Miami Hurricanes Could Block Florida State Seminoles From Championship

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2012, file photo, University of Miami's mascot Sebastian the Ibis leads players onto the field befor
FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2012, file photo, University of Miami's mascot Sebastian the Ibis leads players onto the field before a NCAA college football game against North Carolina State in Miami. The NCAA revealied that it has found "an issue of improper conduct" within its own enforcement program during its investigation into the compliance practices of Miami's athletic department. NCAA President Mark Emmert has ordered an external review of the enforcement program. Miami will not receive its notice of allegations until that review is complete. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)

CORAL GABLES -- More than once, Miami has derailed Florida State's national championship hopes.

During their storied rivalry, the Hurricanes have caused the Seminoles so much heartbreak that legendary former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden quipped that one day, his tombstone would reference the fact he'd had to play Miami.

While their annual rivalry game has lost some of its national luster in recent years, it's right back in the spotlight Saturday night as Miami travels to Florida State and the two meet in as top-10 teams for the first time since 2004.

And just as they have been in years past, the No. 7 Hurricanes could be one of the biggest roadblocks standing between the No. 3 Seminoles and a national championship run.

"That's what makes it so awesome," said Miami's longtime offensive line coach Art Kehoe, who played for Miami in 1979 and 1980.

"You think about it, I've been here for 30-something years and was gone for about five and I missed this rivalry ... if you play those guys, it's on. I've run into some of their guys 15, 20, 25 years later and they've said they love tussling with us because there's a lot of respect between the two schools. They know that when you get on that field, there are terrific athletes at every position and there's a lot at stake. It's been great games because of that."

Excluding season-openers, Saturday marks the ninth time that Miami and Florida State have met while undefeated. They've only met as unbeaten teams this deep in the season once before in 1991 when the two went a combined 18-0 to start the season.

That year, second-ranked Miami came to Tallahassee and notched a 17-16 win over the top-ranked Seminoles in a game known in college football lore as "Wide Right I" after Florida State kicker Gerry Thomas missed a 34-yard potential game-winning field goal in the final minute.

After that game, it was Miami -- not Florida State -- that went on to win the national title.

This year, Miami (7-0, 3-0) arrives in Tallahassee under different circumstances.

Though the Hurricanes remain unbeaten, they've had to put together double-digit comebacks in their last three games. In wins against North Carolina and Wake Forest, Miami's needed last-minute touchdowns to escape with wins over unranked ACC rivals.

Florida State, meanwhile, has dominated all season long, outscoring opponents 368-91.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has become a Heisman favorite after throwing for 2,177 yards in his first seven college games and is a national leader in multiple offensive categories including passing efficiency (207) and passing touchdowns (23).

Two weeks ago, the Seminoles (7-0, 5-0) throttled then No. 3 Clemson 51-14, with Florida State scoring the most points by a Tigers' opponent in Death Valley.

Those eye-popping offensive numbers are matched by a defense that is allowing an average of just 135.7 rushing yards and 13 points per game.

That's all part of the reason Miami enters Saturday's game as a 22-point underdog, a historic number for a top-10 program. But in Coral Gables this week, the Hurricanes have publicly downplayed that spread.

They simply repeat that Saturday's game is an opportunity, a chance to snap a three-game losing streak to their rivals, a chance to continue improving.

"I came to Miami to play in games like this," receiver Allen Hurns said. "Growing up as a child, it was always a big rivalry ... it's a big opportunity."; follow on Twitter @ChristyChirinos. ___

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