There is no great demand for tickets, hotel rooms or national attention. Unfortunately for both teams, that's how far the Florida State-Miami rivalry has fallen.
But for the Seminoles (6-3, 4-2 in ACC), there is no less anticipation or importance. After falling off the radar and back into irrelevance in September, this is Florida State's chance Saturday to get noticed again.
"These are critical games, rivalry games," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "They're important to the people who went to school here in the past and people who are going to go to school here in the future and your recruiting battles and all of those things. That's one of the things that's unique and that we love about athletics is the rivalry game, and it brings out the best in you. It makes it very important."
Florida State sees a chance to have a 10-win season, duplicating last year, by winning the final three regular-season games and the bowl game. While there has been so much renewed optimism and belief from FSU fans about the recent four-game win streak, the opponents have to be put into perspective. None had a winning record. Miami is 5-4 but has far better athletes and will be much more emotionally stoked than Boston College, Duke, Maryland and NC State were when facing the Seminoles.
"They're always going to come and play us well," quarterback E.J. Manuel said. "This is a rivalry game, so you always got to be ready for it, make sure you go out there and bring your 'A' game. It's huge. That's a big thing we look at as far as respect in this state. We always want to come out and play well against Florida and Miami, just like they want to do against us. You have the whole year. It's kind of like bragging rights every season. You win that game, you'll have the bragging rights the rest of the year until you play them again."
The Seminoles want more than bragging rights, of course. They want validation. They want to prove themselves again to the country that a top-10 preseason ranking was not that far off base. This is the way to get respect back.
And beat a state rival in the process.
NOTES AND QUOTES
Florida State's rushing defense has improved to third nationally, yielding just 78.9 yards per game. FSU has limited seven of its nine opponents to fewer than 100 yards, including each of the last four weeks. This run defense against Miami's rushing attack will be one of the key matchups Saturday. ...
Florida State has spent much of the season ranked among the bottom 20 teams in turnover margin. The Seminoles are making a late push to reverse that trend. Since turning the ball over five times without forcing a turnover at Wake Forest, FSU is winning the turnover battle. The 'Noles have a 9-5 edge in turnover ratio over the course of their four-game winning streak. ...
Saturday's game will feature 10 players who are graduates of Fort Lauderdale's St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Each team has five players.
"That's going to be a great game," said FSU safety Lamarcus Joyner, one of the Seminoles' five alums from that school. "I get to play with childhood friends. It's just great. It's going to be emotional. It's going to be about sportsmanship. It's going to be about dominance, about just playing football and having a great game against our rival." ...
A win against Miami not only assures a winning season, no matter how the rest of the season fares, but it would give the Seminoles five consecutive wins for the first time since 2003.
SERIES HISTORY: Miami leads 31-24 (last meeting, 2010, Florida State 45-17).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: It's been in high gear for most of the season. The Seminoles have scored 30 or more points in six consecutive games for the first time since the 2000 season. The only time they have been held under 30 points was against Oklahoma. The past four weeks have featured their best run-pass balance of the season, all due to the healthy return of Manuel, who will be a running option in this game. The Seminoles have one of the nation's deepest receiving corps, including at tight end, and they plan to use all of them in this game.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The past four games have reflected the difference in Florida State's defense. The improvements in the secondary and within the defensive line are obvious. The Seminoles have risen to rank fourth nationally in total defense (268.0 ypg), seventh in scoring defense (15.8 ppg) and third in rushing defense (78.9 ypg). What is so significant about this is when considering FSU gave up 70 points and more than 600 yards in total offense in those back-to-back ACC losses to Clemson and Wake Forest.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is a huge deal. Even if both of us were 0-and-whatever, I think this would still be a big game because it's always a huge rivalry." -- Florida State QB E.J. Manuel on the FSU-Miami game.
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