TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher would like nothing better for a 45th birthday gift than a win at Miami on Saturday in the Seminoles' second serious test of the season.
They failed the first one, a lopsided loss at No. 6 Oklahoma last month. The Seminoles are banking on lessons learned from that debacle to benefit them when they visit 13th-ranked Miami.
Florida State (4-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) moved back into the rankings at No. 23 this week following Saturday's 34-14 win at Virginia — its third impressive showing since the 47-17 loss at Oklahoma.
The Hurricanes (3-1, 1-0 ACC) have also rebounded following their lone loss of the season at Ohio State. Miami coach Randy Shannon will likely wish Fisher happy birthday Saturday, then would like to see his squad ruin the Seminoles' party.
Fisher said he has been so distracted about preparing for the Hurricanes that he'd forgotten all about the aging process.
"I really hadn't thought about it until y'all brought it up," Fisher said Monday as his was leaving his weekly half hour media availability.
But he admitted a win would make the day extra special.
"It would be a great one," Fisher said. "To have a game of that caliber and one of your great rivalries be on your birthday it would be a great thing."
He believes the Seminoles are right where they should be heading into the middle part of their schedule after outscoring BYU, Wake Forest and Virginia by a combined 99-24 margin.
Based on the history of this series, Saturday's game in Miami will be close and could come down to a field goal as it has so many times in the past.
The Hurricanes escaped with a 38-34 victory at Florida State last year when Jarmon Fortson couldn't hang onto a low throw into the end zone from Christian Ponder on the final play of the game.
Ponder, now a senior, is back for a final shot at Miami, but Fortson was kicked off the team and transferred to the University of North Alabama.
"This is the reason you come to Florida State," Fisher said. "To play in these games."
The teams appear to mirror each other with strong pass rushes, veteran quarterbacks and an array of game-breaker type athletes. They're the Atlantic Coast Conference's two top defensive teams statistically.
Ponder, who is 17-10 overall as a starter at Florida State, is 1-1 in the series and said he knows how close the talent-level is on both teams.
"We know it's going to be a tough game, he said. "Yes, it's Miami, but we can't make it bigger than what it is. It's the next game."
And also the coach's birthday.
"Talk about pressure," Ponder deadpanned. "Geez."