Way back when Saturday night’s play-by-play man Brent Musburger was hosting The NFL Today on CBS, the late “Jimmy the Greek” would appear for a picks segment. Early in this feature’s life on the show, each game would have a board with various subjects: Quarterback, running game, defense, coaching, etc. The Greek would put a check mark by the team had the advantage in each area.
The last category was “intangibles.” This is where The Greek would talk about home field advantage, momentum, and other factors – outside of X’s and O’s – that would affect the game. Often, the other categories would break down pretty evenly and “intangibles” would tip the balance to The Greek’s winning pick.
Now, the REAL authors on this site bring a plethora of X’s and O’s knowledge to the FSU fans who frequent TN. I wouldn’t pretend to be able to hang with them on nuts and bolts football strategy. But as a casual fan who happens to be pretty old, I have picked up quite a bit on the “intangibles” part of the game.
So, here is a quick breakdown of the intangibles for FSU-Oklahoma, centered around three key words.
1) I think the most important word for this game is CONFIDENCE. Oklahoma comes in with plenty of it. FSU does not -- mainly because of last year's result.
The Noles need to establish confidence in this game – and it needs to happen early and on both sides of the ball. I’m not talking about racing to a 21-0 lead or anything. But, on defense, FSU needs to see success and that success needs to be achieved because of something the Noles have dictated to the OU offense, not just some sort of lucky break. I think the FSU defense has 3 drives to establish some level of confidence. If the Sooners have success on their first three possessions (2 Td’s and a FG, 3 Tds, etc.), then it’s going to be hard for FSU to GENERATE confidence in what they are doing in the middle of the game.
Similarly, the Seminole offense needs to have some success early. FSU needs to establish SOMETHING that is working and demonstrate that it is going to be able to move the ball with some sort of consistency. I’m not going to attach scoring goals here, but if FSU goes three and out in more than 1 of its first 3 or 4 possessions, it is going to be a confidence-sapper that we can not afford.
The only area in which FSU should have an initial edge in confidence is special teams. The Noles simply need to win special teams in a romp. This can also GENERATE confidence for the other units. A big kickoff return to start the game; forcing a turnover when OU is receiving – these types of plays can be huge for the outcome.
b) INITIATIVE. All of the talk before this game is about what FSU will “have to give” OU and what the Noles “will be able to do” on offense. I think it’s important that FSU IMPOSE something on OU. Make THEM be forced to change what they do to deal with US, as opposed to vice-versa. Maybe we surprise them on offense by going big and trying to run it. Maybe it’s a series of trick plays that set tempo. Maybe we blitz more than we ever have. I don’t know how it is manfested, but I think a defensive/counterpunching strategy will ultimately make it hard to achieve Point No. 1 – confidence.
iii) POISE. Can FSU keep a clear enough head to avoid that key late hit/roughing the QB call that can turn the tide of a game? Can the Noles focus enough to have 1 or 2 fewer false starts than the Sooners? When things go bad for Florida State (and they will), can players maintain enough composure to play through adversity? The only silver lining to OU’s rapid fire attack is that it is vulnerable to the comeback. Stop them a few times and some scores can be tallied in a relatively short amount of time.
I still see FSU losing game in the 7-14 point range. But if the Noles can establish some confidence, seize the initiative in select areas and at opportune times and then play with poise throughout, there is still a good chance of victory.