Outside of the yearly clash with the Florida Gators there hasn't been a big out of conference game for Florida State as the second game of 2010 will present. Oklahoma is coming off of a disappointing 2009 that saw a preseason favorite riddled with injuries to star players.
Experts from all across the country feel the Sooners will bounce back in a big way in 2010 as they return 13 starters. The primary reason why that is Bob Stoops has won 10 games in 8 of his 11 years in Norman, and the Sooners haven't had a year like 2009 since Stoops' first year. While the defense will be replacing several starters, the offense returns their leading passer, rusher and receiver. The optimism is high in Norman, and the highly respected Phil Steele projects Oklahoma to play in the BCS Championship Game.
Offensively it starts with Landry Jones. The shoulder injury to Sam Bradford last fall propelled Jones into the line-up a year sooner than expected. Landry had his moments in 2009, but he also at times played like you would expect a freshman to play. His 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns were impressive, but the 14 interceptions is something that Jones will need to cut down on in 2010. The fact that Landry saw that playing time last year has led many to think we'll see a huge improvement from Jones this year, especially with the way he protects the ball and makes smarter decisions.
Ryan Broyles will be a headache for every team on the Sooners' schedule in 2010. Broyles has a huge 2009 as he had 89 receptions for 1,120 yards and 15 touchdowns. Ryan will lead an inexperienced receiving corps, but is one that has big play potential.
Senior Demarco Murray is as talented as any running back in the nation but he has battled injuries throughout his career. His production dropped in 2009 but he is healthy now as he looks to regain his form from 2008. If he bounces back that should ease some of the burden off of Jones and the receiving corps.
There are questions up front on the offensive line. There isn't a ton of experience and there isn't anyone that has stepped up to the plate to be the dominating lineman the Sooners have had over the past decade.
On defense it starts with the linebackers. Oklahoma has an impressive unit led by Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis. Ronnell is expected to be the next great OU outside linebacker, while Travis has been a dominating force for the past 2 years. Redshirt freshman Tom Wort is someone to watch. He sat out last year with a knee injury but he is slated to be the starting middle linebacker.
The questions on defense reside in the secondary for Oklahoma. Free safety Quinton Carter returns and led the team in interceptions last year. He is on the preseason Thorpe watch list. Corner is where the Sooners may see some growing pains as they break in two new starters. Teams that pass well should be able to have success against this defense, especially early on as the players get their feet wet.
What FSU must do to win: This game will certainly be a huge test. The Sooners have the nation's longest home winning streak which sits at 30 games at this time. Since Stoops took over Oklahoma is 66-2 at home. Therefore the first thing this FSU team will need to do is not getting caught up in the environment. More than likely this game will be a "sod game"; FSU has a tradition of playing very well in those games.
On offense there is little reason to believe that Christian Ponder won't have a big day. His game will present a lot of trouble to an inexperienced secondary. Ponder will take what is given and is lethal on the intermediate routes. FSU will need to sustain drives and put points on the board.
Defensively is where the concern is on FSU's side. All reports state the defense will be much better in 2010, but do they have enough to shut down Broyles and the Sooner offense? The ‘Nole defense will need to put pressure on Jones; He is susceptible to turnovers and FSU will need to create a few. This unit has a chip on their shoulders so look for them to play better than expected.
Big plays on special teams normally play a role in a game like this. FSU has one of the country's premier return men in Greg Reid. He'll need to have a big day helping control the field advantage.
NoleDigest way too early prediction: Like the Samford game this one has no impact on what happens in the ACC, but it is one of those games that can instill confidence and propel this team towards a huge season. The questions on defense still are a little too much to make NoleDigest feel this FSU team will pull out the "upset" in Norman, but the offense is good enough to put a ton of points on the board. OU's defense has talent, but a lot of it is inexperienced. This game is early, so either team could win. We feel this game will be close, but the home field advantage is not something to ignore.
Oklahoma 33 FSU 30
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