By Casey Keefe
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The first monster game of the season will be taking place Saturday evening in Tallahassee as the #5 Florida State Seminoles play host to the #1 team in the land, the Oklahoma Sooners (WFAN- 7:30 p.m.).
Rarely do early-season showdowns actually live up to the hype, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that this one will.
Oklahoma holds a 5-1 advantage in the series, having won 5 straight including last season’s 47-17 thrashing in Norman. Both these teams have had this game on their minds all summer long and with the importance tomorrow holds in the National Championship picture, expect to see a whole lot of drama and intensity.
I’m real interested to see how Heisman candidate Landry Jones and the Sooners offense fares against a Seminole defense which is one of the three best in the country. Talk about strength vs. strength, that’s what we have here. Much like FSU, Oklahoma doesn’t have much of a run game and will be attacking through the air early and often.
You know Jones wants to get in a rhythm early, especially with his star receiver Ryan Broyles, which makes the battle up front key. Oklahoma’s offensive line and FSU’s defensive line are both extremely strong units. Although cliché, you can’t underestimate that matchup. The player to watch is Seminole defense end Brandon Jenkins, a sure NFL first rounder. If FSU is able to get pressure on Jones, Jenkins will be an enormous reason why.
The other side of the ball is where Oklahoma will separate themselves. As much as people love EJ Manuel, I’m not a big fan. Despite being a junior, Manuel is still relatively inexperienced and raw out on the field. It’s shocking to see how poor and slow his decision making is when given time in the pocket. He’s actually a better quarterback when under pressure, not having “time to think”, instead relying on his instincts to take over.
This problem may benefit Manuel tomorrow since I don’t think he’ll have a whole lot of free time in the pocket. He’s sure to face plenty of pressure, so we’ll see just how good those instincts actually are. But unfortunately for him, he won’t be facing Louisiana-Monroe or Charleston Southern…he’ll be facing the big bad Sooners who will be sure to make him pay for any mistake he happens to make. The margin for error will be as small as it’s ever been for Manuel.
Another big storyline is the continued absence of Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis who we thought might be able to suit up tomorrow. As it turns out, he’ll be forced to sit out once again due to his broken foot. Luckily for the Sooners, they do get DT Stacy McGee and WR Kenny Stills back from suspension. To say those two will provide a boost would be an understatement.
It’s also hard to deny the advantage the extra week off will be for Oklahoma, who has not played since September 3rd. This game has been on the mind of Bob Stoops for 8 months now, so it’s safe to say his team will be prepared.
Landry Jones and company are sure to meet some resistance against the Seminoles stingy defense, but the game will ultimately be decided by the fact that Florida State will not be able to consistently move the ball against Oklahoma’s defense. I like FSU’s two deep threats, Bert Reed and Rodney Smith. They actually match up well against the Sooners less-than-spectacular secondary. But Manuel’s indecisiveness and poor field vision will end up hurting the Seminoles big time. Add into consideration FSU’s shaky offensive line and non-existent running game, and well, you have all the makings of a close but definite Sooners victory.
Luckily, you can listen to all the action of Oklahoma-Florida State on WFAN at 8 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m.
#6 Stanford (2-0) @ Arizona (1-1) – 10:45 p.m. (WFAN)
I almost feel bad for the Wildcats. They have no idea what they’re in store for come tomorrow evening. They match up terribly against Stanford. Arizona is having problems with their offensive line and run game. Sure, Nick Foles is a solid quarterback and we may see the return of his go-to receiver Juron Criner, but their lack of a ground game will cost them big time.
The even bigger problem for Arizona lies on the other side of the ball. In comes the Heisman favorite Andrew Luck who orchestrates one of the top offenses in the country. Last week, the Wildcats defense allowed Brandon Weeden to pass for 397 yards and lead his Oklahoma State Cowboys to 37 points. Don’t get me wrong, Weeden is a hell of a quarterback, but he’s no Andrew Luck. Arizona has no chance of stopping him.
The Cardinal will win their 11th straight game and you can listen to every second of it right here on the FAN… Prediction: Stanford
#15 Michigan State (2-0) @ Notre Dame (0-2) – 3:30 p.m.
The Irish are a mess. They’re 0-2, have played like crap, and their BCS hopes are all but gone. So of course they have no chance against the #15 team in the country who seem to have their number, right? Wrong… This will be the week that Notre Dame finally puts one on the left side.
The Irish have turned the ball over 10 times in their first two games. If they clean that up it will not only help the point production on offense, it will equally help the defense who have been put into some terrible situations through the first two weeks. If the offense protects the ball, I like the way ND’s defense matches up against Michigan State. Kirk Cousins is a solid quarterback and B.J. Cunningham is one of the best deep threats in the country, but I think we’ll all see the high flying sideline-to-sideline Irish defense we had expected to see to start the season.
Again, the biggest factor in deciding this game will be ball security. If we see the ND of the first two weeks, they’ll lose. But if we see a ND team that plays with their heads and doesn’t turn the ball over like a hot potato, they’ll win. I expect to see more of the later… Prediction: Notre Dame
– #17 Ohio State travels to Miami to take on the Hurricanes in a meeting between the two most troubled programs in college football. Jacory Harris will get the start for The U. Don’t expect to see the clean, crisp football you’d think you see out of these two programs. It’ll be a sloppy affair. The Buckeyes not having defensive end Nathan Williams once again (arthroscopic knee surgery) will prove to be a huge loss. I expect the Canes to win a tight one.
– Very interesting game tomorrow afternoon in College Park as the #18 West Virginia Mountaineers take on Randy Edsall’s Maryland Terrapins. As cliché as it sounds, I think this game will come down to whichever quarterback plays better, WV’s Geno Smith or MD’s Danny O’Brien… I’ll take the smarter and more experienced Smith.
– Syracuse has been full of fortune so far this season. They will undoubtedly suffer their first loss tomorrow evening at the Los Angeles Coliseum. This is not a great USC team by any stretch of the imagination, but the combination of Matt Barkley and Robert Woods will be way too much for the Orange to handle.
Follow Casey Keefe on Twitter: @CaseyKeefeWFAN
Seminoles or Sooners? Make your pick…