Sept. 6, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - It has been 35 years since the Florida State football team traveled to perennial powerhouse Oklahoma. The 1976 team made the trek under a first-year coach named Bobby Bowden, who built the Seminoles' national reputation by taking his teams on the road to some of the most hostile environments.
With one win under his belt, first-year coach Jimbo Fisher will take the Seminoles to Norman, Okla. Saturday for a showdown with Bob Stoops' top-10 club. This FSU team isn't going for the payday like the '76 team. It's out to gauge the progress the program has made in ninth months under new leadership.
"This is one game," Fisher said, following Monday's practice. "It's a measuring stick to see where we're at. We'll prepare the same as we did last week and if have some success, we'll handle that. If we have some adversity we'll handle that."
The nationally-ranked Seminoles (1-0) will have a national television audience (ABC, 3:30 p.m.) monitoring their progress as well at the Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, where the host Sooners (1-0) have rattled off 31 consecutive victories.
Both the Seminoles and Sooners have quickly turned the page to the highly-anticipated, intersectional showdown, following season-opening victories over Samford (59-6) and Utah State (31-24), respectively. Of course, a game of this magnitude has everyone's attention.
"Coach Fisher told us that they've only lost two (home) games the last 12 years, and they play really well at home," said FSU senior middle linebacker Kendall Smith. "It's a hostile environment for us, so we've got to go up there and play good football. ... We have to play a solid game and give it our very best.
"We've got to go out there and be focused. It's not that we've got to prove to everybody that we're a good team. We've got to prove it to ourselves."
The Seminoles seemed eager to get started in their preparation, earning praise from Fisher for their first day of practice preparation.
"I loved it," Fisher said. "The enthusiasm was good. The attitude was good. We got a lot of work done on a Monday. We got game-prepared and a good jump on things. I was really pleased with the way they went about their business."
Now comes the business of getting ready for a game of significant ramifications; an opportunity the Florida State players embrace
"This is why you come to Florida State, for these type of games, going to play out of conference against a great program," junior receiver Bert Reed said. "It's a challenge, but it's an opportunity for us to see where we're at."
Fair or not, many Florida State fans want to use the outcome to determine whether the Seminoles are back to play at the same elite level they had grown accustomed to a decade ago.
"That is the question, and when you're playing a team like Oklahoma you get a chance to see if we're really `back' or not.," Reed added. "It is a measuring stick. We'll see where we're at."
Despite earning high marks from the coaches for their whistle-to-whistle effort against Samford, veterans and young players alike are anxious for the quantum step forward in terms of competition. The Sooners, with their seven national championships, five Heisman Trophy winners and 42 conference titles, certainly qualify.
"People will say this was Samford, so we haven't shown anything yet because it wasn't a good test for everybody," said sophomore defensive tackle Everett Dawkins. "That is what they think so far, so (Oklahoma) is a good test for us to show us where we are at. We will worry about ourselves first, and then just show everybody what we've got."
For that matter, Dawkins said he and his teammates won't look at the Sooners any differently in light of their close call against Utah State.
"Just because their game was close, we are not going to think they are any lesser opponent, because they are not," Dawkins added. "They are still Oklahoma - ranked in the top 10 - so we have to still look at them the way we did before."
Senior All-American guard Rodney Hudson, who takes a no-nonsense approach to the line of scrimmage for every snap, acknowledges that this game will be a bit different.
"We try to focus the same on everyone," Hudson said. "We try to get it going, but as a team we are really excited about this one. It's a big game. ... We just have to prepare this week; prepare and do the right things in practice and it will all work out for us."