Can The Sooners Bring the Crunch To The #13 ‘Noles In The Cheez-It Bowl?

It’s not often you see a bowl game in late December that pits a six-win team against a nine-win squad. Nonetheless, on December 29th in Orlando, Florida, the Cheez-It Bowl features the Big 12 Conference’s Oklahoma Sooners battling the #13 Seminoles of Florida State from the Atlantic Coast Conference at Camping World Stadium.

The Sooners were set to be contenders in the eyes of many for the Big 12 Conference Championship when the season opened as they poise for transition into the Southeastern Conference. While head coach Lincoln Riley parted for the University of Southern California, Brent Venables stepping in with transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel from UCF was thought to be enough to bounce back from all the portal transfers and coaching transition.

Unfortunately, injuries and adversity led OU to win only three games in the conference. Coach Venables’ only chance for an overall winning record in 2022 is to beat a nationally-ranked FSU team under head coach Mike Norvell, with the Sooners’ top running back and second-best defender in tackles for loss both opting out.

Eric Gray posted 1,324 yards on the ground for 6.4 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns with 33 receptions for 229 yards for Oklahoma. Defensive lineman Jalen Redmond tallied 23 total tackles with 10 of them for a loss and four sacks as well as four passes defended.

That being said, Gabriel returning to play football in the Sunshine State for the first time since wearing black and gold has more yards passing this season than FSU’s Jordan Travis, while playing fewer games. He’s put up 63% in completion percentage with 2,925 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions in 11 games while Travis had completed 63% of his passes for 2,796 yards with 22 touchdowns and four interceptions in 12 games.

 

FSU’s defense will need Gabriel’s former UCF teammate Tatum Bethune and defensive end Jared Verse to lead an effort up front that forces pressure to help defensive backs Jammie Robinson and Greedy Williams contain the air attack, while also limiting Javonte Barnes on the ground. How well Robinson and Williams do stopping 1,000-yard receiver Marvin Mims and company will be a key factor in the game.

On the other side, Oklahoma’s defense is anchored by two 100+ tacklers in linebackers Danny Stutsman and David Ugwoegbu. However, with Trey Benson running the football for the Seminoles the argument can be made that Oklahoma’s defense is facing a more balanced offense. Benson has averaged 118 yards in the past five games while the Sooner’s run defense on the ground has struggled at times.

If OU does manage to control FSU’s run game, defensive back C.J. Coldon might contribute to takeaways by adding to his current total of four interceptions on the year. That would be huge in keeping this game competitive.

For both sides, this game is important heading into the 2023 season. Venables is hoping to scrape through to earn a winning season for Oklahoma capped by an impressive upset while coach Norvell hopes to bring FSU back to prominence with their first 10-win season since 2016.

Kyle Nash

Kyle is from Orlando, Florida

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