The team Oklahoma State introduces to a national television audience on Saturday is one that might draw as much inspiration from the words of Mr. Rogers as any fire-breathing coach who woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
The Cowboys are relative babies on the scales of college football’s biggest stage. They are among the least experienced teams in the nation.
Needless to say, they’ll discover some truths about themselves when they face baptism by fire on Saturday, going full speed against the best team in the country.
Oklahoma State and No. 1 Florida State face off at 7 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in the Cowboys Classic.
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Only six Cowboys, including linebacker Ryan Simmons, have more than 10 career starts. Oklahoma State returns only eight starters on offense and defense combined.
“There will be a number of players who will have to learn their way around,” coach Mike Gundy said Monday. “There is no fast-forward button on experience. They will make mistakes.
“We have to keep them playing hard throughout the game.”
Conversely, the defending national champion Seminoles are a “very mature, athletic” football team, Gundy observed.
Among them is Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, who gives even the most capable and experienced teams fits.
“This [Florida State] team is as good athletically … as any team I’ve played against in my 25 years at this level,” Gundy said.
He’s more experienced
One guy who should benefit with a year of experience is Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury went on record Monday as saying the Davis Webb you’ll see on Saturday against Central Arkansas is the same Davis Webb who left quite the impression in Texas Tech’s 37-23 Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona Sate.
Webb returned to Tech for his sophomore season physically stronger — 30 pounds or so — than the wide-eyed, string-bean freshman, and the coach said he’s also a more mature leader with a better understanding of the offense.
“It’s night and day,” Kingsbury said. “That tends to happen between year one and year two. He’s a completely different guy.”
Small school nightmare
One team that doesn’t want to experience the FCS nightmare is Iowa State.
Three-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State travels to Ames to show off their hard-won hardware.
The Bison, 43-2 since the beginning of 2011, took a sizable bite out of the back end of Kansas State last season, defeating the Wildcats 24-21.
Coaches are again excited about quarterback Sam Richardson, who is back at the helm after a forgettable 2013 full of injuries. Richardson, No. 3 on the depth chart in the spring, also was slow to adjust to the offense of new coordinator Mark Mangino.
“The first week of August training camp … we saw a different Sam,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “He was really a poised leader. He’s by far playing the best football he’s ever played.”
• Texas coach Charlie Strong said wide receiver Jaxon Shipley of Brownwood is day-to-day with a hamstring injury and will almost certainly be a game-time decision when the Longhorns open the season Saturday against North Texas in Austin.
• West Virginia senior cornerback Icky Banks has been reinstated to the team, but he has been ruled out of the Mountaineers’ first three games — including this week’s season opener against Alabama — by the NCAA because of an academic eligibility issue.
• Kansas coach Charlie Weis called Corey Avery, a true freshman from Dallas Carter, and junior-college transfer De’Andre Mann “1 and 1A” on the depth chart at running back. Both will see time there in the season opener next week against Southeast Missouri State in place of Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox, lost to a torn ACL and Achilles’ tendon, respectively.