Jason Olson, Deseret News
PROVO — When BYU and Florida State square off in their third-ever meeting on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, it will be a case of role reversal.
For the first time, the No. 7 Cougars and Seminoles will face each other in a game that's not the Pigskin Classic. For the first time, BYU's legendary LaVell Edwards won't be coaching.
And, for the first time, the highly ranked, favored team will be the Cougars — not Florida State, which enters this year's contest unranked.
"I think it's the most physical BYU team I've seen of the years that we've played them," legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden, who is in his 33rd season at the helm, said Tuesday. "With the maturity of their football team this year, plus the physical (aspect), it might be the best BYU team I've seen on film."
The Cougars certainly respect Florida State, its history and tradition.
"They're a team that can beat anyone," said BYU tight end Andrew George. "They have the talent, they have the coaching, to beat anyone in the nation. They're a nationally recognized program. They've got a Hall of Fame coach. We need to be ready to play because they're going to bring it to us."
BYU knows Florida State comes to Provo seeking to make a statement.
"We're ranked in the top 10, so they're going to be looking at us, wanting to knock us off so they can move up in the rankings," George said.
The Seminoles (1-1) are still trying to learn about themselves after falling to rival Miami and eking out a win over lower-division Jacksonville (Ala.) State.
"We don't know much about our team yet," Bowden said. "I think this game will be the defining moment for us because we're playing a top-10 team away from home. We'll know a whole lot more about ourselves after this game."
Funny, in the previous two matchups, BYU was the one relegated to the underdog role, looking to spring a big upset.
Going into the 1991 Pigskin Classic at Anaheim, Calif., Florida State was the preseason No. 1 team and it had almost all of its players back from a 10-2 season that was considered a rebuilding year by Seminole standards. BYU was ranked No. 19 and featured the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Ty Detmer, who had plenty of inexperienced players around him.
The result? The Seminoles hammered the Cougars, and it could have been much worse. FSU led 44-14 going into the fourth quarter before BYU made it look respectable, 44-28.
Nine years later, the two teams played in the 2000 Pigskin Classic in Jacksonville, Fla., not far from Tallahassee (it was a de facto home game for Florida State) to kick off Edwards' final season at the helm.
The Seminoles, the defending national champions and ranked No. 2 in the preseason polls, were led by 28-year-old quarterback Chris Weinke (talk about role reversal — it's usually the Cougars who have the old guys), who ended up winning the Heisman Trophy that season. BYU, which was breaking in two new quarterbacks, Bret Engemann and Charlie Peterson, was unranked and didn't score until late in the third quarter in a 29-3 loss. Again, it could have been much worse.
"I just remember how physical they've always been, and it's no different this year," Bowden said when asked to recall past games with the Cougars.
Another nine years later, it's the third showdown between the two programs, this time in Edwards Stadium.
"They're always a physical football team," Bowden said of BYU. "They have to be. Out there, they don't have the skill that they have in the Deep South or in Southern California, although I'm sure they recruit it. They're a lot bigger than us, boy."
The Cougars (2-0), who knocked off then-No. 3 Oklahoma in their season-opener, are seven-point favorites. They are looking forward to hosting Florida State, which will be making its first visit to Provo.
"When you have a chance to have a team of that caliber, Florida State, that's willing to play and come to LaVell Edwards Stadium, it's an awesome thing," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "It's something the program has earned over a long period of time."
"This is a very big game, to bring a team like Florida State into LaVell Edwards Stadium and to have this opportunity is very big for us," said BYU defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen.
While the Cougars are physical, the Seminoles' calling card, as always, is speed.
"Speed is the first thing that you see," Mendenhall said of watching FSU film. "They're talented, they're athletic. There are a number of players on each side of the ball that can make plays."
Thus, it looms as a size vs. speed matchup.
"We're definitely going to have to use our speed and our strength to our advantage, because (the Cougars) have great athletes; real big, kind of like Wisconsin," Florida State defensive tackle Kendrick Stewart told Seminoles.com. "We are going to have to stay low, use our hands and use our quickness."
Some things never change.
Cougars on the air
Florida State (1-1)at No. 7 BYU (2-0)
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Radio:1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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