Title hopes gone, but this rivalry always matters


Published: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 8:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 8:33 p.m.

There have been times in this wonderful series between Florida and Florida State that the game has had tremendous national ramifications. It was like you took the most brightest white-hot star and made it hotter in those days, burning your retina if you stared too long at the game.

There have been other years when there were national ramifications for one of the teams and the other needed only to have the opportunity to be a spoiler to ramp up the “want-to.” The 1997 season comes to mind when Florida ruined it for the Seminoles and two years later had another chance but came up short. FSU had its chances in 2006, ‘08 and ‘09.

That’s the way it has been for the past 20 years with few exceptions, where one of the two teams or both of them came into the game with the weight of its season on the line. That only made it that much tougher on the team that lost.

And then, there is this year.

On a national scale, the result will hardly move the needle. To be honest, the national media will have much more interest in who wins the North Carolina State-Maryland game than Florida-FSU. Because, win or lose, FSU’s season could be extended by a Maryland win and a championship could still be won despite possibly four losses. (By the way, Jimbo Fisher, please don’t make a big deal about a co-championship in your division. I’ve never been more embarrassed for a coach than when I was in Ray Goff’s office and he had the SEC East trophy prominently displayed on his desk even though the Bulldogs had lost the tiebreaker to Florida and the Gators went on to win the SEC. That, and he was chewing on a toothpick while he talked.)

But despite the lack of national ramifications, despite that FSU’s immediate future has nothing to do with Saturday’s game, despite the lack of buzz surrounding this matchup, it matters.

A lot.

Think it doesn’t? Then imagine the FSU fan you see at work every day giving you the chop. Or the Gator fan down the block bringing out his gnarly orange and blue hat for the first time all year.

Florida-FSU is something fans on both sides live with all year long. That’s why it matters.

Look, I’m not about to equate this rivalry with the Hatfields and McCoys, aka. Alabama vs. Auburn. That’s pure hate. Alabama people don’t marry Auburn people and vice versa. Seminoles and Gators get married all the time. Uh, FSU used to be a girls school, peeps. Think about it.

It may not be Auburn-Alabama but it still matters. It still will eat away at the souls of the losers, still make it impossible to watch the highlights Saturday night if your team comes up on the short end.

I don’t know if it’s a season maker for either team because both had higher aspirations. But it will be a season breaker for the loser.

As bad as things have gone for Florida and Urban Meyer, you cannot call this season a failure if you beat all of your rivals again. Sure, it would remind you of the old days when that was what Florida played for because it couldn’t win championships. But a win Saturday gives UF the chance for a nine-win season and a sweep of Georgia, Tennessee and FSU. Before Florida football was re-invented in 1990, that combination happened one time, in 1984.

My point is this — with a win Saturday, Florida’s season cannot be considered to be a success because only seasons that end in Atlanta can be successful. But it would hardly be the epic fail that some of you feel like it has been.

With a loss, however, it is Urban Meyer’s worse season. It is the end of six years of being able to tower over one of your biggest rivals. The Ron Zook Field joke loses some of its impact. And, worst of all, it will be evidence to FSU fans that the Seminoles are back.

And that’s why for the Seminoles this game matters so much. They can’t lose again to the Gators. They can’t lose again to the Gators at home. They can’t lose to Meyer’s worst team.

They simply can’t.

Fisher’s team took baby steps this year and still has a shot at a BCS bowl because of the division where they play. Gator fans can’t even laugh at that because Florida was in the same position a little more than a week ago.

The ramifications of this year’s Florida-FSU game are as down as the economy. But they are still there.

Especially if you live next door to a Seminole.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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