After weeks of build-up for Florida State's showdown with Clemson, the buzz has worn off a tad as the Seminoles make their first trip to Tampa since 1979. While this game lacks the same box-office cache as last week's prime-time affair, the Seminoles are all too aware of what can happen if they take USF lightly, having fallen to the Bulls in 2009 in one of the most embarrassing upsets in recent memory.
Earning some retribution for that loss four years ago will certainly be the key talking point this week, but there's plenty more at stake for both Florida State and USF.
1. How much has changed since 2009?
It has been four years since USF upset Florida State in Tallahassee, and there are not a lot of holdovers on either side. Both teams have changed coaching staffs and the bulk of the rosters are new, but a few holdovers remain. For USF quarterback B.J. Daniels, it's a reminder of his signature moment. For the handful of FSU players who remain, it's a reminder of the program's low point. But the Seminoles have rebuilt since that loss, and are flying high again, while Daniels' career has failed to take off after his triumphant moment as a freshman. So will FSU gain some redemption this time, or can Daniels relive past glory?
2. How focused is Florida State?
The Seminoles didn't overlook three easy opponents to start the season, and Jimbo Fisher raved about his team's maturity. But how might that change now that the Seminoles have a big win over Clemson in their pocket and the ACC championship game in their sights? For FSU, it's the first road test of the year. For USF, it's a de facto Super Bowl. In years past -- 2009, for example -- that would be a recipe for an upset, but the Seminoles insist there will be no hangover effect this time around.
3. Can EJ Manuel build his Heisman campaign?
Fisher this week called the Hiesman Trophy an award for "show dogs," adding that he preferred hunting dogs, referring to the likes of Manuel. That might be the case, but Manuel's performance against Clemson still puts him in the thick of the race for college football's most coveted individual award. Manuel will get a chance to pad those numbers a bit more this week against a defense that just allowed 31 points to Ball State.
4. Can Skip Holtz assuage the "home" fans?
The heat is getting turned way up for USF coach Skip Holtz, who has struggled to get his team to the next level in three years on the job. Making matters worse, the Bulls have been awful at home, losing seven straight at Raymond James Stadium to teams from other BCS conferences. He'll get a chance to win back some of those disgruntled fans this week -- though the stadium might end up filled with more Seminoles fans than USF loyalists.
5. Can Fisher stay perfect in Florida?
For whatever disappointments have overwhelmed Fisher's first two seasons as Florida State's coach, the one thing he has done exceptionally well is beat his in-state rivals. Fisher is 4-0 against Miami and Florida, and that's enough to keep a bulk of the fan base happy. He'll be tested against both of those teams later this season, but this year's quest to dominate the state begins with USF, which, as he has been reminded all too often this week, is a perfect 1-0 against the Seminoles.