Oklahoma vs. Florida State: 5 Things to Watch for in Marquee Week 3 Matchup
In what is going to be the biggest game in Week 3, the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners will travel to Tallahassee to take on No. 5 Florida State.
This game will have huge implications for both teams, as the loser will have to climb their way back up all season and hope that other teams do not go undefeated.
Just ask Oregon, who fell from No. 3 to No. 13 after losing to No. 4 LSU in Week 1. They now know all too well how important winning a big game early in the season is.
Both Oklahoma and Florida State appear to be dynamic offensively, so this matchup will depend on who shows up and makes big plays on the defensive side of the ball.
With that being said, here are the five biggest things to watch for in this marquee Week 3 matchup.
EJ Manuel vs. "The Sharks"
EJ Manuel's highly anticipated starting debut came with a better than average stat line. Manuel finished the game 22 of 34 for 252 yards and two touchdowns. He did, however, throw an interception, but he still finished the game with a QB rating of 140.5.
Even though this was a good performance, it has to be taken with a grain of salt, as Louisiana-Monroe had the No. 97 ranked defense out of 120 FBS schools last season. This week, Manuel is likely to have a good stat line again, as Florida State will take on their FCS opponent Charleston Southern. Last week, Charleston Southern was shut out, 62-0, against the University of Central Florida.
Manuel won't have his first real test until Week 3 against top-ranked Oklahoma. Granted, Oklahoma's secondary, who have dubbed themselves the "Sharks," didn't look fantastic against Tulsa in their Week 1 victory.
Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns against the Sooners. But to be fair, the second touchdown came in the fourth quarter when the game was all but over.
Kinne and the Tulsa offense aren't slouches, though. Even though Tulsa was without their best wide receiver in the game, that doesn't take away from the fact that they finished with the tenth highest scoring offense and the fifth highest yards per game offense in the country last season.
A chunk of Kinne's yards came on two blown coverage plays by the Sooners. One resulted in a 69-yard gain and the other was a 56-yard touchdown pass from Kinne to WR Bryan Burnham.
The "Sharks" will have to improve to stop Manuel and the Florida State offense in Week 3. This should be one of the most interesting matchups in the game.
Oklahoma Running Backs
Running back Dominique Whaley was the story of Oklahoma's Week 1 victory. The junior walk-on ran the ball 18 times for 131 yards and four touchdowns.
Averaging 7.3 yards a carry is great to begin with, but when a walk-on does it, it's really something to admire.
Whaley split time with sophomore RB Brennan Clay, who finished with 14 carries for 64 yards and one touchdown. Clay, who is Oklahoma's best receiver out of the backfield, also caught four passes for 41 yards.
While Whaley may have had the most unexpected performance in Week 1, Sooner fans had to be just as shocked to see sophomore RB Roy Finch only carry the ball five times. Finch carried the ball 85 times for 398 yards and two touchdowns last season, and he looked poised to take over the starting role this season.
Whaley and Clay must have just outperformed him in the off-season, but Finch remains the most dynamic running back on Oklahoma's roster. When you couple his speed with his juking ability, it's almost like watching a video game.
Finch will be a great complement this season to Whaley and Clay, who bring a more powerful, downhill approach.
Florida State only gave up 99 yards rushing in Week 1, but they will have their work cut out for them against Oklahoma.
Kenny Stills Returns to the Lineup
After suffering a one-game suspension for a DUI arrest that took place earlier this year, Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills will make his season debut Week 3 against the Seminoles.
Stills, who is the No. 2 wide receiver on the Oklahoma depth chart, was definitely missed in the season opener against Tulsa. That probably wasn't noticeable, as QB Landry Jones threw for 375 yards, but that was against a defense that won't be as good as Florida State.
All-American WR Ryan Broyles did his part in the season opener, catching 14 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown, and sophomore WR Trey Franks chipped in with seven catches for 74 yards, but nobody else really shined.
Senior WR Dejuan Miller was expected to step up in a big way this season, but he finished with only two catches for 20 yards while committing a few key drops.
This is where Stills is going to come in huge for the Sooners. During his freshman campaign, Stills caught 61 passes for 786 yards and five touchdowns. This was good enough for second on the team behind Broyles.
With Stills in the lineup, the Sooners become even harder to defend. Expect him to get right into the mix next Saturday and become Jones' second favorite target.
Greg Reid and Mike Harris
Speaking of Oklahoma's passing game, Florida State cornerbacks Greg Reid and Mike Harris will have to step up and play a huge part if Florida State wants to pull off the upset.
Reid is the most likely candidate to draw the Ryan Broyles coverage job, but he and Harris will likely split time, as well as run a number of zone coverages in hopes of slowing down Landry Jones and the OU wide receivers.
Reid, who started as the No. 1 CB for Florida State, was suspended for this week's game against Charleston Southern for violating "unspecified team rules." He is expected to return to the lineup for the game against Oklahoma, but for now, Harris will take on the No. 1 CB responsibility.
If Reid and Harris can slow down Broyles, then Jones will be forced to look elsewhere, and that may not be a great thing. Like I said in the previous slide, Kenny Stills will step up, but Broyles did catch 14 passes, and that was within three quarters of play.
Slowing down Broyles may be even more difficult than it sounds. Last season, Broyles caught 131 passes for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Harris has climbed up the depth chart at Florida State since his arrival last season, and his play-making ability and size will have to try to complement Broyles' play-making ability on the opposite side of the ball.
This will be a fun matchup to watch, no matter who is on Broyles.
It will be interesting to see how much home-field advantage comes into play during this game. The Seminoles lost twice at home last season to North Carolina and Virginia Tech, but it's common knowledge that teams play better at home than on the road.
Ask Bob Stoops and his Oklahoma Sooners about that. In the Bob Stoops era (1999-present), the Sooners are 130-31, but of the 31 losses, 29 have been on the road or at neutral locations.
This will be the biggest home game for Florida State since 2008 when they hosted the No. 4 ranked Florida Gators. It will be sold out on ABC, and College GameDay will certainly be apart of it.
This is going to be a big event, and the winner is going to be put in a great position to finish out the season undefeated.
Doak Campbell Stadium will have to get loud and crazy to put pressure on the fast-paced OU offense. If Jones and his players can't hear the play, Oklahoma may have to slow down the pace, and that's not going to benefit them.