Oklahoma Sooners at Florida State Seminoles: Game Preview Part II

And here we are. Finally, it's time to predict the game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Florida State Seminoles. #1 v. #5 in a sold-out Doak. Let's go over the FSU offense and the OU defense.

Make sure to see the preview of the FSU defense and the Oklahoma offense: http://www.tomahawknation.com/2011/9/16/2421583/dealing-with-oklahomas-offense

These two units have been excellent for the Noles and Sooners over the past few years, with FSU having one of the best 10 offenses the last two seasons, and OU having one of the best defenses for pretty much the entire decade. But this year, these two units may be the lesser halves of their respective teams.   

Defense
DE  56 Ronnell Lewis** Jr. 6-2 244
   90 David King** Jr. 6-5 273
DT  53 Casey Walker* Jr. 6-2 308
   94 Torrea Peterson R-Fr. 6-3 292
DT  97 Jamarkus McFarland** Jr. 6-2 296
   92 Stacy McGee* Jr. 6-4 299
DE  84 Frank Alexander*** Sr. 6-4 255
   98 Chuka Ndulue R-Fr. 6-3 251
SLB  1 Tony Jefferson* So. 5-10 199
   5 Joseph Ibiloye** Jr. 6-3 219
MLB  21 Tom Wort* So. 6-0 229
   55 Jaydan Bird** or Jr. 6-2 236
   52 Kellen Jones Fr. 6-1 223
WLB  7 Corey Nelson* So. 6-1 219
   45 Caleb Gastelum or R-Fr. 6-1 196
   25 Aaron Franklin R-Fr. 6-1 211
BCB  32 Jamell Fleming** Sr. 5-11 191
   9 Gabe Lynn* So. 6-0 195
SS  14 Aaron Colvin* So. 6-0 176
   29 Quentin Hayes or R-Fr. 6-0 181
   42 Jesse Paulsen Jr. 6-0 193
FS  30 Javon Harris** Jr. 5-11 207
   27 Sam Proctor*** Sr. 6-0 222
FCB  6 Demontre Hurst** Jr. 5-10 181
   15  Lamar Harris** Jr. 6-1 187

Florida State will take its multiple pro style offense up against Oklahoma's extremely athletic defense. Last year, as in every facet of the game, Oklahoma had the edge. This was primarily a result of terrible receiver play, about which you can read more here

I am going to do this section of the preview a bit differently, by focusing certain position battles. 

FSU's offensive tackles v. Oklahoma's defensive ends

Big battle here. FSU has two senior tackles with more than 70 combined starts. They've been along for the entire ride, starting since 2008. Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders are very good (and extremely under-appreciated players by the fanbase). And they'll need to play excellent games against the Sooners set of defensive ends. Lewis will be aligned on Datko, and while Lewis is very good, Datko should be able to handle him because Lewis is, for the most part, an explosive speed rusher. Datko doesn't really need to worry about any bull-rush moves from Lewis. I don't think.

Aligned on Sanders will be Frank Alexander, who has seemingly been at Oklahoma for years. Alexander is not super explosive, but is a good, multi-year starter type for Oklahoma, meaning he is pretty good. Still, I give the advantage here to Sanders, who will be one of if not the best player Alexander faces this year. 

Some OU fans are high on King, and he could be excellent against the run. I'm not sure how much he will play.This is one of the position battles FSU must win to win the game.

FSU's interior trio vs. Oklahoma's DTs and MLB

Unlike the tackles, this group for FSU is far from settles. Right guard David Spurlock missed much of last year and all of spring with concussions. He's not had the same intensity he showed before the injury, but that could have something to do with the quality of opponent. Center Bryan Stork has played a bunch of center in practice, but only one half of center in a game. How will his snaps be? Left guard Jacob Fahrenkrug is a powerful player who made the swap to guard when Stork moved to center. This group has potential to end up pretty solid, but at this point it has to be a concern.

They'll be facing three good defensive tackles in Casey Walker, Jamarkus McFarland and Stacy McGee. There's no Gerald McCoy in this group, though McFarland will flash that ability at times. FSU has to hope McFarland doesn't bring his best performance. At middle linebacker is Tom Wort, who ascended to the spot after the tragic death of Austin Box. Wort runs hot and cold, and when he's good he can make a lot of plays. But he can overrun plays and be inconsistent. FSU's goal will be to block Wort. To do that, they'll need to quickly control the opposing tackle and have one blocker peel off and make the play. Easier said than done. I don't think FSU needs to win this battle to win the game, but it can't get dominated here. 

