Fading rivals, falling interest

The Baltimore Sun

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden yesterday summed up the national interest in his program's once-anticipated rivalry game against Miami with two little poignant words: "Who cares?"

When Florida State (4-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts Miami (4-3, 1-2) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, it will be the first time in 30 years the storied programs have met while unranked. Both teams are coming off losses and are in the lower half of their respective division standings.

"It's all based on what you're doing this year," Bowden said. "... The last 25 years, that's been the best football game in the country. You've got seven national championships come out of that doggone game, and a lot of second and third places. ... But now that's not true. Neither one of us is even ranked. But that's today. That can change next year or the next year where we're both back into the top.

"So has it lost its luster?" Bowden said. "Not to the players, not to the coaches, not to your fans -- the ones that really support Florida State, support Miami -- they're probably just as excited as ever. But as far as a national aspect? Who cares?"

After disappointing 2006 seasons during which both conference powerhouses won just three ACC games each, staff overhauls were made, including seven new hires at Florida State and a head coaching change at Miami.

Despite the hiring of first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jimbo Fisher, the Seminoles are seventh in the league in total offense and have been inconsistent at quarterback. And despite a new offensive line coach and a new running backs coach, Florida State has one of the least-productive running games in the ACC (108.3 yards per game).

"It's not a quick fix, but I do think we're on the right road," Bowden said. "I do think we have the right people in the right places. I would think we might be one player away from being back where we were, but I do like our staff."

After three years of kicking off the season before a nationally televised Labor Day audience as one of the premier matchups in college football, this year's game was bumped to October and will be regionally televised on ABC.

First-year Miami coach Randy Shannon said it has been about 15 or 20 years since it wasn't a nationally televised game and attributed the concurrent decline of both programs to NFL turnover.

Since Sept. 24, 1977 -- the last time both teams were unranked when they played each other -- the two programs have combined for 342 players selected in the NFL draft, including 81 first-round picks.

"One thing about Miami and Florida State ... they have a lot of players leave early," said Shannon. "Sometimes you're not having that class where you have 18 fifth-year seniors on your team that's going to keep coming out every year."

Va.'s Peerman out

Virginia coach Al Groh said running back Cedric Peerman, the second-leading rusher in the conference, will not play Saturday against Maryland after missing last weekend's game against Connecticut with a foot injury.

Groh said he will make a final determination on the status of defensive back Chris Cook (knee) later in the week.

Maryland linebacker Erin Henderson (knee) "has a good chance" to play Saturday, coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday. Quarterback Jordan Steffy (concussion) took repetitions in practice, but even if he is cleared by the medical staff, Friedgen said Steffy would be used only in an "emergency situation."

Cornerback Richard Taylor is expected to play for the first time since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in April, Friedgen said.

Tate update

North Carolina receiver Brandon Tate missed Tuesday's practice with a mild concussion he suffered last weekend against South Carolina, but coach Butch Davis said he expects Tate to be healthy for the Tar Heels' Oct. 27 game at Wake Forest.


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