Big Game Saturday for the No. 1 Sooners vs. Florida State
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Anytime two teams from the top-5 meet you would expect it to draw attention, but the game between Oklahoma and Florida State this Saturday was one of those games nearly everyone circled on their calendar before the season started.
This game could be very special for the team that comes out on top. However, to fully understand this rivalry you must study the history of how the Sooners have dominated this series.
These teams have a history going back to the early days of the Bowden era, when FSU was an upstart wanting to be one of the "big boys" on the block.
At the end of the 1979 season, Bobby Bowden's Seminoles were looking to prove they finally deserved to be on the same field with the Sooners. The Sooners were playing in their tenth Orange Bowl while the home-state team was playing in the first one. Oklahoma had five National Championships while the FSU program had nearly been scrapped, while not even sniffing a championship game.
OU went into the game with a 10-1 record and were the champions of the highly-respected Big 8 Conference. OU's Barry Switzer had two National Championships his teams from 1974 and '75.
No one doubted the Sooners' credentials. FSU, on the other hand, was 11-0 as an independent, and many questioned whether they were worthy of an Orange Bowl game (just as Utah, Boise State, and TCU have fought for recognition of late.)
Will FSU knock off the Sooners?
By the end of the game those doubters had their doubts confirmed as OU won the game 24-7 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
In the 1980 season, nonetheless, Florida State played a tougher schedule and still ended up 10-1, which gave them another chance at the vaunted Sooners, again in the Orange Bowl.
With the experience and humiliation of the previous year fresh in their minds, the FSU coaches and players were geared up for the Sooners on this go-around.
In the fourth quarter they led by a score of 17-10 with only a few minutes left on the clock. Led by the QB from the same hometown as the famous Selmon brothers (sadly, LeRoy Selmon just passed last week), J.C. Watts had to abandon running the wishbone and go to the air. In a feat of true "Sooner Magic," Watts not only led the team to a final touchdown but also threw a pass to Forrest Valora for the winning two-point conversion. The 18-17 finish launched Watts on a path that would one-day end with him serving as a U.S. Congressman from Oklahoma.
Fast-forward to the year 2000 and it was OU that had something to prove.
While Florida State and Coach Bowden had rolled to major bowl games every year from 1991 to 1999, including two National Championships of their own, the Sooners had suffered the worst nine-season spell in their history.
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Then a coach named Bob Stoops had showed up and the Sooners were trying to reach back to their former glory.
With the Seminoles playing in the 2001 Orange Bowl to try to gain back-to-back MNCs, OU was trying to get their first one since Barry Switzer had left Norman. Despite a 63-14 victory over Texas, followed by wins over highly-ranked Kansas State and then-No.1 Nebraska, the undefeated Sooners went into the bowl game as underdogs to the Chris Wienke-led Seminoles.
Wienke had beaten out OU's QB Josh Heupel for that year's Heisman, adding fuel to the flames. Sporting an offense that many felt might be one of the best of all times, most "experts" calmly predicted an FSU victory.
That wasn't in the Sooners' plans however. With a mighty defensive effort, the OU defense shut down and shut out the mighty Seminoles, with only a self-inflicted snap-over-the-punter's-head safety near the end of the game providing the only points FSU would gain that night. The 13-2 victory gave Coach Stoops and the Sooners their seventh MNC.
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Fast-forward once more to the 2010 season, and it would be the Sooners in the role of the favorite as the resurging Seminoles came calling to Norman. With a new coach and a bevy of new stars, FSU thought they could break the Sooners' home-field advantage streak (which now persists at 37 victories in a row at home, with Stoops losing only twice since he took the reins of the Sooner Schooner in 1999).
As most college football fans know, and virtually all Sooner and Seminole fans recall, OU gave a barn-burner beating to FSU as they rolled to a 47-17 victory. OU went on to a 12-2 season and a Fiesta Bowl BCS victory over UConn, while FSU regathered themselves and defeated the SEC East Champion South Carolina in their Chick Fil A Bowl game.
Now to next Saturday's game. The Sooners are the number one team in the land as the Seminoles have pasted two patsies to the tune of 34-0 and 62-10. The Seminoles feel they are ready for revenge while the OU Sooners see FSU as one of the major roadblocks to their eighth MNC. That is the set-up for Saturday's matchup. Are the Sooners really the best team in the land or are the Seminoles really ready to regain the status they earned back during their romp through the nineties?
We will find out the answers this coming Saturday when the Doak Campbell Stadium goes rock-n-roll!
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