FSU-Notre Dame ranks as another classic matchup 'Game of the Century' hype growing for No. 1 vs. No. 2

November 09, 1993|By Steve Ellis | Steve Ellis,Knight-Ridder News Service

When Florida State meets Notre Dame on Saturday, it will mark the 28th time in NCAA history that a No. 1-ranked team has tangled with a No. 2-ranked team.

Notre Dame has played in exactly one-third of those games. Though this will only be Florida State's second such matchup, it will be the Seminoles' third "Game of the Century" in as many years.

Notre Dame and Florida State know about big games, enough to know this one in many ways is huge.

"I've had vibes on how big this game is, going back since we got by Miami, and they got by Southern Cal," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "For you to get the ultimate exposure, Notre Dame has to be involved because they capture so much of the Catholic and religious population of the world.

"I think because of that, I would have to say yes, this is the biggest game I've been involved in."

How big is this game? Consider:

* A Plymouth, Ind., woman sold a pair of $25 tickets for $1,000 each. There are other reports of a pair going for $2,500.

* Florida State officials had to refund more than 200 orders this summer (covering 500 to 800 tickets), the majority of which were requested by $1,000 donors.

It should be noted that Notre Dame Stadium holds only 59,075 people.

* An auxiliary press area must be used at Notre Dame Stadium for the first time to accommodate a record 756 media members. That covers 50 daily newspapers as well as NBC, which is broadcasting the game nationally.

* Florida State players, despite having to face Maryland last Saturday, were interviewed last week by Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and The Sporting News about the Notre Dame game.

The payoff for Florida State from this game, and the one next year in Orlando, Fla., is nearly $2.7 million. That includes guarantees, and a $600,000 check for each game from NBC that goes to the Atlantic Coast Conference. It is the kind of payoff usually associated with playing in two major bowls.

"To have somebody say in 1981 that in 1993 you would have a two-game series with Notre Dame begin, and in one of those games you would be No. 1, and they No. 2, that would be some dream," Florida State athletic director Bob Goin said. "It's a dream come true for us."

The players, of course, will decide if this is really a dream game, one so big it will join the dozens chronicled in Notre Dame history.

"There's already comparisons being made to the 1966 Michigan State game," said Notre Dame associate athletic director Roger Valderserri, who has been at the school since 1955.

That mid-November game, which featured No. 1 Notre Dame at No. 2 Michigan State, ended in a 10-10 tie and ranks as one of the original "Games of the Century."

"There are not many high-profile players in this game. Twenty-four from that [1966] game ended up in the NFL," Valderserri said. "But you have both teams undefeated and everybody thinks the winner is going to be the national champ.

"A difference is that this game has had two weeks to be hyped. It's like the Super Bowl."

Still, some Irish fans probably won't rate this game, no matter the outcome, bigger than when No. 4 Notre Dame defeated No. 1 Miami, 31-30, in 1988. Memories of Miami's 58-7 victory in their previous meeting in 1985 had Notre Dame fans in a frenzy. No such hatred is fueling this game.

Instead it is frenzied interest to see this one in person. Indiana newspapers and the state's legal ticket brokerage houses are a good place to sense that frenzy.

It is legal to scalp tickets nearly everywhere in Indiana, though it's illegal on Notre Dame's campus. Scaplers are expected to line the exit off the Indiana toll road on Saturday some two miles from the stadium, where it is legal ground.

Most who watch the game will stay at home, and become part of one of the biggest television audiences for any recent college football game.

In 1968, Notre Dame tied Southern Cal, 21-21, in a final regular-season game that produced a 22.9 rating -- the highest ever for a regular-season college football game.

"Television was a different animal back then," said Vince Wladika, a NBC Sports spokesman. "We could not expect to see those kind of ratings now. An individual didn't have the choices you have now, and when it starts it will be just 10:30 [a.m.] in California. But it has the potential to get very high ratings.

"People right now are planning their day around the start of this game."

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