5. (7) Miami 27, (1) Florida State 24
There was some heavy competition for this spot on the list but I gave it to this game for this reason: this game signaled the return of Miami football.
Miami had been hampered by sanctions and probation and had been irrelevant for nearly a decade. After a disappointing loss earlier in the season to Washington, the Hurricanes needed this win to stay in the national championship race and to signal to the country that the rebuild was complete. To do that, however, they needed to get through their arch-rival, the Florida State Seminoles.
Florida State had been dominating the series against the Canes and it had been some time since the rivalry had been competitive. Florida State came into this game ranked No. 1 and had future Heisman winner Chris Weinke at quarterback.
Miami jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead thanks to two Weinke interceptions and it looked like the Canes might cruise to victory. Florida State fought back to take a 24-20 lead with just two minutes to go and then one of the most famous drives in Hurricanes history took place. Ken Dorsey hooked up with tight end Jeremy Shockey in the endzone with less than a minute to go and then as Florida State drove down to tie the game, they missed the field goal wide right and the rest is history.
The repercussions of this game were felt the rest of the season as Miami and Florida State went back and forth at the No. 2 spot. While most everyone, including the AP poll, thought Miami would get the nod, the BCS had other ideas and chose Florida State to play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
I chose this game as important because it signaled that “The U” had returned (even if only for a little bit). Miami’s victory would propel them to dominance the rest of the season and was the stepping stone to the greatest team in college football history in 2001 and if the BCS had picked them instead of Florida State, Miami may have won the first of back-to-back titles.