Florida State vs. Oklahoma State Complete Game Preview
Florida State has depth and experience nearly everywhere on the field.
Oklahoma State has talent but little depth and even less experience.
The Cowboys have just six players on their roster who have 10 starts or more, Noles247's Chris Nee notes. By comparison, FSU has six offensive starters with 10 or more starts (including an offensive line that combined has 106 starts).
And FSU's edge in depth will surely come into play in the second half. The Seminoles, for example, will start Karlos Williams at tailback but also will mix in Dalvin Cook and Mario Pender—ensuring that a fresh running back will be pounding head-first at a Cowboys first-team defense that will likely be winded in the second half.
Here's a look at keys to victory for both teams, players to watch and a prediction:
FSU Keys to Victory
FSU is facing an unranked opponent at a neutral site while coming off a national championship. The Seminoles would appear to be a good candidate for a letdown...except that FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has been talking about avoiding complacency for months.
This should not be an issue for FSU. But at the same time it's FSU's biggest key to the game: Forget 2013, play with focus and show that the past month has been spent on player development and preparation for Oklahoma State.
Spread the ball around on offense
Fisher said he feels comfortable with all of the receivers (those not named Rashad Greene, of course). Greene's talent speaks for itself, but FSU needs to find viable, consistent pass-catchers besides Greene and tight end Nick O'Leary.
FSU's depth chart, released on Monday afternoon, revealed that Christian Green will start at the other receiver spot and that Kermit Whitfield would be the third receiver in a three-wideout set.
But Fisher has also praised true freshman Travis Rudolph and the fact that he has learned not just the playbook but also how to play the various receiver spots and is aware of the responsibilities that go with each.
Put pressure on Walsh
Oklahoma State is rebuilding around Walsh. There is talent surrounding him, including versatile tailback-receiver Tyreek Hill, but not much experience up front.
Walsh completed 59.5 percent of his passes in 2013 and he threw a pair of interceptions in a loss to West Virginia and two more in a win over TCU. His best games were a four-touchdown performance in a win over Texas-San Antonio and a 245-yard, one-touchdown game in win over Kansas State.
FSU didn't accumulate sacks on the defensive line in 2013, but the Seminoles did apply plenty of pressure. So look for them to bring enough heat to rattle Walsh and force him into a few interceptions.
Oklahoma State Keys to Victory
Walsh was only sacked nine times but that was with a veteran line. While Cowboys coach Mike Gundy hasn't released a depth chart for the FSU game, Ourlads.com projected three sophomores would start on the offensive line. With very little experience in front of him, Walsh will need to get rid of the ball quicker. But he must also be willing to take a sack instead of forcing into a bad situation and tossing interceptions.
Don't let Rashad Greene out of sight
Oklahoma State would be wise to double-team Greene and hold him to just a few catches. The Cowboys could limit Greene and take their chances in one-on-one matchups against the likes of Green and Whitfield. This could backfire if Winston is able to connect frequently with O'Leary, but the Cowboys have to pick and choose who they want to try and stop.
Don't let Winston take over the game
This is easier said than done, of course. Winston has made it a habit of shredding defenses. Oklahoma State has had an entire offseason to prepare for FSU. Will the Cowboys try to pressure up the middle and exploit FSU's least experienced lineman, center Austin Barron? Or will Oklahoma State drop enough men into coverage to clog passing lanes?
FSU Players to Watch
QB Jameis Winston
All eyes will be on Winston simply because he's the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. But watch how Winston reads defenses and distributes the ball to his receivers. Is he leaning too much on Greene and O'Leary? Or is he confident enough in the other receiving options? Winston has spent time this preseason working with the young receivers, and Saturday will be the first indication of how much chemistry they have developed.
RB Karlos Williams
The nation's top safety in the class of 2011, Williams has found a home (and a starting job) at tailback. Williams had 11 touchdowns and eight yards per carry in 2013, mostly in the second half of games, but now he will be asked to be the No. 1 option. Williams may feel the pressure to do too much, but he just needs to secure the ball and help FSU move the chains.
