Florida State Football Faces its Oklahoma Demon
Tallahassee will not sleep well tonight.
Blame it on dub-step, keg stands, AJ's, Waffle House, nerves. Whatever.
Any way you cut it, Florida's Capital City will be running on full Red-Bull-gives-you-wings tilt until its collective buzz settles into an epic hangover Sunday morning, and everybody's crammed shoulder to shoulder in the diner booth with their sunglasses on and their eggs runny.
In the short span of space-time between last call on "the strip" Friday night and pancakes Sunday morning, the entire sports-loving world will descend on the rolling hills of T-Town to watch as the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles host the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners under the bright lights of Doak Campbell Stadium.
Lee Corso and the College GameDay crew will be in town for the bonanza—ESPN's first official trip to Tallahassee for football since 2003. Everyone else and their mother got the memo, and will be there, too. Hotels are booked up as far as 100 miles out of town. Publix is sold out of Solo cups and Natty Light, but you can still grab some Keystone if you reach back far enough. Grown men are putting extra tubs of garnet and gold glitter on layaway, just in case.
There is no going back.
And if the Seminole Nation hopes to move forward, and re-establish itself as a prominent program, it must first confront its disheartening past.
Who do you think will win?
Just over a year ago, the Sooners trounced Florida State, 47-17, in Norman. Quarterback Landry Jones, a sophomore at the time, shredded the Seminoles defense for 380 yards and four touchdowns, exposing FSU's stinky, hole-riddled secondary like it was rotted Swiss cheese.
Both teams came into the game with high expectations. Both were ranked then, too.
Florida State proceeded to do what it seemed to do best lately—falter.
FSU has spent the last several seasons teaching the rest of college football the not-so-subtle art of the BCS rankings crash-and-burn. Predict the Noles to win the ACC, and they'll find a way to lose four games. Spread one rumor involving the word "good" or "chance," then watch as 85,000 tomahawk chopping fans abandon all hope in the stands of a blowout loss to Boondocks University.
Granted, the Seminoles have improved significantly this season under second-year head coach Jimbo Fisher and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. Snarling defense and the finesse of budding quarterback EJ Manuel led to dominant wins against Sister Mary's School Children (Louisiana-Monroe) and Carpooling Mothers of America (Charleston Southern) in Weeks 1 and 2.
But Oklahoma is no pushover. The Sooners know the score, and the last time it checked, it was winning.
Crazy and casual fans alike seem to know as well. Many have plagued sports blogs with predictions of a hungrier, more talented OU offense out-gassing FSU in the second half of a blowout. Some do not understand how the Seminoles could ever think it stands half a chance at all in this match.
These folks are not in Tallahassee tonight. They cannot see the immovable bricks of Doak Campbell, or feel the pulsing rhythm of the scattered student section rattling down Pensacola, Jackson Bluff or Tennessee streets. They have not dropped the chop en masse to the drumming of the Marching Chiefs after a great defensive stand.
Florida State knows how to win, and lately, it knows how to lose.
More importantly, it knows the gravity of this rematch. It sees clearly the demon it must exorcise, the monkey that stoops on its back.
If the Noles can dethrone the Sooners, and take back a piece of the crown it shattered all those years ago, expect Tallahassee to be up all night, partying like it's 1999.
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