Miami is in the mix for the ACC title, not “back” in the mix because the Hurricanes have zero appearances in the ACC Championship Game since joining the league more than a decade ago. “The U” can’t be “back” if its in uncharted territory.
The Miami-Florida State rivalry, however, is absolutely “back.”
Since Mark Richt returned to his alma mater, the rivalry has produced a pair of thrillers with inexplicable endings. Last year had a blocked extra point with less than two minutes to play, and Saturday we saw back-to-back touchdown drives in crunch time from two quarterbacks with less than 10 combined career starts in a game that, to that point, was being dominated by the two defenses.
Darrell Langham’s outstretched effort to score with in the games final seconds was so close that it required an extensive review from the officials. The Florida State fans in Doak Campbell Stadium were frozen in time, eight years separated from the last time they had seen their team fall to the Hurricanes. It had never happened under Jimbo Fisher, and that edge in the rivalry was a point of pride.
There are several steps and more big games to win before Miami is back in the mix for conference and national championships, but there’s no doubt that this rivalry — which has produced some of the best college football moments in the sport’s history — is absolutely back. The losing streak is over, and the count between Richt and Jimbo is 1-1.
Here are three things to know about the game and what it means for both teams moving forward:
1. Miami picked up an edge on Virginia Tech in the ACC Coastal Division standings. The Hurricanes and Hokies are going to be jockeying for the division title for the rest of the season, with the tiebreaker on the line when the two teams play in Miami on Nov. 4. Traditionally, Miami and Georgia Tech have had tougher draws in the Coastal Division because of their annual crossover games against Florida State and Clemson, respectively. Since Virginia Tech drew Clemson this year as a rotating opponent and lost while Miami got a win against Florida State, it has positioned the Hurricanes to be able to sustain one conference loss while remaining very much in the hunt for a first-ever bid to the ACC Championship Game as long as they win on Nov. 4.
2. How will Florida State respond? A win for Florida State wouldn’t have reversed the team’s fortunes entirely, but a crushing home loss to your rival will test its motivations moving forward. At 1-3, Florida State still has Louisville, Clemson and Florida on the schedule in a season where championship contention and now even a 10-win regular season is off the table. The Seminoles are flawed, but they showed up with great defensive effort in this game. It’s going to be a test of pride moving forward in Tallahassee and a challenge for this coaching staff to keep a super-talented team of future pros on track when many of those preseason goals are no longer attainable.
3. Braxton Berrios is a baller. Get to know Braxton Berrios’ name if you don’t already, because he’s a future pro ready-made for the modern NFL offense. Berrios had eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns in this game and a 44-yard punt return that set up the first touchdown of the game (which was also caught by Berrios). The 5-foot-9, 183-pound senior only had seven starts coming into the year but has emerged as one of the most important players on Miami’s roster. After the win against Florida State, he’s now the team’s leader in receptions (18), receiving yards (282) and receiving touchdowns (5).