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Gators and Canes- It’s complicated

Matt Zemek

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Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

If asked to explain the football rivalry between the Miami Hurricanes and the Florida Gators, the simplest answer points to anything but simplicity.

This rivalry is very complicated.

If you look at the broader contours of this rivalry, which had been played annually for most of its history through 1987 but then abruptly stopped before resuming in the 2001 Sugar Bowl and then (in the regular season) in 2002, you might conclude that Miami has been fortunate.

Example number one: The Hurricanes didn’t play the Gators in the mid-1990s. The Gators were clearly the superior program for several seasons but didn’t play the Canes in that time window.

Example number two: Miami played Florida only once from 2006 through 2012. The Gators were elite under Urban Meyer and improbably made the Sugar Bowl in the 2012 season. Miami likely would have been roughed up had it played Florida on an annual basis in that seven-year sequence. It played UF only once (and lost, in 2008).

Yet, these likelihoods and probabilities can’t be taken for granted. When these teams have met, likelihoods and probabilities haven’t held up very well.

In the 1983 season, Miami won the national championship, beating Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl. Yet, those Hurricanes lost to the Gators. Miami lost in Game 1 to Florida and didn’t lose again.

In the 1984 season, Florida finished first in the SEC for the first time ever, winning a long-sought SEC championship. The title was later stripped, but it remained that the 1984 Gators were a special team on the field.

That year, Miami — with Jimmy Johnson in his first year as head coach after Howard Schnellenberger jumped to the USFL — slumped to an 8-5 record.

The Canes, however, defeated the Gators. Much as Miami lost to Florida in Game 1 of 1983 and didn’t lose again, the 1984 Gators lost to the Canes and never lost again, finishing 9-1-1.

In 1985, Miami had the better team than Florida. The younger but still hugely formidable version of the Miami crew which dominated the 1986 regular season entered its bowl game, the 1986 Sugar Bowl, with a No. 2 national ranking and a chance to win the national championship. The 1985 Canes lost only one regular-season game. Yep, you guessed it: to Florida in the opener.

The 1983-1985 Gators had high-quality teams, but no one talks about those squads because of the enormous amount of NCAA violations accumulated by Florida under Charley Pell (the head coach of the team throughout 1983 and on opening day of 1984) and Galen Hall (Pell’s 1984 offensive coordinator and his successor as head coach).

The corruption of Florida football was so pervasive — and the SEC so merciless toward Florida (in a way it never would be with cash-cow Alabama) — that Steve Spurrier’s first Florida team in 1990 was not given an SEC championship despite finishing first in the conference. It paid a price for sins committed by Galen Hall.

Nevertheless, despite the darkness of the mid-1980s in Florida football history, it remains that in 1983 and 1985, these schools met at the height of their powers. This has rarely happened in UM-UF annals. The 2001 Sugar Bowl was another instance, the 1966 game yet another… and that’s the full list of games between the Canes and Gators when both programs were riding high. For a series which dates back to 1938, that’s not a lot of showcase games.

Miami was weak when Florida was strong in the past 30 years. The discontinuation of annual play between the schools cost college football fans many clashes which probably would have been quite memorable and significant.

Imagine the 1991 Canes — co-national champions — facing the Gators at some point. Florida was in the top five entering the Sugar Bowl that season.

The 1994 Canes weren’t spectacular — Nebraska, often UM’s punching bag in the Orange Bowl, outplayed the 1994 Miami team — but they were still a top-five-quality group. The 1994 Gators led Florida State 31-3 in Tallahassee before the “Choke at the Doak” unfolded. UM-UF would have been fun in 1994, without question.

Imagine the 2001 Canes, possibly the best college football team of all time, facing Rex Grossman (whom many people feel should have won the Heisman Trophy over Nebraska’s Eric Crouch) and a loaded UF offense. That matchup didn’t occur in the regular season, but it could have happened in the Rose Bowl for the national title.

Florida, though, was stunned in The Swamp by Tennessee on December 1, dashing that possibility to bits.

Miami and Florida played a home-and-home series in 2002 and 2003… right after Spurrier left for the NFL and the Washington Redskins. Ron Zook was no match for the Larry Coker teams which were the last at UM to win on a massive scale.

Florida versus Miami is a story of two schools who don’t like each other, rarely meeting when both teams are great. The stop-and-start quality of this series, plus the untimely lapses for Miami and the equally untimely departure of Spurrier from Gainesville in 2002, have deprived this series of so many more special moments. Miami-UF could have become a rivalry on par with Miami-Florida State and Florida-Florida State, but it was not meant to be.

Let us see if yet another Canes-Gators season opener will cut against the grain. Don’t expect the losing team to go unbeaten the rest of the way, as 1983 Miami did after losing to UF, or as 1984 Florida did after losing to UM..

.. but given the way this series has played out, don’t take a single thing for granted. Miami is 12-4 in the last 16 games of the series dating back to 1978. It might be easy to think this is Florida’s time.

Yet, if UM-UF has taught Floridians anything, it is to let the drama play out and not assume one school has the obvious upper hand.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

Florida Gators

Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

Florida Football Insiders

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Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.

The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:

A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.

With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.

As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.

Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.

It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.

Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.

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Florida Gators

Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.

The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of  former DB C.J. Henderson.

Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.

The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.

Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?

Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.

The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.

Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.

Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.

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