The Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando features two iconic college football programs squaring off for the fifth time in the postseason as No. 13 Florida State faces Oklahoma. The Sooners hold a 3-1 record against Florida State in bowl games and a 6-1 record overall, claiming not only a lopsided edge in the series history but a win in the most important game between these two: The BCS National Championship at the conclusion of the 2000 season.
The last three wins in the series -- that BCS title game plus both legs of a home-and-home series in 2010 and 2011 -- came under the tenure of Bob Stoops, making Thursday a chance for first-year head coach Brent Venables to carry on the tradition of the current six-game winning streak against the Seminoles.
Venables first year with Oklahoma did not play out exactly as it was projected in the preseason. The Sooners were projected to finish second in the Big 12 by the league's media and instead finished with 3-6 conference record and 6-6 record overall. Oklahoma did get back on the winning side of the Bedlam series against rival Oklahoma State and fell just seven points short of eventual Big 12 champion Kansas State. However, the up-and-down campaign also included a 49-0 blowout loss to Texas and concludes with a second straight season outside the New Year's Six after a six-season run (2015-20) of either playing in the College Football Playoff or being selected for one of the other premier bowl games with CFP ties.
Florida State, on the other hand, finished the year as one of the hottest teams in the country and exceeded the preseason projections that had the Seminoles picked fifth in the ACC Atlantic Division, only ahead of Boston College and Syracuse. At No. 13 in the final CFP rankings, the Seminoles are the second-highest ranked team in the conference and riding a five-game winning streak, which is the longest active streak in the ACC and seventh-longest nationally.
How to watch Cheez-It Bowl live
Date: Thursday, Dec. 29 | Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Location: Camping World Stadium -- Orlando, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Florida State vs. Oklahoma: Need to know
A showcase, and a test case, for Seminoles hype in 2023: Heading into the off week in late October, Florida State was riding a three-game losing streak, 4-3 overall, and the buzz from beating LSU in the season opener had subsided substantially. But once Florida State got a little healthier and the schedule opened up, we got to see the full potential of a group that will be entering 2023 as a popular pick to contend with Clemson for the ACC championship. In this current five-game winning streak, the Seminoles have scored at least 38 points per game and carried an average margin of victory of 28.2 points. Florida State finished the year as the only team in the country ranked in the top 10 in yards per play offense (6.86, 9th) and yards per play allowed defense (4.72, 10th), and the only Power Five team leading its conference in both total offense and total defense.
The strong finish only planted the seeds for the 2023 hype, which then took off when star quarterback Jordan Travis announced his return to Florida State for a fifth season, along with similar announcements from standouts and key contributors like running back Trey Benson, linebacker Tatum Bethune and wide receiver Mycah Pittman. Throw in some transfer portal success on the offensive line, defensive line and tight end, and it's clear why the Seminoles' stock is soaring here at the end of 2022.
A return to Orlando: Though this game is not being held in the Bounce House, it does mark a return to Orlando for Oklahoma's starting quarterback and offensive coordinator. Dillon Gabriel started 25 games for UCF across three seasons, amassing 8,037 passing yards and 70 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions in his career with the Knights before transferring to Oklahoma. His decision to take his college career to Norman brought a reunion with Jeff Lebby, who was the offensive coordinator for UCF in 2018 and 2019. Since the start of the 2019 season, Gabriel leads the country with 94 passing touchdowns and ranks third in passing yards with 10,957. That touchdown count includes two seasons with Lebby (2019 at UCF, 2022 at Oklahoma) and remains the best in the country despite Gabriel missing 10 games due to injury in 2021.
Notable absences for the Sooners: Heading into game week ,it's already been announced that Oklahoma will be without four starters due to opt-outs for the bowl game. Offensively the absences include running back Eric Gray, who had eight 100-yard rushing games this season, and both starting tackles Anton Harrison and Wanya Morris. Gray and Harrison were All-Big 12 picks by the league's coaches and Morris earned second team AP all-league honors at the end of the year. Starting defensive lineman Jalen Redmond will also be unavailable after the former blue chip prospect logged four sacks and 10 tackles for loss in his fifth year with the program here in 2022.
Cheez-It Bowl prediction, picks
Florida State is playing with all the pressure in terms of expectations, both in this game and for next season. And Oklahoma is without a doubt the team that should be more relaxed considering the absence of similar pressure. But asking these two teams to suddenly reverse the trends of their seasons on a Thursday late afternoon kickoff from Orlando is a big one. Oklahoma historically travels well but I'm expecting a very pro-Nole crowd as Florida State feels the tide truly turning with its first bowl win against Oklahoma since 1965. Prediction: Florida State -9.5
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