Family Reunion

On Saturday evening, Florida State (0-1) will host Alabama-Birmingham (1-0) in its home opener in front of a national television audience. Given the present climate of college football, games like this one are becoming harder and harder to discard as relative mismatches. Just ask Seminole fullback B.J. Dean, an Alabama native who has played with and against several Blazer players.

Florida State fullback B.J. Dean is an Alabama native and knows how testy Alabama-Birmingham will be against the Seminoles on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

"If we don't play our best game out there they're going to have a chance to beat us," said Dean, who is from Tuscaloosa, just a 35-minute ride to Birmingham.

Dean, a bruising blocker in the FSU backfield and former blue-chip linebacker recruit, can attest the UAB talent level. The junior has seen it firsthand as a high school teammate of tight end Sam Dudley and free safety Julius Wainright, both starters for the Blazers. He's also been on the football camp circuit with linebacker Zac Woodfin, who led UAB with 149 tackles last season.

"They have talent and we have talent," Dean said. "It's not like we have a Division II team coming in here to play. We know we have to be ready."

With the upper-echelon of mid-major teams inching ever closer to the competitive level of the BCS conferences, consider the wake-up call issued. Just last week, Southern Miss knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln, Fresno State walloped Kansas State, and Marshall lost on a last second field goal against Ohio State in Columbus.

Lowly Troy State even knocked off Missouri, then ranked No. 17.

The last time Florida State tangled with an opponent from Conference USA, Louisville sent the Seminoles' home with a rain-soaked overtime loss.

"The impressive thing to me is that these teams have to go out and do it in other peoples' backyards for the most part," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden, who hails from Birmingham. "UAB is like a Southern Miss – their top guys can play."

Beyond the first flight, however, is where the Seminoles hold the definitive upper hand. In the teams' last meeting – a 29-7 FSU win in 2001 – depth took over on a hot and humid September afternoon.

The Blazers trailed just 6-0 at the half. After the intermission, an emaciated UAB defense had no answer for the running and passing of Chris Rix, who finished that game with 255 passing yards and team-high 52 on the ground.

But if the conditions are overcast, as they are expected to be, FSU's depth would be neutralized and execution would be become paramount. That doesn't bode well for the Rix and the Seminoles, who committed four turnovers and managed just 165 yards of total offense last week against Miami.

"Anybody can play with anybody, it's about who makes fewer mistakes," said Woodfin. "If we go out and don't put the football on the ground or don't give up big plays…if we play like we're capable of playing, then we have a shot at this game."

Dean says playing a familiar foe will have the adrenaline pumping and bring out the best on both sides of the ball.

"It'll be like a family reunion," he said. "It's going to be fun to get a chance to hit some people since I haven't hit since high school."


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