TAMPA—It's been almost ten years since FSU and Oklahoma squared off in the 2001 Orange Bowl in Miami. In what would arguably be remembered as one of the most lackluster BCS Championships, Florida State came in as heavy favorites in a much contested season where Florida State lost to 11-1 Miami, yet still managed to play for a National Title. Florida State entered the contest as heavy favorites, boasting a Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback, and one of the most prolific offenses in a decade. Oklahoma featured Heisman Trophy Runner-up, Josh Heupel, and one of the best defenses in a decade.
In a fluke, with Florida State Offensive Coordinator Mark Richt on his way out the door to serve as the new Head Coach at the University of Georgia, it would seem that FSU's offense was anemic at best, and Oklahoma needed to do little more than score a couple of field goals early to put the game out of reach. The Sooners never trailed, and would go on to win the National Championship 13-2.
While this may seem a distant memory to most, this was hardly an isolated incident. As a matter of fact, the last three meetings between these two teams was held in the Orange Bowl, with Oklahoma winning each contest. (1980—24-7; 1981—18-17; and 2001—13-2.) Prior to these three meetings, FSU and Oklahoma played on two prior occasions, once in 1976 in Norman, with FSU losing 24-9, and the other—a very windy Gator Bowl contest in 1965, led by future Hall of Famer Wide Receiver Fred Biletnikoff, FSU's only win, a 39-16 victory over the 6-4-1 Sooners.
Fast forward to 2010. Florida State is in the midst of rebuilding it's program. Overhauled with a new staff, several key players still breaking in their first pair of cleats at the college level, and most of all—a brand new Head Coach for the first time in over two decades will be calling the shots on the sidelines.
Enough pressure for the Seminoles? Maybe.
Now they have to play the Sooners.
The 7th Ranked Sooners boast several pre-season All-American defensive players, and while they merely survived opening weekend—to say they are not up to the task of a BCS Conference foe would be reckless. Bob Stoops will face off against his little brother Mark—the new Defensive Coordinator in Tallahassee. So you can expect big brother will have a good idea what to expect from his like-minded younger sibling.
Key match-ups for this weekend:
Florida State Secondary vs. Landry Jones.
Why? Landry Jones has already shown that he can step into Sam Bradford's shoes and throw the ball down field just as effectively as his predecessor did. What remains to be seen, is how FSU's young, albeit talented corps of Safeties and Corner-backs will handle the likes of a premier Quarterback with agile and capable Receivers running out-route plays.
Florida State's Triple (or Quadruple) headed monster out of the backfield vs. Oklahoma's Defensive Line
Why? It's no secret Bob Stoops has the corn-fed big boys at D-line always ready to make themselves a sack-lunch out of some poor unsuspecting Quarterback. With All-American hopeful Defensive End Jeremy Beal and Senior Defensive Tackle Adrian Taylor back, Oklahoma will be a force up front for any opposing run game. What is a secret, is that Florida State has a stable of Running Backs (and a Fullback) who are capable of chewing up the middle of the field for seven or more yards per play. Between Jermaine Thomas—the all-purpose back, Ty Jones—the bursting back, Chris Thompson—the nimble back, as well as Lonnie Pryor, the receiver-capable human plow; Florida State will make work of the Defensive front four of Oklahoma with a back field made for talented opposition.
With a new Zone scheme implemented, Florida State will be most vulnerable against the run. Look for Oklahoma to take advantage of this, along with Florida State's young and inexperienced Defensive Line. 2009's All-Big XII Running Back Demarco Murray should have a great day on the ground, but numbers through the air will be hard to come by.
Likewise, Oklahoma has shown through their first contest that they are a bit undermanned in the secondary, which should open up big chunks of real estate through the air for the likes of Reed, Smith, Easterling, and Haulstead.
In the end, Oklahoma looks to be about an 8-10 point favorite, but this should be more than small enough of a margin for FSU to have a shot.
It's certain that Stoops will walk out of Norman a winner...the only question now is, which one?
With the "trail of tears" that the Seminoles have had to endure over the years against the boys from Norman, along with the fact that a home winning streak is on the line—something tells me the 'Noles sneak out of Norman with a "W' and begin to garner some National attention.
Two weeks ago you would have said it's crazy, and some people did—but that was two weeks ago, and this is now.