Piling It On

<b> Alex Barron</b> is looking forward to talking to his uncle, Luther Bradley, at some point this week. Bradley, now an insurance executive in Detroit, was an All-American cornerback at Notre Dame in 1977 and still holds the school record for career interceptions (17) and three school interception return yardage records. Bradley also tried to steer Barron, Florida State's starting split tackle, towards the Irish during the recruiting process. <p>

Barron, from Orangeburg, S.C., selected the Seminoles over the Irish, South Carolina, Georgia and Georgia Tech.

""He was rooting for Notre Dame. I used to talk to him a lot about it on the phone during recruiting,'' Barron said.

"Last year when we played them he was really pumped up about the game. He was gonna come down here but he couldn't make it because he had some business to take care of, but he's gonna be at this game (Saturday). It's going to be pretty fun. I'll probably talk to him later this week. He's pretty upset right now because they're not having too good of a season. Hopefully we'll make it worse than it is.''

FSU obviously needs to keep winning to keep pace in the Bowl Championship Series. While the Seminoles are tabbed an 11.5-point favorite, four of the five previous games in the series have been decided by seven points or less, with the outcome of all four games still in doubt until the final minute.

Additionally, Notre Dame's penchant for playing the best teams in the country is well known. In fact, over the last 17seasons, the Irish have played 81 games against ranked opponents, an average of nearly five games per season. Notre Dame has posted a record of 43-36-2 (.543) in these games, including a 22-11-1 (.662) mark against ranked teams at home. (Seven of Notre Dame's first eight opponents this season are ranked).

The Seminoles (7-1) enter on a high note, posting nice wins over Virginia and Wake Forest after stumbling at home against Miami. They rank rank 27th in the nation in total offense (424 yards per game) and eighth in total defense (280.13).

Notre Dame (2-5), meanwhile, dropped its second consecutive game last Saturday at Boston College, rallying from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter before the Eagles kicked the game-winning field goal with 38 seconds remaining.

Freshman quarterback Brady Quinn sparkled in defeat for the Irish, completing 23 of39 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. His 350 yards passing were the most by a Notre Dame quarterback since Joe Montana had 358 yards at USC in 1978.

Senior linebackerCourtney Watson, a Butkus Award semifinalist, continued to make an emphatic case for the honor, pilingup 13 tackles for his fifth double-digit outing in six games this season. Watson is averaging 11.5 tackles per game this season.

Much has been made of the Irish mystique this week.

Notre Dame ranks as the winningest team in college football history, based on its current .747 winning percentage (793-255-42). FSU ranks 11th all-time in terms of winning percentage, sporting a .675 success ratio (415-195-17). The big difference between the two programs is their longevity -- the Irish are in the midst of their 115th season of football, while the Seminoles are only in their 57th year.

"I don't think so (caught up in ND mystique) because a lot of them really don't know about it," said FSU noseguard Travis Johnson, who was also recruited by Notre Dame out of Sherman Oaks, Calif.

"A lot of the guys, especially in the South, weren't really raised on Notre Dame, so they aren't really hip to everything going on so they don't really care for mystique. To me I understand the tradition behind wearing the green jerseys, Blue and Gold, 14-karat golden helmet. I understand all that stuff. But to a lot of these guys, it doesn't mean a thing to them. But me it's extra special. It's almost like playing a home team, Southern Cal."

While Notre Dame is known for smash-mouth football, the Irish displayed a diversified passing attack that rolled up 350 yards and yielded a pair of touchdowns against Boston College.

It was the most passing yardage piled up by an Irish offense since Oct. 27, 1979.

Notre Dame had a season-high 10 different players catch passes, led by sophomore wide receiver Rhema McKnight and sophomore tight end Anthony Fasano, who caught four passes apiece.

It was the highest number of pass-catchers the Irish have had in a single game since Oct. 16, 1999, when 10 Notre Dame players had a reception in a 25-24 come-from- ehind win over USC at Notre Dame Stadium. The Boston College game also marked the fourth time in seven contests this season that the Irish have had at least eight players catch a pass.

If the Irish look to run, keep an eye on senior running back Julius Jones. Jones turned in the finest single-game rushing performance in school history Oct. 11 at Pittsburgh, piling up a school-record 262 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns.

Jones broke the nearly 25-year-old Notre Dame record of 255 yards by Vagas Ferguson at Georgia Tech on Nov. 18, 1978.

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