MIAMI -- Winning conference championships and playing for national titles have become almost routine for Florida State and Miami. Not this year.
When No. 9 Florida State plays No. 10 Miami in the Orange Bowl tonight, it will end a five-year run in which one or the other played for the national championship. It also will mark the final meeting between the instate rivals before they become conference foes.
And with the Hurricanes joining the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, it will make winning conference and national championships much more difficult for both teams.
"It'll make it tougher, no doubt about it," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said. "It's going to be much more difficult for us to win a conference championship. You're going to play them every year, and you might have to play them twice. Now you've got double trouble."
Bowden pushed for Miami to join the ACC along with the Seminoles in 1992. Instead, the Hurricanes joined the Big East.
The move worked out well for both as they dominated their leagues for 12 seasons. The Seminoles won 11 ACC titles, the Hurricanes captured eight Big East crowns.
The teams were so superior that winning the conference became merely a steppingstone. Either Florida State or Miami has played for the national championship in 12 of the last 18 seasons. Joining the ACC along with Virginia Tech and eventually Boston College might not affect either Miami's or Florida State's championship chances, but the road certainly will be filled with more bumps -- especially with the possibility of having to play each other twice because of the conference title game."That will definitely add to it," said FSU quarterback Chris Rix. "It's probably hard to believe, but it will make the rivalry that much more intense." Now the teams find themselves playing the second of three games against one another in less than 11 months. The Hurricanes beat Florida State, 22-14, on a sloppy field in October, and the teams are scheduled to open the 2004 season Sept. 6 in Miami. But with little on the line -- aside from Florida State hoping to snap a four-game losing streak in the series -- the Orange Bowl will hardly compare to future meetings, in which conference and maybe a national championship could be at stake. "The game will have more significant meaning," Seminoles running back Leon Washington said. "Instead of being Florida State-Miami for state bragging rights, it will be Florida State-Miami for state bragging rights and for a conference championship and then a BCS bowl and national championship."