Fitch: Bulls have faced top defenses before
USF's coaches and players have talked about No. 4 Florida State with great respect leading up to Saturday's game at Raymond James Stadium, and while the Bulls acknowledge this is the highest-ranked opponent to ever come into Tampa, they've faced elite competition before.
"I don't know what the result's going to be, but we've been in this situation before," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "We played a pretty good Notre Dame team last year, played a pretty good Clemson team two years ago. ... Two years ago, our first year here, Miami was like a top-10 defense when we played them that year. Our kids have seen some good defenses. It's not our first rodeo, so to speak. It's going to be a great challenge, but I think it's a great opportunity to find out where we're at."
Miami was 22nd in total defense and 27th in scoring defense nationally in 2010, but the Hurricanes did have the No. 3 pass defense in the country the year USF beat the Hurricanes in Miami.
"We do some things pretty well on offense. We're going to find out if we're ready to match up with the big boys," Fitch said. "We're going to have some matchups I worry about, but you know what, we've got some matchups I like, too. We're going to go out and play."
-- I think they're just trying to make it clear how much better FSU is now than three years ago when USF beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee, but there's almost a sense of devaluing what remains one of the biggest wins in USF history. Asked what his thoughts were in 2009 when he saw that USF had a 17-7 win in Tallahassee, here's what Skip Holtz said: "Great win for South Florida. I believe Florida State had six losses that year."
Said Fitch, asked how much the programs have changed in three years since the last meeting: "This is a different group of guys now than (FSU) had that year," Fitch said. "I remember watching those teams on TV. This is a team that's been recruited for about four years. Coach (Jimbo) Fisher came in, he took over a lot of the recruiting things when he took over as coach-in-waiting. It's now paying dividends for them. This is a very talented football team. They can play."
-- USF corner George Baker coyly referred to FSU receiver Rodney Smith as "84" as he ran through the Seminoles' talented receiving corps Tuesday, but the two know each other very well, having been teammates and friends at Miami's Archbishop Carroll High. Smith leads the Seminoles with three touchdown catches, while Baker has settled in nicely as a first-year starter in a secondary that's been limited by injuries. Asked who was faster in high school, Baker smiled and said he was, and still is. (Problem is, Smith is 6-foot-6).
-- So many background ties between the two coaching staffs -- FSU linebackers coach Greg Hudson was Skip Holtz's defensive coordinator at East Carolina, his offensive line coach his first three seasons at UConn, and the two played together at Notre Dame. When Holtz was a grad assistant on Bobby Bowden's staff in 1987-88, two players then -- Odell Haggins and Lawrence Dawsey -- are now FSU assistants. ... And USF offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler has known FSU assistant Eddie Gran since he was a grad assistant working with Shank at East Carolina in 1989.