College football fever has returned to Tallahassee, however, it’s 857 miles away in Arlington, Texas, where the Florida State Seminoles are heating up.
Owners of the nation’s longest current winning streak (16 games) and the AP poll’s No. 1 ranking, Florida State begins its quest for a second consecutive national title against Oklahoma State inside of AT&T Stadium.
"I think it is good to get your kids out in a venue which is kind of bowl-like, or an atmosphere that is big like a playoff game — those neutral site types," Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I think the more times you can put yourself in that situation, the better it is."
The Seminoles are hoping to make a return trip to Dallas at the end of the season as AT&T Stadium is also host to the College Football Playoff’s first national championship game.
The matchup between FSU and OSU will mark the fifth time the two teams have played each other, with the Seminoles holding a 3-1 overall advantage.
FSU returns 15 starters from last year’s national championship team, including Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston and nine preseason All-ACC team members.
The Cowboys, coming off a loss to Missouri in last year’s Cotton Bowl, return 10 starters from last year’s team. After losing three out of their top four wide receivers and their best defensive player in cornerback Justin Gilbert, OSU is in rebuilding mode.
According to research done by Phil Steele, Oklahoma State has the lowest percentage of returning letter winners from 2013 of any team in the country (54.29%)
Newly named starting quarterback J.W. Walsh leads the Oklahoma State’s offense into the game against last year’s No. 1 scoring defense, which returns seven starters.
The Seminoles are 19-point favorites over the Cowboys.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Oklahoma State junior quarterback J.W. Walsh vs. the vaunted Florida State secondary.
Dubbed the "No Fly Zone," the Seminoles secondary is led by preseason All-American safety Jalen Ramsey. FSU led the FBS in interceptions (26) and passing yards allowed per game (156.6) in 2013.
Splitting time last year, Walsh started five games for the Cowboys and finished with 1,333 yards and nine total touchdowns. Now the No. 1 guy, he enters Saturday’s contest surrounded by a roster that lacks a wide receiver with 40 career receptions.
If Walsh and his inexperienced group of wideouts aren’t on the same page early in this game, FSU’s secondary could make it a long day for the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are entering this season with a roster full of unproven players, but OSU has been in this situation in both 2008 and 2010 under coach Mike Gundy. Both years they were picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12, and each year the Cowboys proved the predictions wrong, ranking as high as seventh in the AP poll in 2008 and sharing the Big 12 title in 2010 after winning 11 games.
Florida State: The Seminoles received 57 out of the 60 possible first-place votes in the preseason AP poll. Jimbo Fisher is undefeated in opening games since becoming the FSU’s head coach in 2009 (4-0). They’ve also won 16 straight games.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys come into the game with a two-game losing streak. They ranked 52nd in the nation in overall defense last season and have to face one of the nation’s best players in Winston and the sixth best total offense from last year.
Florida State: Saturday’s matchup is the featured game of ESPN’s College GameDay. FSU is 14-13 all-time in GameDay contests, including 2-3 in neutral sites.
Oklahoma State: Out for Season — LB Kris Catlin (academics)
Florida State:Out for Game — DB Colin Blake (shoulder); LB Ukeme Eligwe (foot); RB Ryan Green (Hamstring); LB Matthew Thomas (ankle); Out for Season — LB Delvin Purifoy (ankle)
DID YOU KNOW?
The first time Osceola and Renegade led the Seminoles onto the field was on Sept. 16, 1978, in a game against Oklahoma State. The Seminoles won 38-20.