TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State coach Bobby Bowden grew up hearing the fabled names of Rockne, Bertelli and Leahy, and now Notre Dame is coming to his place more than a half-century later.
Bowden, who was a newborn when Knute Rockne was killed in a plane crash in 1931, studied Frank Leahy's coaching strategies and once met Angelo Bertelli, the first Irish player to win the Heisman Trophy.
And while today's Irish names are not yet those of legend, they continue to make headlines. Saturday will be no different when No. 6 Notre Dame (7-0) attempts to keep its perfect season and national championship hopes alive with a victory at No. 11 Florida State.
"It's just another chance to go out and prove to the nation what we're all about," Notre Dame linebacker Mike Goolsby said. "We want to go out there and get pride and respect."
When Bowden was growing up, the Irish won one national title after another under Leahy. Bowden closely followed Notre Dame's football fortunes as a teen during World War II.
"Notre Dame is the golden name," Bowden said. "Any time you bring Rome into the picture that happens."
In the past decade, Florida State has had more success and won more national titles than Notre Dame. And Bowden, like the Notre Dame standouts he followed, has become one of the game's most recognizable names.
But the Irish have put together the better season this year.
Florida State (5-2) lost to Louisville earlier this season and hopes to rebound from its loss at top-ranked Miami when Xavier Beitia's last-second field goal try from 43 yards went wide left.
Meanwhile, the Irish have beaten No. 8 Michigan, Pittsburgh and No. 22 Air Force and trail only Oklahoma and Miami in the Bowl Championship Series rankings.
A victory in front of Florida State's tomahawk-chopping, war-chanting crowd will go even further to remove any doubt about Notre Dame's standing.
"Anybody that loves to compete loves this kind of environment," Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said. "That's great football theater."
He hopes the Irish can do something few teams have done during the past two decades - leave Tallahassee with a win. Beginning with the 1990 season, Florida State is 69-3-1 at home, losing twice to Miami and once to North Carolina State along with a memorable come-from-behind 31-31 tie against Florida.
So far this season, Notre Dame and Florida State have relied on their running games. The Irish have counted heavily on tailback Ryan Grant, while Florida State has run the ball 101 times while throwing 40 times in its last two games.
But both teams have tried to become more balanced. Last week, Irish receiver Arnaz Battle had eight catches against Air Force.
"There are a lot of surprises we can throw at Florida State," Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday said.
Although they've relied on bruising tailback Greg Jones increasingly, the Seminoles have been one of the nation's most balanced offenses this season, averaging more than 200 yards a game rushing and passing.
Jones and backup Nick Maddox have teamed for 1,136 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing but could have a difficult time against Notre Dame's defense, which has allowed more than 100 yards rushing only twice this year.
The Irish defense also led to all of the points in their first two games and are allowing 12 points a game.
"There is no fluke to the way they're winning," Bowden said. "Their defense scores, and now their offense is getting better and better and better."
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