September 10, 2010
Breaking down the second Saturday's big intersectional tilts: Florida State at Oklahoma.
• Miles traveled. 1,021 from Tallahassee to Norman, a 17-hour drive through a whole lotta pine trees. That's just long enough, and boring enough, for them to convince themselves that, really, when you think about it, Florida State ought to be pretty dang good this year.
• Respect the decibels. Gaylord Memorial Stadium doesn't exactly have a reputation for earth-shattering volume, even at 82,000, and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher didn't do anything to amplify the noise this week in practice. Instead of making everything around them louder, he compensated by making his players quieter:
It's true. Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher earlier this week said that instead of utilizing piped in crowd noise to simulate the environment at Oklahoma, he might ask his offensive players to whisper during practice.
"Call the cadence, you whisper," Fisher said, before he started whispering himself. "Blue 80, blue 80."
Yes, he admits it sounds a bit silly. "First time somebody told me that I looked at them and said, 'You've got to be crazy,' " Fisher said.
But it works, Fisher said, because players become accustomed to executing with limited communication before the snap. Plus, Fisher said, that fake crowd noise isn't for him. He said, "I get a headache."
Well, Sooner fans didn't know that, coach. Why don't you just tell them loud noises are a bit of a health thing? They'll probably even bring the Advil.
• Of course you know, this means war. Bobby Bowden never beat Oklahoma: Florida State lost in Norman his first year, 1976, and dropped three Orange Bowls to the Sooners over the decades. Only one, in 1981, was even close – and only then because FSU couldn't get a grip on an interception, or on Barry Switzer's cojones on the winning two-point conversion:
There was more at stake in the 2001 Orange Bowl, the de facto BCS title game, but given that it was possibly the least entertaining 1 vs. 2 bowl game in championship history, it can't match the unadulterated sucker punch of '81.
• Advantage, underdog. Oklahoma's very green secondary was pretty crispy by the end of a too-close-for-comfort escape against Utah State, giving up 341 yards to Aggie quarterback Diondre Borel on seven completions covering at least 25 yards, with a pair of long touchdown passes before the upset flame finally burned out in the fourth quarter. FSU quarterback Chrisitan Ponder, meanwhile, gave his fledgling Heisman campaign a brisk jog with a 12-of-14, four-touchdown first half against overmatched Samford, picking up right where he left off before shoulder surgery last November to six different receivers who will be licking their chops to run routes on the Sooners.
• Meanwhile, back in reality. Oklahoma has the single best player on the field in DeMarco Murray, who put the offense on his shoulders for a career day last with 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 35 carries. It probably also has the second-best player in receiver Ryan Broyles, who made his mark with 142 and two more touchdowns on nine catches. And if we're talking about sketchy defenses – and secondaries, in particular – Florida State still has an entire season of flaming ineptitude to put behind it before the D can be declared whole again under new coordinator Mark Stoops. Florida State's "big" road wins the last few years have all come against highly-ranked pretenders at the peak of their poll bubble (Boston College in 2007, BYU last year) that found their way back down the rankings soon enough. Oklahoma is too talented and has been too consistent for a solid decade to put it in that category based on an iffy debut.