Oklahoma's secondary v. FSU's receivers

We covered this in the link above as FSU won't have its #2 receiver in Willie Haulstead, and will try to go with a gimpy Bert Reed. Oklahoma has very good corners, one good safety (Colvin) and one unproven safety. FSU needs Rodney Smith to have a huge game. Jump balls aren't high percentage plays, but FSU is going to have to try. It will also need someone else to step up as the #2 receiving option. This is particularly true and will likely need to be a young guy if Bert Reed isn't 100%. FSU's receivers have not been very consistent as of late, and good routes against Oklahoma are so key because the windows are so small. Like the battle above, a big win here isn't necessary, but FSU probably needs to play this to a draw.

With the major questions at receiver, do not be surprised to see FSU run more double tights. Beau Reliford will be very important in this game as a blocker, and don't be surprised if Nick O'Leary gets a lot of time as well. 

Finally, E.J. Manuel. FSU could do a lot worse than a battle-tested 6'5" 245 kid with excellent wheels, a big arm, questionable accuracy and not great defensive reading skills.

Manuel is going to have to have a big, big game if FSU has a chance to win this ballgame. I anticipate a lot of it will come via his legs. It's his greatest strength and there is no reason not to run the heck out of him, as FSU has two cupcakes and a bye in the next four weeks after this game. He is so natural at the option, and you should expect a lot of that as well. Manuel's legs should open up things for the running game by the backs as well, because a defender must respect him on the fake. Staying in favorable down and distance will be very key here because that allows FSU to keep the threat of a Manuel scramble alive, and because FSU isn't exactly set up to win third-and-long with a qb who doesn't possess great accuracy and understanding of the defense.

As for the running backs, they aren't anything special at this point. The most important thing will be ball security and blitz pickup. The latter will be especially emphasized because OU will throw a lot of different zone pressure looks at Manuel.

Expect FSU to use a plodding pace. If done effectively, this should frustrate Oklahoma's offense by keeping them on the sideline and out of rhythm.

FSU has an advantage on paper in special teams. That advantage needs to play out on the field if FSU is to be in this game. 

Final Word

While much of this sequel will different, I've seen parts of this movie before, specifically FSU coming into the game depending on green receivers. But anything is possible in a single-game setting. These are two very good teams. One excellent team is going to take a loss tomorrow night. That is the reality of playing marquee non-conference games. This is a true tossup in every sense of the word. I can't tell you who will win. But I can tell you that there ain't many football teams better than these two.

I will say that for FSU to win this game, the crowd cannot suck. The alumni section cannot be as pitiful and quiet as it typically is. FSU fans say they want to re-join the elite? Coming to the game is not enough. Standing up and making noise on every single defensive play like fans of an elite SEC team would. I guarantee you a lot of the passivity in DCS would not stand in that league, or at Ohio State or Penn State. Doak can be loud, but not if 30,000 FSU fans on the shade side are sitting down and waiting for third down to get really loud.  You don't want FSU to play scared, don't be scared to cheer. And do not get discouraged if OU gets up early. The team absolutely feels when the life gets sucked out of the crowd. If FSU has to come back in this game, it will need the crowd's help. And if the guy behind you tells you to sit down because he can't stand, tell him you can't sit for some medical reason (hemorrhoids or restless leg syndrome might do the trick). 

If you're trying to pull an upset, you could do much worse than an excellent defense, a big, experienced mobile QB and excellent special teams. I won't be surprised if OU wins and I won't be surprised if FSU wins. I'd love to know exactly how healthy Bert Reed and Daryl Williams will be tomorrow, but I don't have that luxury and it's go time. As for an official prediction, I do lean slightly to Oklahoma by the slightest of margins. And I really think we'll see less than 60 combined points, which is lower than many are predicting.

I'll leave you with some words from Paul Myerberg:

The Sooners haven't gone anywhere since Jan. 3, 2001. And they're not going anywhere anytime soon; the players have come and gone, especially at quarterback, but Stoops has built a machine in Norman. Florida State, on the other hand, spent some time in the doghouse after losing the B.C.S. title game to Oklahoma.

Are the Seminoles back? You know, really back? I don't think Saturday's result necessarily answers that question. But the final score sends a message in either direction: either F.S.U. is back or there's still work to be done. Even with a loss, you have to think that Seminoles will get there eventually. 

http://www.presnapread.com/ten-years-later-catching-up-with-o-u/

Nailed it. The measure of FSU being "back" isn't found in a single game. No, being "back" means playing very good football on a consistent basis, regardless of record, bounces, etc. That cannot happen in a single-game setting. Win or lose, we'll evaluate whether FSU is "back" at the end of the season.

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