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If Miami Defeats FSU, It’d Be the ‘Canes Greatest Upset in Series History

University of Miami vs Florida State University
Future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks (10) During FSU Loss at Miami in 1994
Set Number: X47058 TK4 R3 F10

Florida State enters Saturday’s matchup ranked 4th in the polls and is a two plus touchdown favorite according to Draft Kings. A loss to unranked Miami could be disastrous for FSU’s playoff chances - ESPN’s college football playoff predictor drops the ‘Noles playoff chances from 62% down to 35% should they lose to Miami, even if FSU wins out and claims an ACC Championship.

On the flip side, Miami is playing for pride, a slightly better bowl game, and to build offseason momentum in hopes that next year marks their return to playing meaningful November football. The Hurricanes close this season against three of the four best ACC teams. No. 4 FSU (9-0) and No. 13 Louisville (8-1) appear to be on a collision course for the ACC Championship Game, and a winter away game at bowl-eligible Boston College (6-3) will be a tough challenge.

Where would such an upset rank in the all-time series? A win this weekend would undoubtedly be Miami’s greatest upset in series history.

2009 - (unranked) Miami 38, (No. 18) Florida State 34

Miami v Florida State
Jacory Harris (12) throwing a touchdown pass to Graig Cooper against FSU at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 7, 2009
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

The only time an unranked Hurricanes team stormed Tallahassee and defeated a ranked Florida State squad was in 2009, Bobby Bowden’s final season. The game was a shoot-out as Jacory Harris threw for nearly 400 yards with 128 of those being hauled in by Travis Benjamin. Christian Ponder threw for nearly 300 yards for the Seminoles. Miami had been trailing or tied most of the game, but pulled ahead with 1:53 remaining after a Graig Cooper 3 yd touchdown run. Ponder then drove the Seminoles down to Miami’s 2 yard line but time expired after throwing three straight incompletions at the goal line.

FSU’s ranking was a bit misleading. This was an early September game after Florida State finished the previous season ranked 21st in the AP Poll with Ponder returning to quarterback a team that crushed Wisconsin 42-13 in the 2008 Citrus Bowl. But in 2009, FSU would start 2-4 including a home loss to USF before finishing 7-6 on the year. Miami would go on to have a better 9-4 season and finish ranked 19th in the polls. So while this game was technically an upset, the Hurricanes would prove to be the better team that year.

1980 - (unranked) Miami 10, (No. 9) Florida State 9

The only other time an unranked Miami team beat a ranked Florida State team was back in 1980. On September 27, 1980, unranked but 3-0 Miami hosted No. 9 and 3-0 Florida State who had defeated their first three opponents by a combined score of 131-7. The Seminoles were coming off an 11-1 campaign in 1979 and had national championship aspirations for 1980, while the Hurricanes were in Howard Schnellenberger’s second season after finishing 5-6 his first year.

This was a pretty big upset and the only one that comes close to the kind of upset that this Saturday would bring. Miami shut-out FSU 7-0 in the first half, and held on in the fourth quarter after FSU elected to go-for-two and the win rather than a tie. Sophomore QB Jim Kelly led the Hurricanes along with familiar names like Art Kehoe, Don Bailey, Fred Marion, Ronnie Lippett, Jim Burt, and backup QB Mark Richt.

1980 was a good year for the Hurricanes and would be a stepping stone towards the ‘Canes decade of dominance in the 80’s. After the FSU win, Miami was 4-0 and ranked No. 13 in the polls. Unfortunately, Miami would follow the FSU upset with a three-game losing streak, but Miami wouldn’t lose a game thereafter finishing 9-3 with a No. 18 ranking and a Peach Bowl championship. So a win on Saturday would be a bigger upset considering that the 2023 Hurricanes are in all likelihood not receiving a New Years Day bowl invite or able to finish ranked in the Top 20.

1988 - (No. 6) Miami 31, (No. 1) Florida state 0

1994 - (No. 13) Miami 34, (No. 3) Florida State 20

University of Miami Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp (76) Leading the Hurricanes through the smoke
Set Number: X43463

Two other upsets are worth mentioning because they spoiled FSU championship aspirations, although the spoilage came at the hands of very talented Hurricanes teams.

In 1988, Miami tagged FSU with it’s only loss foreclosing the possibility of a Seminoles title. The Hurricanes defense pitched an impressive shutout led upfront by Russell Maryland and Cortez Kennedy, while senior QB Steve Walsh commanded the offense. Deion Sanders led the Seminoles in his final collegiate season. Although a slight upset, this win came during the peak of Miami’s prime so it doesn’t really compare to how big of an upset could happen this Saturday.

In 1994, Miami again tagged FSU with its only loss (though they would play No. 4 Florida to a draw in their regular season finale). The Seminoles were the defending national champs and entered the matchup undefeated while Miami was coming off a respectable, but down by their-then standards, 9-3 season. The 1994 Hurricanes would go on to finish the regular season 10-1, but lost the de facto national championship game to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Warren Sapp cleaned up the defensive player of the year awards that year and was a consensus First-team All-American while future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks headlined the Seminoles.

While both of these upsets derailed what may have otherwise been national championship seasons for Florida State, both upsets came from quality Hurricanes teams that had their own aspirations for post-season hardware. Those wins were not the surprise, nay shock, that would be a Miami win on Saturday. So a win this weekend in Tallahassee would be the greatest upset by Miami in the entire series history.