Bowden poised to pass Paterno, but Wake Forest is a new worry

Updated: October 23, 2003, 7:49 PM ET

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Wake Forest is no longer taking up space on Florida State's schedule between big games.

A pushover for years, Wake Forest visits the sixth-ranked Seminoles on Saturday with a winning record and an offense that gives Florida State coach Bobby Bowden a reason to pause as he stands poised to possibly become the winningest coach in Division 1-A.

Florida State (6-1, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) can move a victory closer to its 11th league title in a 12 seasons and a 12th straight win over the Demon Deacons (4-3, 2-2) also will give Bowden his 339th victory.

Bowden is tied at 338 with Penn State's Joe Paterno, whose Nittany Lions take on No. 16 Iowa on Saturday.

Paterno shrugged off the possibility he might relinquish the record to Bowden.

"I don't care about the record," Paterno told ESPN's "College GameDay" in an interview to be broadcast Saturday. "If it was somebody else, I might feel differently ... so I get 'x' number of wins and he's got 'x' number plus 10 wins, so what. What's it going to mean? It really doesn't mean anything."

A victory would give Bowden a rare chance to celebrate a milestone at home.

Bowden collected win No. 200 at home, a 42-3 over Louisiana State in 1990. But his 100th and 300th wins came at Virginia Tech and Clemson. He passed former Alabama coach Bear Bryant with win No. 324 in Kansas City last year with a 38-31 victory over Iowa State.

Bowden claims that the record is secondary to pushing his team back into national title contention.

"If you start looking down the road, trying to prepare down the road, you will get beat this game and won't even have a chance to compete in it," Bowden said.

With No. 3 Virginia Tech losing Wednesday, Florida State likely would move back into the top 5 if the Seminoles beat Wake Forest.

"When you don't have a playoff in college football, every win is big," Bowden said. "It doesn't have to be Miami. It doesn't have to be Florida. It doesn't have to be Notre Dame. It can be a Wake Forest."

Florida State has not been challenged by the Demon Deacons in five previous home league games, outscoring Wake Forest by 188 points.

But a year ago, Wake Forest jumped to a 14-0 lead and led 21-7 before the Seminoles closed with 27 straight points and won 34-21.

Wake Forest is averaging 26.7 points and 322 yards. The Demon Deacons will depend on a running attack that averages 169.4 yards against a Florida State defense giving up less than 82 yards rushing and just over 10 points a game.

"They do not let anyone do anything too well against them, whether it be run the football or throw the football," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said.

Bowden, however, expects Florida State will need some time, particularly on defense, to adjust to the Demon Deacons' unusual offensive style that features a lot of misdirection plays.

"He has maintained a pro passing attack with an option-type blocking that drives you nuts," Bowden said of Grobe.

Wake Forest has been vulnerable to a strong passing game, though, allowing nearly 285 yards a game. Florida State coaches would like nothing better than to give junior quarterback Chris Rix an opportunity to boost his confidence heading into the final month of the season that includes road tests at Notre Dame, Clemson and Florida and a home finale against North Carolina State.

Although already No. 2 in career total offense at Florida State and closing in on the Top 10 of ACC quarterbacks, Rix remains erratic. He played poorly in a 22-14 loss to Miami and was unsteady for much of last week's 19-14 win at Virginia.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index