Three ChantRant contributors look deep into the crystal ball before what may be the most exciting game of a season chock full of them.
1. There's no stopping Mariota. But how does FSU's D limit his ability to scamper for huge gains?
Wall St. Nole: I agree, no stopping Mariota directly, so the Noles have to figure out how to take away the rhythm of Oregon's offense. This is almost as difficult. If we can reduce Oregon's assault it will put more situational pressure on Marriota. We can start by stopping the run with Freeman and limiting screen plays. This will require Mariota to run himself or look for one-on-one matchups. You have to like one-on-one with Darby, and Jalen Ramsey has really done well with the tight ends here lately.
Roswell Nole: Jalen. Ramsey. Spy.
Old School Nole: By taking a page from Arizona's defensive strategy. The Wildcats were the only team to beat Arizona this year. They did it with pressure, rushing only three and without blitzing. Mariota still had strong numbers, but less than his average. The intense pressure rattled the Oregon QB enough so that he fumbled twice and wasn't his normally sharp self. This week's news that Mario Edwards has slimmed down to a svelte 278 lbs. could be the key to an FSU win. Imagine a big AND fast number 15 breathing down Mariota's neck all night — a deja vu nightmare of what he faced against 'Zona.
2. How does FSU avoid first half sleep walking and second half desperation?
Wall St. Nole: Execute. They have had some really well designed opening drives in the latter part of the season. Unfortunately they've stalled due to penalties and lack of execution in regards to the route or blocking scheme. With the running game in pure form now, look for the Noles to come out executing a balanced offensive attack.
Roswell Nole: Preseason is over and they survived. Now the fun begins and they will be tuned in from the first snap.
Old School Nole: With a laser-focused Jameis Winston at the top of his game — very possibly his last game (let's hope next to last) as a Nole. FSU's first half woes this season, IMO, can be largely blamed on Winston's distractions due to off-field problems. Now that the ominous cloud has been lifted, Jameis will be ready to rock. And it's never been truer, as Winston goes, so go the Noles. Remember his "we ain't leavin' without a victory" speech before the 2013 Clemson game that pushed all the right buttons? Boom! In last year's title game at the Rose Bowl J.W. obviously had butterflies. This year he'll be all business. And if he needed one more incentive, Winston's fierce competitive streak will drive him to prove he's the better QB on the field.
3. Predict not just the final score, but HOW the game will be won?
Wall St. Nole: The Noles D has not shown me enough this year to have a lot of hope to limit points against the best offense in the country. But I'm hoping there is something in the water now that we are "going back to Cali!"
The Noles get a key first half turnover or special team TD, the offense does its thing and the Noles avoid a late comeback to win 38-35.
Roswell Nole: 41-38 FSU Defense sacks Mariota on fourth and goal!
Old School Nole: Like so many FSU games in this crazy season, the Rose Bowl will be a nail biter down to the final tick (which may just be in overtime). And something tells me that it all comes down to one talented toe. Oregon has a good field goal specialist (two of 'em, actually). FSU has a great one. Final score: Noles 51, Oregon 49.