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Gators and Canes- It’s complicated

Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Vols Coach Pruitt- “Yes I hate Florida”

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee series with Florida has not been too kind to them as of late, but even as a heavy underdogs at the Swamp Saturday, they believe that they could change that. Oh, and then there’s your second year head coach wanting to make it clear he definitely dislikes the Gators.

Jeremy Pruitt, whose team suffered a humiliating opening-week loss at home to Georgia State and then followed that with another loss in heartbreaking fashion to BYU in overtime in week two, took to the radio airwaves Wednesday to answer questions from Volunteers fans. And, one wanted to make sure how much he despised Florida:

The caller asked a question about whether the Vols might be able to pull a shocker, like they did over Auburn in Pruitt’s inaugural season of 2018, but also very plainly put it to the former Alabama and Florida State defensive coordinator,  “do you hate Florida?”

Pruitt answered the question about the mentality going into Gainesville, as a 14-point underdog in their SEC opener. Then threw in the line,

“And yes, I hate Florida.”

And, while Gators fans might take that insult, as perfect “bulletin board material” to motivate their team, the dislike has been there from both sides for 25 years or more.

Encouraging for the Vols, and even though it was under previous coach Butch Jones, Tennessee should have a mentality should be that they can hang with Florida. As each of the last two meetings in Gainesville under Jones, Tennessee had the lead in the final minute of the game, only to let Florida dramatically score the game-winning touchdown on a huge pass play.

A year ago in Knoxville, the Gators used six turnovers and two defensive touchdowns to wipe out Tennessee 47-21 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final.

Meanwhile, instead of the “level of hatred, or not” Gators coach Dan Mullen has bigger concerns about using dual quarterbacks in Kyle Trask and Emory Jones. And, he must deal with the expectations that the Gators should, once again, wipe out “The Big Orange.”

Then, let the media and fans talk about insults, afterwards.

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Florida Gators

Gators coach Mullen likely to use two QBs against Tennessee

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After losing starting QB Feleipe Franks to an ankle injury on Saturday night against SEC rival Kentucky, the Gators have now found themselves with an unexpected decision as to who will be starting QB?

Franks was replaced by redshirt junior Kyle Trask, who was seeing his first significant action of his Florida career, especially trailing by double figures in a hostile SEC road environment. However, it’s likely that RS Freshman Emory Jones will also take some snaps at quarterback this season.

Mullens decision to potentially go with both QBs could be not only to determine which guy will be his offensive leader for the rest of the season, but to also give their next opponent, Tennessee, more to prepare for as the head into their next conference rivalry game.

The Gators second year coach announced on Monday that Franks is officially done for the season.

On a fourth-and-one scramble with 3:21 remaining, Franks was sandwiched between multiple Wildcat defenders and bent backwards. Even though replays weren’t shown, it was clear he had suffered a dislocated right ankle injury.

So bad was the injury, that trainers who came to assist Franks on the turf at Commonwealth Stadium immediately put an air cast on his right leg. Then he was eventually carted off to the locker room after nearly the entire Gator team had surrounded him and wished him well.

Frank’s has been a “lightning rod of criticism” throughout his Florida career, but did silence a lot of those critics with his play down the stretch last season. That included a late season comeback win over South Carolina, playing well in the rivalry victory over Florida State, and then, following that up with a good performance in the easy victory in the Peach Bowl over Michigan.

However, Franks and the offense struggled much of the first three quarters of Saturday night’s SEC opener at Kentucky. At the time he left with an injury he was an efficient 12-17 for 174 yards with a TD pass and 1 INT. Still, they had only put one touchdown on the board while trailing 21 – 10.

Trask went in for Franks and went on to pull out a come from behind win for the Gators, completing 9 for 13 passes, with 126 passing yards. He’ll be competing for playing time with Jones, the No. 85 overall prospect in the Class of 2018 and four-star dual-threat quarterback.

Jones saw limited action last season to maintain redshirt status, but completed 12-16 passes for 125 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the four games he play in. Jones is also more of a dual threat to run and that will give Mullen and staff more options on play calls, if/when he’s on the field.

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