TALLAHASSEE — A week ago, even with a top-10 showdown looming with Clemson, Florida State running back James Wilder couldn't hide his excitement at the chance to come home to Tampa and play USF.
"USF, I can't wait. A lot of my teammates know. I've got all their tickets," said the former Plant High two-way standout and son of a former Bucs great James Wilder. "I have a lot of people's tickets, where I can get everybody from Tampa there to make sure it'll be a great USF game."
The sophomore already had collected 18 tickets from teammates, in addition to his own allocation of four. The game is expected to be USF's first sellout in nearly five years, with many FSU fans buying USF season tickets because the Bulls haven't made single-game tickets available to the general public.
Wilder is one of several Tampa standouts making an impact for the No. 4 Seminoles, and the chance to play a road game at home is something that has had them circling this game since they got to campus.
"My teammates, they know it's my hometown, they know I have a lot of people down there," Wilder said. "I'm definitely looking forward to the game."
Seminoles receiver Christian Green, a star at Tampa Catholic, grew up rooting for the Bulls — his father, Hiram, played basketball at USF in the late '70s and spent much of his professional career working for USF. Green said he considered the Bulls "pretty strong" before ultimately choosing to play in Tallahassee.
"It's going to mean a lot to me because I grew up there, going to USF games, and now I'm coming home with a lot of friends and family at the game," said Green, a redshirt sophomore, who grew up with Bulls players Lindsey Lamar and Andreas Shields and watches USF games on TV when his schedule allows.
"It was the local school, right around the corner from where I stayed at. Growing up, going to all the games, that's something that's exciting."
When USF played Rutgers on a Thursday night, it gave FSU defensive tackle Demonte McAllister the chance to see old friends such as Lamar, Terrence Mitchell and Ryne Giddins. He said that even with a huge game with Clemson coming first, he was already thinking a bit about the chance to play in Tampa.
"That game is in the back of my head. I'm going to be so excited to go back to Tampa," the Alonso graduate said. "I'm very excited to see my family in the stands and give it my all for my guys."
It's not just local Seminoles that strongly considered playing for USF — defensive end Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, a top pass-rusher who came to FSU out of junior college, said he nearly signed with the Bulls, thanks to a solid recruiting job by USF assistant Kevin Patrick.
"I looked at it very strong. I fit a lot of their defense, saw the connection I had with their coaches," Carradine said. "They were one of the first teams that recruited me, and I was leaning really strong toward USF."
Carradine said taking an official visit to FSU and seeing the atmosphere for a game at Doak Campbell Stadium was what ultimately pushed him to sign with the Seminoles, but he'll be excited to line up against the Bulls.
"I think when I came on my visit, everything was more real," Carradine said. "I had a couple of guys I knew here already, and I really felt comfortable here. I saw myself fitting in here."