Oklahoma heads to Florida State this weekend for the game of the week. What has to happen for a Sooner victory?
I'm so glad you asked.
1. Keep contain on EJ Manuel early. Manuel likes to pass first. Don't think otherwise. But are his accuracy and efficiency good enough to beat Oklahoma on their own? He had a nice game against Virginia Tech's stout defense last year (23-of-31, 288 yards, TD, 2 INT) but if Oklahoma's linebackers let Manuel beat them with his legs too, it could be a long day for the defense. That's true of plenty of running quarterbacks, but Manuel is a much more balanced passer than the majority of scramblers. If the Sooners get burnt early with broken plays and end up having to assign a defender to constantly spy Manuel, he's got the ability to beat them with his arm.
2. Don't make the big mistake. As it stands, Oklahoma has about a 60-70 percent chance of winning this game. The turnover battle is important in any game, sure, but for a favored team on the road with a lot on the line, it's doubly important. Oklahoma survived a pick-six from Landry Jones at Oklahoma State last year with the Big 12 South in the balance. It might not be as fortunate this time. Maybe the big mistake is another turnover that turns into points. Maybe it's awful punt coverage on the always dangerous Greg Reid. Either way, plays like that shift momentum, and if Oklahoma wins the turnover battle in this game, that 60-70 percent chance only grows. If it's the opposite? Well, you know.
3. SHHHHHHHH. The crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium is going to be jacked. This is one of the biggest games in recent program history, and a whole lot is on the line. A win validates Florida State's rise and stamps them as a national title contender after last year's 10-win season -- Jimbo Fisher's first season at the helm. Seminoles fans know that. They want that. The Sooners will hear it early. The best way to counter it? Take the ball from the snap, score on the opening drive and quiet the crowd. Florida State did it to Oklahoma last year. Here's guessing the Seminoles don't bounce back with 44 consecutive points for a blowout win like Oklahoma did in 2010.