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Florida State football v. Oklahoma State: Preview and prediction

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Dallas to Dallas starts Saturday night as the Noles and Pokes butt heads.

Stacy Revere

Florida State faces off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys Saturday at 8 ET Saturday on ABC. The Seminoles are favored by 17.5 points.

Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State Cowboys begin this year like most years in the Big 12: underdogs. Even though the Cowboys have regularly won 9+ games/season and consistently find themselves in the top 16 of F/+ rankings (8th in 2013), the Cowboys get overlooked. Last year OSU turned in another impressive season beating teams early while looking a bit shaky and then obliterating teams late in the year until the Bedlam game against Oklahoma.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma State a good bit of that team is gone and they enter 2014 as underdogs once again. Oklahoma State is the least experienced team in the Power 5 conferences and perhaps the entire BCS.

For more on what they lost, please do check out our offseason review of the Cowboys.

Much like last year, I expect this team to get better over the course of the season as they certainly have talent but lack experience. Gundy has shown the ability to make quality hires most every year as OSU keeps losing assistants (this is a good thing!) and OSU continues to excel.

V. Oklahoma State's Defense

Last year Linebackers' coach Glen Spencer was promoted to defensive coordinator and the defense blossomed. The Cowboys finished the year 6th in defensive F/+ by stopping the run up front and pressing receivers on the outside. The good news is that Oklahoma State returns a bunch of talent and production up front, the bad news is that they return little production behind the defensive line.

Even with the loss of DT Calvin Barnett the OSU defensive line is stout. James Caslteman leads the way in the middle of the senior laden line with Sam Wren and Jimmy Bean providing outside support but the backups lack experience, though that may not matter for game one. FSU could attempt to run the ball early and try to wear down the line but there's a better way to attack the Cowboy's D.

OSU returns just 1 starter from last year's excellent back seven. The top three safeties and two top corners are gone, plus two all-conference linebackers.

But that doesn't mean there aren't good players there. Ryan Simmons will make the move from WLB to MLB while Kevin Peterson takes a starting role at CB and could compete for All-Big 12 honors. After that there's question marks as the Pokes do have talent but it'll likely take a while to mold that talent into a cohesive unit.

And just how aggressive will Oklahoma State really be? With such a green secondary, it will be interesting to see. And if FSU gets the run game going, the play action game should be money.

If OSU is aggressive, how big will the loss of Devonta Freeman for FSU be felt? Not only was Freeman a very good runner he was also an elite pass protector. FSU was very good when teams blitzed partly because of this. Can the new backs fill this role adequately?

Expect FSU to throw early and run late to salt the game away. It's true that the Noles are breaking in a few new WRs and RBs, but with a Heisman winning QB at the helm, top talent at every position and experienced play makers in Rashad Green and Nick O'Leary FSU should be able to take advantage of the OSU secondary. If Oklahoma State is going to have a chance to win they'll need help and will need to be dominate up front, which is really tough when you are going up against one of, if not the, best offensive lines in the country.

Goals

  • More than 6.25 yards a play before garbage time (313 yards on 50 plays, 375 yards on 60 plays, 438 yards on 70 plays)
  • No more than 1 turnover
  • 66% or greater TDs in the red zone

V. Oklahoma State's Offense

Last year really was something for OSU. It's rare to see a team replace both coordinators and look as well as the Cowboys did. Mike Yurcich got quite the promotion going from Shippensburg's offensive coordinator to running OSU's vaunted spread offense and performed well.

Clint Chelf started out as the Poke's QB but struggled in the first game of the 2013 season giving way to J.W. Walsh, who played well for a few games before struggling against TCU and gaving way to Clint Chelf. Chelf's second go round was much better but now he is now gone leaving J.W. Walsh as the starter. The lively armed Daxx Garman has pushed Walsh and will get some snaps against FSU. Gundy and Yurcich have not named a starter but plan to rotate through QBs until one sticks. Walsh does run well but doesn't have the kind of arm Garman does.

Oklahoma State fans have gotten used to good line play over the course of Gundy's tenure at head coach but offensive line coach Joe Wickline has left OSU for the Texas offensive coordinator job and in steps Bob Connelly. Connelly inherits a unit that struggled last year due to injuries and losses it's top guard in Parker Graham. What the Cowboys will get out of their offensive line this year is a mystery due to so many changes. Thankfully for Walsh and Garman, OSU relies on a quick passing game meaning sack numbers and hits will likely stay low.

Gone are 3 of OSU's top receiving targets, but talent does return. (Have you gotten the theme yet?) Leading the charge is 6'2" WR Jhajuan Seales and 6'4" Marcell Ateman with the promising Tyreek Hill joining the mix from the JUCO ranks. Seales and Ateman need to do a better job catching the ball as they struggled with drops last year but they remain dangerous either way. Hill will likely line up everywhere on offense as Yurcich tries to get him the ball in space and he doesn't need much space.

Expect OSU to run a quick hitting passing game and mixing in zone runs with RB Desmond Roland (a very nice, powerful back), Walsh and Hill. Walsh runs pretty well so OSU could throw out a bit of runs for him out of the diamond formation.

All the usual caveats about being disciplined and maintaining leverage against the option applies here, particularly with Walsh at QB.

They'll run a no huddle to keep teams on the field but I do not expect them to run as much hurry up this year as they acclimate all the new personnel.

Look for the Cowboys to use Tyreek Hill on jet sweeps and motion, as he has Kermit Whitfield-esque sped, and must be accounted for. This should keep FSU's defense honest.

Florida State will mostly play a 4-2-5, its standard set against the spread, but I'm not sure how much blitzing you'll see. The quick passing game of the Cowboys reducing the effectiveness of the blitz to the point where it might not be worth it.

