No opponent played top-ranked and defending national champion Florida State closer than two touchdowns in 2013, until Auburn in the BCS Championship Game. The Seminoles are all of one game into the 2014 season, yet are already more battle-tested than their 2013 counterparts.
Unranked Oklahoma State gave Florida State all it could handle. The nearly three-touchdown underdogs stayed within a score of the Seminoles all night, pulling within six on quarterback J.W. Walsh’s late touchdown rush. The Cowboys couldn’t get the ball back, however, ultimately falling 37-31.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy crafted an outstanding game plan and the Cowboys executed it well. Oklahoma State’s front seven was particularly well prepared, making Seminole ball-carriers work for every yard.
That game-within-the-game is particularly noteworthy, as the strength of Florida State’s top-to-bottom stellar lineup is its offensive line. Each of the trio of Tre’ Jackson, Cam Erving and Josue Matias is destined for an early selection in the NFL draft. Collectively, they are the foundation for the most talented front five in college football.
And yet, an Oklahoma State defense that returned just one starting linebacker held Florida State running back Karlos Williams to a 2.9-yard average on his 24 carries.
The Cowboys also got through to defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for two sacks and intercepted him twice.
Now, Oklahoma State didn’t exactly outplay Florida State. Credit the Seminoles for taking the Cowboys’ best shot and delivering 370 passing yards from Winston–203 of which went to standout wide receiver Rashad Greene.
Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer’s secondary had zero answer for Greene, who took a huge step toward establishing himself as the best receiver in the nation.
Conversely, the Seminoles’ own secondary–one of the elite units in college football–cashed in an interception of Walsh for a touchdown.
Florida State effectively flexed its muscles, demonstrating the significant talent gap in its favor.
Florida State will have a similarly decided talent advantage over every opponent it faces in its regular season slate. But Oklahoma State proved talent alone won’t carry the Seminoles untested to another title shot.
To borrow a phrase from Arnold in Predator: If it bleeds, we can kill it.
Oklahoma State drew some blood from the Seminoles Saturday night in Arlington, and the defending champions are sure to similar challenges in the season to come.
Of course, it’s worth noting that the Predator wins in the end.