Sept. 28, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- This isn't Florida State versus South Florida in 2009. It isn't a "white-out" and it isn't at Doak Campbell Stadium.
'Noles fans hope it isn't 17-7 in favor of the Bulls when it's all over, too.
Three years after USF came to FSU and pulled off a stunning upset thanks to the arm and legs of Tallahassee native B.J. Daniels, the in-state foes will meet again for just the second time Saturday when the No. 4 Seminoles travel to Tampa for a 6 p.m. game inside Raymond James Stadium.
Like the last meeting, FSU (4-0) is coming off a win over a team ranked in the top 10 nationally. In 2009 it was a victory over then-No. 7 BYU that preceded the matchup and this year FSU plays in its first road contest of the season a week after knocking out then-No. 9 Clemson.
FSU may be wearing white jerseys again like it did three seasons ago but both programs are in much different places than they were back then, with new head coaches, players, gameplans and preparation practices.
The one true similarity from an on-field perspective is that Daniels is still leading USF's (2-2) offense. In that first meeting, Daniels accounted for 341 of the Bulls' 368 total yards and FSU is well aware of the dangers he presents with the football in his hands.
"I think it's going to be an extremely tough matchup," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, the 'Noles' offensive coordinator in that first matchup. "B.J. can run, he can throw, he is strong, not a little guy, he's strong, dynamic, a great competitor. We're going to have our hands full, have to be very disciplined in our rush lanes."
The Seminoles saw firsthand the issues that can arise by not playing with "eye discipline" against Clemson but it's an experience that could pay dividends against the Bulls. The FSU defense, which ranks No. 2 in the nation in yards allowed this year, was gashed early and often by Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd and Clemson's plethora of trick plays before settling down and playing the type of football they showcase at practice everyday by using their eyes to read tackles and not leaving their lanes.
USF's zone-read offense is all about creating mismatches and getting opponents to play undisciplined. While not as potent as Clemson, the Bulls still average 439 yards per game.
"That's the thing that coach has been harping on," sophomore cornerback Nick Waisome said about playing disciplined. "… It's just about staying with your guy and making plays."
While FSU's defense aims to continue what was a terrific 1 1/2 quarters at the conclusion of the Clemson game, the team's offense will be threatening to put up some more gaudy numbers.
Not only are the 'Noles coming off a 667-yards performance (the most since eclipsing 700 yards against Clemson in 2000) but the team's four consecutive games of at least 49 points scored is a first in program history. In fact, only two other teams since 1949 have scored that many points in four straight ballgames.
FSU's balanced offensive attack has been sparked by a new-look offense line, impressive production from the tailbacks and wide receivers and EJ Manuel's Heisman buzz-generating play from the quarterback position. Manuel will be hard pressed to follow up last weekend's performance when he became the first Florida State quarterback since Charlie Ward in 1992 to throw for at least 300 yards and rush for another 100 but he certainly has the weapons to match that output.
He also has a team that is much different than it was the last time these two programs met -- a game in which Manuel watched from the sidelines as a redshirt freshman.
"I think we've come a long way [even] since last year," Manuel said. "We are a different team than last year even though we didn't play USF but I have never been the kind of guy to look at last year's game or last year's team. This is a whole new team, a whole new week and this upcoming game is going to be a whole new game."
It will also be chance for several Seminoles to return home.
In addition to bruising tailback James Wilder, Jr., defensive tackle Demonte McAllister and wide receiver Christian Green are just a few more of the many players on FSU's 2012 roster that call the Tampa area home.
"It will be great. I really want to get out there and show my friends and family what I've got and how hard I have been working to get to this spot," said McAllister, who is tied with Timmy Jernigan for most stops among FSU's defensive tackles.
For a list of all the FSU events that will be taking place in Tampa this weekend, click here to read the F.A.Q. for the 'Noles' first trip of the year.