Gumbel's Machine: The Big Stage

Oklahoma is one of the few programs that has had its way with Florida State through the years. These 'Noles are ready to reverse that trend, now with the chance to host the Sooners in Tallahassee.

Florida State is back on the big stage.

Often an overblown cliché initially reserved for national-championship settings, more recently it has been watered down to simply identify any game on the schedule that requires extra effort.

The expression is indeed accurate for FSU's Week-3 showdown. The top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners visit the fifth-ranked Seminoles in a late-night affair that is sure to feed the country's NCAA appettite.

Not since 1996 has the nation's No. 1 team visited Tallahassee. And the 'Noles appear to have a tendency to be rude hosts. They upset the Florida Gators back in 1996 and at the time ruined UF's hopes for national bragging rights.

The Oklahoma-FSU series is a different breed. The Sooners and Seminoles are two of the most storied programs in college football. Together, the two teams have tackled nine national championships and fielded a handful of Heisman Trophy winners.

While the combined stats are shinier than the $30,000 Waterford crystal trophy handed out at season's end, the extra bling comes from OU.

In six total meetings, the Sooners have won five of them. In fact, the only game FSU grabbed a victory over Oklahoma was the very first time the two schools met, back in the pre-Bobby Bowden era. You have to go back to 1965 for the lone Seminole win over the Sooners. The Gator Bowl that postseason featured a 36-14 final score and a feeling the garnet and gold have yet to duplicate.

Since ‘65, the 'Noles have dropped five straight FSU-OU showdowns, including all three Orange Bowl battles vs. the Sooners. They lost in 1976, Bowden's first season. They lost the 1980 Orange Bowl 24-7 after OU's Heisman Trophy winner, Billy Sims, rushed for over 150 yards. The two squads played again the following season in the 1981 Orange Bowl, and the Bowden-led Seminoles were stunned 18-17 after the Sooners made good on a late 2-point conversion. There's also the 2001 Orange Bowl, when the Seminoles ran into an OU defense that stripped away a 13-2 victory.

And then there was last year's 47-17 numbing in Norman.

While the history lesson is undoubtedly one that Seminole Nation would prefer to tune out, it does give FSU the perfect platform for a monumental moment.

The 'Noles have a new starting quarterback, a new recruiting class, a new cast of leaders and a new lesson learned from this past season's dissappointment. Such new variables could result in a new result that's more to FSU's liking.

The poise and intelligence of junior signal caller E.J. Manuel will be tested. So too will the maturity of a Florida State secondary that gave up 47 points last September and is no doubt eager to make amends.

It's the type of scenario that makes the football conversation saturated with various viewpoints and predictions.

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All week, I've personally heard comments that the 'Noles are overrated and not deserving of the No. 5 ranking. Those critics have said in the same breath that they think the final score will come down to a field goal. In that instance, they are a walking, talking contradiction. If FSU is worthy of staying within one score of the nation's No. 1 team, then there's no justification for claims of an overhyped Seminole squad.

It should be noted that Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is 1-1 against the Sooners, despite last year's loss. Fisher knows how to send them home dissappointed after serving as offensive coordinator for the 2003 LSU Tigers. That team beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game.

Regardless of how these two teams are viewed, you can believe the Seminoles are seeing that 8:00 p.m. kickoff as centerstage, and they'll do whatever they can to force Oklahoma to exit stage left.

Elton Gumbel is a sports anchor and reporter for WCTV in Tallahassee, as well as a regular contributor to

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