So this will be the one where we earn our "homer" reputation back (did we ever really lose it?) after our earlier post detailing the reasons to be nervous, now you have the reasons to be confident. As fans of the #1 team in the country, I think we should be confident. However, confidence and arrogance are two very different things and while I'm clearly biased I don't believe we fall under the latter. Florida State is an immensely talented team playing on their home field in what is sure to be an electric atmosphere, but I believe Oklahoma is the better team from top to bottom. Now does that mean FSU can't beat OU on Saturday, hell no. I can see any number of scenarios where FSU wins this game. Now that said, I tend to agree with the opinion I've read from a lot of Noles fans that they are probably one year away away and as such will come up just a bit short in this one. I think it's a hard fought game throughout with FSU feeding off the energy of the crowd and some big plays from Manuel and their defense, but OU finds a way to squeak out a tough one in the end.
And here are some reasons why Sooner fans should be heading into Saturday and hopeful for a winning outcome.
Reason Numero Uno - The offensive weapons. Oh, all those offensive weapons.
Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills, Trey Franks, Dejuan Miller, James Hanna, Trent Ratterree, Dominique Whaley, Brennan Clay, Roy Finch, need I go on? Because there are more. There will be no shortage of weapons at the disposal of Landry Jones, Josh Heupel, and this offense on Saturday night. There is no reason to believe that they won't try to use all of them and even just maybe some we haven't seen much of so far (like some guys named Finch, or Dejuan, or Millard). The more they spread it around, the more difficult it is for FSU to defend. I don't know what they'll try to do defensively Saturday night, I'm sure Mark Stoops has several different ideas, but there is no arguing the plethora of options OU has and the problems it presents for any defense.
I'd venture to guess, though I'm sure they'll let us know in the comments, that their counter to that question about our offense being better would be minus Demarco Murray, no the offense isn't better than last year. And while I wouldn't think to discredit all Murray did for OU last year (and his career for that matter), I think the collection of backs OU will put out on Saturday is more than capable of duplicating what Murray could bring to the table. More importantly though, I think they're running behind a better offensive line than Murray did last year and that is significant when it comes to this game. Keep in mind, as good as Demarco was for OU last year he had just over 100 yards of offense against FSU, but only 51 of those came on the ground at a 3.2 yards per carry average. So I think it's more than fair to say their defense kept him relatively in check and with an improved offensive line I think the RB committee can certainly improve upon that number Saturday night.
Reason #B - 12 TDs, 12 INTs in 268 pass attempts
Those are E.J. Manuel's numbers during the somewhat limited time he's spent under center for FSU. Now admittedly it's a pretty small sample size to draw a firm conclusion from, but I think if they're honest even FSU fans are a little nervous with some of Manuel's reads and decision with the ball at times. 268 attempts is the equivalent of about half a season's worth of throws, so it's reasonable for OU fans to be optimistic that Venables can disguise some of their coverages and get Manuel to take chances with some of his throws. Pressure will be huge in disrupting their passing game, but so will maintaining their lanes in the pass rush and not allowing Manuel to ruin a good play for the OU defense by repeatedly getting positive yards with his legs.
I think the key will be not to let him get going early. I don't think I'm breaking any news when I say I expect both teams to be hyped up for this one, as such I expect both teams to look to get their QBs in a rhythm early with some short/intermediate passes. While I think FSU allowing Landry to get going would be a disaster for them, if OU comes out and plays soft coverage (as they've been known to do at times) and Manuel can get rolling early it could be equally disastrous for the Sooners. I feel confident in the short to intermediate strategy I just described, but I'll also say I'd be very surprised if FSU and Manuel don't take at least one deep shot early. If for no other reason to loosen up the OU defense, but if they connect it could be a bad sign and early momentum for the Noles.
Reason #3 - All the "experts"
Has anybody else picked up on the fact that all the "experts" are so quick to mention how this is a different and/or better Florida State team than the one OU faced last year in Norman? Have you also noticed how none of these people seem to acknowledge that very same fact about the Sooners? The Noles are most likely better than they were last year, but so is Oklahoma. Now understand, that doesn't mean I think it will be the same result. Far from it in my opinion. I think for a number of reasons, Florida State is going to be a popular upset pick and as the paranoid, superstitious OU fan that I am, I'll welcome that every day of the week.
Reason #d - Our perceived weakness vs. your perceived weakness
The interior of Oklahoma's defensive line is believed to be the soft spot of the Sooners defense while the interior of the FSU offensive line is thought to their weakness on that side of the ball. Both of these will play a key role in the respective team's chances of winning Saturday night. If Oklahoma is able to get pressure on Manuel, especially up the middle and in his face it could go along way towards disrupting their offense. Likewise, if the Noles are able to exploit the middle of the OU defense with their running game things could go very badly for OU. That would take much of the pressure off Manuel to make plays and move the ball. We're probably catching them at the right time, at least with respect to this particular "weakness." The more a line plays together, the more cohesive they become and likely more effective. So to catch them early is likely an advantage for the Sooners.
I'm sure they'll disagree and brand me a homer yet again, but I believe our weakness is not as significant as their own. Mainly because I don't think their running game is substantial enough to exploit our DTs and also because I don't think our DTs are as bad as many have labeled them. Admittedly, that latter part is probably based more on optimism and 'potential', but to be fair we've only seen one game so there's not really much more to base that on at this point. Just like their optimism that their interior o-line will play better than they have their first two games. It's a two way street my friends.
Reason #G5 - Tress Way's left leg
I gave Greg Reid his just due in our "reasons to worry" post and mentioned that the punt return game would also appear here in this post. Tress Way is the reason for that. Way is one of the better punters in the country and a legitimate weapon when it comes to field position and taking away a dynamic weapon in Mr. Reid. I thnk it's more than fair to assume that OU will have to punt in this game, likely multiple times, and when they do I'm sure Greg Reid will be back there to return it more often than not.
Reason #6 - ESPiN Gameday
Normally I'd put this in the reason to be worried column, but hear me out. Granted, I've never heard them talk about a #1 team less than they've done these first two weeks, but obviously since they'll be in Tallahassee they be forced to talk OU this Saturday. I've talked a little about my superstitions regarding Lee Corso and his stupid mascot head choosing here in the past. For those of you unfamiliar, I refuse to watch him picking the OU game ever (no matter if they're in attendance or not) and wholeheartedly believe that him picking your team is the kiss of death. I don't ever want to know who he picked in an OU game and if I'm at an OU game with Gameday in attendance and you're unfortunate enough to approach me and ask "Hey, did you see who Corso picked today" I'd advise that you duck because you're not gonna like what's headed your way.
Which leads me to my point. Given his history with FSU, I fully expect him to have a ESPiN PA remind him countless times throughout the broadcast where he is (he forgets sometimes) and he will predictably and shamelessly play to the crowd by doing some sure to be pathetically ridiculous charade with the FSU spear/headdress/war paint/or something to that effect. I won't see it of course and hopefully I'll never know for sure, but if the final score ends in our favor I'll know I was right and that superstitions are very real and to be respected!
I'm even more sure I missed some with this edition, so as usual I'm relying on y'all to pick me up in the comments. I'd also welcome any comments from FSU fans as to where we maybe shouldn't be as confident and areas where you believe you're confident.
Dang, it's still only Tuesday.