Oklahoma (1 – 0), beat Tulsa 47-14 prior to a bye week
Florida State (2 – 0), beat Charleston Southern 62-10 last week
Chris Weinke won the Heisman Trophy in 2000 as a senior (keep all of your “senior” jokes to yourself), but his departure signaled the end of what had been a strong run of legendary quarterbacks on the Tallahassee campus. Since then, the roll call has been, well, not as legendary. Chris Rix. Wyatt Sexton. Drew Weatherford. Adrian McPherson. And, although Christian Ponder was a first round pick, he didn’t really get the Seminoles back to the level of Weinke, Ward, Busby and Kanell.
But, Florida State seemed to respond to former five star recruit EJ Manuel when he stepped on the field in place of an injured Ponder. Manuel didn’t enter this season as a green first-year starter, but he’s also not entered a season as the clear-cut #1 starter either. However, he’s definitely sunk his talons into the starting job in 2011.
Manuel has six touchdowns in two games against ULM and Charleston Southern and is averaging nearly 300 yards passing, although he hasn’t played much in the second half of either game. But, ULM and CSU’s best players wouldn’t see the field if they played at Oklahoma, so the challenge for Manuel is ratcheted up a number of different levels. The key for Manuel is beating the OU blitz.
The Sooners front four may not be able to generate a ton of heat, so to get pressure on Manuel, expect Sooners DC Brent Venables to bring the house at Manuel, especially with such fast athletes at linebacker like Tony Jefferson and Corey Nelson. Every quarterback that expects to earn his stripes has to beat the blitz consistently and Manuel must answer that call early and often.
OU’s corners Demontre Hurst and Jamell Fleming are exceptional on the edge, so Manuel needs to find matchups in the middle of the field against the Sooner safeties to his liking. The Sooners middle players, Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin, are inexperienced and could struggle in man coverage if the FSU offensive line and running backs pick up the blitz and provide some time for routes to develop against the OU safeties.
With four year starter RB DeMarco Murray finally moving on to the NFL, the only true question for the Oklahoma offense in 2011 going into the season was which of a handful of running backs would take over as the main ball carrier for the Sooners. There weren’t many who thought that a walk-on, former backup for an NAIA program would eventually climb the depth chart the way that Dominique Whaley has done.
Wait, now, let me say that again, he went from being a backup running back at an NAIA school Langston University to the nation’s 11th leading rusher for the #1 team in the nation in D1A football. Uh, yeah, right.
But, that’s exactly what happened for Whaley and the Sooners offense is all that much more dangerous for his arrival. Yes, World, you can succeed if you don’t have four or five stars next to your name in high school.
Now, Brennan Clay is technically the starter and got the start against Tulsa, but Whaley proved his worth early. If you want to know what Whaley is all about, watch his run in the first quarter in which he bounced off a Tulsa DL, pinballed past a LB and then carried three defenders a full four yards for a 12 yard run that preceded his first touchdown of the season. Whaley probably wouldn’t tell you it was a symbolic run, but you get the feeling that the man was running with something to prove. Wonder why?
You’ve heard of Quarterback U and Linebacker U in college football, no matter what school you place with each moniker. But, you’re aware of the concept. Defensive End U isn’t quite as sexy as those others, but if there was a DEU, I’m fairly certain that the line would begin and end with Florida State.
The 4-3 “jet” defensive end became a Florida State staple for many years in the late 1980s and on into the 1990s. But, for the much of the 2000s, Defensive End U has been hurting for students. However, current DE Brandon Jenkins is looking to add his name to the class roll that includes Boulware, Wilson, Wadsworth and Reynolds.
He’s a pass rusher extraordinaire off the edge and against Oklahoma he’s going to be a key facing redshirt freshman Daryl Williams and veteran Donald Stephenson. Now, Stephenson has plenty of experience, but Williams is still learning the position. As such, I wouldn’t be surprised if FSU DC Mark Stoops moves Jenkins over to the left side to exploit that matchup on the edge (Jenkins is typically a right defensive end).
Williams hasn’t seen anyone with Jenkins combination of speed, burst and power, so FSU might use that wrinkle moving him over there to take advantage of Williams’ inexperience. If not, it’s not as if Stephenson is accustomed to Jenkins’ array of skills either, so keep an eye on whether it’s going to be a 49er gold rush on Saturday for #49. THEM’S SACKS IN THOSE THAR HILLS!
If the matchup between Oklahoma’s explosive offense and Florida State’s dynamic defense doesn’t trigger your meter, get it checked. That matchup doesn’t happen every week, but it will on Saturday; however, the winner of this game will be the winner of the “other” matchup – Florida State’s offense vs. Oklahoma’s defense. I just don’t honestly believe that Florida State’s offense has enough game breakers to make the difference needed to win this game. Oklahoma’s defense, although shorthanded after losing All-American linebacker Travis Lewis, still has enough playmakers that will get after Manuel or make his life miserable in the pocket. The Sooners up-tempo offense will put the Seminoles on their heels and the defense will turn the game in OU’s favor with a key turnover in the second half.