If you watched all of Miami–Florida State, congratulations. You were rewarded—especially if you’re a fan of the Hurricanes, who beat the Seminoles for the first time in eight years, snapping their longest losing streak in the rivalry since the teams began playing annually. It was not entertaining football by almost any measure until the final quarter, when a 10–3 Miami lead morphed into a slugfest that the Hurricanes emerged from with a 24–20 win. That said, how Miami survived the game’s final five minutes passes for one of the best endings in college football in 2017, and it kept The U’s fringe playoff aspirations very much alive in Mark Richt’s second season at the helm.
Despite three difficult quarters on Saturday, the Hurricanes are still undefeated as they head into next week’s matchup with Georgia Tech, a meeting of two of the final three ACC Coastal teams unbeaten in conference play. Also working in Miami’s favor: It doesn’t face Clemson during the regular season, which helps its odds of making the ACC title game, where it would almost certainly get the Tigers.
But back to Saturday. The two quarterbacks—freshman James Blackman for the Seminoles and redshirt junior Malik Rosier for the Hurricanes—went 36 of 72 on the afternoon for five touchdowns and three interceptions. And those numbers account for the game’s final offensive flurry, when Blackman found his favorite target Auden Tate from 20 yards out with 1:24 to go for the go-ahead score and Rosier responded with a 75-yard drive of his own to retake the lead, threading a perfect back-shoulder pass to Darrell Langham for a 23-yard touchdown with six seconds left.
Florida State was among the preseason favorites to make the College Football Playoff, but the Seminoles have struggled to recover from a Week 1 loss to Alabama in which quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending patella tendon injury, falling out of the top 25 after a loss to NC State and a tight win at Wake Forest. (In fact, this game was the first time in the matchup since 1983 that Miami was the only team of the two that’s ranked.) Other than this postponed matchup, both teams had a second game on their September schedule wiped out due to Hurricane Irma and its aftermath. Going into Week 4, they had each played just one game, with precious little information to evaluate them by. That Saturday, Miami beat Toledo, and Florida State lost to an NC State team that appears to be one of Clemson’s toughest tests left.
For some reason, with just two games behind each team, a consensus had been formed that Miami was good and Florida State was not. It might not be that simple. Both teams might be just fine, and neither seems to be as good as anyone thought going into the season—Miami entered Saturday ranked No. 13, but Rosier largely did not look like the quarterback of a top-10 team. Early in the season, it was easy to imagine these two teams meeting in the ACC title game; that’s all but out of the question for Florida State now, while Miami faces a doable schedule until a Nov. 4 meeting with Virginia Tech that could decide the Coastal Division. Just as the dramatic finish couldn’t entirely obscure the unsightly football on display at Doak Campbell Stadium, the final score is short on hard lessons about how fit Miami is to contend for a conference title, but it’s easier to ask that question now from the winning side of the scoreboard.