Seminoles open defense of state title won in 2010
Florida State heads into the final turn of the regular season with its two top traditional rivals remaining on the schedule, starting Saturday with Miami.
The Seminoles (6-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) will be after their fifth straight victory when they host the Hurricanes on the 20th anniversary of one of the most ballyhooed games played between teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2.
''If you are undefeated, whatever, these are critical games,'' Fisher said Monday. ''The one thing we love about athletics is the rivalry games. It brings out the best in you.''
There is far less riding this year although the Seminoles are hoping to defeat both Miami and Florida for the second straight season to retain the mythical state championship. Coach Jimbo Fisher won the corresponding bragging rights that go along with the intrastate championship in his first season as head coach of the Seminoles with impressive wins over both rivals. Florida State hasn't accomplished that feat in successive seasons since 1998 and 1999.
Florida State wraps up its ACC season Nov. 19 with a visit by Virginia before traveling to Florida for the season finale on Nov. 26.
Fisher believes defeating the two in-state rivals is important for recruiting.
''People want to be around successful programs and they want to be around teams that win,'' he said. ''Whoever wins those games sends a message to kids ... `they're winning, they've got to be the best team and that's who I want to plays for.' Sometimes that's a big thing.''
It's been a strange season for Miami's first-year coach Al Golden, who has watched his Hurricanes handily defeat Ohio State and 20th-ranked Georgia Tech, but lose heartbreakers to 10th-ranked Virginia Tech, No. 17 Kansas State, Maryland and Virginia.
''They've had some ups-and-downs just like we have,'' Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel said Monday. ''They're coming off a great win last week. They're always going to come and play us well. It's a rivalry game.''
Miami (5-4, 3-3 ACC) routed Duke 49-14 and senior quarterback Jacory Harris, who was brilliant in the Hurricanes 38-34 win in Tallahassee two years ago, comes into Saturday's game as the ACC's highest rated passer.
''Jacory's throwing the ball better and better every week, making great decisions,'' Fisher said.
Harris, who passed for 386 yards in that game, needs 194 yards passing Saturday to surpass former Florida State quarterback Chris Rix at No. 15 on the ACC's career passing yardage chart.
The Seminoles have bounced back from an early-season, three-game losing streak to win four straight games, outscoring the four struggling ACC opponents 154-39 in that span.
''I like the direction we're going,'' Fisher said Monday. ''It'd better be a good direction because Miami's coming to Tallahassee.''
But, he conceded, conventional thinking can often be set aside when these teams meet.
The visiting team has won the last five games.
That's what makes great competition,'' Fisher said. ''It doesn't happen the way it's supposed to happen. That's why they're so emotional.''
Oh yeah, about that game 20 years ago. Miami won 17-16 in the first ''Wide Right'' game when Gerry Thomas' 34-yard field goal sailed outside the right goalpost by a whisker.
Like Fisher said, the game doesn't follow any script.