With the game looming in less than 48 hours now its time to get the complete lowdown on Oklahoma's game two opponent. Here to give us all of that and much more is DKfromVA, one of editors of the popular Florida State fansite Tomahawk Nation. He was gracious enough to put up with our questions and provide some fantastic answers.
CCM: This is the first time the Sooners have played in Tallahassee. Tell us some of the game day traditions and stadium activities that Oklahoma fans can expect to see.
TN: This fanpost has some great advice for visiting Sooner fans in the comment section, including tailgate information. Outside of making it to College Gameday at Langford Green, the main concern is to get to the stadium significantly early so as not to have to battle gate lines. The pre-game show will start 17 minutes prior to kick-off, and visiting fans will want to see that, culminating in Osceola's ride on Renegade and the planting of the spear.
CCM: Can you talk about Greg Reid's recent suspension and rumors of being in Jimbo's "doghouse" and who that may or may not affect his role Saturday?
TN: Reid's suspension, along with that of LB Telvin Smith, was the result of a team vote. The circumstances weren't really serious in nature, but were disappointing. Jimbo is certainly tough on Greg, as he is a freak talent but is prone to making mistakes on routine plays when trying to make the big one. When he's playing well, he's outstanding (see: Chick-Fil-A Bowl). Reid just needs to become consistent in performing his responsibilities within the scheme, which he should start to do in year two of the system. As a punt returner, he is electrifying. Though Jimbo was unhappy with the off-field stuff from Greg last week, he will definitely play on Saturday in his normal roles.
CCM: Some of our readers have been outspoken about the lack of threats at WR for FSU. Explain to them why they're wrong.
TN: Well, they raise some valid questions. Florida State's wide receiver unit featured a clear top three at the start of the season in Willie Haulstead, Rodney Smith, and Bert Reed. Haulstead, a big and physically talented wideout, is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms and is very unlikely to play on Saturday. Reed came down with an ankle injury against Charleston Southern, and as recently as Wednesday practiced but had a noticeable limp. Smith is a 6'6" receiver who looked solid against poor competition, and FSU fans hope that he has taken a step forward this year. Saturday will need to see an unknown step into the spotlight of the Seminole offense. The candidates would be Scooter Haggins, Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent, Christian Green, and true freshman Rashad Greene. While talented, these guys are unproven and to expect them to turn in a huge performance under the bright lights Saturday night might be a little much. If Florida State can't make Oklahoma's defense respect its receivers, it will be a long night for the Seminoles, as we discussed the other day.
CCM: Talk about how you expect FSU to use Manuel in the run game since they've kept him reigned in these first two weeks.
TN: While there are differing schools of thought on how FSU will run EJ, one thing is pretty widely agreed upon: FSU will run EJ. Because of the aforementioned issues at wide receiver, some think the ‘Noles will use some heavier formations and run speed options, bootlegs, and even option from a pistol or shotgun formation with a TE or two in trying to use the 6'5" 245 pound QB's legs to their advantage. Still others believe that it would be advantageous to spread the OU defense to open up a few more lanes for Manuel and the backs in a spread option or flat-out designed run. In any case, EJ is not a Tebow-style runner at his size, more of a shifty runner with long strides. He's a natural with the ball in his hands and FSU will place a lot of their offensive hope on his legs on Saturday.
CCM: Do you expect Mark Stoops to try and double Broyles? If so, how do you see that affecting your coverage on OU's secondary WRs and tight ends?
TN: I do not expect to see a double on Broyles, at least not as a rule. I definitely think there will be help to the cornerback lined up over him on the bubble/swing passes that go to him right off of the snap. We think FSU will try to be very multiple in their looks, as the mantra of Mark Stoops and Jimbo Fisher goes. The ‘Noles defense has seen a shift to a philosophy that plays much more zone, but Mark likes the way the talented secondary plays man coverage. The trio of Xavier Rhodes, Greg Reid, and Mike Harris is on par with any cornerback group in the nation, in our opinion. We are concerned with our linebackers in man coverage, though, which could pose a problem in tight end coverage. It will be important for the ‘Noles to show varied pre-snap looks and to be selectively aggressive, but we think the strategy will be to make Landry Jones and Oklahoma methodically drive the field. More plays means more opportunities to force penalties and turnovers, and FSU's massive redzone defense unit matches up favorably with OU's redzone offense, in our opinion. Forcing long drives and hopefully field goals over touchdowns through a bend-but-don't-break defense should be the focus for Florida State.
CCM: Can you talk about some of the struggles FSU has had on their o-line in the early going? In the first two games they've allowed four quarterback sacks.
TN: The issues on the O-line are of major concern to Seminole fans. The tackle positions feature two NFL-bound players, but the interior line is in a state of flux. Junior college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug was asked to start the season at center, which frankly hasn't worked out. The ‘Noles actually saw the left tackle Andrew Datko making line calls during the first two games. In the second half of last week's game, Fahrenkrug was moved to guard in a switch with Bryan Stork, which we believe will be how Saturday's game will start. Needless to say, any time an offensive line is undergoing problems like these the week before hosting the #1 team in the country, its fans are going to be a little uncomfortable. Rick Trickett is an outstanding coach, though, and Lonnie Pryor is a phenomenal blocker at fullback. FSU fans hope that the offense will be able to craft a gameplan that works to its strengths and keeps the ‘Noles in the game.
CCM: It appeared at the time that the coaching switch was made that the fans were ready for a change. What is the sentiment now towards Bobby Bowden?
TN: Informed fans of Florida State knew that the time had absolutely come for a change at the end of the 2009 season, although there remained a contingent of Bowden loyalists who swore the man could do no wrong. The feelings of the fans towards Bobby still vary widely. Some are content for him to stay away from the program for as long as he wants, while others would like to see him return to Doak as soon as possible. He seems content to enjoy his retirement away from Tallahassee for now, and I don't think many fans object to that.
CCM: Care to give us a score prediction?
TN: On the whole, I think Florida State and Oklahoma are closely matched football teams. Florida State has a clear special teams advantage, but I see the OU juggernaut offense moving the ball reasonably well against the ‘Noles defense, and I think FSU will have trouble moving the ball as effectively with its offense because of the interior line situation and questions at wide receiver. I may catch some flak from our community over at TN, but I don't think my views are too far off from those of the rest of the staff. I think the Sooners win 29-23.