Sept. 16, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Who’s ready for a top-five tussle?
Excitement around the city of Tallahassee — and throughout the college football world, for that matter — is at a fever pitch as top-ranked Oklahoma (1-0) visits fifth-ranked Florida State (2-0) for an 8 p.m. kickoff Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.
By now, you know all the storylines, but let’s run them down one last time before toe meets leather and the flash bulbs start popping around Bobby Bowden Field.
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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ESPN’s “College GameDay” is officially in the house for this game. Well, outside the house. The Worldwide Leader’s famous Saturday-morning college football show is strategically positioned just east of the stadium on Langford Green.
Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Erin Andrews and David Pollack have been already and will continue to go live with the Unconquered Statue and Doak Campbell Stadium as their back drop. While ESPN has been cutting to remote shots of some of the crew since Thursday, the real action gets going Saturday morning at 9 a.m. when the show goes live from the set at 9 a.m. on ESPNU before switching to ESPN at 10 a.m. where it will remain — along with what will be a whole lot of FSU fans in the background — until noon.
The game will then air live across the nation on ABC with Herbstreit and Brent Musberger on the call.
As for the actual game itself, the subplots and notes about this historic contest are abundant.
While Florida State is welcoming “GameDay” to campus for the first time since 2003, the Seminoles have waited even longer to host an opponent that’s ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press. The last time a top-ranked team came to Doak Campbell Stadium was in 1996 when FSU defeated No. 1 Florida 24-21.
That win remains FSU’s lone triumph over a No. 1-ranked team in program history.
“Everybody wants to win this game,” starting middle linebacker Vince Williams said. “Everybody wants to win every game but everybody really, especially wants to win this game.”
The thought of knocking off the best team in the country is motivation enough but FSU players and coaches have even more incentive to perform well on Saturday and it all stems from perhaps the most prevalent theme of this game.
How will FSU perform this time around after the Sooners blew them out 47-17 on the road last season?
In that contest, Oklahoma jumped on the Seminoles early and often and never looked back in Norman, Okla.
“They run their offense so fast and we just wasn’t used to it,” senior safety Terrance Parks said. “They ran the ball effectively, they passed the ball effectively, they got our eyes kind of mixed up. They just ran their offense really well and it was something new for us.”
Despite that loss, the Seminoles have maintained throughout the week that they are now better suited to play against the high-powered and talented Oklahoma offense.
Helping matters is the increased maturity, depth and experience of the ‘Noles’ defense. Now in the second year of defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, FSU players are more comfortable running the schemes necessary to combat OU’s vaunted offensive attack.
“They are a good team and when you are playing a good team like that they are going to get their yards [and] they are going to score touchdowns,” Parks said. “Of course, we were young. So hopefully with us being in our second year [under Stoops] that helps.”
FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher says the defense’s ability to slow down Oklahoma depends on how prepared they are before each speedy snap of the football — something the Seminoles failed to do successfully last season.
“In this game, we have to be quick but we can’t hurry,” Fisher said. “We have to be in position to do what we’ve got to do and keep our minds and think and process the information.”
FSU’s success on Saturday may ultimately come down to its defensive performance but quarterback EJ Manuel and the offense must be crisp in what they do as well.
That means the offensive line must protect Manuel, who has thrown for nearly 600 yards and has six touchdowns to his credit in the first two games, by keeping a speedy OU pass rush at bay. It also means establishing a running game that hasn’t put up the numbers many expected it would to start the season.
FSU enters the game against Oklahoma averaging just 131 yards per game on the ground while racking up 378.5 yards per game through the air.
“We just need to go out there and execute,” running back Chris Thompson said.
Like Florida State, Oklahoma has something to prove when the lights come on too. The Sooners are 1-5 against top-five teams on the road the last six seasons.
That, and the battle between the Stoops brothers (Mark and OU head coach, Bob) are two additional storylines to follow on Saturday night.
All the hype, media attention, national-title implications and scenarios aside, this game is just one more date on the schedule for the Seminoles — albeit a very big one.
“The thing we have to remember, it’s one game,” Fisher said. “And if we have success in it, we have to keep it in perspective and go on and play the rest of the schedule. If we don’t have as much success, we have to keep that in perspective because we move on and play our conference schedule.
“At the same time, we are not running away, understanding that there’s a great opportunity here in front of us.”