The Florida State Seminoles have three remaining regular-season games: against North Carolina, at North Carolina State and against Florida. All three teams beat the Seminoles last year -- UNC and UF decisively, by a combined 78-22.
But there is more than the revenge factor at work for FSU. The 15th-ranked Seminoles (7-3) sit atop the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 6-0 league record. The Seminoles would win the conference title outright -- and earn a Bowl Championship Series bid -- with victories against the Tar Heels and the Wolfpack.
FSU Coach Bobby Bowden said he doesn't like to remind his team about that loss.
"I don't encourage it at all to talk about 'makeup games,'" Bowden said. "I do not approach it from that angle. Now, if they do down inside, that's lovely with me. But to me, that's something that has to come from within.
"I can't go out there and say, 'Hey, boys, they beat us bad last year. Let's go really beat 'em bad.' I don't like to do that because kids start pressing and trying to do too good, and then, of course, you're going to get yourself beat again."
‘NOLES QUIT?: FSU was inexperienced when it played at UNC last season, and North Carolina scored the game's final 34 points. Some FSU players said they believed teammates quit in the latter stages of the game.
"It was the whole team, if you really look at the film and you really look at the television copy," senior defensive end Alonzo Jackson said. "We couldn't run it. We couldn't pass it. We couldn't stop the run. We couldn't stop the pass.
"This was a game that most people talked about in the off-season. I know me personally, I don't like getting embarrassed on national TV, making it look like we can't cover, we can't pass-rush and we can't stop the run. No matter what their record is [now], we're going to go out, and we're going to give them our 'A' game."
INJURIES TAKING TOLL: Injuries continue to impact FSU's offense.
Tailback Nick Maddox, who continues to receive seven treatments daily, was essentially withheld from practice this week to rest a minor ankle injury. Maddox has done only light conditioning, including Thursday. The Seminoles are being cautious with him, knowing the Tar Heels are struggling and the next two games (at North Carolina State and Florida) figure to be much tougher.
There's a chance Maddox will not play.
"Nick worked out (on his own) and said he felt good," Bowden said. "We'll just have to wait and see."
If Maddox is held out of the game, it increases the possibilty that freshman Lorenzo Booker plays for the first time this season. Booker was to be redshirted, but injuries to the Seminoles' top three tailbacks have changed plays. The likely scenario is for Leon Washington and Thomas Clayton, both freshmen, to get the bulk of carries.
"If we ain't movin' the ball, he (Booker) goes. He goes in," Bowden said. "If we are moving it, then we have to make decision. It would be 50-50 right now (on Booker playing)."
The other concern is senior center Antoine Mirambeau. He missed practice Thursday to have his knee examined by a physician. He might have a knee sprain. If Mirambeau can't play, redshirt sophomore David Castillo will be his replacement. Guard Montrae Holland (high ankle sprain) will miss his second game since getting injured against Wake Forest. Including quarterback Chris Rix, who was demoted, the Seminoles could have five different offensive starters from the team that played Notre Dame three games ago. The other four, of course, are injuries.
STARTING AGAIN:After a good week of practice, cornerback Stanford Samuels will follow his game-turning performance last week against Georgia Tech by regaining his position as starting left cornerback. Samuels missed the Wake Forest game on a one-game suspension for violating an undisclosed team rule. Rufus Brown moved ahead of Leroy Smith at right cornerback. Bryant McFadden will play behind Samuels.
Samuels hasn't started since the team's 34-24 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 26. He was suspended for the team's game at Wake Forest and played as a reserve against Georgia Tech, recording two key interceptions.
"I lost a lot of time and I lost a lot of opportunities to make plays and help my team," Samuels said. "So, I'm just anxious to get out there and make some plays, regardless if I was starting or if I was coming on second, because we're all going to play the same amount of time."
FAST FACTS: * Since 1992, Florida State is 43-1 (.977) against ACC foes in Doak Campbell Stadium.
* In the last 10 meetings between the two teams, Florida State has averaged 31.4 points and 383.4 yards per game while the Tar Heels have averaged 14.1 points and 242.5 yards per contest. *North Carolina leads the ACC in passing offense (270.0) ... the Tar Heels have thrown for 200 or more yards in 15 of their last 17 games.
* The Seminoles have limited the Tar Heels to under 300 yards in total offense in eight of the last 10 meetings.
* Florida State sophomore quarterback Adrian McPherson has thrown two touchdown passes in each of his last three games.
STRUGGLING: North Carolina (2-8, 0-6) lost eight defensive starters to graduation or the NFL, including defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Ryan Sims, who were selected in the first round of the draft.
"We've struggled the last few weeks," North Carolina Coach John Bunting said. "Everybody that's watched us this season, for the most part, understands why. Our young, young players are wearing out some."
North Carolina has lost five in a row, including a 42-12 home loss to Clemson. The Tar Heels have averaged 12.6 points during the skid. They remained one of two winless teams in the conference. Duke is the other.
North Carolina needs a win in its next two games -at Florida State or against the Blue Devils- to avoid its first winless record in the league since 1989.
The Tar Heels are looking to repeat last season's success against the Seminoles.
However, FSU linebacker Kendyll Pope and his teammates intend to avenge the loss Saturday.
"We went up there last year and just got embarrassed by a team that wasn't really that good," Pope said. "So, they've got a big price to pay when they come down here. We're going to pay them back for what they did to us last year. If I was them, I'd be scared to come down here to Doak [Campbell Stadium]."