Still picking up the pieces left by the shattering 63-20 beatdown at Louisville, No. 13 Florida State (2-1) might have desired an easy place to land this week. The Seminoles won't get it.
The 'Noles take on 3-0 South Florida, a team that has won 10 of its last 12 games since starting out 1-3 last year. The two teams meet Saturday (noon ET) at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Coach Jimbo Fisher is anxious to see how his Seminoles come back after suffering the worst loss in his seven-year stint with the 'Noles against what he calls a "very good" South Florida team.
"Outstanding team, undefeated, averaging 50 points a game, playing really good on defense," Fisher said. "Will be one heck of a challenge going down to their place.
"Be a very big test for us to see how we want to respond, how we want to react, who we're going to be, who are we, and what are we going to do."
The Bulls are coming off a 45-20 comeback win at Syracuse. USF ran off 28 unanswered points in the second quarter after they fell behind 17-0 after the first 15 minutes. Louisville had handled the Orange at the Carrier Dome 68-28 the week before trashing the Seminoles.
Despite Florida State's big loss, South Florida coach Willie Taggart sees this as the chance for his unranked Bulls to gain some national recognition and respect.
"I think it would be big for our program," Taggart said of a potential win. "That's something we as a program said we wanted to do. We want to earn respect.
"We don't want anyone to give it to us, we want to earn it, and it's an opportunity for us to go out and do that this weekend."
Taggart is in his fourth year with the Bulls and, just as he did in his previous stop at Western Kentucky, has increased the win total in each of his first three seasons. They won only two games in his first year in 2013 but doubled that to four in 2014.
Last year they wound up with an 8-5 mark but won seven of their last nine games as the offense behind quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack caught fire.
Flowers finished last year completing just over 59 percent of his passes for about 177 yards a game with 22 touchdown tosses against eight interceptions. He also rushed for 991 yards, which was second on the team to Mack, who rushed for 1,381.
This year, Flowers has completed only 54.7 percent of his passes but for 237 yards a game with seven touchdowns against only one pick. He also has run for 150 yards. Mack missed a game-and-a-half with a concussion but has rushed for 173 yards in his six quarters, averaging 9.6 yards per carry with three touchdowns.
Wide receivers Rodney Adams and North Carolina State transfer Marquez Valdez-Scantiling have come up big in the receiving game with 11 and 10 receptions, respectively, for a combined 339 yards and three scores.
The Bulls are looking to go 4-0 for the first time since they won their first four games to start off the 2011 campaign and are seeking their second win in the young series with the Seminoles.
As an interesting side note, their 17-7 victory over the Seminoles in 2009 set in motion the process that led the legendary coach Bobby Bowden's exit from the program and Fisher's move up to the top.
Fisher's 'Noles have won the two meetings since, outscoring the Bulls 64-31.
Fisher is concerned about more recent history, however, like the debacle in Louisville. Florida State had never allowed 63 points in a game.
"We're very disappointed, and that's my fault," Fisher said "We have to move on, but at the same time we have to look at those disappointments, own them and make some adjustments.
"There's a lot of football left to play.
Prediction and Picks to Win
One fact is in Fisher's favor this week. In the past five years, his 'Noles are undefeated in games following a loss. Their last back-to-back defeats came in 2011, and the streak of 66 games without consecutive losses ranks second nationally only to Oregon (70).
Florida State Seminoles beat USF Bulls, 42 - 33