I do expect FSU to try and be physical with OSU's receivers, especially Hill, to disrupt the route timings. This is not an intricate passing game, and Walsh was not much of a passer last year. Okie State does try to run a lot of fade routes to keep defenses honest, but FSU's cornerbacks are probably the best pair in the country and play that particularly well

The Noles will like play more cover-1 with a safety closer to the line than cover-2 over the top to try and reduce the passing windows on the shorter routes.

Goals

  • Less than 5.0 yards/play allowed before garbage time (250 yards on 50 plays, 300 yards on 60 plays, 350 yards on 70 plays).
  • Force 2 turnovers
  • Less than 50-percent touchdowns allowed in the red zone.

Special Teams

Last year was not a good year for the normally stalwart Cowboys special teams unit. Neither PK Ben Grogan nor P Kip Smith were particularly impressive and miscues by the coverage units hurt even more. The return game was much better for OSU but both returners are gone leaving Desmond Roland and David Glidden to fill the whole. I wouldn't be surprised to see Hill get a shot with them either.

FSU returns both Roberto Aguayo and Cason Beatty and similar results should be expected. Beatty did hold off a walk on punter or two so that's a good thing, right? Kermit Whitfield will return kicks for FSU but who is partner will be and who will return punts is still unsettled.

Prediction

While it's certainly possible OSU keeps this game close by running down the play clock and playing a lot of over the top coverage, it's not likely. Gundy recruits decently at OSU and his teams will consistently have a high level of talent but Fisher recruits better at FSU. There are holes to exploit against FSU (new WRs and not much proven depth at DT) but the Cowboys do not seem to have the personnel or the experience to do so. Expect typical opening game sloppiness issues, perhaps from both sides, and if FSU gets the win it will then have 20 days of prep for Clemson with the Citadel and a bye on deck.

Florida State 38, Oklahoma State 14 | Chance of winning: 90%

Bud: Florida State 40, Oklahoma State 17

Staff Predictions

PhenomeNole: I'm going with 48-17. I think FSU runs for 250 and Jameis has an extremely efficient game. Defense allows an early score and then squeezes the life out of them.

Matt Minnick: I'll say 44-20. Agree that defense gives up an early score, perhaps due to a fumble or interception from the offense. Then we go on a massive run until they get some garbage time points. We get a defensive/special teams score and have two 100 yard rushers.

Onebarrelrum: FSU will win but not cover. Some early let downs for the defense as they work through the jitters and get settled. The passing attack will take a couple of quarters to get going. Okie St will key on the run and Jameis and the WRs will be able to take full advantage by the second half. FSU wins 38 to 24.

pbysh: 34-21 with the last 7 by Okie coming in the closing minutes. I think both sides of the ball will take a few drives to get going but the game will never really be in doubt.

NoleThruandThru: FSU 41 OK State 23 (score late) FSU's OL dominates the LOS and Los scores twice. Greene and O'Leary each haul in a TD and Freddie Stevenson punches one in as well. Tyreek Hill will score for them. Lightning in a bottle.  However, I also think he'll get lit up at least once by Ramsey or PJ.

TimScribble: 30-21. FSU struggles early, but pulls ahead for the win. OSU scores late.

ricobert1: A 40-point average MOV is probably wrong to think continues this year. But I don’t want to be right. FSU 45- 16.

jmnpb996: FSU 41-17. Noles too good on LOS and corners too good for OSU to move the ball much. OSU doesn't appear to have a massive ST advantage, so this should go fairly swimmingly.

Kyle Griffis: FSU 45-17. Okie State scores early but is shut down for the majority of the game and manages a final score in garbage time. Offense runs efficiently and Los and Cook have a solid day on the ground.

FSUvaFan: FSU 48, OKst 17.  Okst scores the first touchdown within the 1st Q and then a late one at garbage time.  FSU still scores a lot but less quickly and more methodically as we have to work our way down the field and have more snaps taken to get it into the end zone from the 30 yard line.

FrankDNole: FSU 51 – OSU 17. We will start slow but break it wide open once we settle down and shake the rust off.  Winston will throw for 350 and 3 TD’s before getting pulled and LOS will get over 100 yds. Defense will allow less than 300 total yds.

Ingram__Smith: 42-13. Game is over by middle of the third quarter.

Michael Rogner: Assuming they don't have our signals then FSU breaks their will by the first possession of the 3rd quarter. Final will be 48-24 good guys.

Alan Mundy: I think we're a lot better than them, but I'm always conservative when making predictions, so I'll go with 34-20. Game is never in doubt.

Dustin Tackett: Florida State wins 44-14. FSU's defense gives up an early score, but it eventually settles down and puts points on the board itself. Karlos Williams, behind the stout offensive line, will set the tone early for the Noles, punishing Oklahoma State on the line of scrimmage. Mario Pender says hello to college football too. Jameis Winston will take things from there, counting on his veteran receivers to make plays for him. Winston throws for 300+ yards and 3 TDs, one of which goes to a young WR(Travis Rudolph), before he is pulled. The Cowboys tally another in garbage time.

Fsued: This is a veteran FSU team taking on an OSU team with massive losses. If the Noles played the Cowboys last November, it would have been a blowout. Think 1993 FSU vs. Kansas in this one. 51-13 FSU.

DA-2: 37 - 20

Nolesblogger: FSU covers the spread 48-24. Big 2nd and 3rd quarters for the Noles. FSU has a big day in the running game and hits several big pass plays after OSU sells out to stop the run. OSU moves the ball a little bit in the first and second before the defense figures everything out. They also add a late TD after converting on at least one 4th down.

Salukinole: FSU 45 Oklahoma St 17