AP Sports Writer
CORAL GABLES — Neither team is ranked. Neither team will play for this season's national title. Neither team has regained its spot as a college football powerhouse.
It's Miami-Florida State week.
“That's all that needs to be said,” Miami safety JoJo Nicholas said.
One of college football's top rivalries is rekindled on Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee when Florida State and Miami meet for the 56th time. It's only the third time since 1977 that the annual game will go off with both teams unranked — the others were in 2007 and 2008 — and the first time since 1975 when both teams have at least three losses already on their record.
Again, so what?
Miami fans, Florida State fans, they carry who wins and loses this game with them for the following year, much like folks do with Michigan-Ohio State, Auburn-Alabama and Southern Calforinia-UCLA games. And despite their being little at stake besides pride and bragging rights, it'll still be nationally televised on ABC and ESPN, more proof that any Noles-Canes get-together is still must-see TV.
“I don't think there's any question that this is that game,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “There's maybe a few that have rivaled the intensity, what it's meant from a national implication standpoint and, of course, the breadth and depth of talent that has been represented in this game over the last quarter-century. The mantle has been passed and it's our job to carry (it) and move the program forward. It should be a great game.”
Both teams are coming into this weekend after convincing wins.
Miami (5-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) rolled past Duke 49-14 on Saturday, easily one of the Hurricanes' most complete efforts. Florida State (6-3, 4-2) easily beat Boston College 38-7 last Thursday night, the Seminoles' fourth straight victory, all of them coming by at least 25 points. It's been 11 years since any Florida State team has been on that kind of blowout streak.
Saturday’s matchup is one of those games where pretty much everybody knows everybody on the field, with both rosters packed with players from talent-rich Florida. It's not uncommon for players to be facing off against high school teammates. And, in at least one case this year, it'll be a family affair.
Miami's top running back is Lamar Miller, the first Hurricane back in nine years to reach the 1,000-yard mark. Florida State's leading receiver is Rodney Smith, who has team-bests of 28 catches and 486 yards.
Miller and Smith are cousins. There'll be some smack talking going on this week.
“I'm going to talk to my cousin,” Miller said. “There's going to be a lot of braggin' and stuff.”
Golden will be coaching in the rivalry for the first time but has been to Tallahassee plenty of times before, through his past work as a Virginia assistant. He said he hopes any back-and-forth between Seminoles and Hurricanes doesn't go on this week.
The real bragging comes after Saturday's game, of course.
Road teams have won the last five games in the series. But Florida State has won four of the last six matchups with the Hurricanes overall and certainly don't want to commemorate the 20th anniversary of one of the sport's most fabled games — Wide Right I, a game that helped propel Miami to the 1991 national title — with another home defeat.
“Now we can think about Florida State,” Miami quarterback Jacory Harris said after Saturday’s victory. “It's going to be a big challenge and we're ready.”
Harris threw for 386 yards in his only other game at Doak Campbell Stadium, a 38-34 Miami victory in which the Hurricanes took the lead with 1:53 remaining. Harris watched Florida State's frantic comeback attempt with his arms folded and a blank look on his face while standing on the Miami sideline, never flinching even when Christian Ponder's pass into the end zone on the game's final play bounced off the turf and sealed the Hurricanes' victory.
Asked later why he didn't react, Harris simply said, “Too tired. A Miami-Florida State game takes everything you have.”
Photo: Jacory Harris