FSU has tradition that the Cats want

Rich Brooks and his players said they are excited to be going back to Nashville to play in the Music City Bowl. They should be. The game is a big name for a non-Bowl Championship Series bowl, the stadium and city are great, and the stands will be jam-packed with blue and white.

But how excited should they be? They were there just last year, when they defeated Clemson 28-20. The feeling and magnitude of that bowl win, UK’s first since 1984, can never be matched or repeated.

Until this year. Last year’s Music City Bowl was big, but this one is bigger. Why is it bigger? For one reason: Florida State.

Florida State is to college football what the New York Yankees are to baseball. And what the Los Angeles Lakers are to basketball. And what the Dallas Cowboys are to professional football.

If that doesn’t strike you, then this will: Florida State is to college football what UK is to college basketball. In other words, the Seminoles are college football.

“It’s everything we want,” sophomore defensive end Jeremy Jarmon said. “Everyone knows about Florida State.”

Florida State’s list of excellence is more impressive than former Seminole Peter Warrick’s bargain-hunting skills. The Seminoles dominated the 1990s, winning two national championships and eight straight Atlantic Coast Conference championships from 1992 to 1999. They lost only two conference games in that span. Quarterback turned basketballer Charlie Ward won the Heisman Trophy in 1993, and quarterback Chris Weinke won it in 2000.

The accomplishments don’t end there.

Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden is the winningest coach in major college football history. From 1987 to 2000, the ’Noles finished in the top five of every Associated Press poll, an unprecedented streak that will never be matched. They played in the first three BCS national title games, and they’ve played in six BCS games overall, the most of any team. That’s helped keep alive a streak of 26 consecutive bowl games.

“That’s a few,” Brooks said, tongue-in-cheek. “We’re working on our 12th (overall) bowl game and second in a row.”

According to ESPN.com, 40 Seminoles are on NFL rosters. The same source has five UK players on NFL teams. According to Florida State’s media guide, 51 former Seminoles have played in the Super Bowl. Around here, people get excited if former Cat Glenn Holt makes one catch for the Cincinnati Bengals.

That type of turnover has hurt the Seminoles. In each of the last three seasons, they’ve lost at least five games. Still, they are regarded — along with Southern California, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma — as one of the lords of college football.

The UK football players openly acknowledge Florida State’s place in college football. Neither Brooks nor the players had one nasty thing to say about the Seminoles. That’s because Florida State’s program is where UK wants its program to eventually be.

“We’re playing for tradition,” senior wide receiver Keenan Burton said. “There really hasn’t been a great tradition at the University of Kentucky football-wise.”

The current Cats have begun to change that. And they can continue to alter the history of the program with a win in this almost-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The Seminoles and the Cats last played each other in 1965. They likely will never play again in the regular season — the Seminoles, remember, didn’t have much luck the last time they played an out-of-conference road game against a team from Kentucky when they faced Louisville in 2002. The Cats and the ‘Noles have also never met in a bowl game.

So here’s the opportunity, UK: to beat a team that has the name recognition in their sport that UK has in basketball and to continue the quest to one day make UK a national contender. A chance this good might not happen again for a long time.

Jonathan Smith is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected]