That’s right, folks. You did indeed read that title correctly.
The Florida Gators, despite a despicable offense that ranks worse than 100th in the nation, the worst record any Gator team has had since 1979 and a humiliating loss to Miami on the second week of the season, will be playing for not only pride and a bowl berth (barring a loss to Georgia Southern), but to be recognized as the official state champion for possibly the last time ever, and definitely for the foreseeable future. This isn’t one of those times where Florida fans can just say they’re the best team in the state by beating FSU and declare themselves state champions; if things play out in a certain, strange and highly unlikely way on Thanksgiving weekend in the Swamp, they’ll get a trophy to prove it: the Florida Cup.
Let’s go back and run through the Cup’s history first, before I get to explaining how Florida can win it. Since it was created in 2002, there’s not much history behind it, but let’s revisit what little history there is.
After the 1987 season, and 50 years of playing annually (aside from the 1943 wartime year) Florida cut Miami out of its annual schedule, in an attempt to play a more “national” schedule. Which they did- with Montana State, Indiana State, Memphis State and New Mexico. Hurricanes fans accused Florida of ducking them because they were afraid to lose every year (and they’re probably right). But in any case, the two schools stopped playing every year.
Skip ahead to 2000. Florida suffered a devastating loss to Mississippi State that immediately killed their national championship hopes, while Miami lost to Washington on the second week of the season. However, Miami would rebound by beating Florida State in one of the infamous “Wide Right” games- a missed field goal by FSU in the waning moments- and then ran the table. Unfortunately for them, so did FSU, and the two teams would both finish the 2000 regular season with just one loss. Despite losing the head to match matchup to the Canes, Florida State was selected over Miami to face Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game, which they promptly lost in embarrassing fashion. Miami, on the other hand, was left with a Sugar Bowl berth to face a Florida team that had bounced back from the MSU loss to win the SEC.
Miami won, 37-20, but the debate raged on. Florida State fans claimed they should be the official state champs because the BCS had ranked them higher, and therefore, thought they were the better team. Ridiculous, I know, but there were Florida State fans in my own family who said that. Miami fans countered by saying that they beat both Florida and Florida State in the same year. But without an official award to settle the matter, Miami and FSU fans continued to argue.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Florida and Miami suddenly agreed to play in 2002 and 2003. Seizing the opportunity, Florida Sports Foundation and Florida Championship Awards, Inc. and Baldwin Hardware Corporation schemed together and created the solution to the problem: a two foot tall trophy featuring three braids of gold (one for Florida, FSU and Miami) to be handed out to the school that beat the other two in the same season. And thus, the Florida Cup was born.
At first, the Cup appeared to solve all the arguing. In 2002, Miami crushed Florida 41-16, and then squeaked by FSU in the infamous “Wide Left” game by a score of 28-27. Miami beat both schools, and therefore, received the Cup. The following year, Miami pulled off a shocking comeback to beat Florida, 38-33, and then upended the Noles 22-14 a few weeks later (and would wind up beating them again in the Orange Bowl to make sure there was no doubt). So once again, Miami pulled off the clean sweep of their Sunshine State rivals, and took home the Cup for the second straight year.
Here’s where the rules for the Florida Cup get tricky. It didn’t affect things right away, but let’s put a pin in this and come back to it later, because this would turn out to be a major problem. The Cup was only meant to be awarded in the two years that all three schools played each other. In other words, Florida State could beat both Florida and Miami in the same year, but wouldn’t receive the Cup unless Florida and Miami played each other. That’s probably not totally fair, coming from a Gator, because it’s not FSU’s fault Florida refuses to play Miami, but that’s how the rules were set.
Florida and Miami weren’t supposed to play in 2004. Their scheduled home and home was over, and they went back to their normal easy out of conference schedules. So the Cup was declared just a two year deal, until Florida and Miami were pitted against each other in the Peach Bowl. Miami and Florida had both dealt FSU disheartening losses in the regular season, so both schools shrugged their shoulders and said, what the hell, and the Florida Cup was brought back to be an additional trophy (along with the standard Peach Bowl trophy) to be handed to the winner of the Peach Bowl. Miami won, and claimed the Cup for the third straight year.
