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Tallahassee, FL (Sports Network) - A top-five matchup with obvious BCS title implications is on tap this weekend in Tallahassee, as the fifth-ranked Florida State Seminoles play host to the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at Doak Campbell Stadium.
A storied program, Oklahoma opened this week atop the polls for the 100th time in school history. With the talent Bob Stoops has on both sides of the football in 2011, the lofty perch is certainly warranted. That talent was on full display in the season-opener, as Oklahoma made light work of instate rival Tulsa, 47-14. The Sooners were idle this past week, giving them an extra week to prepare for what could be their toughest challenge of the season.
Jimbo Fisher has returned the Seminoles to the nation's elite in just his second season at the helm. FSU has destroyed the competition thus far, outscoring ULM and Charleston Southern by a combined 96-10.
The Seminoles won the first meeting between these two teams, but the Sooners have won the last five matchups, including a 47-17 rout in Norman last season. These two teams met for 2000 National Championship, won by Oklahoma, 13-2.
With one of the nation's best pitch-and-catch combos, the 2011 season has a chance to be a special one in terms of offensive production for the Sooners. The season-opener certainly helped that notion, as quarterback Landry Jones and wide receiver Ryan Broyles proved they were among the best. The number two passer all-time at Oklahoma, Jones got off to a fast start against Tulsa, completing 35-of-47 passes, for 375 yards and one TD. Fourteen of those completions went to Broyles, who finished with 158 receiving yards and the one TD.
Stoops believes in Jones and what he means to the Sooners.
"Landry brings all those intangibles from the lineage of quarterbacks that we've had here. Outside of talent and accuracy, he's tough, a hardworking guy and humble. Our players like playing for him and he's a great teammate. He's a student of the game. You put that with a big strong guy that can throw and it makes for a bunch of yards. He is a pretty calm guy, much similar demeanor to what Sam Bradford was in that he will take what comes to him."
While the pair were lethal, the true story was the emergence of walk-on junior tailback Dominique Whaley, who rushed for 131 yards and four TDs in his debut. Whaley spearheaded a ground game that churned out 246 yards on the day.
The Sooners ended up putting on an offensive clinic, collecting 663 total yards against the Golden Hurricane.
The Oklahoma defense allowed Tulsa to amass 400 yards in the opener, but the number is deceiving, as a big chunk of that came on three plays. Still, the Sooners will be much better on the defensive side of the ball as the season progresses. The unit is still without its top playmaker, as Butkus Award nominee Travis Lewis is sidelined with a leg injury. Still, players like rush ends Ronnell Lewis (eight tackles, 2.5 TFLs) and Frank Alexander (six tackles, 1.5 TFLs, one sack) and DBs Aaron Colvin (eight tackles) and Jamell Fleming (five tackles) will make things difficult on the opposition.
FSU has shown itself to be a potent offensive squad as well in the early stages of 2011, including a 62-point eruption against Charleston Southern last week. Quarterback EJ Manuel has bided his time in Tallahassee waiting for his opportunity to shine and he hasn't disappointed. He played just 2 1/2 quarters last week, but still racked up 329 passing yards and a career-high four TDs. In all, the Seminoles amassed 647 yards of total offense.
Manuel has been sharp thus far, completing over 66 percent of his passes, for 581 yards and six TDs.
OU's Stoops is certainly leery of Manuel and what he brings to the table.
"He is a really big, strong, physical kid. With his athleticism, you would think he would like to run a little bit more, but he can pass just as good as he can run, so he can really do a little bit of everything. With him, you just have to be patient and play defense. If we are slipping on one play, he can hurt you."
Wideouts Rodney Smith (11 catches, for 155 yards, one TD) and Bert Reed (seven catches, for 64 yards, three TDs) have been solid targets thus far.
Opponents used to fear Florida State and its defensive tenacity. However, in the recent past, the unit has struggled. This year could be a return to form, as the team pitched a shutout in the opener against ULM and held CSU to a mere 84 yards of total offense. In addition, this aggressive bunch has recorded 18 TFLs and seven sacks over the first two games.
All-American candidate Brandon Jenkins is the most talented playmaker the team has to offer. Regarded as one of the best rush ends in the nation, Jenkins has recorded eight tackles, three TFLs and one sack thus far. Vince Williams paces the team in tackles with 10 (2.0 FLs, one sack).
Fisher is hoping a raucous crowd in Tallahassee can invoke the fighting spirit of the great FSU squads during their reign as the nation's premier program.
"I think it had a lot to do with those guys on that field," Fisher said. "All of that noise in the stands is generated by those guys on the field and how well they played. They used to have a lot of night games and that was one of those things they prided themselves on and that's the way it was when Florida State built its reputation. Hopefully we can re-instill that this week and have a great atmosphere and environment. Hopefully we can go execute and play a great game for our fans."