Saturday's renewal of the annual Miami-Florida State rivalry won't have any national or even conference championship implications. But it will be a pretty good barometer of who's rising and who's falling.
If FSU wins at Doak Campbell Stadium, the Noles (6-3, 4-2) will pull away from the Canes and salvage something from an under-achieving season.
A victory by the Hurricanes (5-4, 3-3) would match FSU's record and avenge the 45-17 thrashing they suffered at Sun Life Stadium last year.
"This is our championship," Miami senior QB Jacory Harris said of the grudge match.
For motivation, if not aggravation, first-year head coach Al Golden has been blaring a continuous loop of the Noles' "War Chant" in his team's locker room. A Seminole flag has been flying from the high lift on the practice field.
Florida State QB E.J. Manuel says there's no problem getting up for the 3:30 p.m. game, which will be televised on ABC.
"This is always a huge rivalry because there are so many kids from South Florida that go to school here," he told the Orlando Sentinel.
The Canes aim to pressure and contain the mobile Manuel, who hails from Virginia Beach, Va. But this could be a mismatch.
Miami has not sacked a quarterback in the past two games, and gives up an average of 384 yards to opposing offenses, ranking 64th in the FBS.
Florida State's defense ranks fourth in the nation, and Miami's offense has sputtered at times, ranking 67th nationally.
Las Vegas oddsmakers list FSU as a 9-point favorite after the Noles opened as a 10-point pick.
But the deep-seated emotion of the FSU-Miami rivalry can turn odds upside down. The last time the Canes won at The Doak, in 2007, Miami scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 to steal a 37-29 victory.
The Hurricanes finished 5-7 that year and FSU was 7-6, though the Noles ended up forfeiting their wins under NCAA sanctions.
At the beginning of this season, Miami benched eight starters for their dealings with Nevin Shapiro, a team booster convicted of orchestrating a $900 million Ponzi scheme.
Those players are back on the gridiron, and the Canes are more disciplined and less penalty-prone than they were under Golden's fired predecessor, Randy Shannon.
If recent tradition holds, Saturday's game should at least be entertaining. Heading into the 56th meeting between the teams, Miami holds a 31-24 edge. Since 2000, all but two of the intrastate contests have been decided by 8 points or fewer.
Was last year's blowout an aberration, or an indication of a power shift?
Recalling all those Miami games that were booted wide left or wide right by FSU, Manuel said Dustin Hopkins, the Noles' prolific placekicker, could be the X-factor this year.
If we have to win by a field goal, Id put my money on Dustin, Manuel said.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.