The date was October 3, 1987. No. 3 Miami had become The U under the leadership of Jimmy Johnson and fell just shy of a national championship the previous year. The 1987 season would be different though. While Miami had all of the confidence and cockiness in the world, Florida State's program was taking shots at the Hurricanes and looking for a statement performance in Doak Campbell Stadium in early October.
Miami and Florida State had played every year dating back to 1966 but this may have been the biggest game in the storied rivalry's history to this point. For the first time in the series the two in-state rivals were not only ranked in the top ten, but were ranked in the top five. The game had everything you could have asked for, with names like Bobby Bowden, Jimmy Johnson, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders and many more.
If you have seen ESPN's 30 for 30 film on Miami football, The U, then you will recall the hype for the game. Florida State had started calling out Miami a bit, with Sanders leading the charge as Florida State was looking to become the top program in the state of Florida. And they had their chance. Florida State took a 19-0 lead on the Canes before Miami mounted a furious comeback to keep their undefeated season in play. A deep pass down the right sideline from Steve Walsh to Irvin gave Miami a lead late in the game but Florida State stormed back with a touchdown to pull within one. Rather than settle for the tie with an extra point conversion, Bowden gambled and went for two points. The pass to the right corner was broken up by Miami and the Hurricanes claimed the unofficial title of State Champs.
Miami would go on to finish the undefeated season and claim the national championship. Florida State was still years away from their first national title and would remain a force throughout the next decade and a half as Miami had their ups and downs. Miami would surge back toward the end of the 1990s and the turn of the century. But it has been a while since the two schools were this good at the same time.
The two rivals would face each other as top ten teams each of the next six seasons, with plenty more drama to be had. The two have not been on the same field as top ten teams though since 2004, Miami's first season in the ACC. When Miami left the Big East for the ACC it was supposed to be a move that boosted the overall football profile of the ACC and added some depth to the conference that had long been dominated by Florida State. To this day Miami has yet to play in an ACC Championship Game, and the two in-state rivals had yet to face each other ranked in the top ten since Miami's debut in the conference. That ends this weekend when No. 3 Florida State hosts No. 7 Miami in what may be the biggest game in the rivalry since the Hurricanes joined the ACC.