"I've got to see it," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "It's talk I wish was true, but the kids are going to have to do more than talk about it. We've got nearly everybody back on this team. Now, let's see if we're improved. We're going to find out shortly.''
The third-ranked Seminoles have been tabbed a 22-point favorite over the Cyclones. Starting quarterback Chris Rix, for one, believes FSU will prove to the nation that last year was a fluke.
"They're going to give us a battle, but I don't feel Iowa State is on the same level as Florida State,'' said Rix, who begins his second season as starter. "They're moving up, sure, but there's no way this game should be close. I expect our team to come out and make a statement.''
Iowa State posted consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 24 years after finishing 7-5 with a one-point loss to Alabama in last year's Independence Bowl. The team is touting senior quarterback Seneca Wallace for the Heisman Trophy.
"My number one concern is how well we can tackle this guy,'' said defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. "That's what we haven't practiced much in preseason, because you have to limit contact. But if we don't tackle well, we're in trouble.''
FSU shouldn't be in trouble, according to players.
"This game is very important for us,'' said cornerback Stanford Samuels. "We have to make a statement. We have to get our confidence. We have to show the nation that Florida State is back.''
Bowden is anxious to find out if that's statement is true.
"We've done about all we can do in practice and now it's time to see how this relates to a game,'' Bowden said. "I'm very excited. That might be the way it is when you don't have as good a year last year as you hoped. But this time a year ago, we started eight sophomores on defense that had never started a game. We started a quarterback who had never taken a college snap, which is something I had never done in 50 years of coaching. We were wiped out by graduation the previous year.
"This year, this team does have a year of experience. We're further along. We'll find out how far we've come.''