Florida State believes it’s ready to return to the big time.
The fifth-ranked Seminoles get their chance tonight when No. 1 Oklahoma visits Tallahassee, Fla., for the first time in the biggest college football matchup of the weekend and the Seminoles eager to avenge last year’s loss in Norman.
It’s also the biggest game in second-year Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher’s career and one that will determine how much his team has improved since losing to the Sooners, 47-17.
“Hopefully our team has grown and we’ve gotten better,’’ Fisher said. “It’ll be a measuring stick.’’
It might also determine one of the teams in this season’s BCS championship game. Both have been there before, albeit it’s been a decade since Florida State has been in title contention.
Florida State won national titles in 1993 and 1999 under Fisher’s predecessor, Bobby Bowden, and missed out on a third in 2000 when they were beaten by Bob Stoops’s Sooners, 13-2, in the championship game.
Although Sooners quarterback Landry Jones was nearly flawless in last year’s game, when he completed 30 of 40 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns, he’s struggled some in road games.
It gets real noisy at Florida State, too.
“That’s huge on the road for a team to have to deal with,’’ Fisher said.
“I think our fans will make it very loud for those guys,’’ added quarterback E.J. Manuel. “Hopefully it’ll rattle them a little bit.’’
Jones can’t wait.
“It’s going to be fun playing against a high quality team like those guys,’’ he added. “We don’t get to play them all the time and we don’t ever get to go down to Tallahassee.’’
Jones, wide receiver Ryan Broyles, and the rest of the OU offense will also be a big test for the Seminoles defense coached by Stoops’s younger brother, Mark.
“We were not quite prepared for that test a year ago,’’ Mark Stoops said. “We were not quite prepared for that environment and the speed of that game.’’
Florida State’s defense this season has been nothing short of magnificent, although the opposition has been less than stellar. The Seminoles have allowed 10 points and fewer than 300 yards in easy victories over Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern.
“I feel like we’re bigger and stronger,’’ Stoops said. “We like our depth and we like our players. Now we need to take the next step.’’
Today’s home game against No. 15 Michigan State is only the 16th game of Brian Kelly’s coaching career at Notre Dame. But for many impatient Irish fans, it could be the most crucial of Kelly’s tenure with Notre Dame 0-2 and having committed 10 turnovers. “I really don’t put any more pressure on myself than I do for the opener, to the last game,’’ Kelly said. “I treat them all the same.’’ Nine of the last 11 meetings have been decided by 7 points or fewer . . . With the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division seemingly up for grabs, today’s showdown between No. 16 Florida and Tennessee in Gainesville could be as meaningful as it was for more than a decade beginning in 1990. The Gators have won 15 of 21 since the series became an annual occurrence, including six in a row. It’s Florida longest winning streak against Tennessee since they first played in 1916. “Inside that locker room, it definitely has that same intensity that it always has,’’ said Florida quarterback John Brantley . . . The last time No. 11 Nebraska and Washington met, it was in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego Dec. 10 and the Cornhuskers, a two-touchdown favorite, got embarrassed, 19-7. Today they face off in Lincoln, Neb., both 2-0 but both coming off underwhelming victories. Washington has lost 13 of 14 road games against Top 25 opponents.