Jan 7

BCS Title Game Preview

Posted By:Throw-Them-Bones  Tags:

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The BCS National Championship game is Thursday, featuring the #1 Oklahoma Sooners vs. #2 Florida Gators. Both teams bring in high octane offenses and have been playing lights out since suffering early season losses. Fans25.com takes a closer look at the 2009 BCS National Championship game and predicts a winner.
 
The Series:
Remarkably, the Gators and Sooners have never faced each other, despite playing over hundred years of football.
 
One way or another, something special will happen. Either Florida coach Urban Meyer or Oklahoma's Bob Stoops will join the ultra-elite fraternity of current coaches with two national championships (Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden and Dennis Erickson are the only members, unless Pete Carroll's 2003 AP national title is thrown into the mix). One of the Heisman-winning quarterbacks will cement his legacy. If Florida wins, Tim Tebow can join the Greatest College Quarterback of All-Time argument with his second national championship. While he was a bruising accessory in the 2007 title win over Ohio State, he was still a key piece to the puzzle. On the other side, this year's Heisman winner, Sam Bradford, can bring back the glory to an Oklahoma program that's been special since Stoops took over, but has fallen flat in the spotlight bowl games in recent years with two straight Fiesta Bowl losses, a rough outing in a national title loss against LSU in the 2004 Sugar Bowl, and a horrendous performance in a 55-19 national title loss to USC in the 2005 Orange Bowl.
 
After all the controversy and all the arguments over whether Texas should've received more consideration than Oklahoma for the Big 12 and national title slots, this all boils down to whether the Sooner offense is for real, and whether Florida was simply a very good team in an awful year for the SEC. Behind the play of Tebow, the Gators rallied from a 31-30 loss to Ole Miss to crank out nine straight wins by a combined score of 445 to 117. While Florida was blowing away everyone on the way to the SEC title, Oklahoma was going on a record tear after losing to Texas by averaging just under 60 points per game over its last seven wins. With the national attention fully focused on the Big 12 South, the Sooners ripped off 65 points against Texas Tech the week after the Red Raiders beat Texas, 61 against Oklahoma State, and 62 in the Big 12 Championship game against Missouri. Florida's offense didn't get as much attention, but the team turned out to be among the best in all three phases. Now it'll be a question of whether the ninth best defense in college football can slow down the high-powered Sooner offense, or if the Gator attack can power and spread its way to the title
 
 
Florida:
For the Gators, their offense is just two spots behind the Sooners, scoring over 45 points per game. Florida is led by their own Heisman Trophy winner. In 2008, Tim Tebow has put up lower numbers than Bradford, but Tebow kept the offense an elite unit with his ability to find playmakers all over the field.
The Sooners defense will have to account for Florida's Percy Harvin. Though Harvin has battled injuries all season long, this big play guy has put up more than 1,100 total yards and 16 touchdowns.


On average the Florida defense has given up a little under 13 point per game while the Sooners have allowed more than 24 points per game. There is no doubt that the Gators are the faster team. Oklahoma will be trying to run the no-huddle-offense to make up to the speed factor.
 
Oklahoma:
Oklahoma would appear to be fairly stoudt against the run this season, but when you put the microscope on the Sooners - their solid run defense play seems to fade away. Only Oklahoma State rushed the ball better than Florida in the Big 12 and they rushed for 198yds and a touchdown against Oklahoma. In fact, the Sooners have given up some big rushing numbers to top level competition - Texas (161 yds, 3 touchdowns), Baylor (194 yds, 2 tds), and even Nebraska (204 yds, 3 touchdowns). That simply won't get it done against Florida. Oklahoma does rush the passer extremely well - they're ranked 3rd in the nation with 42 sacks. They also lead the nation in turnover margin (+23). Florida is 2nd in the nation (+22).
 
Special Teams:
The Gators are ranked 48th in kick return average and 7th in punt return yardage. They've returned two punts for touchdowns with the dangerous Brandon James returning. Oklahoma is 106th in kick return coverage and 17th in punt return coverage. Oklahoma has allowed 4 kick off returns for touchdowns this season. Oklahoma is 5th in kick return average led by DeMarco Murray's 27.6 yds a return - as we all know, Murray will not play. Oklahoma is 70th in punt return average and they returned one punt for a touchdown this year. Florida is 89th in kick return coverage, 9th in punt return coverage and have not allowed a return for touchdown. Florida is 17th in punt average and 2nd in field goal percentage. Oklahoma is one of the nation's worst in punting average, ranked 116th and they're 67th in field goal percentage.
 
Coaching:
Florida's Urban Meyer is 82-17 (43-9 in 4 yrs at Florida), he's won four conference championships (including two SEC titles), and a national championship. This is the second time in three years that Meyer has guided the Gators in position for a National Championship. Bob Stoops is completing his 10th season at Oklahoma with a 109-23 record. Stoops' Sooners have won 6 Big 12 championships and 1 National Championship (2000). Oklahoma has lost their last two trips to the BCS Championship Game (2003 to LSU 21-14, 2004 to USC 55-19). This is the fourth time in 8 years Stoops has the Sooners playing for the National title.
 
The big difference in this one is defense and special teams. We all know the old adage - Defense wins championships. The next time Oklahoma plays good defense will be the first time - they're terrible and even worse, one of their players talked trash about Florida Hesiman Trophy winning and 2-time finalist quarterback Tim Tebow. Cornerback Dominique Franks told reporters that Tebow would be the 4th best quarterback in the Big 12 behind Heisman Trophy Winner Sam Bradford, Texas' Colt McCoy, and Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell.

Then you factor in special teams, where Oklahoma is just flat out terrible and that's two of the three phases of that favor Florida. The game will be competitive early but Florida will eventually pull away in this one.
 
