TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Buildup has never done Atlantic Coast Conference foes any favors when it comes to playing Florida State, especially at Doak Campbell Stadium, where showdowns often turn into smackdowns.
That history faces No. 10 Maryland today at 3:30 p.m. against the No. 19 Seminoles (4-2, 3-1 ACC). The nine-time defending league champions are at their most vicious when backed into a corner, and all three of their losses since joining the ACC have come unexpectedly and on the road.
"Unfortunately, that won't be the case [today]," said coach Ralph Friedgen, whose Terrapins (7-0, 5-0) come here as eight-point underdogs, but also with the conference lead and the legitimacy - at least temporarily - that comes with the No. 8 spot in the Bowl Championship Series standings. "They'll be ready to play, and so will we."
In 1999, Friedgen was on the staff of then-No. 10 Georgia Tech, the only ACC team to enter Tallahassee with high hopes that didn't get smashed. The Yellow Jackets lost a 41-35 decision.
Duke came to Tallahassee in 1994 with a 7-0 record and a No. 16 ranking and left beaten, 59-20. Last year, Clemson came to town ranked No. 10 and with an 8-1 record, then got spanked, 54-7.
In contrast, the highest ranking of any of the ACC teams that have beaten the Seminoles has been the 1995 Virginia team, which was No. 24 when it scored an upset. The last two teams to beat the Seminoles - North Carolina State (24-7 in 1998) and North Carolina (41-9 this year) - have been unranked.
"These guys have been so good, the last thing they need is any motivating," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, son of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and one of his former assistants. "Anytime someone talks about another ACC champion, that sets it up pretty good. That's a pretty good motivational factor."
Players and coaches at Maryland have been aware of the significance of this game, even against a Florida State team that has fallen to its lowest regard in recent memory The Seminoles' two defeats - to Miami and North Carolina - came by an average of 27 points. The loss to the Hurricanes two weeks ago ended Florida State's 54-game home unbeaten streak.
It's a game that can elevate the Terps beyond a mere campaign for Friedgen as national coach of the year and into conversations about who should play for the national championship.
It can also throw the team into the crate of would-be contenders, while putting Florida State back in the driver's seat for yet another ACC title.
"Beating us will show that they're back where they're usually at," Maryland linebacker E.J. Henderson said, "and us beating them will show that we're where we want to be."
On Tuesday, Friedgen put his team through what was thought to be its most grueling practice since it was preparing for its season opener against North Carolina. That evening, two players labored up the steps of Byrd Stadium on their way home, vowing that they would eat and go to sleep, period.
Tailback Bruce Perry seconded the notion Wednesday, saying, "Yesterday was big. I don't think I've experienced a practice like that since North Carolina week. We felt beat. We had heavy legs."
Florida State produces the same level of anxiety for the Terps that North Carolina brought. While the emotional undertow distinguished the Georgia Tech game, Friedgen had no idea how his team stacked up heading into the season and has seemed equally uncertain this week.
So while Maryland is much better than the team that lost this matchup, 59-7, last year, and while the Seminoles are somewhat diminished, it hasn't been unusual to hear Friedgen fret about what it's going to take to win.
"It's going to take a total effort for us to have a chance to beat Florida State," the coach said. "I'm looking at the matchups, and it's going to be a tough situation."
Maryland heads into the game without one of its top defensive players. Tony Okanlawon, a cornerback who has recorded five interceptions and broken up 10 passes, did not make the trip as he continues to suffer from flu symptoms.
That leaves second-year freshman Dennard Wilson on the corners along with Curome Cox.
"It's not going to help us - he's had a great year," Friedgen said of Okanlawon. "At the same time, I have a lot of faith in Dennard and Curome. Dennard's been tested. He was in the Georgia Tech game. He'll be ready for this."
Maryland vs. Florida State
Who: No. 10 Maryland (7-0) at No. 19 Florida State (4-2)
Site: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
When: Today, 3:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WBAL (1090 AM)
Line: Florida State by 8
Florida State leads the all-time series, 11-0.
1966: at Fla. State 45, Terps 21
1968: Fla. State 24, at Terps 14
1992: at Fla. State 69, Terps 21
1993: Fla State. 49, at Terps 20
1994: Fla. State 52, at Terps 20
1995: at Fla. State 59, Terps 17
1996: Fla. State 48, Terps 10*
1997: at Fla. State 50, Terps 7
1998: Fla. State 24, at Terps 10
1999: at Fla. State 49, Terps 10
2000: Fla. State 59, at Terps 7
* - at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Fla.