Wide Right! Florida State and Miami. Are they Baaaaaaaack?

Posted: October 6, 2010 by ciottas2cents in BCS, Ciotta, Football, NCAA, Rants

Wide right. Say this to the right person and you will hear stories and celebration until your ears fall off. Say this to the wrong person and you may not hear anything after your ears were knocked off. The Florida St.-Miami rivalry may be the best in-state rivalry of the last 30 years. The young kids may not understand but the old guys like my good friend Pat know what it’s like to immerse yourself into a rivalry of epic proportions. Lately, this rivalry has resembled more of a pillow fight than the traditional Convicts vs. Criminoles of years past.

Florida State was a nationally irrelevant program until the mid 1970’s when Bobby Bowden was hired from West Virginia. Bowden had reached mild success with the Mountaineers winning the Peach Bowl in 1975 while compiling a record of 42-26. In his first 5 seasons at FSU, Bowden won 10 games or more 3 times while leading the Seminoles to 3 bowl games including 2 Orange Bowl appearances. The Seminoles were 4-29 the 3 years  previous to Bowden’s hiring.

Overall the ‘Noles became a program to reckon with and their “play anyone, anywhere, anytime” mentality swept the nation. Under Bowden, FSU won 2 national titles and hold a record with 14 consecutive Top 5 finishes in the AP poll. Bobby Bowden retired after the 2009 season with a career record of 377-129-4 finishing his career second all-time in wins to Joe Paterno, who still coaches at Penn State.

The Miami Hurricanes were the “bad boys” of college football in the 1980’s. Like Florida State, the ‘Canes were an afterthought in the mid-70’s with a record of 36-60 over a 9 year span under 5 coaches before Miami hired Howard Schnellenberger. After debuting at 5-6, under coach Howard the ‘Canes went 36-10 the next 4 years including 2 Bowl wins and the 1983 National Championship.

Schnellenberger left after 1983 and was replaced by Jimmy Johnson. Under Johnson, Miami continued to roll with another National Championship and a 52-9 record. Things were good in Miami although they still had a hard time selling out games. Johnson later went on to win 2 Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.

Following Johnson were Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis, and Larry Coker. Miami won 3 more National titles and put more high round draft picks into the NFL from 1980 until the present than any other team.

Today, the ‘Canes and ‘Noles do not resemble the teams from the glory years. For me, thoughts of these teams evoke memories of Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders, Warrick Dunn, Vinny Testaverde, Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and Chris Weinke. There were ridiculously fast and elusive offensive playmakers and speedy, bone-crushing defenses. You were afraid of these teams. Convicts and Criminoles were funny names but you actually took it seriously. Wide right, missed field goals by FSU kickers, became stuff of legend.

So what happened? From my perspective, things began to change when Miami lost to Ohio State in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl game after an overtime phantom pass-interference call. When FSU lost a road game at Louisville in 2002, the ‘Noles seemed to lose their invincibility. It’s amazing how one game can change a program and push it into a different direction. That is what makes this sport so incredible. The minds of men age 18-24 is fragile and can be affected emotionally in so many ways. Programs are built and destroyed in the matter of weeks.

Today, both Miami and FSU appear on the cusp of greatness. Elite players appear on both sides of the ball. Years of training and hard work are beginning to pay off and both teams feel they are ready to take the next step. Coached by Randy Shannon and Jimbo Fisher, the ‘Canes and ‘Noles are set to square off this Saturday. The winner could propel themselves into the National Title discussion for the next 10 years. The loser will have to answer questions that will linger over a lifetime. With recent powerhouse Florida rebuilding, the state of Florida is ripe for the taking. “The speed state” can make or break a program and on Saturday, someone may take hold of it and run away. Or maybe not. Will we see another edition of wide right?

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