Florida State has dominated two inferior opponents to open the season. Now comes the hard part -- trying to do so against a team on its level.
The 24th-ranked Seminoles can take a big step in their resurgence when they host No. 18 Wake Forest on Saturday in the ACC opener for both squads.
After blowing through Football Championship Subdivision teams Western Carolina and Chattanooga by a combined score of 115-7 the previous two weeks, the young Seminoles (2-0) are brimming with confidence, but have yet to face a formidable foe like Wake Forest.
"This game will tell us a lot about us," said Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden, who has 375 career wins, tied with Penn State's Joe Paterno for the most in Division I history.
Bowden's team is ranked for the first time since its last game with Wake Forest (2-0) on Oct. 11. The Seminoles were No. 21 in the nation with a 4-1 record, but lost 24-21 to the unranked Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest also beat Florida State the previous year, 30-0 in Tallahassee for its first win in this series since 1973 and the Seminoles' only home shutout in Bowden's 33 years at the school. A win Saturday and the Demon Deacons will join Clemson (2005-07) as the only ACC teams to beat Florida State three years in a row.
"We won't ever play a more talented football team. They've got talent everywhere," said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, who's just 2-5 in ACC openers. "They probably have as good a skill group as you'll ever see with speed and athletic ability. They have everything you would expect out of a Florida State football team.
"One good thing is our guys know they can win."
Wake Forest enters this game first in the ACC and fourth nationally in turnover margin. The Demon Deacons have forced eight turnovers in their first two games – both against BCS conference teams – while turning it over just three times.
While the Seminoles beat up on FCS schools, the Deacons won at Baylor before edging Mississippi 30-28 two weeks ago on a 41-yard field goal with three seconds left.
The Seminoles will still be without a half-dozen players, who remain suspended until next weekend as part of an academic cheating scandal in 2007. Florida State does return defensive tackle Budd Thacker and receiver Preston Parker, who were suspended for other reasons.
Even without the suspended players, Florida State has looked impressive on both sides of the ball. The Seminoles are the only team in the country to rank in the top 10 nationally in total offense, total defense, scoring offense and scoring defense.
Florida State is No. 1 overall in total defense, allowing 170.0 yards per game, and has received excellent quarterback play from Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson. Ponder became the first Seminole since Charlie Ward in 1992 to throw for six touchdown passes in his first two career starts. Richardson has thrown for two scores and rushed for three others, including a 55-yard touchdown run against Chattanooga that broke a quarterback school record he tied the previous week.
Wake Forest, though, figures to present a much sterner test for the Seminoles. Besides winning the last two meetings, the Deacons have won 10 of 13 overall on the road and are coming off a bye week after repeatedly being tested by Ole Miss on Sept. 6.
The game featured seven lead changes before quarterback Riley Skinner led Wake on the final drive that led to Sam Swank's winning field goal.
"In college football, momentum's the name of the game," said Swank, the nation's active career leader with 65 field goals made. "Coming off a big win like Ole Miss -- over a very talented team like Ole Miss -- really puts a lot of confidence in our guys. And that's definitely something that we feel we may need going into the hostile environment of Doak (Campbell Stadium). I think our guys will handle themselves well, and hopefully we'll come out with a 'W.'"
Skinner set career highs with 32 completions and 43 attempts in the win over Ole Miss and continues to be among the most accurate passers in the NCAA. He's completing 74.7 percent of his passes this season after leading the nation last year at 72.4 percent.
Florida State had won 14 in a row over Wake Forest before the last two seasons. The Seminoles lead the all-time series 21-4-1.
Top 25 Overview
The second matchup of two Top 25 teams takes place in Tallahassee, where Florida State hosts Wake Forest. The Seminoles will be taking a big step up in class from their first two FCS teams when they face the Deacons. Florida State had won 14 in a row over Wake Forest before losing the last two meetings.