I have been honest and stated that I favor Florida State, and it has caused some Cowboys fans that consider me a monstrous Oklahoma State homer to wonder if I've been possessed by "Sooner" demons. I can safely tell you that I have not, but I have watched a lot of tape of the Seminoles this summer and that can really sway a person.
Jameis Winston is good, the Seminoles offensive line is really good, and Karlos Williams is one of three running backs that can make plays in the run game and catch the ball out of the backfield. The receivers like Rashad Greene, and even a few of the freshmen, can really play and are as athletic as you will find anywhere.
On defense, I really like a defensive end like Mario Edwards Jr., who is 6-3 and 300 pounds but runs like a 240-pound athletic defensive end. The linebackers, like at Oklahoma State, are not returning starters except for the middle linebacker. For the Seminoles that is ultra-athletic 6-4, 228-pound Terrance Smith. The guys around him have a little experience.
The two corners are potential NFL players some day, and Jalen Ramsey at free safety may have been kicked out of practice by head coach Jimbo Fisher, but he was kicked out for being too physical. I'll take that too.
The greatest concern over the Seminoles as an opponent is they are frontrunners that know how to get in front and, when they do, how to pour it on and demoralize opponents into submission.
They did last year to Pittsburgh in the opener, to a decent Nevada team ... Maryland, Clemson, N.C. State, Florida, and right on through Duke in the ACC Championship Game. They really crushed every opponent other than the Auburn team out of the SEC that they had to come back against to win the BCS Championship Game.
The major reason for the Seminoles front running success is a blitzkrieg ability at the start of games. They had a plus-17 turnover margin and very few three-and-out possessions while forcing a large number of quick possessions by opponents when they didn't get the magic momentum of forcing turnovers.
There in lies the secret to playing with Florida State and the Cowboys possess the ability to actually do some things that may bother the Seminoles. You go back to the play-by-play of that game and Auburn had only two three-and-out possessions and they came in the second half.
The turnovers were even at one each with Auburn throwing a pick in the second half that led to a FSU touchdown. The fumble by Florida State also led to an Auburn touchdown. In the end, the Seminoles won that game 34-31.
The Cowboys need to be ready to run tempo early, like Auburn did. Granted the Seminoles have seen it and knowing about Oklahoma State they have worked on it, but there is no way to really replicate a good tempo team when you don't run a lot of tempo on offense yourself.
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich needs to be ready to mix it up some, keep the tempo varied and the Seminoles on defense uncomfortable. There is also the dire need to hit a home run or two in the first half. No team is just going to go downfield and complete 10- to 15-play drives on the Noles defense. Auburn's touchdown drives consisted or six, three, six, and eight plays. They had drives of 12 and 13 plays and one led to a field goal and the other to a field goal miss.
A key to the big play and the home run offensive approach will need to be newcomer and speedster Tyreek Hill. He will be the fastest player on the field and is really the fastest player in college football. Whether he has the ball or is a decoy, Hill can help that home run approach work.
"It's a lot of fun having Tyreek out there," Yurcich said. "He's a very explosive athlete, and he's also a very skilled young man with a great attitude. It's a lot of fun having him. He's an easy-going guy, but he takes his job very seriously at the same time. He's a very fast guy, he's good in the open field and he can cut. He's got some juke to him, as well as some great straightaway speed."
As for defense, Glenn Spencer knows what he needs to coach his unit to be prepared for and what they need to accomplish.
"The first two or three drives, if we can physically match up with them, the guys are disciplined and our backs are secure, then some good things can happen," Spencer said on Thursday at the Cowboys news conference. "If we've got guys out there who don't know what they're doing, we're going to be playing down real quick."
If you avoid the trap of being demoralized early and you keep the game competitive then you have a chance. The trick from that point on is to keep going.
"It's important. It's a ballgame, though, so nobody here knows what's going to happen," Spencer added. "Nobody can even think about what's going to happen, so we'll deal with that moment when it comes. We can come out and play great at first, but there will still be a lot of ballgame left.
"If they come out and bust a couple of big plays on us, will we shell up for the rest of the game? No. That 60th play and that 70th play have got to be played just like the first and the second."
You would have to hope you can get the game down to a play or two or a field goal try late. A play or two and you go back to Hill or some of the other potential big-play guys like Jhajuan Seales, Austin Hays, Ra'Shaad Samples, Marcell Ateman, Brandon Sheperd, or even a freshman like James Washington.
If it comes down to a field goal then Ben Grogan, inconsistent a year ago, did finish fall camp with a pair of 50-yard plus field goals in the last scrimmage. He kicked them with all his teammates screaming and yelling at him. If he were to get a chance in Arlington there would be a lot more screaming.
That is a great scenario, but remember my stated goals are play well, keep the game within 20 points, and get out injury free. I have to admit I feel more manly when I write about finding a winning script to the Advocare Cowboys Classic.