September 16, 2011

Sooners, Seminoles face different game

The burden of proof rests squarely on Florida State's shoulders.

Yet Oklahoma has something to prove, too.

So it is that the third Saturday of the season also serves as proving day for both teams in one of the season's most anticipated non-conferences clashes.

In a week in which they topped The Associated Press poll for a record 100th time, the Sooners are out to prove they are indeed worthy of their status as the No. 1 team in the nation.

But Oklahoma is 4-5 on the road over the past two seasons and has lost in its past three trips to Florida - though two of those came in national championship games against Florida in '08 and USC in '04.

Meanwhile, FSU, which once finished in the top five of the final AP poll for 14 consecutive years, has not finished in the top 10 since 2000.

The fifth-ranked Seminoles are out to show they again deserve a seat at the elite table and that they're much better than they were last season, when OU spanked them 47-17 in Norman.

"We definitely want to go out there and win," Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel said. "Not to look in the past, but they blew us out bad last year.

"They played great, had a good game, and last year was their year. We definitely want to go out there and play well this year."

[More Florida State coverage:]

Last year, OU quarterback Landry Jones riddled the Seminoles' secondary for 380 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Ryan Broyles had 12 catches for 124 yards.

"I think about it from time to time, but right now I think that we're a better secondary and a better team," Florida State cornerback Greg Reid said. "I'm not really worried about last year. I'm focused on Saturday and the future."

Comparatively, FSU quarterbacks threw for 222 yards, with 47 coming on a meaningless touchdown pass on the game's final play.

Manuel threw that pass as a backup to starter Christian Ponder. Now Ponder is in the NFL and Manuel is leading the Seminoles; he has gotten off to a fast start, with 581 passing yards and six touchdowns.

The Seminoles were in their second game under coach Jimbo Fisher when they faced Oklahoma last season. They rebounded from that blowout to post a 10-4 record, and they say they have continued to get better.

"We know our scheme better and we know what [our players] can do in our scheme better," Fisher said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to coach them better and hopefully we've gotten better as a football team over that time, which I think we did as the year went on last year."

[More Oklahoma coverage:]

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops agreed the Sooners will face a stronger opponent this season.

"We're very aware they're a different team than a year ago," he said. "Our players are excited about the challenge."

And about proving they're indeed the top team in the country.


Oklahoma run offense vs. FSU run defense: Walk-on Dominique Whaley, a transfer from tiny Langston (Okla.), an NAIA school, burst on the scene in the opener with 131 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a rout of Tulsa. Brennan Clay added 66 yards, and Roy Finch is a threat, too. The Seminoles, who returned nine defensive starters from last season, have allowed 120 rushing yards in two games. Edge: Florida State

Oklahoma pass offense vs. FSU pass defense: Junior QB Landry Jones has become one of the best in the nation at his position. He has thrown for 300 yards in each of his last six games, including 375 in the opener. WR Ryan Broyles isn't as big as some of the nation's other top receivers, but he's extremely explosive and always finds ways to get open. The Sooners also get dangerous Kenny Stills back from injury. OU's biggest concern is that starting OT Daryl Williams has been hobbled by a high ankle sprain. He's expected to play, but will he be effective? FSU's secondary has three talented cornerbacks - Greg Reid, Xavier Rhodes and Mike Harris. The Seminoles have allowed just 155 passing yards, and they get help from a strong pass rush led by E Brandon Jenkins, who had 13.5 sacks in 2010. Edge: Oklahoma

FSU run offense vs. Oklahoma run defense: The Seminoles appear to be taking a tailback-by-committee approach. Nobody has received more than 10 carries yet. Chris Thompson was last season's leading rusher with 845 yards, though highly touted freshman James Wilder Jr. led the way with 76 rushing yards a week ago against Charleston Southern. QB E.J. Manuel is a running threat, too. Oklahoma was vulnerable to the run in 2010 and that was with star LB Travis Lewis on the field. He remains sidelined with a broken toe. But the Sooners' top defensive tackle, Stacy McGee, has been reinstated after a one-game suspension. Edge: Florida State

FSU pass offense vs. Oklahoma pass defense: Manuel has had two solid games, although against overmatched competition. He has thrown two interceptions, which could be a red flag. Freshman Rashad Greene has shown big-play ability, though Bert Reed remains the Seminoles' primary receiver. Rodney Smith, a 6-foot-6 junior, is obviously a big target. Oklahoma gave up 271 passing yards in the opener to Tulsa, which typically is a good passing team. CBs Jamell Fleming and Damontre Hurst are good, and new SS Aaron Colvin had an excellent performance in the opener. DE Ronnell Lewis is the Sooners' best pass rusher. Edge: Oklahoma

Oklahoma special teams vs. FSU special teams: Broyles is as dangerous as anyone in country on punt returns, while P Tress Way also is among the best. K Jimmy Stevens hit 19-of-23 field-goal attempts in '10, but freshman Mike Hunnicutt has impressed OU coaches and could see action, too. There also is Patrick O'Hara, who hit from 45 yards last season. The Sooners have options there and could just go with the guy who has the hot foot. OU has had issues in kickoff coverage in the past, but was solid against Tulsa. FSU's Reid is Broyles' equal on punt returns, and starting FS Lamarcus Joyner is scary on kickoff returns. K Dustin Hopkins is 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts this season, though none is longer than 26 yards. He did hit from beyond 50 yards twice last season. P Shawn Powell is averaging nearly 43 yards per attempt. Edge: Florida State

Oklahoma coaches vs. FSU coaches: OU coach Bob Stoops and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher have national championship rings, though Stoops got his as a head coach with a win over Florida State in 2000. Fisher got his as LSU's offensive coordinator in 2003, when the Tigers beat Stoops' Sooners. Both teams have proven defensive coordinators - Oklahoma's Brent Venables and Florida State's Mark Stoops, who is Bob's younger brother. Bob Stoops won his national title in his second season at OU. Fisher is in his second season as FSU's coach. Edge: Oklahoma

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Bobby Bowden with Tim Brando]

X-factor: The home-field advantage could be significant for Florida State. A raucous, boisterous crowd will fill Doak Campbell Stadium, where the Seminoles have won 10 of their past 11 games. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is 4-5 in its past nine games in an opponent's home stadium.

Oklahoma will win if: Given time to throw, Landry Jones has demonstrated he can pick apart defenses. He will produce big plays if he can consistently find Broyles and Stills. Defensively, the Sooners must contain Manuel. They also cannot afford to get affected by the crowd or commit multiple turnovers.

Florida State will win if: The Seminoles' defense has to do a good job handling Oklahoma's up-tempo offense. Last season, they weren't ready for the fast pace and were off-balance the whole game. They also need to establish the running game to take advantage of an area in which OU's defense has been vulnerable and to keep Jones, Broyles and Co. on the sideline as much as possible.


Olin Buchanan: Oklahoma 35, Florida State 34
Tom Dienhart: Oklahoma 31, Florida State 27
David Fox: Florida State 31, Oklahoma 28
Mike Huguenin: Oklahoma 28, Florida State 23
Steve Megargee: Oklahoma 34, Florida State 31

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Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for He can be reached at

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