Miami-Florida matters again. And the ‘Canes and Gators are back on the national stage again.

By FRANZ BEARD

GatorBait Senior Columnist


There was a time in the not so distant past when Florida

and Miami were part of college football's gold standard.

You knew from the moment the first foot kicked off a new

season that both the Gators and the Hurricanes would

have their say in whoever finished as the mythical national

champion. From 1983-2008, the Gators and Hurricanes

accounted for eight (Florida three, Miami five) national

championships and the two teams factored in at least a

dozen others.


In the 10 years since Tim Tebow led the Gators to a

national championship win over Oklahoma, Florida's

second national title in three years and third overall,

Alabama and Clemson have dominated while both Florida

and Miami have struggled to regain their championship

traction. Only the 2009 Gators really sniffed a national

championship (13-1 in Tebow's final year with the loss to

eventual national champion Alabama) but both Florida and

Miami have dynamic coaches, both of whom are

determined to make their programs relevant on the

national scene once again.


This is why Saturday nights season opener between

Florida and Miami in Orlando at Camping World Stadium

is so important. What better way to state a case that the

championship juices are flowing again than with an

impressive win on a Saturday night when Florida-Miami is

the only show on the national stage? Florida comes into

the game hoping to build on the momentum of a fast finish

that produced an impressive 10-3 first year for Dan

Mullen. Miami comes into the game led by native son

Manny Diaz, whose dad was once the mayor of Miami and

who twice served as Mullen's defensive coordinator at

Mississippi State.


Both programs have a rich championship history but in this

been there, done that world of today, they both need wins

in games like this to state their relevance once again. Lets

face it, you don't get back to national prominence winning

paycheck games against bottom feeders from Group of

Five conferences or from Division IAA. You work your way

back into the national limelight by taking out teams from

the Power Five, especially teams that have instant

recognition across the fruited plain.


For 8th-ranked Florida, its a chance to make a statement

that those last two wins of 2018 – blowouts over Florida

State and Michigan – were just a springboard to bigger

and better things. For Miami, its a chance for Diaz to send

ripples across the Atlantic Coast Conference that the

Hurricanes are well on their way to re-establishing

themselves as a team to be reckoned with.


While neither program probably would admit it, Florida and

Miami need each other. For the past ten years the state

has become a poaching ground for the likes of Alabama,

Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State who have

recruited far too many top kids, the likes of which would

have never ventured north back even ten years ago. A re-

established Florida-Miami rivalry will go a long way toward

keeping the best kids from the state playing at home. If

Florida and Miami are doing well, it certainly makes it

more difficult for out-of-state recruiters to make a dent in

the talent pool. If Florida and Miami are playing each other

again on a yearly basis, it will be all that much better.


In the past few weeks, Florida athletic director Scott

Stricklin and Miami athletic director Blake James have

begun talks that could lead to Florida-Miami becoming a

yearly rivalry game for the first time since then UF athletic

director Bill Arnsparger pulled the plug back in 1987. This

is a rivalry that needs to happen. When Stricklin and

Arnsparger see the enthusiasm generated by Saturdays

season opener, perhaps they'll feel the need to hasten

their efforts to bring this back to a home-and-home yearly

affair once again. If for no other reason, that is why

Saturdays game is so important.


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