traditions: Rivals Unite- Florida St. vs Miami
Before becoming recognized as “The U”, the University of Miami was a small private school in Coral Gables that had experienced a modicum of success.
That changed immeasurably when the university hired Howard Schnellenberger, a former assistant to Hall of Fame coaches Don Shula and Bear Bryant, to helm the program. In his fifth season in 1983, Schnellenberger delivered the Hurricanes’ first national championship when they defeated top ranked Nebraska 31-30 in the Orange Bowl.
Conversely, Florida State had been even less successful during their early days of playing football, giving few initial signs that they would blossom one day in a national power. That all changed when they hired West Virginia University’s Bobby Bowden to be their head coach in 1976.
Bowden slowly built the program into one to be reckoned with and by 1987, with Jimmy Johnson now coaching Miami, the rivalry between the Seminoles and the Hurricanes took off into the stratosphere.
The 1987 FSU vs. Miami game was a harbinger of things to come, as the contest featured a remarkable array of talent on both sidelines. The game produced more future NFL players on the field in one contest than another other that had been played in college football history.
Watch a recap Miami’s victory over Florida State in 1987 en route to the National Championship.
Both teams came into that matchup highly regarded. Florida State seemed to have things in hand when they raced out to a 193 lead. But Miami came back in the 4th quarter to take a 2619 lead. The Seminoles proceeded to score a touchdown with 42 seconds left. Faced with the decision of tying the game with an extra point kick, Bowden decided to go for the win. The ensuing pass on the two-point conversion attempt was incomplete. Miami went on to ride the momentum of that win toward the program’s second national championship.
From 1987 to 1992, the Hurricanes and Seminoles dominated the college football landscape, with both programs finishing with at least a Top-4 ranking each year. Miami seemed to have fate on their side, defeating Florida State in 1991 and 1992 thanks to a pair of last-second missed field goals.
During that span, both schools seemed to be playing on a level that the other schools around the country could not ascend to thanks to their talent, athleticism, speed, strength, confidence and an ever-growing mystique.
Highlights of Deion Sanders, Warrick Dunn, Peter Warrick, & Terrell Buckley at Florida State University. 1985-2000. “Forever” by Drake 2009
Those back-to-back losses, known as Wide Right I and Wide Right II remain forever etched into college football’s historical tapestry. The 2000, 2002 and 2004 games would give us the next installments of the razor thin margins and heartbreaking finishes that would come to define the series with Wide Right III, Wide Left and Wide Right IV respectively.
Miami leads the overall series with 31 wins. Florida State has tallied 30 victories, including the last seven meetings.
A list of notable Hurricanes that starred in the series and went on to be inducted into either the College or Pro Football Hall of Fames include safety Benny Blades, defensive end Ted Hendricks, defensive tackles Cortez Kennedy, Warren Sapp and Russell Maryland, wide receiver Michael Irvin, linebacker Ray Lewis and quarterbacks Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta.
Their Florida State counterparts include offensive tackle Walter Jones, linebacker Derrick Brooks, wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, quarterback Charlie Ward and defensive back/special teams returner Deion Sanders.
We’re down to #1 of “The Greatest,” an ACC Digital Network series counting down the ten greatest quarterbacks to play at the 14 current ACC football schools. Our panel of experts voted and decided that Florida State QB Charlie Ward is The Greatest quarterback in the history of ACC schools.
Florida State has won three national championships, eighteen conference titles and finished ranked in the top four of the AP Poll for 14 straight years from 1987 through 2000. They’ve produced three Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke and Jameis Winston, and the 1999 squad is widely considered to be one of the top teams in college football history.
From 2000 to 2003, Miami won 34 consecutive games. The program has won five AP national championships and produced two Heisman winners. Their fabled 2001 undefeated national championship team is seen by many as the most talented college football roster ever assembled.
Highlights of the National Championship game from the 2001 season. Miami destroyed Nebraska 37-14. The Greatest College Football Team Ever!
Last year, Miami was unbeaten and ranked 10th in the country when they faced the No. 23 Seminoles, The Hurricanes seemed to be on the verge of a return to national prominence while hoping to end a six-game losing streak to the Seminoles. In the first half, Miami took an early 130 lead. Florida State proceeded to score 20 straight points and won another squeaker that came down to the last seconds by a score of 20-19.
With Miami experiencing a resurgence in prominence, this rivalry, which defined college football in the ’80s and ’90s, looks to regain its footing as one of the sport’s greatest in the modern era.