Noles Confident Despite Injuries

Gone are the days of when a banged up Florida State team can waltz into just about any stadium in the country and still smoke the opposition. With a limit on scholarships, even the best teams don't have high school All-Americans two and three deep at every position.

Need proof? Just look at the last three games played by the Seminoles. They lost to an average Virginia team, nearly lost to a below-average Maryland team and are coming off a loss to a N.C. State team that has been a major disappointment this season.

And now, it appears the Tigers (5-4, 3-4 ACC) have a real shot of beating 17th-ranked Florida State (7-2, 5-2 ACC) for the second time in the last three years.

"It's gotten so much tougher than it used to be," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said. "I think it's very obvious the last two years. Last year, the University of Miami loses three games in the conference. There's a team that's been dominant the last 20-25 years. Florida State, probably one of the dominant teams the last 28 years and we've lost two this year in the conference.

"We're winning out of conference games, but we beat ourselves in conference."

Florida State star tailback Leon Washington will not suit up this weekend, meaning backup Lorenzo Booker will make his second start of the season. The Tigers can also expect to see some of Antone Smith at running back as well.

The offensive line for the Seminoles is missing several key players due to injury and as a result, what was believed to be the strong suit of the team has become a weakness. Florida State severely beat up, as well. And as a result, the rushing attack ranks near the bottom in all of Division I.

Even so, the cockiness and swagger so prevalent with past Florida State teams is still there.

"It hurts to lose," defensive back J.R. Bryant said. "You don't ever want to lose a game, but the morale of the team has been good. Everyone has come to practice ready to play. Everybody knows that we still have a chance to win the ACC Championship and go to a BCS Bowl game. That was one of our goals this season, so we still have something to play for. It's not like we are out just wasting our time and playing for no reason."

Whether that was a jab at Clemson is unknown, but linebacker A.J. Nicholson made no bones about what he and his teammates plan on doing this weekend.

"That is what we want to do, go into the ACC Championship game on a role," he said. "We need to get our head back in the game. It is going to be a tough one. We have Clemson on the road and it is going to be at noon. We have got to go up to Clemson and really make a statement. So, if we beat Miami, Clemson and Florida, that says a lot about this team and the character that we have."

But they do realize that it's much easier said. The Tigers will likely live off the running game, which N.C. State was able to use so effectively last week in Tallahassee.

"That is the biggest difference, their running game," Bowden said. "The new offensive coordinator has really stressed the running game. They are doing more other stuff with it. You can see an improvement.

"They are just like us, you get one more touchdown and you win all of your games. It has come down to the last play. You get one more big play in there somewhere and both of us could win a lot of games. It is not like either one of us has been blown out."

Defensively, Clemson will likely find one particular aspect and try to shut it down and make the Seminoles have to move the ball a way they aren't accustomed to. However, Florida State receiver De'Cody Fagg believes the offense will be just fine, regardless of what the Tigers throw at them.

"We see a lot of blitzes," he said. "They are a zone team so we won't have to work to get off jams this week. Basically we are going to have a free release to get into our routes. With the quarterbacks that we have, they have the talent to pick that apart."

If they don't, then there's a strong chance Florida State will have lost three of its last four games. Top Stories