Missing from this year’s Florida State-Miami game will be a lot of fans and one head coach.
The stakes aren't quite like the old days, either.
The Hurricanes (2-0) are making their latest bid to regain some of the swagger that typified their glory years. A win last week at No. 18 Louisville vaulted them to 12th in the rankings, the highest they've been going into a game against the Seminoles since 2016.
But for the fourth year in a row, Miami will play an unranked Florida State. The Seminoles (0-1) are coming off a lackluster loss to Georgia Tech in their first game under new coach Mike Norvell.
And Norvell won't be on the sideline Saturday night, because he was diagnosed last week with the coronavirus and is in quarantine.
“This game is one of the great games in college football,” Norvell said. “Every year it’s a game that means so much to so many, and not being able to be active during the game is going to hurt.”
A lot of other people won't be at the game, either. Because of the pandemic, attendance will be limited to 13,000 in the Hurricanes’ 65,326-seat stadium.
Norvell said this week he's asymptomatic, and he planned to help with preparation and monitor practices remotely. Deputy head coach Chris Thomsen will fill in for him Saturday.
“We all kind of expected things like this going into the season,” Thomsen said. “We knew things like this would probably happen, and we prepared for it. I think we’re all getting used to feeling our way through situations.”
Norvell won raves for his innovative offenses at Memphis, and the Hurricanes are wondering how much his absence will affect Florida State's play-calling.
“You’ve just got to get in the game and really see," Miami coach Manny Diaz said. "Are some tendencies different? Is it all the same thing? You just really don’t know until you get in there and find out.”
Florida State won seven consecutive games against Miami from 2010 to 2016, but the Hurricanes have turned the tables, winning the past three.
“As far as the rivalry, all I know is Miami Hurricanes, and that they don’t lose to Florida State,” Miami cornerback DJ Ivey said. “That’s all coach Diaz preached: We don’t lose to Florida State, and we’re going to continue to beat Florida State. I’m 2-0. I plan to be 4-0.”
The matchup has lost luster, however. Only once in the past 14 years have both teams have been ranked at season's end — in 2016.
The home field hasn't been much of an advantage when the teams meet. The Hurricanes have won 16 of the 26 games in Tallahassee; the Seminoles have won 20 of 37 in Miami, including six of the past seven.
With at least 80% of the seats empty, there won’t be much atmosphere Saturday. But Hurricanes safety Amari Carter anticipates lots of intensity.
“We’re missing our fans with the limit on people present,” Carter said, “but there are still going to be 22 people on the field.”
Former Hurricanes star Ed Reed is back on the sideline in his first season as chief of staff, a new position. The Pro Football Hall of Famer has consulted with Diaz and his staff during games and helped them complain about calls.
“Ed has been awesome,” defensive coordinator Blake Baker said. “He sees things a little differently, from 30,000 feet. He’s not always in the forest. He’s seeing the woods. He has even been coming up to me during the game -- ‘Did you see this? Did you see that?’
“Instructing players, he can’t really do that, but I don’t think there’s a rule about getting on the officials.”
SPLITTING THE UPRIGHTS
Kickers have a history of deciding the Miami-FSU game, and each team has a good one.
Florida State’s Parker Grothaus made two field goals against Georgia Tech, including a 53-yarder. Miami graduate transfer Jose Borregales went 4 for 4 last week, including school record-tying 57-yarder.
Borregales was born in Venezuela, but he's somewhat familiar with the history of consequential kicks in the rivalry, including the Seminoles' long list of decisive misfires.
“One that comes to mind is when Florida State blocked the extra point to win the game" in 2016, he said. “That stunk. Other than that, I just know that Florida State is known for wide lefts. (Actually, they've mostly been wide rights.) Hopefully we'll see that on Saturday.”
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