Michigan versus Ohio State. Texas versus Oklahoma. USC versus Notre Dame. Alabama versus Auburn.
Rivalries define college football and they tell stories that will be passed from generation to generation. The stories that truly echo over time and remain a permanent fixture on college football history and glory. The one game a year that can make or break a season or can go as far as defining the entire year.
Which brings us to Florida State and Miami.
The one game a year that can make or break the entire year. This game has determined national championships and has destroyed the hopes and dreams of both teams over the years.
Most recently this game was played in week 1, but for the past few years it has been set up in the heart of the season and has been a turning point for both teams. Last season this game kicked off both teams' seasons and resulted in a heart breaking loss for the Seminoles.
It ultimately catapulted Miami back into the National spotlight and back into winning ways. Florida State, on the other hand, had a less than average 7-6 season and was cast back into the trenches of mediocrity.
Now the table is set. Both teams failed to conquer their early season challenges against Oklahoma and Ohio State, but both teams have looked better than they did a year ago. Miami boasts a high scoring offense with a stingy defense, while Florida State has received a complete makeover by new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and currently lead the country in sacks.
Both teams are in dying need of a win to shoot their season in the right direction, but the game could possibly just be their first meeting of the year. Florida State looks to be the favorite in the Atlantic while Miami looks to be the favorite in the Coastal side, which sets this matchup to be a preview of the ACC Championship.
Miami and Florida State received plenty of national press in the off-season with most of the publicity going to the quarterbacks. Jacory Harris for Miami and Christian Ponder for FSU. Both were seen as early Heisman candidates, but due to their inconsistent play have found themselves out of the conversation.
Harris has 895 yards passing with 10 touchdowns, but his eight interceptions are reminding Hurricane fans of last season's inconsistency. Ponder has thrown for 844 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions, but the lingering fact that he hasn't put up the same numbers he did a year ago is starting to become evident and has 'Noles fans wondering what the problem is.
Miami has playmakers in running backs Damien Berry (327 yards, 1 touchdown) and Lamar Miller (157 yards, 2 touchdowns). Receivers Leonard Hankerson (388 yards, 6 touchdowns) and Travis Benjamin (165 yards, 1 touchdown) provide reliable targets for Harris.
Florida State has three reliable running backs in Jermaine Thomas (308 yards, 4 touchdowns), Ty Jones (283 yards, 2 touchdowns), and Chris Thompson (263 yards, 3 touchdowns). Ponder has playmakers at receivers in Bert Reed (251 yards, 1 touchdown), Taiwan Easterling (245 yards, 2 touchdowns) and breakout star Willie Haulstead (235 yards, 3 touchdowns).
The offenses were supposed to be the strong point of both teams, but the defenses have been the surprise for both teams.
Florida State leads the country in sacks while Miami is ranked 15th in points allowed. Although Miami hasn't had the struggles that Florida State has had on the defensive side of the ball in recent years, they have still struggled in matchups against high powered offenses.
The keys to the matchup will be ball control.
Harris has been notorious for throwing interceptions while Ponder has been questioned with his decision making. Both teams have high powered offenses and their defenses are evolving into the defenses of old.
Florida State will have to continue to get pressure on the quarterback and disrupt the backfield while Miami will have to exploit the young and inexperienced secondary that Florida State possess.
The key player to watch in the game will be sophomore cornerback Greg Reid for FSU. Reid had a pair of interceptions last week against Virginia, and ever since his average play against Oklahoma he has emerged as a shut down corner.
Miami receiver Leonard Hankerson has been hot as of late and will have ample opportunities to continue his hot streak against the FSU secondary.
Florida State's defensive line against Miami's offensive line will be the matchup to watch all game.
Can Florida State's defense disrupt the Miami offensive backfield? Can Miami contain Florida State's trio of running backs and quarterback Christian Ponder?
Saturday night will answer all of these questions, but the fact of the matter is that both teams are flirting with getting back into national prominence.