The Cup was put back on hold until 2008, when Florida and Miami decided to resurrect their rivalry once more. Florida demolished both Miami and FSU by a total score of 71-18, and snagged the Florida Cup for themselves. With the Gators’ return game to Miami set for 2013, Florida got to hold their snazzy prize until then. But when Miami beat Florida, 21-16 in September, the Gators lost control of it. FSU compounded the matter by crushing Miami 41-14. Yes, I’m quoting those scores for a reason.
Now the trouble starts. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I could find about the Florida Cup other than this CanesTimes article from 2002, and of course, Wikipedia, which really isn’t much help when you’re writing a published article. But what this article does do is clearly detail is the Cup’s primary tiebreaker procedure. Read this quote from that article carefully: “Should there be a tie in the series with all three teams finishing 1-1, the award will go to the team that allows the fewest points.”
Let that sink in. Then remember that, for all the frustration suffered in Miami Gardens, the Gators only allowed 21 points. So if Florida forces a tie in the series by beating FSU, they’re in good shape to win that tiebreaker thanks to FSU dumping 41 on the Canes.
So, here’s how Florida can do it. Warning: it’s about to get technical. In no way, shape or form does this have to do with x’s and o’s, or the intricacies of the game; all this has to do with is numbers. I don’t agree with what I’m about to describe, but that’s irrelevant because that’s the system in place, and the rules aren’t changing.
First, let’s remember that Miami is done. They surrendered 16 points to Florida, and 41 to Florida State. That puts them at 57- not good at all in terms of their chances at the tiebreaker. So, for the moment, let’s forget about Miami’s 57 points allowed and just focus on the two teams that have to play each other.
Florida gave up 21 points to the Hurricanes, while FSU gave up 14. That puts the Seminoles 7 points ahead of the Gators in terms of points allowed. So all Florida has to do to win this tiebreaker is beat FSU by 8 points or more, and not surrender more than 35 points, because then Miami at 57 would have the fewest points allowed.
I’m sure some of you are confused by that, so I’ll explain further.
In the crude table I inserted into this post, I put in the number of points each school surrendered against the other two. Florida and FSU haven’t played yet, obviously, so I left those spaces, along with their totals, blank. That’s for you guys to play with. Plug in any number you want in boxes B2 and B3 (the middle middle and middle right boxes), and then add up the total. If the numbers you put in give Florida the smallest total of the three schools, then Florida would win the Florida Cup by beating FSU by that score. Again, though, make sure you put the Gators’ point total in FSU’s box, and vice versa. Smaller is better, in this case.
For example, if Florida beats FSU 27-17, put 27 in FSU’s box and 17 in Florida’s. That would put FSU’s total points allowed at 41, which is better than Miami’s 57, but not as good as Florida’s 38 would be. If, however, Florida wins by less than 8, say, 23-20, you’d put 23 in FSU’s box and 20 in Florida’s, which would give FSU 37 points allowed and Florida 41, the Seminoles would be the team that surrenders the fewest points, and would thus win the tiebreaker and the trophy. And if Florida beats FSU by 8 or more but gives up a ton of points, say, 49-38, FSU would have 63 points allowed and Florida would have 59- but that would leave Miami, at 57 points allowed, as the winner of the tiebreaker.
If Florida wins by exactly 7, then I would guess that they would get the tiebreaker over FSU on account of beating them head to head. However, I don’t know for sure, that just seems like the fair way to break that hypothetical tie. That’s on the Florida Cup creators for not thinking all this through.
And if Florida should somehow win 43-36, leaving all three teams tied at 57 points surrendered… I don’t know what to tell you. But I feel confident that I won’t have that problem, because even if Florida does somehow win, I doubt they’ll score 43 points.
In any case, I doubt Florida’s going to actually win and make any of this relevant, but that’s why they play the games.
For those of you who are interested, I’ll end with a complete results table of the Florida Cup.