College football: Florida State-Miami rivalry is fierce but friendly after 61 meetings
The Florida State-Miami rivalry has been unique in its fierce competitiveness -- and its lack of pure hatred, at least among the players.
Since the rise of the Hurricanes' program under Howard Schnellenberger in the early 1980s, the two teams have combined for eight national championships and games in which former FSU cornerback Clifton Abraham once said, "the whole world was watching."
They meet for the 62nd time on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee (3:30 p.m., ESPN).
There have been blow-outs and bitter losses, Wide Rights and Wide Lefts, games that opened seasons and one bowl.
And thanks to the Seminoles' current seven-game winning streak, Miami's lead in the rivalry is as close as it gets: 31-30. The Hurricanes match Florida as the 'Noles most frequent opponent and UM has played more games against FSU than any other team.
Other college football rivalries have a dark side: poisoned trees, pregame brawls, logo stomps and ratting opponents out to the NCAA.
The biggest controversies in the FSU-Miami series have been more amusing than anything, such as the Seminoles' rap video in 1988 and a year later when UM's mascot, Sebastian the Ibis, attempted to take the field with a fireman's hat and coat and armed with an extinguisher to spray Chief Osceola's flaming spear.
Ibis was stopped by police and never made it onto the field. A notion among Miami players that same night to snatch the spear from the student posing as Oceola and break it was thwarted when the player designated for the attempt, Mark Caeser, got close enough to realize he was afraid of horses.
That's been about it. Mostly, FSU and Miami football players tend to let their actions within the white lines dictate the rivalry and since most of the players for each side are from Florida -- and the Seminoles are the team that historically is the Hurricanes' main rival for south Florida talent -- it's been more than enough to establish the game was one of the top rivalries in the nation.
And the heat of the battle never clouds the fact that many of the players competed with and against each other in Pop Warner and high school football. It has always been thus and has continued to this day.
FSU has 20 players on its roster from Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties. Miami has 41. There are six high schools in south Florida with players on both teams.
When Miami running back Mark Walton gets the ball, nine players on FSU's two-deep depth chart chasing him down are from south Florida, including one from his high school, linebacker Matthew Thomas.
"Playing Miami is like playing against your brother in the backyard, in the neighborhood," FSU safety Derwin James of Haines City said on Tuesday. "You're always familiar with everyone in the neighborhood. We all know how each other plays. There's respect."
Seminoles defensive tackle Fred Jones of Miami is the third member of his family to participate in the rivalry. His father is former 'Noles linebacker Fred Jones and his uncle is another former FSU linebacker, Marvin Jones. Fred Jones played at Miami Central High, as did three current members of the 'Canes, Trevor Darling, Waynmon Steed and Navaughn Darling.
"It's for the bragging rights when we go back to Miami, go back to our high school and work out together," Jones said. "It's fun to tell them, 'you never beat me.' You can't take that away. Both teams are very good, have good pipelines to the NFL and it's great competition, the best of the best."
The odd thing about the current state of the rivalry is Florida State's record seven-game winning streak, all under coach Jimbo Fisher. Four of the games have been decided by five or less points, including the last three, and UM coach Mark Richt, obviously speaking from the short end of that streak, said one team dominating the other might not be the best thing for the series.
"Rivalry games are important and they're better rivalries when there's some winning and losing on both sides," he said. "That hasn't happened lately."
Fisher said his team isn't of the mind to lose one just to make it interesting.
"You always want to keep it going," he said. "It's one of the great rivalries in college football. You want your legacy of how you play against them to be very good, just like they want their legacy to be good against Florida State."
This article is written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.