Tallahassee showdown becoming game of epic proportions
When Oklahoma plays Florida State on Saturday, it will be the biggest nonconference game in the Bob Stoops era.
Saturday marks the first time Oklahoma has played a top-five nonconference opponent on the road under Stoops. In addition, OU hasn’t played a top-five nonconference regular-season game since 1988 — a loss at USC.
OU hasn’t defeated a top-five team in a nonconference road game in the regular season since 1977, when — against No. 4 Ohio State — OU kicker Uwe von Schamann directed the Ohio State crowd in a “block that kick” chant during a timeout before kicking the game-winning field goal. OU won, 29-28.
Stoops’ record against top-five teams in the regular season is 6-4. While he holds a 130-31 record at OU, 29 of those losses came on the road or at a neutral playing field.
This year’s Seminole squad is a different team than the one OU beat 47-17 last year. While Florida State has several returning starters on both sides of the ball, new starting quarterback and dual-threat EJ Manuel makes the No. 5 Seminoles a dangerous matchup.
The game in Tallahassee, Fla., will be broadcasted in primetime on ABC, with ESPN’s College GameDay also in attendance, which may create a difficult environment for the Sooners.
Oklahoma’s 36-27 loss at Missouri last year is an indication these games can be tough to play well in.
Saturday won’t be easy for the Seminoles, either. Florida State hasn’t hosted a No. 1 team since 1996, when No. 2 FSU bested top-ranked Florida — and Stoops, the Gators’ defensive coordinator — 24-21.
The Gators had the last laugh against Florida State in the national championship, winning 52-20, but Stoops knows what it feels like to roll into Tallahassee at the top and leave with a loss.
All things considered, if there was ever a game OU fans should be worried about, this is the game. But this OU team has a reason to be confident.
The 2010 season allowed Stoops to clear several hurdles that had previously tripped up his teams — including winning big against lesser opponents on the road (Baylor), coming from behind when facing a double-digit deficit (Nebraska) and winning a BCS game (Connecticut).
The 2011 Sooners are obviously a different team from last season, but they have momentum few teams have had under Stoops.
While it’s early in the season, a win against Florida State will only further the momentum Oklahoma has built since last season.
If the Sooners ride that momentum, they could find themselves clearing the last hurdle OU was unable to in 2010: winning the national title.