The clock struck 0:00, and the final score read: Florida State 31, Miami 28. The Hurricanes’ modest three-game winning streak was over, and as a result, so were the tenures of athletic director Blake James and head coach Manny Diaz. Jordan Travis’ incomprehensible 4th and 14 conversion proved to be the final dagger to the heart of the New Miami.
But, whereas fans were normally despondent after losing to their biggest rival, the feeling was quite the opposite, especially after the much-desired dismissals followed and new hires were made. With Dan Radakovich brought on board with Mario Cristobal, Miami fans were on cloud 9 with the belief that the football program was finally in good hands that would restore the program back to glory.
If you had told any Miami fan this would have been a disastrous season, especially with Miami’s Charmin-soft schedule, you would have been either pegged with tomatoes, laughed out of the room, or both. No, Miami was back, baby, and it was time to run the state.
And here we sit, at 4-4 in the midst of a completely lost season. Efforts have proven to be questionable at times (latter parts of MTSU and Duke debacles). Execution has been lacking (pretty much every game) as has discipline (the Virginia Tech game penalty-fest, the busted coverages leading to 70-plus yard touchdowns, etc.). In short, it looks like nothing has changed, at least yet.
But here come the Florida State Seminoles. And that matters greatly for a number of reasons. A win today would mean a number of things...
1) The season would be a memorable one in some respects, as you tend to remember the years you beat the Noles.
I still remember watching Colin McCarthy pick up a fumble and rumble for a game-sealing touchdown against FSU in 2007. It was a lost year - I think Miami went 5-7, if I remember correctly - but that game gave us Miami fans a beacon of hope and enjoyment in the midst of a disastrous year. I mean, hey, I remember the 2007 season in a semi-positive way for that sole reason, so that’s a good thing. Beating FSU here would be a similar thing. A 6-6 season with an FSU win would still be one I remember and smile on for a moment.
2) The players recognized the importance of this rivalry and gave it their all.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m worried about the core of this entire football program. Getting your doors blown off by MTSU and Duke means you aren’t playing up to your potential. And I refuse to believe that coaches as good and accomplished as Mario Cristobal, Kevin Steele, Josh Gattis, Charlie Strong, and others are the main problem. This team played terribly before they arrived, and they’re playing terribly now. So, will they do what they did in 2018? In 2019? When they were bad, yet found a way to play inspired, physical football against FSU. If they can at least recognize the importance of this game and play like their hair is on fire, then maybe there’s some hope for the soul of this team. And it will take that type of dedication and effort today, because Miami isn’t good enough to toss their helmets on the field and beat a team like Florida State. I can’t believe I’m writing this because the importance of Miami-Florida State goes without saying in my opinion, but I thought that this team was good enough to beat MTSU and Duke in their sleep, so... (shrugs)
3) Mike Norvell’s semi-honeymoon this fall is over.
Norvell really got the fanbase to buy back in, didn’t he? A 4-0 start had a lot of garnet-and-gold backers beating their chests, but that ended quickly after going o-fer against Wake, NC State, and Clemson. That win over LSU in the opener is way back in the rearview mirror now. Losing to Miami would really crank up the calls for Norvell’s head, as he has the better team right now, no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it.
Ironically, as FSU got Manny and Blake fired last year, a loss to Miami today could be the game that sends Norvell out the door.
4) That Miami is actually (maybe?) still the best-positioned team moving forward of the Big Three.
Man, that’s a sad thing to write, but it might be true. Florida, with its matching 4-4 record, is a mess right now on the field. Losing out on Corman McClain in recruiting was a huge blow for Billy Napier and the Gators, both in the team recruiting rankings themselves and for how it may persuade some kids to choose come signing day. The winner of today’s game might actually be in position to claim themselves as the best in the state, although the Gators and Noles play Thanksgiving weekend, like usual. A Miami win today and a seven or eight-win season with a bowl win, and the Canes could actually end up as the team that made out the best at the end of this dreadfully-bad season for college football in the state of Florida. What a time to be alive.