The last time Florida State and Oklahoma met in a bowl game, the stage was much larger.
It’s been 22 seasons since the Sooners knocked off the Seminoles 13-2 to win the 2000 national championship.
But when No. 13 Florida State and Oklahoma face off in the Cheez-It Bowl on Thursday in Orlando, Fla., both teams will have plenty of opportunity to make a year-ending statement.
The Seminoles (9-3), back in a bowl after a two-year absence, are looking to finish a season with 10 wins for the first time since 2016.
“It would just mean everything just to this program, the guys, and to everybody that supports us,” Florida State defensive tackle Dennis Briggs said of the possibility of winning 10 games.
The Seminoles won just eight games combined in Mike Norvell’s first two seasons as head coach before turning things around this season. Florida State won its last five games of the regular season.
The Sooners (6-6) are looking to avoid finishing below .500 for the first time since 1998, the year before Bob Stoops took over as head coach and brought aboard Brent Venables as co-defensive coordinator.
Now, Venables is Oklahoma’s head coach, wrapping up his first season.
It hasn’t always gone smoothly, with the Sooners going just 3-6 in Big 12 play and dropping three of their final four games, with the lone win coming against Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma has been hit hard by players opting out for the NFL draft, including both of its starting offensive tackles — Wanya Morris and Anton Harrison — plus running back Eric Gray and defensive tackle Jalen Redmond.
Running back Jovantae Barnes is one of the players who figures to see his role expand significantly in the bowl game after playing behind Gray much of the season. He has run for 411 yards and four touchdowns.
“It’s a new step,” Barnes said. “I have a bigger role for this game. … All season I’ve been building my confidence to getting this role.
“I feel like I’m ready, and the running back group is ready.”
For Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel, the game is a return to a familiar place.
Gabriel played for UCF in Orlando from 2019-21 before transferring to Oklahoma.
While the Sooners have had plenty of roster turnover since the end of the regular season, Florida State comes into the bowl largely intact.
That includes quarterback Jordan Travis — who threw for 2,796 yards and 22 touchdowns with just four interceptions — running back Trey Benson and edge rusher Jared Verse, among others.
“Everybody’s super focused, locked in, but you also have that sense that everybody’s enjoying practice at the same time,” Briggs said. “Everybody’s attention to detail is spot-on.”
Florida State is in the Cheez-It Bowl for the fourth time. The Seminoles won the inaugural game in 1990 when it was known as the Blockbuster Bowl, and won in 2008 and 2011 when it was known as the Champs Sports Bowl.
Oklahoma lost to Clemson in the 2014 game when it was known as the Russell Athletic Bowl.
The Sooners are in a bowl for the 24th consecutive season, second only to Georgia among active streaks.
–Field Level Media