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No. 10 Sooners hope to erase subpar play in opener with early test against No. 17 Seminoles

Florida State started its season with a blowout win that didn't provide much perspective on how good the 17th-ranked Seminoles might be in Jimbo Fisher's first year as head coach.

No. 10 Oklahoma knows exactly where it stands after a closer-than-expected victory against Utah State in Week 1. The Sooners (1-0) need to get better — and fast — if they want to return to the national championship conversation of two years ago instead of the disappointment of five losses a season ago.

When the teams meet Saturday for the first time in nearly a decade, it will hold some similarity to when they met in the 2001 Orange Bowl with the national championship on the line. One team has been regularly playing for national titles, and the other is trying to regain the lofty place it once held in college football.

Only this time, the tables are turned.

Oklahoma had been largely out of the picture for a decade when it last played the Seminoles, the defending champion who had finished near the top of the rankings for 14 straight years.

This time, it's the Sooners who have played for the national title three times in the past seven years, while Florida State has been inching down toward .500 in Bobby Bowden's final seasons in charge.

"I think it's a measuring stick for your team," Fisher said. "When you upgrade in talent and play the level of competition that Oklahoma is, with the way they're coached and the tradition they have and going on your first road trip and all those things, I think it is.

"I think it's a great indicator of where you are at right now."

The Seminoles (1-0) didn't face much resistance in winning Fisher's head coaching debut 59-6 last week against Samford. Christian Ponder, promoted by the school as a Heisman Trophy candidate, threw four touchdown passes in the first half and then called it a day.

Oklahoma also got about two solid quarters of play from quarterback Landry Jones, although he went the distance in the 31-24 win against Utah State. He misfired on more passes than he completed and had two picks to go with his two touchdowns.

Coach Bob Stoops suggested the game was closer than it should have been because the Sooners "held quite a few things that we didn't show that we've been working on."

"I've seen Landry play in a good number of games now and I've got great confidence in him, the worker he is, the competitor he is — that he's going to continue to grow and play well," Stoops said.

Along with Jones' uneven performance, Oklahoma's defense showed little resemblance to the unit that had three shutouts last season and gave up the seventh-fewest points in the country. The Sooners allowed 314 yards passing, including six plays of more than 20 yards.

"We believe that our cornerbacks and our secondary, they played at an all-time low, so they're only going to get better," defensive captain Travis Lewis said. "We challenged them guys this week that they're going to be picking at you now. Y'all opened the floodgates, and they're going to pick on y'all a little bit."

Lewis even complimented Ponder by comparing him to the Sooners' 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford.

"He's like Sam in the fact that he's really smart," he said. "He knows where to go with the ball really quick, and you don't get a lot of sacks on that guy."

For Oklahoma, which will try to extend the nation's longest home winning streak to 32, the question is whether this team simply didn't play to its potential in Week 1 or if it isn't that much better than the 8-5 team that won the Sun Bowl last season.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said he sensed a lack of assertive play and positive energy in the opener. The coaching staff told players this week that they can't seek perfection so much that they're playing cautiously.

"Are we so paranoid that we're afraid to cut it loose? You've got to dare greatly. You've got to live on the edge," Wilson said. "I don't know if coming off of last year, with all our blunders, have we talked too much about, 'Let's be smart. Let's be smart. Don't do this. Don't do this.' Are we afraid to attack?"

Stoops said he wants the Sooners to play "recklessly" against the Seminoles.

"All around, we have a lot of talent and we just came out kind of flat and didn't play as well as we could've," center Ben Habern said.

"We just feel like coming into the Florida State game and games on down the line, we can still prove that we're a top-ranked team and we're playing for a national championship, not a Sun Bowl or Insight Bowl or something like that."