Thursday, January 08, 2009

It comes down to this

Tonight, the college football crown will (likely) be placed upon the collective heads of either Oklahoma or Florida. This is one of the few intriguing match ups of an otherwise fairly uninteresting bowl season. 

There were some interesting bowl games, but they were interesting despite the BCS' best efforts at pairing seemingly mismatched teams. For instance, the Clemson/Nebraska and Texas/Ohio State bowl games were really quite entertaining in the end, although neither looked like much on paper. 

I count only one New Year's Day or later bowl game that was decided by 3 points or less (Texas/Ohio State), and only two more that were 7 points or less (aforementioned Nebraska/Clemson and the major heavyweight match up that was Eastern Carolina/Kentucky (?!?!), which was only played after New Year's Day because no one would have watched it otherwise as there were 11 losses between the two team.

There were a few surprises, albeit largely blowouts: Ole Miss smacking Texas Tech and Alabama getting served by Utah (21-0 at halftime).  I think Utah has a legitimate gripe about being left out of the National Title picture. Granted, I don't think they could beat an Oklahoma/Texas/Florida, but still, they are undefeated and they won their major bowl match up against a team that was No. 1 in the polls after the end of regular season before losing (but still looking pretty strong) against Florida in the SEC championship game. If  the SEC conducted business like the Big Ten and not had a conference championship game, Alabama would be playing for the national championship tonight. 

What else could Utah possibly have done to earn at least a share of the title? It's not like Utah beat a bunch of no-name teams in their schedule before Alabama. I mean, they won against Michigan, Oregon State, TCU, BYU, Colorado State, and Air Force. Michigan was horrible, but Utah couldn't predict that prior to the schedule being made years in advance. Five of those teams played in bowl games with Oregon State, Colorado State, and TCU winning their games and Air Force losing by less only 6 points. Granted, none of those are powerhouse teams; Utah could still have blown out all opponents by more than 25+ points each, and would still never have been seriously considered for the national championship. 

I'm just saying Utah has a gripe under the current system. If that's not an anti-trust monopoly problem, I don't know what is. Of course, not that thing one will ever be done about it as its a simple case of follow the money. Too much money is made in the current Regular Season/Bowl system. They won't derail the gravy train because some Mormons in Utah are slightly miffed. 

But, back to the original topic at hand: Oklahoma v. Florida. I think this game is a toss-up. Before I hazard a prediction, here are my keys to the game:

1. Oklahoma Offense: Oklahoma has one of the best Offensive lines in the country, with Florida being ranked No. 30 in the nation in sacks. Oklahoma also runs a no huddle offense the likes of which Florida has yet to see as effectively this season. As freaky efficient as Oklahoma QB Bradford is, I think Florida is going to be in trouble if they can't rise above mediocre defensive line play. 

2. Oklahoma Defense: The Big XII this year was not known for killer defenses. The conference has done pretty well in the bowl season, but this aspect has played out. Oklahoma's defense is good but not spectacular. They do have some incredibly quick and athletic talent on defense, however. Oklahoma did lead the nation in turnover margin at +23. If they can make Tebow make mistakes, which is what happened when Ole Miss beat Florida by forcing several fumbles, Oklahoma can win the game. 

3. Florida Defense: Now for the kicker to the above read on Oklahoma's D. Guess who was No. 2 in positive turnover margin? Yup, Florida. Florida also ranks 4th in scoring defense, ringing up just over 12 points a game, which is impressive, considering this season that Florida played...get this...10 bowl eligible teams excluding Oklahoma. That's phenomenonal given that schedule. 

4. Florida Offense: This one's easy. One word: Tim Tebow. Last's year's Heisman winner, this year he came in 1st in 1st place votes for the Heisman, despite losing to, yup, Oklahoma QB Bradford. Word also got out that Oklahoma was talking smack about Tebow not even being the 3rd best QB in the country. Florida has been talking smack too, but a general rule of thumb is to not give someone with as much talent as Tebow any more reason to play. That having been said, Tebow is a blessing and a curse. He's a college football superstar, yes, but he is also almost the entire Florida offense. If you can find a way to stop him or take him out of the game, Oklahoma wins. It's that simple. It is possible, as Ole Miss proved earlier in the season.

Intangibles:  Oklahoma has one of the worse special teams units in the country, which does not bode well for Oklahoma is its a squeaker. Oklahoma scores so many points, they can get away with it, but with Florida's defense, this could be a serious liability for the Sooners. For Oklahoma, I am quite certain they are tired of hearing about Mr. All-Everything, Tim Tebow, and how Florida is going to rip them up and how Texas should be playing and not Oklahoma. If Stoops can harness that sick-n-tired-of-hearing-this energy into let's-go-out-there-and-prove-we're-No.-1 energy, Oklahoma has a fighting chance.

Ok...prediction time. I think this is a classic case that will test the old saying, "Offense wins games, Defense wins championships." My gut feeling tells me that Oklahoma is going to find a way to win because Florida is over confident, but my brain is telling me that Florida is just too strong on defense and special teams to let this one get away. 

Being an ST in the Meyers Briggs, I'm going to go with Florida, although I will be rooting for Oklahoma. 
Florida 37
Oklahoma 27.

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