5th-ranked 'Noles host little Charleston Southern

Tallahassee, FL - Charleston Southern is a curiosity this week for thousands of Florida State fans asking, "who are these guys?"

For starters, the lower-division Buccaneers play their home games in a tiny stadium that holds fewer than 4,000 fans - enough to take care of their student body. That's about one-fifth of the seats likely to be empty Saturday when the FCS school visits the Seminoles' usually noisy 83,000-seat stadium.

The fifth-ranked Seminoles opened their season with a 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe last week while unranked Central Florida whipped Charleston Southern 62-0 in Orlando. The Buccaneers have never won a game over a major college opponent in nine tries.

The matchup is so lopsided that Las Vegas odds makers didn't even establish a betting line on the game and Florida State could possibly top its longtime school record 74-point win over Whiting Field in the 1949 season opener.

Unranked Central Florida spanked the Buccaneers 62-0 last week in Orlando and if the Seminoles can't top that, what happens in the polls next week with the likes of Stanford, Texas A&M and Wisconsin on Florida State's heels?

"It doesn't matter how many points they score, or how few yards they allow, there's no way to give them any credit," said AP poll voter Ira Schoffel, sports editor at the Tallahassee Democrat. "I might not hold it against them, but I'm certainly not going to reward them."

And it's hard to imagine Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher wanted this game as a warm-up for No. 1 Oklahoma, which comes to town next. How does a game against a small South Carolina college from the FCS Big South Conference possibly benefit the Seminoles going into a Sept. 17 showdown against the Sooners in what shapes up as a potential national title elimination game?

"It tests our team maturity as far as how they want to look at things," Fisher said.

"Sports are more about you yourself and what you do than it is the other people," he added, defending the scheduling. "We determine what happens."

He noted that Florida State's nonconference schedule also includes intrastate rival Florida and the top-ranked Sooners.

"We definitely play a lot of great nonconference games," he said. "You've got to create games that can get your team ready to be a championship-caliber team."

If Florida State is embarrassed about taking part in Saturday's apparent mismatch against the tiny Baptist-affiliated school, they're not saying so. Even the players have been careful when talking about the game.

"We're taking it one game at a time," sophomore safety Lamarcus Joyner said, conceding the Seminoles might have looked ahead last year before traveling to Oklahoma. "This year we're more focused, we're a better team."

In Charleston Southern's only other game against an Atlantic Coast Conference team, it suffered a 52-7 loss at Miami three years ago.

At least the Buccaneers won't have to contend with Florida State's dangerous punt returner, Greg Reid, who is suspended for this game along with backup middle linebacker Telvin Smith for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Fisher, who used 64 players in last week's 34-0 shutout of Louisiana-Monroe, said he's repeatedly preached to his players about not peeking ahead to next week's game against the Sooners.

"If you want to be the kind of football team that we hope to be, those teams play hard no matter who you play or where you play," Fisher said. "You're not a great team if you only try to play hard in the big games."

Fisher said it would be disrespectful to Charleston Southern or any opponent.

"Nobody every wants to be disrespected," Fisher said. "You respect your opponent by preparing your best and playing your best. That's how."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)