It's a rivalry - like it or not

University of Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr understands it very well. "It's a little bit different around here and everybody walks around with something extra in their step when it's Ohio State week," says Carr, who is in his eighth season as Michigan head coach since replacing Gary Moeller. "There is something special about Michigan-Ohio State."

Before being elevated to head coach, Carr served 15 years as an assistant- everything from defensive secondary coach to defensive coordinator - under legendary coach Bo Schembechler and then Moeller. And it didn't take long for the Wolverine faithful to fall in love with their new coach.

Carr made plenty of friends in and around Ann Arbor almost instantly as Michigan culminated the 1995 season with a 31-23 home win over second-ranked and undefeated Ohio State, one of five that Carr has managed against the Buckeyes. The win in 1995 is considered one of the biggest in school history.

Larry Coker was already enjoying the South Florida sun as part of the University of Miami coaching staff in 1995. But he knew the significance of what Carr had pulled off.

"Before the second time we played Michigan under Coach (John) Cooper, I knew we were going to get fired," said Coker, the Hurricanes second-year coach and former Buckeyes defensive backs coach. "So, all everybody talked about was beating Michigan. The minister at our pre-game meal blessed the food by getting up there and going may these kids pick up all the blitzes and put pressure on the Michigan quarterback. I'm sitting there saying Oh lord, that's what I'm talking about. This guy knows how to pray."

That's the typical feeling in Columbus or Ann Arbor leading up to a Ohio State-Michigan football game. The same hatred is conjured up in Los Angeles whenever UCLA-USC go head-to-head at the Rose Bowl or the Memorial Coliseum.

It's called rivalry week whenever those schools get ready to oppose each other. Michigan-Ohio State have opposed each other 98 times since 1922. UCLA-USC have collided 78 times, filling plenty of story books and making for a lot of endless memories.

Just like what's being said and heard in Coral Gables and Gainesville this week as the top-ranked University of Miami (1-0) prepare to reopen a long and storied regular-season rivalry Saturday against the No. 6 Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The UM-UF rivalry is an unsettled one- in more ways than one.

The series dates back 71 years with the Gators taking edition No. 1 by a score of 19-7 at Florida Field. Since then, the Hurricanes have defeated the Gators 25 of 49 times to seal the deal at 25 games apiece for each side.

The last time both teams met was in the 2001 Sugar Bowl with the Canes outlasting the Gators 37-20 as Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns to take home Most Valuable Player honors. But those weren't the only fireworks. Several days before the ‘big game' an exchange of unpleasant words between a few Florida and Miami players led to a scuffle right on Bourbon Street. Current Chicago Bear defensive end Alex Brown, a former Gator, and Ex-UM offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie were reportedly involved in the fracas.

"I mean there is a lot of excitement this week and you can obviously sense that it isn't just another game. This is the University of Miami and University of Florida, I would say it doesn't get any better than that," said UM senior offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli, who was one of a handful of Hurricanes, including Dorsey, Jon Vilma, Howard Clark and D. J. Williams, that participated in the Sugar Bowl win over Florida. "There are going to be things said on both sides and that's only natural with the history surrounding the game and all that other stuff. But we're focused on the fact that we're getting ready for a big game."

Coker, who was the Hurricanes offensive coordinator when both teams faced each other in the 2001 Sugar Bowl, will take part in his second UF-UM contest. Coker knows No. 2 will be quite different than No. 2.

"The Sugar Bowl won't be anything like you'll see on Saturday," Coker said. "I mean it wasn't even a sellout. I didn't get a strong sense of the rivalry then. But that will obviously change here with the crowd what it's going to be like at Florida Field and everything surrounding the contest."

Although, just like he did last year before the Hurricanes played the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee, Coker will try his hardest in diverting attention from all the players. He noted that players –on both teams- will have enough pressure before a game of such magnitude.

"I feel calm and I don't know any different because we have good coaches and good football coaches," said Coker. "Obviously, I wouldn't feel comfortable if we were going in there with less than a full arsenal."

"You have to go back to your roots and not make the game bigger than life for the sake of your players. They already have a lot on their minds with ticket request, friends calling and all that other sort of stuff."

One Gator player apparently isn't buying Coker's theory of not getting his players too excited. Florida receiver Taylor Jacobs, who torched the University of Alabama-Birmingham secondary with eight receptions and 246 yards in a 51-3 Gators victory last week, is one of those that hopes the Hurricanes can back up their words.

"Everybody has an opinion and they are just putting more pressure on themselves," said Jacobs, referring to several UM players' comments to the media. "They are No. 1 right now, but that can change by the end of the season." Jacobs may have been referring to references made earlier this summer by Miami starting center Brett Romberg.

"We can't wait to go to Gainesville and shut up some of those Gator fans," Romberg said several weeks ago.

Florida quarterback Rex Grossman has also chipped in with a few lines of his own recently. "We're just going to come out and put on a good show," said Grossman. "But as far as respect goes, they aren't going to get it just because they are Miami."

UM and UF have also taken part in riveting action- on the field as well.

In the last regular-season game between both schools before the series was disbanded, Miami had some early special teams troubles to give Florida a couple of safetys. But the Hurricanes would charge back with four touchdowns and a field goal for a 31-4 victory in 1987. Florida sneaked out a final-minute victory in ‘The Swamp' Sept. 4, 1982 on a Wayne Peace to James Jones game-winning touchdown pass that prevailed the Gators a 17-14. The year before UM back-up quarterback Mark Richt, the current head coach at the University of Georgia, replaced Jim Kelly –the Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer- in the fourth quarter and engineered two late scoring drives including hitting Glenn Dennison with a 20-yard pass that set up a Danny Miller field goal to lift Miami to victory 21-20.

Florida coach Ron Zook, in his first-year, will be getting his initial taste of the ‘big' game. And whether or not he knows what to expect, Coker certainly does.

"Now I guess we can talk about it. The big game everybody has been looking forward to," Coker said.

Sounds like a rivalry.

The next installment kicks off Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

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