A closer look at the top rivalries in the Sunshine State:
Florida vs. Florida State
`Choke at the Doak’ highlight of epic series
Series Began: 1958
Series Record: Gators lead 34-12-2
Best Game: It’s a tough call, with so many memorable games between the rivals. You could go with the showdown between future Heisman Trophy winners Danny Wuerffel and Charlie Ward in 1993 (Ward won) or Ron Zook’s last stand. Zook had already been fired and 7-4 UF was a major underdog against then-No. 8 FSU, but Zook’s Gators pulled off a 20-13 win over the Seminoles in 2004.
However, it seems impossible to top the “Choke at the Doak.”
In 2004, the Gators held a 31-3 lead at FSU’s Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, but the Seminoles rallied for a 31-31 tie.
“I’ve never had a tie feel as much like a win," then-FSU coach Bobby Bowden told the Sentinel.
The teams faced off again in the Sugar Bowl, with the rematch dubbed “The Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter.” FSU earned a 23-17 win and invaluable bragging rights.
UCF vs. USF
War on I-4 finally revs up again this season
Series Began: 2005
Series Record: Bulls lead 4-0
Best Game: The War on I-4 is the youngest rivalry on this list, but it more than makes up for its inexperience with heaping doses of animosity. The Bulls have dominated the series, including a particularly brutal 64-12 thrashing of the Knights in 2007. "I hope they liked what happened because we weren’t trying to run the score up on them," USF quarterback Matt Grothe said the year after the blowout. "We’re that much better than them."
The best showdown in the series was in 2008. UCF quarterback Michael Greco threw two touchdown passes late in the fourth quarter to force overtime. However, the Bulls stopped UCF on fourth down to seal a 31-24 overtime win.
USF refused to play UCF during the next four years. The Bulls, of the Big East, aimed to protect the competitive advantage they had over the Knights, members of Conference USA.
The teams are set to resume the rivalry series this year now that they are both members of the new American Athletic Conference. With USF in rebuilding mode, UCF fans could get the best possible Black Friday gift this year — their first win over the Bulls.
Miami vs. Florida
Hurricanes claim Gators feared facing the U
Series Began: 1938
Series Record: Hurricanes lead 28-26
Best Game: Florida and Miami once faced off in one of the Sunshine State’s most heated rivalries. The teams played annually from 1938 to 1987, but the Gators moved away from the regular meetings when the Southeastern Conference shifted to an eight-team schedule. Some Miami fans have suggested the Gators were too chicken to face UM, while UF officials said they have to play more home games to fund the athletic program.
The best game in the series was in 1984. Miami and Florida played at Tampa Stadium. UF claimed a 20-19 lead with 41 seconds remaining. Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar led the Hurricanes down the field and UM scored with six seconds left in the game. Miami had a 26-20 lead and the Gators got the ball back with one second remaining. The `’Canes intercepted a UF pass and returned it for a touchdown to secure a 32-20 victory.
Florida is set to play at Miami this season for what could be the final meeting in the series.
Florida State vs. Miami
Wide Right: Cursed kickers define series
Series Began: 1951
Series Record: Hurricanes lead 31-26
Best Game: The rivalry series could easily be called Wide Right. From 1991 to 2004, five FSU losses were sealed by errant kicks late in games. It was an epic tragedy for FSU fans and pure comedy for UM fans.
The streak began in 1991 with Wide Right I. Gerry Thomas missed a field goal wide right with less than a minute remaining. No. 1 FSU lost 17-16 to No. 2 Miami.
In 1992, during “Wide Right II,” FSU’s Dan Mowrey missed a field goal wide right to seal a 19-16 Hurricanes’ win.
In 2000, during “Wide Right III,” FSU kicker Matt Munyon missed a field goal and UM escaped with a 27-24 win.
In 2002, during “Wide Left,” Xavier Beitia missed a last-second field goal wide left and the `Canes held on for a 28-27.
"This makes me sick," FSU Coach Bobby Bowden said after the game. "I just can’t believe we lost another game like this. It just ain’t right."
It happened one more time, when the Orange Bowl was dubbed Wide Right IV. Beitia missed a field goal wide right with five minutes left in the game, helping Miami claim a 16-14 win and infuriate FSU fans.
FAMU vs. Bethune-Cookman
Rattlers rule series, but ’`Cats own a super winSeries Began: 1925
Series Record: Rattlers lead 46-15-1
Best Game: Florida A&M has dominated long stretches of its series with rival Bethune-Cookman, but that just gave the Wildcats a lot more to celebrate when they scored wins.
The teams have locked in for a long list of memorable games, but it’s hard to top the high scoring 2008 contest played in front of the largest crowd in the history of the series.
Bethune-Cookman trailed FAMU by 18 points at halftime, but the Wildcats responded by calling in Superman.
Bethune-Cookman quarterback Allen Suber, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound athlete nicknamed "Superman" by his teammates, ran for a touchdown and threw the game-winning touchdown pass to freshman Eric Weems with nine seconds remaining. The play lifted the Wildcats to a 39-35 victory over the Rattlers in the Florida Classic played at the Citrus Bowl.
The game drew a record crowd of 73,358, with fans taking in both a dramatic game and elaborate halftime shows performed by the schools’ marching bands.
Suber’s fireworks overshadowed a marquee day for FAMU quarterback Ben Dougherty, who recorded a career-high 354 passing yards and two touchdowns.
FAU vs. FIU
Owls rallied for biggest win in Shula Bowl VII
Series Began: 2002
Series Record: Owls lead 8-3
Best Game: FAU and FIU face off annually in the Shula Bowl. The winner of the contest between the Boca Raton-based Owls and Miami-based Golden Panthers claims a trophy named in honor of iconic Dolphins coach Don Shula.
The Owls and Panthers have endured hapless stretches, often making appearances in ESPN.com’s Bottom 10 countdown listing the worst teams in college football.
However, both teams have scored bowl victories and have been part of dramatic contests.
The best FAU-FIU game to date was Shula Bowl VII in 2008. The two teams entered the fourth quarter tied 22-22, then they both went on a scoring binge. By the time the dust settled, they combined for 107 points, 1,037 yards of offense and 14 touchdowns. Eight of the scores were in the fourth quarter. FAU’s Rusty Smith connected on a 9-yard touchdown pass to open the overtime period and the Owls stuffed FIU on the next possession, giving FAU a dramatic 57-50 win.
"It was an amazing game," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "It was a great game to be a part of, and even greater to be a part of as a winner."
Florida vs. Rollins
Tars own a unique place in Gators history
Series Began: 1906
Series Record: Gators lead 13-2-1
Best Game: Yes, Rollins College once fielded a football team that earned a spot on this list.
Rollins, the private school in Winter Park, actually played a big role in Florida Gators football history.
UF fielded its first varsity football team in 1906 under coach Jack "Pee Wee" Forsythe. The Gators’ third official football game was against Rollins College. UF earned a 6-0 win over the Tars in Gainesville on Oct. 26, 1906.
Rollins returned the favor a month later, recording a 6-0 win over the Gators on Nov. 9 in Winter Park. In 1907, UF played Rollins twice, beating the Tars in Gainesville and tying them in Winter Park.
By 1924, the Gators and Tars reached a crossroads.
UF was more heavily invested in football and opened the season with a 77-0 win over Rollins in Gainesville. Florida followed it up with a 65-0 win over Rollins in 1925. The schools played one more time in 1934, with UF claiming a 13-2 win in Jacksonville.
The schools eventually opted to end the series.