What's normal in 2020? To get a quick idea, there may be no better example than the final episode of the heated Florida State-Miami rivalry that takes place in South Florida on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC / ESPN app).
Let's check in with Florida State first. In Tallahassee, head coach Mike Norvell is isolated at home because of the coronavirus. He watches the practice through live video feeds and speaks to his team through speakers strategically placed on the pitch. He often scares his players because they know he's not there yet (keyword "The Twilight Zone" motif music) … he is there.
"Normal? No," said Seminoles Camren McDonald of Zoom. "2020 normal? Yes."
Let's move on to Miami. After Hurricanes # 12 scored their third-highest score in a street game against an AP-ranked opponent in the AP poll last Saturday, experts across the country used the dreaded "B-word" to ask if that was Miami finally it was … BACK. Check the box to see who Miami hit to start such a discussion … and … oh … Louisville. Last season, Miami beat Louisville 52:27 in one of their only highlights of a terrible 6-7 season.
But unfortunately this is the desperation to return to some kind of normalcy. Norvell, who desperately wants to be with his team during the biggest week of the year, brings him a little closer to normal. The jokes about the return of Miami – an annual rite of passage after every great victory, regardless of the opponent – bring us a little closer to normal.
"You know how stupid that is, but we know we live in this world," said Miami coach Manny Diaz. "We're the worst or the best and there's usually not much in between. We talk about what's real. We have another game; we have to beat the state of Florida."
"We're 120 minutes into this deal and I'm not going to run up a hill and plant a flag in the ground saying we're like this now. It's all yet to be determined."
If we're being honest here, there really has been nothing normal about this series in the last few years, and that says something about a rivalry that spawned:
1. The Miami Ibis mascot was near-arrested before a game in Tallahassee.
2. The sheer inconceivability that the State of Florida could miss a field goal not just once, not twice, but three times – all in all – to cost them a win in three different games (not to mention their hopes for a national championship twice).
The only normal thing about this year's continuation of the FSU-Miami rivalry: you can expect the unexpected. Joel Auerbach / Getty Images
In rivalry games we all take on the unexpected and inexplicable; it makes her so funny. But in recent years this former rivalry between the front and the center has become even stranger. There was no impact on the championship, either at the conference or at the national level. Only two average teams play average football.
Last season, Miami beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee, Florida, so badly the day after 21 games that coach Willie Taggart was sacked the following day. The decision on a buyout of $ 17 million and other financial problems have paid off to save the program from future embarrassment.
Then Florida State lost their opener against Georgia Tech at home that season as a double-digit favorite. New trainer? Check. But the same old problems have plagued this program since Jimbo Fisher dropped out in 2017.
While Norvell watches from home on Saturday, the state of Florida will have its fourth head coach in seven games on the sidelines – Taggart; Interim trainer Odell Haggins leaves 2019; Norvell in the opener; and now reigning head coach Chris Thomsen, who normally trains the tight ends and said repeatedly throughout the week that the drills and meetings were "as normal as possible". Say that to the seniors, who have had their sixth head coach since 2017, if you count Haggins taking over the last two games after Fisher left. By the way, this is a program that Bobby Bowden spearheaded for 34 seasons.
Miami is in the sophomore year under Diaz after his own bizarre coaching situation. After Mark Richt unexpectedly announced his retirement after the 2018 season, Miami hired Diaz – 18 days after Diaz left to become Temple's head coach. Aside from wins in Florida State and Louisville, the first year was a disaster, and humiliating losses for Florida International and Louisiana Tech (not normal!) Drew the ire of Miami fans.
The hurricanes seem better than they were a year ago, but as Diaz says, proclamations are foolhardy right now. Sure, Miami is in the competition, but this game has lost so much glamor that the weekend headlines are all focused on the SEC's return. Florida State-Miami feels like an afterthought, and that's just sad for college football in general.
Florida state head coach Mike Norvell will be watching and training from home this weekend as he remains in quarantine after contracting the coronavirus. Don Juan Moore / Getty Images
What happens on Saturday night will feel even more abnormal with the coronavirus as a backdrop. College GameDay will be in town (kind of normal!) With no loud fans as a backdrop (definitely not normal). The Miami tailgates before the Florida State Games are epic affairs. Advice # 1 is to watch where you step as you walk into the stadium from the parking lot. But tailgating isn't allowed, and only 13,000 fans – and not students – are allowed to take to the stands to win a game every two years where Miami has an absolute home advantage.
Not many give the state of Florida a chance to win, but stranger things have happened given these strange times we are in. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, Florida State and Miami have played a FBS high-16 game since 2000 that was settled with one point and three with one point.
If you stop and think about it, a disgruntled Florida state victory would surely fit the narrative that followed that series through 2020.
"When I heard what Coach Norvell had to say, I just changed my mind and thought that with even more cards stacked against us we could go down there and shock the world," said McDonald. "I feel we have a great chance this week."