EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Ferguson is the editor of Bloguin’s Florida State site, Noled Out. This piece is re-posted from Noled Out. Find much more Notre Dame-Florida State coverage from Noled Out and Bloguin’s Notre Dame site, Subway Domer.
On November 13, 1993, Florida State and Notre Dame played in a contest dubbed, “The Game of the Century.” Behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward, the top-ranked Seminoles trailed No. 2 Notre Dame 24-7 early, but rallied to pull within seven. On the final play, Ward’s pass into the end zone was knocked down as the Fighting Irish escaped with a 31-24 victory.
Notre Dame would fall to Boston College the following week on a 41-yard field goal by David Gordon which re-opened the door for Florida State to make a run to its first national championship. The Seminoles closed the year by beating the top 3 teams in Florida and then Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to finish No. 1 over Notre Dame, which finished 11-1 by beating Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
On Saturday, Notre Dame will come to Tallahassee ranked fifth to take on second-ranked Florida State in a battle of undefeateds. Since the 1993 contest in South Bend, the Seminoles and Fighting Irish have met five times, but never with the national title implications that the meeting 21 years ago had — at least not until now.
In 1994, Notre Dame hung tough with the Seminoles in Orlando, but fell 23-16. Florida State would finish ranked in the top 5 for the eighth straight season that year, but the Fighting Irish went just 6-5-1.
Following the 1995 season, Florida State and Notre Dame met in the Orange Bowl in a top 10 match-up with FSU rallying to win, 31-26. Both teams, however, finished the regular season with two losses.
It would be seven years before the teams would meet again.
In 2002, Notre Dame paid its first ever visit to Tallahassee. The Fighting Irish were undefeated at 7-0 and ranked sixth in the country. Despite losses in two of its previous three games, Florida State was a two-score favorite.
The score was even at 10 at the break, but Notre Dame opened the second half with 24 unanswered points before winning, 34-24, in a game that led to the temporary benching of Florida State quarterback Chris Rix. The Seminoles would go on to lose five games that season — their most since 1981.
Notre Dame’s 8-0 start would be overshadowed by losses in three of its final five games.
The next season, Rix and No. 5 Florida State got revenge in South Bend. Rix passed for three scores while LeRoy Smith returned an interception for a score in a 37-0 FSU victory, which at the time was the second worst loss ever for Notre Dame. Notre Dame finished just 5-7 that year.
It would be over eight years later before the schools would meet again. In a match-up of 8-4 teams, Florida State rallied from a 14-0 deficit to down Notre Dame, 18-14, in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.
The winning touchdown was scored by a freshman named Rashad Greene, who has since gone on to become one of the most accomplished receivers ever at Florida State. While Notre Dame was rotating quarterbacks in the contest, Everett Golson watched from the sideline as a redshirt.
In the two seasons since that match-up, both Notre Dame and Florida State have gone on to play for national championships. Notre Dame completed an undefeated regular season in 2012, but fell short of its first national championship in 24 years by losing to Alabama, 42-14.
Last season, Florida State put together one of the more dominant campaigns in college football history. FSU rolled through the regular season before rallying from a 21-3 deficit to beat Auburn for its first national title in 14 years.
If recent history is any indication, it appears as though Florida State and Notre Dame are back to being title contenders on a fairly regular basis.
After Florida State and Notre Dame finished first and second in 1993, the Seminoles went on to have seven straight top 5 finishes, including a second national championship in 1999. Over that same span, Notre Dame never lost fewer than three games and went without a bowl victory.
The 2001 season began what Florida State fans often refer to as the “lost decade.” Notre Dame’s football prominence, however, also failed to be found. The Fighting Irish played in BCS bowls in January of 2001, and the conclusion of the 2005 and 2006 seasons, but were manhandled on each occasion.
The end of the 2009 season signified a new beginning for each program.
The Seminoles and Irish finished a combined 13-12 that year and new faces were set to make their marks on proud football traditions. Coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher replaced Bobby Bowden as the head man at Florida State after 34 years while accomplished coach Brian Kelly left Cincinnati for South Bend.
Kelly had won lower-division national championships at Grand Valley State and had just coached Cincinnati to a second straight Big East crown which culminated with a perfect regular season.
Fisher was a longtime offensive coordinator who had helped LSU win a national championship under Nick Saban in 2003.
Since then, both programs have been on an upward trend. After consecutive 8-5 seasons at Notre Dame that concluded with the loss to FSU in the Champs Sports Bowl, Kelly is 27-4 as the head coach of the Fighting Irish.
After a 12-7 start to his head coaching career, Fisher is 39-3 in his last 42 games, which includes two ACC titles, two BCS bowl victories, and the school’s third national championship.
With the 2014 season at its midway point, Florida State and Notre Dame are set to square off in a game Saturday that will have a drastic impact on the national championship picture.
While Florida State and Notre Dame have met five times since the 1993 game in South Bend dubbed the “Game of the Century,” this will be the first meeting between the schools with as much on the line. Considering the loser of the 1993 match-up went on to win the national championship, it’s possible that Saturday’s game could prove to be even bigger.
After years of underachievement at both schools, Fisher has rebuilt Florida State into a perennial powerhouse while Kelly has brought national championship aspirations back to the storied program in South Bend.