On Saturday, Florida State will travel to Norman, Oklahoma to attempt a feat that, in the time of Bob Stoops, has only happened twice in 68 attempts—beat Oklahoma on their home turf. There may be no better time than now for Florida State to schedule Oklahoma. Why?
First, early in the season some teams have not reached their peak and struggle against quality opponents.
In this case, Oklahoma looked worse in its opening match against Utah State than Florida State did against Samford. Second, Florida State has its best team since the last time they made it to the national championship—a loss to Oklahoma, no less—and is looking for revenge.
This will not be another Samford rout, nor will it be David versus Goliath. In fact, these two teams play very similar football and will have to work every minute of the game to pull out a victory.
There are five main matchups to watch for that will help determine the winner of this crucial non-conference game. Here is the count down.
Sophomore Greg Reid has established himself as an outstanding punt returner and is improving every year in being a shut-down cornerback. Senior Ryan Broyles has unbelievable quickness and acceleration and will catch any pass in traffic.
Most likely, these two will be lining up close to one another when Oklahoma has the ball.
Last season, offenses scored the majority of their touchdowns against Florida State's defense by throwing the long ball. This season FSU cannot allow the same big plays and expect to have a winning season. In the new zone scheme that Mark Stoops has implemented, Reid will not be the only one having to defend Broyles.
Instead of being too cautious and constantly allowing the underneath passes, the Seminole secondary needs to keep a close watch and where Oklahoma places No. 85. He will also be used to run end-arounds to pick up easy yards with his speed.
If Florida State is to be successful, they must not allow Broyles to get more than 10 catches, because eventually he will make people miss. If Oklahoma is to be successful, Ryan Broyles must be continually shifted around to create havoc on the defense by using him as a decoy on plays where he is not getting the ball.
There is no question that the offensive line of Florida State has more experience and will play better than Oklahoma's defensive line. Therefore, the true contest will be if the FSU running backs can stay away from negative plays, as the Oklahoma linebackers will shoot the gaps and spread to the outside to take away the run.
The Seminoles have a trio of running backs that they will implement in a variety of ways. Whether at receiver or running back, this tandem needs to do everything they can to not lose yards and get Florida State into second- and third-and-long.
The Florida State running backs must also stand strong against blitzes and protect the quarterback. By giving Christian Ponder time in the backfield his confidence will increase and allow him to make the best decision with the ball.
If Florida State is to win, they need to involve all of the running backs in both the rushing and passing attack. They need to touch the ball at least 30 times altogether to establish a good running game, take pressure off of Ponder to always have to throw, and control the clock (this will be talked about more later).
If Oklahoma is to win, the linebackers have to hit Ponder on each play. Even if they are not tackling him, Ponder needs to be worried about their presence. They also need to stop any running plays from carrying beyond the line of scrimmage.
Another senior on this Oklahoma team, DeMarco Murray, must show leadership in order to keep Oklahoma's place in the top 10 and a shot at a National Championship. Murray did not have trouble against Utah State, carrying the ball 35 times and averaging over six yards per carry for a total of 218 yards and two touchdowns.
The Seminoles stuffed Samford, allowing only 77 rushing yards. The defensive line needed to impress, since they are the newest group on the Seminole defense. It is very important that the running game is stopped at the line of scrimmage and not passed to the linebackers.
If this happens, Murray's speed will prove too much for Florida State to handle.
If Florida State is to win, they must hold Murray to less than 75 rushing yards. The more carries he is given, the more times the defensive line needs to punish him and force Oklahoma to abandon the running game.
If Oklahoma is to win, it's pretty simple. Do exactly what they did against Utah State—a consistent, steady dose of DeMarco Murray. Easy as that.
Against Samford, Florida State routed. However, the Samford quarterbacks did complete 27 of 39 passes for 223 yards. This is a scary thought, coming from an FCS school on the heels of playing a high-powered offense who throws just as many times with a much better quarterback and receiving corps.
Therefore, instead of relying on the secondary to constantly cover all of the open receivers, the Florida State linebackers need to play a very important role.
These linebackers need to be the ones putting the pressure on the quarterback to make quick, inefficient passes. This is very possible, since Landry Jones struggled against Utah State by completing less than half of his passes.
If Florida State is to win, Mark Stoops needs to plan for many blitz packages from all over the field. FSU needs to have Oklahoma unsure of where the next attack is coming from.
If Oklahoma is to win, they must give Landry Jones time in the pocket. Jones does not need to be running with the ball; instead, he needs to make use of the weapons around him.
Honestly, this one might be the most important of all.
It is no secret that the strength of both of these teams lies in the offense. Therefore, the team who controls the amount of the time their offense has the ball will most likely see a better result.
It is never bad to score quickly; however, this does not happen often when you play quality opponents. It requires sustaining long drives that eat away at the clock and drain your opponent's defense.
Therefore, if either team can have at least two drives in excess of eight minutes, their defense will have a much better chance of enduring the length of the game.
If either team is to win, there are two important factors to consider: Use all the running backs you can in order to have the most stamina by the fourth quarter, and instead of taking deep passes, run many crossing patterns and other 12-yard-or-less routes to move the first-down chains.
Managing the clock will become a huge asset for the team that will pull out the win.