There wasn't much intrigue in the first two official BCS Championship games. Ohio State was expected to crush Florida, and that turned out to be a disaster of a blowout the other way. Almost no one thought the Buckeyes would beat LSU last year, and while the game was competitive late into the third quarter, the outcome was as expected. There's no conventional wisdom on this year's national championship. Sit back and enjoy watching the mystery unravel. 
 
more:

One way or another, something special will happen. Either Florida coach Urban Meyer or Oklahoma's Bob Stoops will join the ultra-elite fraternity of current coaches with two national championships (Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden and Dennis Erickson are the only members, unless Pete Carroll's 2003 AP national title is thrown into the mix). One of the Heisman-winning quarterbacks will cement his legacy. If Florida wins, Tim Tebow can join the Greatest College Quarterback of All-Time argument with his second national championship. While he was a bruising accessory in the 2007 title win over Ohio State, he was still a key piece to the puzzle. On the other side, this year's Heisman winner, Sam Bradford, can bring back the glory to an Oklahoma program that's been special since Stoops took over, but has fallen flat in the spotlight bowl games in recent years with two straight Fiesta Bowl losses, a rough outing in a national title loss against LSU in the 2004 Sugar Bowl, and a horrendous performance in a 55-19 national title loss to USC in the 2005 Orange Bowl.

After all the controversy and all the arguments over whether Texas should've received more consideration than Oklahoma for the Big 12 and national title slots, this all boils down to whether the Sooner offense is for real, and whether Florida was simply a very good team in an awful year for the SEC. Behind the play of Tebow, the Gators rallied from a 31-30 loss to Ole Miss to crank out nine straight wins by a combined score of 445 to 117. While Florida was blowing away everyone on the way to the SEC title, Oklahoma was going on a record tear after losing to Texas by averaging just under 60 points per game over its last seven wins. With the national attention fully focused on the Big 12 South, the Sooners ripped off 65 points against Texas Tech the week after the Red Raiders beat Texas, 61 against Oklahoma State, and 62 in the Big 12 Championship game against Missouri. Florida's offense didn't get as much attention, but the team turned out to be among the best in all three phases. Now it'll be a question of whether the ninth best defense in college football can slow down the high-powered Sooner offense, or if the Gator attack can power and spread its way to the title.

Florida: The last thing any team wants in its preparation for a game of this magnitude is a change in its routine or a major distraction to deal with. Florida will have both with the news of offensive coordinator Dan Mullen taking over the vacant Mississippi State head coaching job. After Tebow expressed some concern about who'll be calling the plays and running the offense, Mullen will stay with the Gators through the title game. Mullen's offense might not crank out the passing yards like Oklahoma's, but the rushing attack led the SEC with 229 yards per game. Do-it-all star Percy Harvin, who missed the SEC title game, will return to add another weapon, and Florida will likely need him to keep up the pace. Florida hasn't seen anyone outside of Georgia's Matthew Stafford who can throw at a consistently high level, and this game will be the ultimate test for the Gators' passing defense.

Oklahoma: The Sooner offense suffered a major blow by losing speedster DeMarco Murray to a torn hamstring. Not just the team's second-leading rusher, he also was an elite kickoff returner. However, OU has more than its share of weapons ready to pick up the slack. Unlike Florida, which would be in big trouble without Harvin, the Sooners have RBs Chris Brown and Mossis Madu to rely on, a slew of talented receivers, and Bradford. It's all made possible by an offensive line full of top pro prospects and plenty of experience. The line allowed a mere 11 sacks in 476 pass attempts, but it was also helped by a fundamental shift in offensive philosophy. In the offseason, OU went to a fasterr-tempo attack designed to get the ball out of Bradford's hands quicker. After an adjustment period in spring ball, Bradford had the offense down, and the rest is Sooner history.

Guy to watch for: Florida CB Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins, a starter as a true freshman, has taken right away to the instant responsibility of being a top shutdown corner. He has already exceeded expectations in his first year, blanketing opposing receivers and continuously improving as the season has progressed. He's got the hips, speed, and confidence to grow into one of the best corners in the SEC next year.

Farewell to: Florida WR Percy Harvin. As injury-prone as Harvin has been throughout his college career, why risk playing another season in Gainesville without getting paid? If he decides to leave that final year of eligibility on the table and tests well at the NFL Combine, he has the electrifying speed and off-the-charts playmaking ability to be scooped up in the first round.

Guy to watch for: Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles. While the spotlight wasn't there in a receiving corps that included Juaquin Iglesias, Manny Johnson, and Jermaine Gresham, Broyles was still able to make the first 42 grabs of his career for 661 yards and six touchdowns. He's loaded with speed, explosiveness, and upside potential, all of which will become more obvious once this year's starters graduate.

Farewell to: Oklahoma LG Duke Robinson. While the skill position Sooners make all of the headlines, Robinson and his linemates have done their part to make the offense percolate in 2008. A 6-5, 335-pound mauler, he's been a starter for three seasons, earning All-America honors at the end of the last two. Next spring will be about revamping an offensive line that'll go down as one of the best in school history.

Interesting #: plus-3.46. The combined turnover margin between the two teams. Oklahoma led the nation in turnover margin with 32 takeaways and a mere nine turnovers, while Florida was second with 33 takeaways and just 11 turnovers. Only Wake Forest took the ball away more than these two, and no one turned it over less.

There wasn't much intrigue in the first two official BCS Championship games. Ohio State was expected to crush Florida, and that turned out to be a disaster of a blowout the other way. Almost no one thought the Buckeyes would beat LSU last year, and while the game was competitive late into the third quarter, the outcome was as expected. There's no conventional wisdom on this year's national championship. Sit back and enjoy watching the mystery unravel.

Final Score: Florida - 45 Oklahoma - 35

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