"We could not have… there's no way we could do any better than what we've done up to this point," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said Sunday. "I think it's as good as we could have hoped for."
The undefeated Seminoles (5-0) head into their bye week in good spirits.
They are coming off a relatively easy win at Duke, capping a solid opening five weeks that also saw FSU renew its stranglehold on the Atlantic Coast Conference with league wins over North Carolina, Maryland and Georgia Tech.
Mix in a dominating performance over the Colorado Buffaloes, it's easy to see why the Seminoles' confidence is sky-high. And that's a good thing with second-ranked Miami up next Oct. 11 at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Hurricanes, off last Saturday, are at home against struggling West Virginia Thursday.
Once again, FSU-UM has national-title implications.
"We've been through this so many times the last 20 years, knowing that Miami is probably the highlight on the schedule," Bowden said.
"Knowing that Miami is probably the highest-ranked team you will play. Gosh, that has occurred so many times since 1983, when they won their first national championship. We are back to that point, and we like it. We know it's going to be a big game and it's going to be a defining football game for both of us.
"Whoever comes out of this ballgame as the winner is going to be in good shape to compete for a shot at the national championship. We would still have a lot of schedule left, and they would, too. There's no doubt about it. Miami is a team that if you win, you feel like you are winning against a team that's as good anybody in the country."
Of course, the national landscape continues to change on a weekly basis.
While Oklahoma (4-0) and Miami (4-0) stayed 1-2 respectively in Sunday‘s Associated Press poll following bye weeks, others weren't as fortunate.
A week after receiving two first-place votes in last week's poll, Southern California (3-1) suffered a 34-31 triple-overtime loss at California and fell from third to seventh in the poll. Oregon (4-1) slipped nine pegs to 19th following its 55-16 home loss to Pac-10 foe Washington State.
Ohio State (5-0) jumped from fourth to third after its shutout of hapless Northwestern. The defending national champion picked up the other five first-place nods. Schools ranked fourth to eighth also improved a ranking, led by No. 4 Virginia Tech (4-0). FSU was fifth, followed by Louisiana State (5-0), Tennessee (4-0) and Arkansas (4-0).
Of course, Bowden knows nothing is guaranteed when it comes to FSU-UM. The Hurricanes have upended the Seminoles the past three seasons, rallying from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 28-27 win last year.
Bowden, however, has been pleased with this team's play this season. After escaping Georgia Tech at home Sept. 13, FSU made easy work of Colorado and Duke. The Seminoles also have been able to unveil their quality depth. That area hurt FSU last season, especially in oven-like conditions in the Orange Bowl a year ago.
"l much better playing Miami this year than I did in 2001 and 2002," Bowden said. "You feel much better. You have an open date. You came out of that game (Duke) healthy. You got some boys who were not healthy able to be healthy. So, anyway, I like that. Would I liked to have had a little tougher game? Not especially. With all the upsets you are seeing nowadays, no, I don't want anyone any tougher."
Bowden said an area of emphasis in practice will be the Seminoles' run-blocking from the shotgun. FSU surrendered six sacks at Duke, though many came against the reserves.
"We are just not blocking good out of the shotgun," Bowden said. "We've got to better or people are just going to tee off on our passing game when we get into the shotgun."
Of course, as the showdown draws closer, all eyes will again be on both programs. Since 1986 -- a span of 17 games -- either one or both of the teams has been ranked in the top five 19 times.
"There's no doubt about it, we are both playing teams that can knock us out of the deal (national title)," Bowden said.
"But, the thing about it, if you beat them, or they beat you, you know doggone well you are good enough to make it. You might not make it but you know you are good enough. That's the way I feel. I feel like if I can beat Miami, we can beat anybody. They probably feel if they beat us they can beat anybody. But that doesn't mean that's going to happen. That's why this game is such a defining game as far that is concerned."