Oklahoma vs. Florida State: 5 Key Players for Sooners Victory

Alex Joseph@alex_brosephAnalyst ISeptember 16, 2011

Oklahoma vs. Florida State: 5 Key Players for Sooners Victory

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    The top ranked Oklahoma Sooners travel to Tallahassee on Saturday to take on the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles in what is likely to be Week 3's top matchup. 

    This game has huge implications for both teams in terms of national championship hopes, so neither team can afford to slip up anytime during the game. 

    Both teams have dynamic offenses, so this should really come down to which defense is able to play better than the other. 

    Sooner fans have come to expect big games from quarterback Landry Jones and wide receiver Ryan Broyles, so who else should be prepared to step up this week?

    Here are five key players that will have to step up for the Sooners to come out of this game victorious. 

Dominique Whaley

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    Dominique Whaley was the breakout star for Oklahoma in their Week 1 victory over Tulsa.

    The junior walk-on running back finished the game with 18 carries for 131 yards and four touchdowns, outplaying sophomore running backs Brennan Clay and Roy Finch. 

    While the Sooners are likely to use a running back committee in their game this weekend, Whaley has to be the No. 1 back after his performance. Because of this, Whaley has a really tough task ahead of him. 

    The Seminoles front seven are really good. Even though they haven't faced a tough opponent, yet this season, that doesn't entirely negate what they've been able to accomplish.

    In Week 2, the Seminoles gave up 21 yards rushing on 28 attempts to Charleston Southern. That's pretty ridiculous. 

    Whaley will have to get off to a hot start in order to put pressure on Florida State. If Whaley can get the running game going, then Oklahoma's passing game is sure to flourish. 

Kenny Stills

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    Kenny Stills will be the key to the Sooners' receiving corps this weekend. 

    While teammate Ryan Broyles is one of the best receivers in the country, Stills will have to do his best to be the best No. 2 receiver in the country against Florida State.

    Florida State should be keyed in on Broyles all game. This will leave the door open for Stills, who is making his season debut, to make the defense look silly. He will likely face a lot of man coverage, so his ability to run good routes will make a difference in whether or not he has a big game.

    After being suspended for the season opener against Tulsa, Stills will be itching to get back on the field and show what he can do. Last season as a freshman, Stills hauled in 61 receptions for 786 yards and five touchdowns.

    These stats were good enough for second best on the team, only behind Broyles. Look for Stills to make a huge impact in this game. 

Frank Alexander

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    As the lone senior on Oklahoma's defense (not counting the injured Travis Lewis), defensive end Frank Alexander will play a huge role on Saturday. 

    He has the experience of playing in huge games on the road, and he is going to have to convey the importance of not getting too involved with the crowd to the rest of his defense. 

    The Sooners have to just keep their heads level and play the same way they always do. Getting hyped up for the game is good, but getting too hyped up transfers over to the field, and that's when the most mistakes are made. 

    Other than calming down his troops, Alexander has an even larger task at hand: getting pressure on FSU quarterback EJ Manuel. 

    Manuel has shown that he has both the arm strength and mobility to hurt defenses, so getting in his head early in the game with a few sacks will be key for Oklahoma.

    Alexander, Ronnell Lewis and the rest of the defensive front will have to be at their best. 

Tom Wort

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    Coming into the season, Tom Wort was merely a backup who was likely to have a rotational-type of role for the defense. 

    After All-American linebacker Travis Lewis went down with a toe injury in the offseason, Wort was called up to fill in, and those are some big shoes to fill. 

    Wort had a solid first game against Tulsa. He only recorded five tackles in the game, but he looked comfortable out there with the starters. This is likely because Wort filled in for Austin Box last season when Box went down with a back injury. 

    Lewis has been rehabbing and he was trying his best to be ready for this weekend's game. Unfortunately, he is still one or two weeks away from fully recovering. 

    Wort will have to have a big game this week, as he and the rest of the defensive front seven will have to stop EJ Manuel and Florida State's running game in order to have a chance. 

OU Offensive Line

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    I'm counting the entire OU offensive line as one person because they'll have to work together as one person on Saturday to overcome Florida State's scary defensive front seven. 

    This includes Brandon Jenkins, Florida State's junior defensive end. Last season, Jenkins recorded 13.5 sacks. He only has one so far this season, but that doesn't mean he isn't still explosive. 

    It all starts with starting left tackle Donald Stephenson. As the leader of the line, Stephenson will have to rally his troops to work harder than they'll likely have to all season. 

    Stephenson has a huge task guarding QB Landry Jones' blind side. The more time Jones has in the pocket, the more success OU will have against Florida State. 

    Oklahoma has one of the best offenses in the nation, but it all starts with the offensive line.