Get hype everyone – IT IS (kinda) GAME WEEK!
Football season is back on Saturday, courtesy of a rare Week 0 matchup between in-state rivals, Miami and Florida (Hawaii and Arizona are also playing, but let’s be real, this one is way more interesting).
Sure, neither team is in the Big 12 or has anything to do with this year’s OU team, but football is back and this is the only good game on, so we are giving this moderately interesting non-conference game the full Game Week treatment.
Series History (29-26-0, Miami)
When you think of rivalries in Florida, more than likely Florida State is involved. The Seminoles play both Florida and Miami yearly in two of college football’s biggest rivalries, which begs the question: why don’t Miami and Florida ever play?
Unfortunately, the rivalry between Miami and Florida, like so many others, is one that has been buried in the sands of time by conference expansion. From 1938-1987, the Canes and Gators played each other yearly, completing the triangle of hate in Florida. However, the SEC’s expansion to 8 conference games forced Florida to choose between non-conference foes Florida State and Miami.
They stuck with the Noles.
Despite being two of the major powerhouses in Florida, this is only the seventh time the Gators and Hurricanes have met, with two of the meetings occurring in unplanned bowl matchups. Prior to ending the yearly matchup, the series was somehow even closer than it is now: Florida held a 25-24 edge.
Since going dormant, Miami has dominated the series, going 5-1 in the previous six matchups, mostly thanks to the combination of the Hurricanes early 2000’s dominance and the dreadful Ron Zook era of Gator Football. The one win Florida captured? A 26-3 spanking in Tim Tebow’s 2008 national championship season.
Probably the biggest casualty of the rivalry going dormant is the loss of one of the best rivalry trophies in College Football: the Seminole War Canoe, which is a strange name for a non-FSU related trophy. The canoe is full-sized, six feet long, hand-carved, and I cannot stress this enough, sourced from a 200-year-old tree that was struck by lightning. In a true act of cowardice, Miami has retired this trophy as “it was intended for the home and home series” and did not give it up after their 2008 loss to the Gators. Free the canoe, you cowards!
Despite the lack of contests, this is very much a heated rivalry. While it might be one of College Football’s biggest Cold Wars, Saturday gives the two sides a chance to vent some emotion on a neutral site.
A Look At The Florida Gators
Florida is coming off a red hot first season from head coach Dan Mullin, who took the Gators from a 4-7 record to a 10 win season in just one year. The Gators season was capped by a 41-15 Peach Bowl beatdown of the Michigan Wolverines. While the leap back into relevance was impressive, can the Gators take the next step and become a threat to take the SEC?
The Gators offense is anchored by the much-improved quarterback, junior Feleipe Franks. Much like Florida as a whole, Franks ramped up production under Dan Mullin, throwing for 24 touchdowns, up from a measly nine in his first season. Helping Franks out is a stable of receivers and tailback Lamichel Perine, who yes, is related to former Sooner back Samaje Perine. Florida’ O-Line is losing four starters from that Peach Bowl-winning unit. On defense, Florida swarmed the ball last season, racking up the 7th most turnovers in College Football. Their corners are staunch, young and impressive, as is tradition.
While the Gators have improved, getting past Georgia in the East will be a tall task, as well as any potential SEC Championship matchup against Alabama. I’m not fully sold on Florida being a legitimate SEC and Playoff threat, but if they continue their development ahead of schedule, lookout.
A Look At The Miami Hurricanes
After their revitalization in 2017 under Mark Richt and the Turnover Chain, the Hurricanes promptly decided to collapse in a way rarely seen in College Football. While the chain remains, Richt bailed on his alma mater at the end of last season.
The replacement? Manny Diaz, who was the Hurricanes defensive coordinator under Richt, taking the head coaching reins for the first time in his career.
Miami’s offense was a lackluster mess in 2018, headlined by a revolving door of mediocrity at quarterback. The much-hyped transfer of Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell was supposed to signal a quality change in the position; he didn’t even win the starting position. Instead, sophomore Jarren Williams will have to lead the Canes this season, who has shown promise in his days as a prospect but has extremely limited snaps.
This is a major season for Miami in order to keep any momentum potentially lingering around the program. Their defense will need to take over games in order for the Hurricanes to do anything substantial in the ACC.
The Case For Why You Should Root For…
Miami and Oklahoma have long had a hated past with each other. The Canes famously toppled the Sooners in several pivot games throughout the 1980s, oftentimes being the single thing standing between Barry Switzer and more national championships. While the swaggering days of “The U” remain just a benchmark yet to be reached, those cueball helmets with the two-tone U still make the blood boil for OU fans of a certain age.
As for Florida themselves, they have that great OU connection with Lamichel Perine, as well as the fact that Miami is unfairly having a very cool boat kept from them.
We’re all sick of the SEC narrative right? A Florida win here would put a major feather in the SEC’s non-conference game before Week 1 even starts. Plus, while the Gators still have plenty of hurdles to go before being a real CFP threat, a Miami win here would damper Florida’s resume if they did end up performing well in the SEC.
As for reasons to actually like Miami? Well…
Oh look here’s a Tebow highlight!
First Game Week Blog is in the books!
Stay tuned to The Schooner Blog this week as we get closer to Week 0 of College Football and OU’s opener against Houston on September 1st. Make sure to subscribe to our podcast, The Schooner Pod, available everywhere you can find podcasts and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get updates whenever we post blogs, pods and other bits of content.