TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- This game isn't just about national championships or intrastate bragging rights anymore. It isn't just about field-goal attempts that went wide right or play-calling that left Bobby Bowden being second-guessed.
Listen to Florida State linebacker Derrick Brooks.
"I look at Miami and see confidence," said Brooks, a junior. "Sometimes it's overconfidence, but it's confidence. That's what you need to be successful."
Listen to Miami defensive end Darren Krein.
"I think it's true that we always find a way to beat them, and they always find a way to lose to us," said Krein, a senior. "They're not as cocky when they play us as when they're playing someone else."
The top-ranked Seminoles (5-0) will try to change their attitude, as well as reverse their fortunes against third-ranked Miami (4-0), when these rivals meet today in a nationally televised high noon showdown at Doak Campbell Stadium.
After blowing out its first five opponents by a combined 228-14 -- shutting out three Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the process -- Florida State will have to stop the Hurricanes and history from repeating themselves. The oddsmakers believe it will happen, given the seemingly absurd 14-point spread that dropped to 12 1/2 .
"Here we are playing a football team that is ranked third in the country, and we're trying to break a long losing streak against them, and it makes me want to laugh," Bowden said earlier this week. "In fact, I am laughing. I hope they [the oddsmakers] are right. But why do they do this to me? That's sure going to be to their psychological advantage. Miami thrives on that."
A team that has long found motivation from outside influences -- usually it's the way they've been painted by the media -- is now working itself into a frenzy about being underdogs. The Hurricanes wrote the number 14 on a 6-foot high sign and affixed it to a wall in their locker room back on the Coral Gables campus. "People have doubted us throughout our years here and this might be the most disrespectful of all," said Kevin Patrick, the Hurricanes' other defensive end.
Said Miami coach Dennis Erickson: "I hope they're angry. They better get angry."
While today's game likely will be decided strategically the way most Florida State-Miami games have been -- the Seminoles' high-octane offense against the search-and-destroy defense of the Hurricanes -- there's a slightly different twist to a recurring theme.
The Seminoles have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in senior Charlie Ward, and the Hurricanes will rely more on their trio of tailbacks than on quarterback Frank Costa. The junior RTC from Philadelphia was pulled during last week's unimpressive 30-7 win over Division I-AA Georgia Southern, but is expected to start today.
"I think the difference between Florida State and every other team in the country is Charlie Ward," said Erickson, who has yet to lose to Bowden since coming to Miami four years ago. "He's the best college player I've ever seen."
But whether Ward can do to Miami what he has done to Kansas in the Kickoff Classic and a string of ACC teams is debatable.
The Hurricanes, with probably the best defensive line in college football, say they can pressure the quick Florida State quarterback despite the fact that he works out of the shotgun.
"If anybody can get to him, we can," said Krein.
Miami also is counting on the Seminoles being weighed down by the emotional baggage that comes with losing games they seemingly had won, of missing field goals they seemingly had made, of letting chances at the national title slip away time after time.
While a victory for the Hurricanes could clear their path to another possible national championship game on New Year's Day, today's game is the first in a trilogy for the Seminoles, who still have to play at Notre Dame (Nov. 13) and at Florida (Nov. 27).
"This is 'Game of the Century I,' " said Bowden. "And then we have 'Game of the Century II' against Notre Dame and 'Game of the Century III' at Florida."
Florida State fullback William Floyd put it even better.
"Exhibition season," he said, "is over."
The Seminoles are hoping that something else ends today, too.
THE RATINGS GAME
Rankings for Miami and Florida State before each of their meetings since 1986. This year the teams are ranked No. 3 and No. 1, respectively:
Year .. Mia. .. FSU .. .. Result
.. 1 .. .. 20 ... .. Miami, 41-23
1987 .. 3 .. ... 4 ... .. Miami, 26-25
1988 .. 8 .. ... 1 ... .. Miami, 31-0
1989 .. 2 .. .. 14 ... .. FSU, 24-10
1990 .. 9 .. ... 2 ... .. Miami, 31-22
1991 .. 2 .. ... 1 ... .. Miami, 17-16
1992 .. 2 .. ... 3 ... .. Miami, 19-16
COLLEGE FOOTBALL TODAY
IN THE AREA . . . Time .. .. .. Game .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. TV
p.m. ... .. Maryland (0-5) at Georgia Tech (1-3) ... .. .. None
1:30 p.m. ... Air Force (1-4) at Navy (2-2) . .. .. .. .. .. None
1:30 p.m. ... South Carolina St. (3-2) at Morgan St. (2-2) . None
. . . AND AROUND THE COUNTRY Noon .. .. .. No. 3 Miami (4-0) at No. 1 Florida St. (5-0) . 13, 7
.. .. .. Pittsburgh (1-3) at No. 4 Notre Dame (5-0) ... 2, 4, 8
3:30 p.m. ... No. 9 Michigan (3-1) at Michigan St. (2-1) ... 13, 7
7:30 p.m. ... No. 5 Florida (4-0) at LSU (2-3) . .. .. .. .. ESPN
* Local Div. II and III capsules, 12C * What's on television and radio, 2C