Florida Football Teams Face Each Other Unranked in Rivalry Game — a First in Thirty Years


Photo Courtesy of Twin Lakes High School Yearbook

The last time that the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles went head to head during a year where both teams were unranked was 1987. In 1987, the campus where Dreyfoos School of the Arts now lies belonged to Twin Lakes High School. Here, students of Twin Lakes enjoy their lunch around campus three years before the historic game. The sidewalk in front of the school was one of the most popular social spots for students.

Students made their way to school dressed in high-waisted Levi jeans, collared shirts, and white Nike sneakers. They listened to the number one hit at the time from the movie “Dirty Dancing,” “(I’ve Had) the Time of my Life” by Bill Medley. The campus we now know as Dreyfoos School of the Arts was known to them as the home of Twin Lakes High School. Before the campus would become vacant for the next nine years, Twin Lakes class of 1988 had their sights set on potential colleges during the fall of ‘97. Living in south Florida, two of the state’s major universities and biggest college football rivals- The University of Florida and Florida State University-were likely at the top of some of their lists.

Florida Gators and Florida State Seminole fans at Twin Lakes and around Palm Beach County got ready for the rivalry game that would be held on Nov. 28 as they turned to their television sets to view the routinely big event. But with both teams unranked for the game in 1987, the enthusiasm was not the same as usual. This was an occurrence that wouldn’t happen again for the next 3 decades.

Every year since 1987, when Galen Hall coached the Gators and Bobby Bowden coached the Seminoles, at least one of the two rivalry teams was ranked in the AP Top 25 charts for college football. However, that trend was broken this past weekend on Saturday, Nov. 25. The Gators were already ineligible for a bowl game and the Seminoles were possibly facing a similar fate if they were to lose at the away game in Gainesville. With negative results and losing streaks from previous games during the season, there was hardly any anticipation coming from either side, except for the usual excitement surrounding the Florida school rivalry.

Photo Courtesy of Alana Gomez
The Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles had their big rivalry game on Saturday, Nov. 25. The two teams entered the game unranked for the first time since 1987 and both faced the chance of not being eligible for a bowl game for this year’s college football season.

Neither of the two teams had particularly exciting seasons; both entered the matchup with 4-6 records, yet the stadium was packed as fans cheered for their respective teams knowing that the results could go either way.

This was the fourth game that the Gators went into without a head coach this season, since the team’s previous head coach, Jim McElwain, was fired. Although it was a home game for them, they still faced a tough loss against the Seminoles with a finishing score of 38-22. Other rivalry games on Saturday, Nov. 25 stole the show and captivated much larger audiences since the bar was already set very low for the game.

But even after Saturday’s loss for the Gators at their final game of the season, things are looking up for the University of Florida’s football team. On Sunday, previous head coach of Mississippi State, Dan Mullen, was hired for the empty position of head coach at Florida. Mullen’s background as offensive coordinator at the university under head coach Urban Meyer who coached when Tim Tebow was quarterback played a major role in his decision. Florida fans hope that his positive outlook and competitive spirit will be reflected in the team’s abilities and in his incoming recruits.

While the Gators celebrate their new coach, the Seminoles face the possibility of their head coach, Jimbo Fisher, leaving for the position at Texas A&M University. Though it is not yet confirmed, Florida State is beginning to prepare for Fisher’s departure in the case that he takes up the position elsewhere.

Either way, after both teams faced disappointing seasons full of injuries and embarrassing plays, both athletic departments are seeking immediate change in order to save themselves from another unranked season. The Seminoles are beginning to prepare for a bowl game which will be the last of their season; the Gators are looking to be prepared for their next season with their new head coach, since a bowl game this season is already out of the picture. Both teams are hopeful for their 2018 seasons and fans are hopeful that the teams will not have to face each other unranked again.