WR Christian Green
Green said this August that he has been patient and has worked hard to win a starting job, and he will get his chance against Oklahoma State. While Green hasn't played a lot, his knowledge of the playbook and rapport with Winston should help him. He likely won't catch more than five or six passes each game, but Green just needs to be sure-handed when Winston looks his way.
LB Reggie Northrup and EJ Levenberry
Fisher has said in August that Levenberry would start but on Monday the decision flipped to Northrup. He made it clear that they were essentially co-starters and would each see significant playing time. Either way, Northrup and Levenberry need to be solid in the middle of an FSU defense that lost leading tackler Telvin Smith.
Oklahoma State Players to Watch
Walsh had an up-and-down 2013 that included a pair of games in which he tossed two interceptions, but he was also accurate in wins over Texas-San Antonio, Lamar and Kansas State. Which version of Walsh will FSU see? It's hard to tell.
At 6'2'' and 210 pounds, Roland is a load to bring down. He ran for 219 yards and four touchdowns in a win at Iowa State and added three touchdowns the following week at Texas Tech. It will be tough for the Cowboys to run on FSU, but they need to mix in some play-action passing to help take the pressure off Walsh.
A junior college star, Hill has sprinter speed and could line up in the backfield, at receiver or a little of both. Hill won the 200 meters at the Big 12 indoors and is a threat to turn a short gain into a large play anytime he touches the ball. And the Cowboys will try to find a bunch of ways to get the ball to Hill.
An athletic 300-pound defensive tackle, Castleman had 33 tackles and a sack last season. He forced a tackle on the goal line in the win over Baylor. Castleman could be a tough matchup for FSU center Austin Barron, who will make his sixth career start.
What They're Saying
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher
"I don't think we had a bad area of camp as far as I'm concerned with the development of our young players."
"We're very excited. It's a great challenge for us to start the season...They have great skill guys."
"I hate opening games sometimes. You don't say you hate them, but you chase ghosts. What if they do this? Have we covered this? Have we covered this? That's all you can do?"
"Tyreek is a very unique talent and he is very dynamic—he can be a receiver, he can be a running back—and do a lot of things. I know we are going to have our hands full. You are going to have to know where he is at, at all times, there is no doubt."—On Cowboys junior college transfer Tyreek Hill
Florida State safety Tyler Hunter
"They came a long way just from 7-on-7s during the summer and then to camp to now. They are a lot better with running their routes. You can tell they know what they're doing, they know the plays. They're comfortable out there. They still have a long way to go but I think they are ahead of where most freshman would be."—On FSU's trio of talented true freshmen receivers (Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane and Ja'Vonn Harrison)
FSU wide receiver/kick returner Kermit Whitfield
"I don't want to just be known as a special teams guy, no one-play guy. I want to be known for multiple plays."—On his 100-yard kickoff return in the national championship game but also his desire to make plays at receiver
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy
"Hopefully we've done a good job preparing them. They'll make mistakes."—On the large number of new starters the Cowboys will have on Saturday night.
"They are as far along as any team I've played against in my 25 years."—On No. 1 Florida State
When this game was scheduled in November 2012, there was a chance that FSU vs. Oklahoma State would be a top-10 opening-weekend showdown. While the Cowboys are nowhere to be seen in the top 25, this is no walk-in-the-park opening game.
The Cowboys love to pass and Walsh will challenge FSU's secondary. But FSU's defensive front will put pressure on Walsh and force him to throw sooner than he wants. And that will help FSU corners Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams, who make up the best cover tandem in the ACC.
Oklahoma State will put a few touchdowns on the board, although it remains to be seen if it will cross the 20-point plateau for a remarkable 53rd straight game. (FSU, by comparison, has done it 22 straight games since the loss at North Carolina State in 2012.)
Look for FSU to pull in front early against a Cowboys defense that simply lacks the experience to keep up.
FSU 45, Oklahoma State 17
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Stats and notes courtesy of FSU and Oklahoma State game notes and media guides. Follow Bob on Twitter. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.