Gators-Hurricanes Do It One More Time (And Picks!)

The Florida-Miami football rivalry was pretty fun while it lasted.

Although the Florida-FSU and FSU-Miami rivalries are the ones that most of today’s college football fans identify with, the Gators and Hurricanes had a lot of heat amongst the programs before the series was cut off after 1987.

Saturday’s matchup between the on-again, off-again in-state rivals will likely be the final one as long as Jeremy Foley is the Gators Athletic Director. He said any future matchups would have to be neutral-site games and when he says neutral-site he means “Gainesville”.

However Saturday’s game isn’t about Foley, it’s about a final celebration of these two proud programs. It’s about the 55th matchup of this tightly contested series (Miami leads 28-26). It’s about remembering the past history of this unique series.

The old-timers will never forget the alleged “Florida Flop” in 1971 when the Gators defense conceded a touchdown by voluntarily falling down so the Gators offense could get the ball back and John Reaves could break the NCAA record for all-time passing yardage. He broke the record and is probably thankful that today’s 24/7 sports media coverage wasn’t around back then because the move would be universally panned.

But many of the Florida-Miami games have revolved around unnecessary offense.

Remember in 2008 when Florida went for a late field goal to turn a 23-3 game into a 26-3 victory that covered a 22.5 point spread? Randy Shannon is probably still smarting over it.

Believe it or not there was a precedent for this move and it came from the 1980 Florida-Miami game when Howard Schnellenberger, angry at Florida fans for pelting his team with oranges, ordered a last-second field goal for the Hurricanes to secure a 31-7 win in Gainesville.

The first live college football game televised on ESPN? The 1984 Florida-Miami game at the big sombrero in Tampa. And what a classic it was. Don’t believe me, see the ending for yourself.

And what about the great performances? Willis McGahee rushing for over 200 yards in The Swamp as Miami crushed Florida, 41-16, in 2002. And who can forget “The Miracle in Miami” a year later? Brock Berlin had his first (and only) highlight of his career. A career that started in Gainesville and ended in Miami.

Charlie Strong’s first head coaching gig was Louisville you say? No it wasn’t, it was in the 2004 Peach Bowl as the interim head coach for Florida against…Miami. The Hurricanes won, 27-10.

Miami’s first national title came in the 1983 season when the Hurricanes went 11-1. Any guesses of who caused the one loss? Yup, Florida rolled the young Hurricanes for a 28-3 victory to open the season.

So if this is truly the last Florida-Miami game for a while it’s got some serious standards to live up to. Both teams are coming into this game with something to prove. Florida wants to prove its offense is better than what it showed in a lackluster, boring 24-6 victory over Toledo. Miami wants to prove its defense has improved from last season’s porous group. This game is also the start of a referendum on the Al Golden regime. The man with the orange tie has been well received by Miami fans thus far but in year three they expect serious progress.

I think it’s going to be a close game, definitely one that comes down to the fourth quarter as the sweltering heat is likely to get to both teams early in the second half. Matt Jones will return to the Florida lineup but his impact could be limited by the heat elements and his ability to sustain energy after dealing with a viral infection over the last month.

If Saturday’s game comes down to Jeff Driskel making plays in the passing game, Miami can book a victory. However, I believe the Hurricanes will ride Duke Johnson to a lead early in the fourth quarter but the Gators special teams, lead by Loucheiz Purifoy, will make the big play in a close, fun game.

Florida 24, Miami 19

Last Week: 13-3
Season: 13-3

Around the State: UCF over Florida International, 31-16; Michigan State over USF, 27-10.

Around the Region: Georgia in a slight upset over South Carolina, 28-24; Clemson big over S.C. State, 75-7; LSU over UAB, 33-13; Auburn over Arkansas State, 29-14; Western Kentucky upsets Tennessee, 29-26.

Elsewhere: Michigan over Notre Dame 21-20; Oregon over Virginia, 45-31; Washington State shocks USC, 38-37; Ohio State over San Diego State, 41-7; Oklahoma over West Virginia, 49-28; Texas over BYU, 34-27.