TSX Report: Florida State

Now comes the progress gauge for Florida State.A fter beating Samford easily, and looking good doing so, FSU heads to Oklahoma for one of Saturday's biggest national games -- and a defining moment on the state of the Seminoles' program. If they play well, even in a loss, the perception will be positive. But a blowout defeat will make people think it was all another mirage in talking up FSU.

Oklahoma boasts a 31-game home winning streak. Among the major storylines, it's a matchup of FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops against his older brother, Bob Stoops, the Oklahoma head coach.

"People will say, '(Last Saturday) was Samford, so we haven't shown anything yet because it wasn't a good test for everybody,' " sophomore defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said. "That is what they think so far, so (Oklahoma) is a good test for us to show us where we are at. We will worry about ourselves first, and then just show everybody what we've got."

Big games in September are nothing new at FSU. A year ago, the Seminoles played Miami and Brigham Young. In 2007, they played Clemson and Alabama in the first month of the season. And in 2006, they clashed with Miami and Clemson in the first three weeks.

"You're upgrading in talent," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "You're going to one of the premier programs in America in Oklahoma, and one of the best-coached football teams in America. It's going to be a very stiff challenge.

"It's a great indicator of where you're at right now. I'm anxious to see our guys and how they accept the challenge of preparing to go play Oklahoma. Not playing Oklahoma, but preparing to play Oklahoma. I think that's the key part we have to keep focusing on."

While acknowledging the game's significance, Fisher is trying to make sure the preparations are not altered.

"This is one game," Fisher said following Monday's practice. "It's a measuring stick to see where we're at. We'll prepare the same as we did last week, and if have some success, we'll handle that. If we have some adversity, we'll handle that."

NOTES, QUOTES

--CB Mike Harris earned FSU defensive player of the week honors for his play against Samford. He had one interception and four tackles. Head coach Jimbo Fisher awarded offensive player of the week honors to the entire unit.

--In preparing for the crowd noise at Oklahoma, Fisher said there will be several practice drills this week where players might talk in whispers to try to get a feel for not being able to communicate well.

--Unfortunately for Fisher and the Seminoles community, Bobby Bowden is not only keeping his distance, he's apparently keeping some hard feelings about his exit. Fisher got more than 100 good-luck messages prior to the Samford game, but not one from Bowden. He revealed the two haven't spoken in about four months. Bowden is expected to be in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday for the Alabama-Penn State game and likely will be a guest on ESPN GameDay.

--FSU QB Christian Ponder grew up in the Dallas area, which is about a 2.5-hour drive from Norman, Okla. Consequently, all of Ponders' relatives, friends and former teammates in high school want to be at the game. Ponder is letting his father, David, handle all ticket requests. "He's so nice to everybody. He's got to learn to say no," Fisher said. "I told him for about 10 seconds pretend like you're me ... then stop."

SERIES HISTORY: Oklahoma leads Florida State 4-1 (last meeting, 2000 BCS title game, 13-2 Oklahoma).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Seminoles were able to run and pass on Samford with equal effectiveness last week and constantly shuttle in a lot of players. They didn't show any new wrinkles that might be unveiled this week against Oklahoma. The big thing was QB Christian Ponder returning to form and receiver Bert Reid catching his first TD pass in two seasons. The Seminoles proved their backfield has three capable tailbacks and Ponder was often provided all day to throw. "We're picking up right where we left off last year," Ponder said. "We have a lot of potential and a lot of opportunities coming ahead that we need to take full advantage of and we've got a lot of playmakers."

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Seminoles were noticeably faster on defense in their first game. They produced five sacks, blocked punt, produced an interception and enabled the offense to enjoy a cakewalk. Now, comes the big test for new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, going against his older brother. This game will have an emotional edge for him, along with the rest of FSU's defense, which will be seeking to prove itself. At least in the first game, the Seminoles did not allow a big play. That was something that happened in every game last season, no matter the competition.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is going to set our foundation. And this is going to prove to everybody what we can do against a great team. That's the reason why I came here -- for games like that. It's a flashback, but we've got to make our own history." -- Florida State LB Kendall Smith on the significance of Saturday's game against Oklahoma.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Florida State at Oklahoma, Sept. 11 -- These teams last met in Miami for the 2000 BCS championship at the Orange Bowl. Talk about two programs passing in the night. The Sooners slopped out a 13-2 victory in likely the worst BCS title game, but completed a perfect season and have maintained a level among national elite, with seven seasons of 11 or more wins. Florida State has produced zero and has often failed miserably against elite teams. This will be a measurement of FSU's progress and QB Christian Ponder's place in the Heisman Trophy race.

KEYS TO THE GAME: It rests with FSU's defense and the game's main intrigue. How will new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops fare against his older brother, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, in this chess match? Both should know each other's tendencies and how they like to do certain things. FSU's defense played very well last week, even considering the lightweight opponent. But if FSU is to stay in this game, the Seminoles have to slow down the Sooners' offense and rattle sophomore quarterback Landry Jones, who filled in so well last year for injured Sam Bradford. They have to keep this game close. Offensively, the Seminoles will seek to maintain that run-pass balance with tailbacks Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones, along with Ponder throwing to a deeper corps of receivers.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Christian Ponder -- After throwing a first-quarter interception against Samford -- the ball was deflected at the line of scrimmage -- Ponder led FSU's offense on five consecutive touchdown drives to finish the half last week. He threw only one more incompletion before giving way most of the second half to backup E.J. Manuel. But Oklahoma is the best team Ponder will face in two seasons -- remember, he didn't play last year against Florida. And part of the national attention on this game will be to see if Ponder is the real deal, whether he can lead a team in a game like this one.

CB Greg Reid -- That didn't take long. On the only time Samford punted to him, Reid broke it back 70 yards for a touchdown. He is a game-changer on punt returns and is forcing teams to purposely kick the ball out of bounds, which adds to FSU's increase in field position. This week, Reid will get his best test as a starting corner, going against Oklahoma's best receivers.

OT Zebrie Sanders -- He led FSU's offensive line, making his 23rd consecutive start against Samford, and played well enough to be named the ACC offensive lineman of the week. He earned a team-high grade of 90 percent for his performance against Samford. He did not have a missed assignment or collect a penalt, after film grading by coaches. The 6-foot-7, 325-pound Sanders will be in constant one-on-matchups with Oklahoma's talented rush ends.

ROSTER REPORT

--Starting FS Nick Moody (groin) has returned to limited duty in practice. Ochuko Jenije will start at safety again and FSU will continue to monitor Moody's progress. "He was moving around good," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I'm anxious to see him get going when we have (full) pads (on Tuesday)."

--There are no other significant injury issues for the Seminoles, who were able to play a lot of backups and true freshmen against Samford and not have anyone get hurt.


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