Pride is enough of a prize when Miami, FSU play
The Florida State fight song is playing on a continuous loop in the locker room. A flag bearing the Seminoles' logo sways over the practice field. After one workout this week, an equipment manager put on the distinctive gold FSU helmet and nearly got beaten by a group of angry players.
This was not a scene from Tallahassee, Fla. This is what's been happening on Miami's campus this week.
''I hate it,'' Hurricanes center Tyler Horn groaned.
No better way to get ready for the 56th installment of the Miami-Florida State rivalry than stirring up some good, old-fashioned feelings of disdain for one another.
The Seminoles and Hurricanes play on Saturday in a game that will register nary a blip in the rankings, have no impact on the national championship picture and probably won't even mean much in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Doesn't matter. When it's `Noles-'Canes week, pride is more than enough to get both sides going.
''It's fun to go into other people's stadiums and have people screaming at you, old ladies yelling obscenities to you,'' Horn said. ''It's a lot of fun.''
The rivalry is as storied as just about any in college football. Miami-Florida State has impacted the national championship race maybe as much as any other annual game has in the past 30 or so years.
You've got the Wide Rights and Wide Left and Miami's Micheal Barrow just crushing Florida State's Tamarick Vanover into the Orange Bowl turf - ''Micheal Barrow separated him from his senses. Wow!'' was Keith Jackson's call of that play. The Seminoles' Stanford Samuels returned the favor years later when he drilled the Hurricanes' Roscoe Parrish hard enough to send him to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital's intensive care unit.
Taunting, finger pointing, name calling, just plain old nastiness - and a whole lot of respect, too.
''You have a lot of guys saying, `I'm going to go to this program to be better,''' said Florida State safety Lamarcus Joyner, a South Florida native. ''You get to look and see what the guy who you grew up with is doing at another program, and now that you are facing each other, it's about bragging rights. `Who's going to win? This is why I came here. My team is better than yours.'
''Just personal things like that are going to make this game fun.''
Florida State (6-3) has won its last four games and is flying coming into the game, which will see every seat at Doak Campbell Stadium jammed, but quickly dropped out of the national-title picture earlier this season. Miami (5-4) is essentially out of any big-time-bowl picture already and lamenting a slew of missed chances that could have made this season one to fondly remember.
There's no trophy on the line, but there may as well be.
Make no mistake, Miami-FSU is always a championship game.
''Pride,'' Miami linebacker Sean Spence said. ''This game has a lot of history. I know growing up, I watched it and couldn't wait for it to come on. I don't think the record or both of us not being ranked in the Top 25 matters. This is a battle for Florida. This is Miami against Florida State. This is my last time playing in Doak Campbell Stadium, and it hasn't hit me yet, but it's going to be something I want to treasure.''
Players on both sides, they're talking it up.
Coaches on both sides, they're leery of that. Neither Miami's Al Golden nor Florida State's Jimbo Fisher want their players to make more out of this game than necessary. In Miami's case, Golden is trying to take the approach that every week should be as important as Florida State week.
''Everybody is flocking and talking about this game and I'm trying to just keep them back on the process,'' Golden said. ''It can swing one way or the other. ... To me, I'm just trying to develop a consistent team and a consistent approach.''
Many recruits are expected at the game. Many of those recruits are being wooed by both Miami and Florida State. Some may make their decisions based on the outcome of the game - a few may decide to commit to the winning team, a few may commit to the losing team out of a belief that they can help that school more quickly.
No matter the reason, it's still a colossally big deal to both sides.
''These are still critical games and rivalry games and it's important to people who go to school here and people who are going to go to school here,'' Fisher said. ''That's one thing that's unique about athletics is the rivalry games and it brings out the best in you. It makes it very important.''
For Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe, Saturday will be a bigger deal than usual.
Kehoe is in his first season back with the Hurricanes after a storied quarter-century or so as part of the program, helping win all five of Miami's national championships. It hasn't lost its lure, and Kehoe insists that even the freshmen and newcomers to the rivalry already understand what's at stake, quipping that if they don't, ''somebody will hit them in the head with a spear'' - another nod to Florida State's logo.
''These games are violent, it's fast, it's furious, it's frenzy,'' Kehoe said. ''It's everything you want in football. ... If you have a win against Florida State, how can you say you didn't have a successful year? It's hard to put those two together. It's that important to us. It's that important to them. I guarantee you it is.''
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