As a lifelong football fan from the state of Florida, I cannot wait until Saturday night. There’s just something to be said for when the Florida State/Miami game has meaning.
After all, it’s been a while since this game has actually meant something, especially considering these two programs fall from grace since their most recent national titles (FSU-1999, Miami-2001). What was always the game of the year in the 1980s and 1990s became just another game since 2002.
Call it the lost decade.
But you can’t say that today. These two proud programs from the Sunshine State are both 7-0 and the last time they met as unbeaten teams this late in the year was 22 seasons ago.
The No. 7 ranked Hurricanes are coming off to back-to-back come from behind wins against North Carolina and Wake Forest. People have questioned the ‘Canes and the way they have won this season. But do you know what? They have won them all. Al Golden has done a terrific job rebuilding the Miami roster and program back up. The Hurricanes have the NCAA issues finally behind them and are certainly a program ascending.
We will all find out this weekend just how far Miami has risen because they are facing a Florida State team that could very well be the top team in the country right now. They are mowing down and annihilating everyone in their path. Games have not even been close.
What I can say and have said for the past several years is that Jimbo Fisher and Florida State have recruited better than anyone outside the city of Tuscaloosa, Ala. since he was named the head coach in Tallahassee. Everything was shaped perfectly for a title run last year. But the Seminoles had inconsistent quarterback play from E.J. Manuel and never lived up to their expectations in 2012. Simply, they underachieved.
Enter Jameis Winston.
Winston has elevated the Seminoles to new heights. He brings incredible athleticism to the quarterback position. Winston is a dynamic playmaker with a sensational and accurate arm. More importantly, he has given FSU a sense of confidence not seen in the state’s capitol in a very long time. He appears to be that once in a generation type of talent that has a way of just making everyone else around him better.
Many will say it’s all Winston. But that’s not entirely true. The offensive line is a year older and playing much better and the wide receiving corps is deep and everyone is contributing. And let’s not forget about the Florida State defense. That unit is playing at a very high level.
Like I said, Florida State has recruited better than everyone not named Alabama of late. Now they have their quarterback.
The perfect storm is brewing in Florida, as FSU and Miami are both back recruiting at a high level. I can’t say enough about the job Golden has done in South Florida and I have to give the guy a tremendous amount of credit for the job he has done in rebuilding that roster with the black cloud of the NCAA hanging over their heads for many months. Finally, that saga is over and behind them.
Miami currently has the No. 6 ranked recruiting class in the nation. They have the top offensive line unit headed their way led by the state’s top offensive tackles in K.C. McDermott (Wellington Palm Beach Central) and Trevor Darling (Miami Central). Running back Joseph Yearby (Miami Central) is one of the nation’s top running back prospects while Chad Thomas (Miami Booker T. Washington) is Florida’s top defensive end prospect.
What I love about this Hurricane class is that there are some super prospects at every position. They are sitting on 26 commitments and could land four to five more before it’s all said and done. The future looks extremely bright for Golden and his Miami program.
For Florida State, they will reap the benefits of having a superstar like Winston, just like Texas A&M is doing right now with Johnny Manziel. Prospects will want to go play with that guy.
Right now, FSU has the top class in the ACC and No. 3 overall in the country, just behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Tennessee. Florida State’s 2014 recruiting class is 25 strong. Already committed to the Seminoles are elite recruits like quarterback J.J. Cosentino (Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic), running back Johnathan Vickers (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian), defensive tackle DeMarcus Christmas (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee), outside linebacker Jacob Pugh (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby), middle linebacker Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood), and athlete Treon Harris (Miami Booker T. Washington). I also love the fact they have committed 10 offensive and defensive linemen.
Frenzy in Doak Campbell
You would have to go all the way back to November of 1996 to really capture the high fevered atmosphere you are going to witness at Doak Campbell this weekend. On that day No. 2 ranked FSU beat top ranked Florida 24-21. That stadium was electric on that day. Many will say their home loss versus Oklahoma in 2011 was similar atmosphere wise. But this game means so much more.
The magic will be there again on Saturday night and there will be plenty of recruits in attendance. In fact eight prospects will make official visits to FSU this weekend including five-star cornerback Adoree Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), five-star running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), and four-star players like wide receiver Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp), running back Shai McKenzie (Washington, Pa.), and defensive end Kentavius Street (Greenville, N.C./Rose).
In addition, there were will be several dozen high profiled prospects there on unofficial visits in the class of 2014, 2015 and 2016. Five-star prospects in this class like cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala.), wide receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis), and four-star recruits like Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons), and linebacker Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) are scheduled to attend. So too are 2015 and ’16 recruits like defensive end CeCe Jefferson (Glen St. Mary, Fla./Jefferson County), safety Shawn Burgess-Becker (Coconut Creek, Fla./Monarch), wide receiver Keith Gavin (Crawfordville, Fla./ Wakulla), wide receiver Nate Craig (Dade City, Fla./Pasco), wide receiver Sam Bruce (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./University School), offensive tackle Martez Ivey (Apopka, Fla.), running back Jordan Scarlett (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./University School), and cornerback Tyrek Cole (Miramar, Fla.). (Complete FSU Visitor list)
The bad thing about having that many elite prospects at your home game is that it’s hard to give them attention if you are Florida State and that coaching staff. The bottom line is that these coaches have a job to do and that’s to win a very big football game. The beauty of a game like this is that your product should sell itself. The atmosphere will be electric and each and every one of these recruits will picture themselves wearing the garnet and gold.
This game will have huge recruiting implications for both FSU and Miami down the line. It isn’t just the Seminoles recruiting the prospects in attendance or watching at home. You can sure bet that Miami will be recruiting most of the same. To be honest, a game like this will have more bearing on recruits in the next class and even in 2016.
This season is a stepping stone for both the Seminoles and Hurricanes and this game is gigantic for both programs now. The winner will keep their national championship dreams alive, just let it was in their heyday.
Hopefully, for both Miami and Florida State, this is just the beginning of new eras in Coral Gables and Tallahassee, because college football seems a whole lot better when these two square off in that big game in the Sunshine State.
Jamie has been covering college football recruiting since 1992 and is entering his ninth year with Scout.com and FOXSportsNext. He’s currently a National Recruiting Analyst and Manager for the state of Florida. Jamie is also covering the NFL Draft for the network.