One of the biggest things that have made this rivalry between Florida State and Miami what it is, besides the National Championships and importance of the game, is the familiarity of the players. FSU and Miami, along with Florida, long have recruited against each other and have been able to keep the majority of the top players home to play college football. Thus these players know each other, and in some cases, are former teammates.
The teams are loaded with players that grew up playing with each other and who are familiar with this rivalry. Listening to Seminoles players Corey Surrency, Patrick Robinson and other players from Miami you can tell the importance of this game. For Surrency he says this is the most important game of his life, and that he's never been as nervous for a game as he is for this one. Robinson hopes to battle through a lower back bruise he suffered against Colorado so that he's able to see his first real action against his hometown team. In 2006 as a freshman Robinson played special teams for FSU, so this will be his first real chance to play in front of all his family and friends.
From Maurice Harris and Hurricane safety Joseph Nicolas playing on the same Homestead team, to best friends Nigel Bradham and C.J. Holton playing on different teams, the players in this game grew up knowing how important this game is, and they knew that down the road there was a good chance friends and family may be on different sides of this rivalry.
Fans of Florida State were treated to major surprises when both Antone Smith and Preston Parker spurned the Hurricanes to play for the Noles. Most fans know the stories of how each became a Nole: Smith shocked everyone when he chose the comfort and relationship with the coaches at FSU over Miami. Preston Parker's decision to play for the Noles wasn't as shocking, but nonetheless everyone thought he'd be a Cane once it was clear he'd qualify. The fact that FSU stayed with him through the whole process paid off for them in the end.
Now both players are team leaders are two of the top playmakers on the Seminoles offense. Both have close ties to their hometowns and know how important it is for them to go into Miami and come out with the win. Last year Antone and Preston saw their first real action against the Canes and both played very well.
Against Miami last year Antone rushed for his second career 100 yard game as he rushed for 114 yards on 22 carries. Smith is finally healthy this season and has progressed each game this year. Against Colorado last week Smith had the best game in his career when he rushed for 154 yards and 3 touchdowns. Antone is looking to continue his break-out season in his final game against his hometown team.
I don't know if there was a more upset player last year after the loss to Miami than Preston Parker. This game is very special to him so the loss was a lot for him to cope with after the great game he played last year. Of all people it took former teammate and current Hurricane lineman Orlando Franklin to console him and make him understand that he did a great job that day.
Parker has had a tough go of it so far this year as he's still working himself into the offense after sitting out the first two games. What FSU hopes to see from Parker is that guy from last year who caught 5 balls for 83 yards and help convert on several 3rd down attempts. Preston is motivated as he looks to carve up the middle of Miami's defense this week.
Over the past couple year FSU and Miami have battled head to head in recruiting for the same players. This weekend a lot of those youngsters will play pivotal roles for their team as both teams hope to remain in the hunt for the ACC Championship Game.
Kendall Smith, Nigel Bradham, Nigel Carr, Moses McCray and Jermaine Thomas are some of the young players the Seminoles beat Miami for that will contribute to the team this weekend. Also seeing his first action in almost a year this week Marcus Sims, who brings a "big back" to the offense they've been lacking this season.
The Hurricanes class last season was heralded as one of the top classes in the nation, and it's probably the best class they have signed in some time. Marcus Forston, Brandon Harris, Aldarius Johnson, Micanor Regis, Orlando Franklin and quarterbacks Robert Marve and Jacory Harris are all former Seminole recruits who will see major minutes this week for the Canes. Miami, more than FSU, must have significant contributions from these young players if they hope to come out victorious this weekend.