The National Championship - Florida vs OSU
Posted Dec 14, 2006

After a long week off between big games, the 2007 Tostitos BCS Championship Game is finally here. Chris Leak and Florida can take the Urban Meyer era to another level, while Ohio State looks to win its second national title under Jim Tressel.

Florida (12-1) vs. Ohio State (12-0)

January 8th, 8:00 p.m. ET, Fox

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It's not Texas vs. USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl or USC vs. Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl when it comes to hype and excitement, and there isn't quite the controversy surrounding it like there was in 2004 when Auburn was left out of the mix, but the 2007 BCS Championship Game is a very, very good matchup worthy of far more hype than it's getting.

Because of the way Florida got into the national title, with the voters choosing not to give Michigan a second shot at Ohio State, everyone's assuming it's an inferior team that was sent to Glendale to give the Buckeyes something to do. This is the champion of the nation's best conference and a more than worthy contender for the national title; Florida is not going to be a pushover.

However, the Gators are a bit of a booby prize after USC lost to UCLA, and with no other viable options other than Michigan. There isn't a lot of flash, splash or dash winning games with clutch offense and a tough, athletic defense. In other words, this isn't the sexiest team around and it isn't one that America was excited to embrace. 

National Rankings
Florida Ohio State
Total Offense
21st  398.08 ypg 15th  409.75 ypg
Total Defense
10th  268.77 ypg 13th  273 ypg
Scoring Offense
32nd  28.85 ppg 7th  36.33 ppg
Scoring Defense
6th  13.46 ppg 2nd  10.42 ppg
Run Offense
36th  160.31 ypg 18th  180.08 ypg
Run Defense
6th  74.46 ypg 16th  93.50 ypg
Pass Offense
26th  237.77 ypg 33rd  229.67 ypg
Pass Defense
51st  194.31 ypg 29th  179.50 ypg
Turnover Margin
47th  0.23 9th  0.92
So Miss W 34-7
UCF W 42-0
at Tenn. W 21-20
Kentucky W 26-7
Alabama W 28-13
LSU W 23-10
at Auburn
L 27-17
vs. Georgia W 21-14
at Vanderbilt W 25-19
So Carolina W 17-16
W. Carolina
W 62-0
at Florida St W 21-14
SEC Championship
Arkansas W 38-28
Ohio State
No. Illinois  W 35-12
at Texas W 24-7
Cincinnati W 37-7
Penn State W 28-6
at Iowa W 38-17
Bo Green
W 35-7
at Mich St W 38-7
Indiana W 44-3
Minnesota W 44-0
at Illinois W 17-10
at Nwstern W 54-10
Michigan W 42-39
Position Ratings
relative to each other
F 5 highest
1 lowest
5 Quarterbacks 5
3 RBs 5
4.5 Receivers 5
3.5 O Line 4
5 D Line 5
5 Linebackers 5
4 Secondary 4
3.5 Spec Teams 4.5
5 Coaching 5

The defense is solid and effective rather than spectacular. There isn't a killer pass rush, there aren't any household names other than, maybe, defensive back Reggie Nelson, and steady run defense rarely gets a lot of publicity. The offense isn't one you're probably used to with a short-to-midrange passing game, no consistent ground attack, and the college football world just starting to learn about Percy Harvin.

It doesn't help that having the nation's hardest schedule, facing ten bowl bound teams, made it hard to come up with dominant wins getting five by seven points or fewer. The only blemish came at Auburn losing on special teams breakdowns, a late fumble return, and a controversial fumble by Chris Leak.

All this team does is find ways to win, and with its talent, it's good enough to pull this off.

Ohio State comes in on a 19-game winning streak after rolling through the regular season starting off with a preseason number one ranking, solidifying it with a win at Texas, getting by Michigan in a 42-39 classic, and finishing up with a Heisman Trophy for Troy Smith. Because of the ease of most of the wins, many are assuming the BCS Championship will be a coronation more than an actual fight, but is the team really that good?

Statistically, yes, averaging 410 yards and 36 points per game offensively, while allowing a mere 273 yards and 10.42 points per game. Michigan was the only team to come closer than seven points of beating the Buckeyes, Illinois lost by seven, and everyone else got tagged by double-digits. The margin of victory made it easy to keep OSU number one all season long, but the schedule played a big part.

OSU didn't have to play Wisconsin, got Texas before Colt McCoy got his feet wet, struggled until late against Penn State, and got a little too much credit at the time for wins over mediocre teams like Iowa and Minnesota. Michigan showed that the Buckeyes are beatable, and if Florida plays up to its capabilities, and plays the "no one respects us" card to the hilt, this has the potential to be a classic.

It's Big Ten vs. the SEC. It's a chance for Ohio State to break an 0-7 run against the SEC. It's a chance for Urban Meyer to put a stamp on his early tenure in Gainesville. It's a chance for the Buckeyes to prove that they're more than just a very good team in a down year. It's a chance for the Gators to show that they deserve to be in Glendale and not New Orleans.

While it won't be an upset if Florida wins, it won't be a stunner if Ohio State wins in a blowout; it's that intriguing of a matchup, and whether you agree with it or not, it's the national championship. Despite what you might believe, it's being settled on the field between the two most deserving teams in college football.

Players to watch: Just how much will Tim Tebow play? The precocious Gator freshman quarterback has only completed 21 of 32 passes for 357 yards and four touchdowns with an interception, and rushed for 430 yards and seven scores as the team's best power runner, but he's been the spark plug throughout the season and the catalyst for seemingly every positive momentum swing. While Chris Leak is the starter and the main man who runs the offense, Tebow is the better fit to face the athletic, pass rushing Buckeye defense. The OSU linebackers are frothing at the mouth to get to the ball on every play and will sometimes overpursue and get caught out of position. With plenty of time to prepare, Meyer and his staff should come up with a few option plays to get Tebow on the outside and not just run him up the gut.

Tebow isn't the only big-time freshman who'll make an impact. Ohio State's Chris Wells quickly showed off his immense potential as the big, speedy number two back behind Antonio Pittman. While he's not exactly a change-of-pace back at a pounding 6-1 and 225 pounds, he can hit the home run if he gets a little bit of room to move and has been great at getting into the end zone with a touchdown in each of the final six games of the year. The more Pittman and Wells are rumbling, the more time Troy Smith will have to operate the passing attack.

Florida's other star freshman is do-it-all receiver Percy Harvin, who had his national coming out party in the SEC championship win over Arkansas with 105 rushing yards, with a 67-yard touchdown run, to go along with 62 yards and a touchdown on five catches. He provides the bolt of lightning in the normally controlled passing attack.

The Gators are going to need Harvin on the outside with just about everything on the inside certain to be stuffed. Ohio State DT Quinn Pitcock was, arguably, the nation's best defensive lineman this season as the true definition of an anchor on the inside. Strong enough to hold at the point of attack against two and three blockers, and quick enough to be a regular in the backfield, he's a top ten caliber NFL draft pick who could change the game from the start by forcing the Gators to do everything east-west instead of north-south. That plays into the speed of the Buckeye defensive back seven.

Ohio State will win if... Troy Smith gets enough time to look for a second and third option. While Smith's Heisman highlight reel included him getting out of jams and making plays with his athleticism and quick decision-making ability, he won the award because of what he did when he had time. He has pinpoint accuracy and an arm to make all the throws, and when he gets four seconds to find the right target, he'll hit him every time. Even if the Gators do find some semblance of a steady pass rush, Smith is great at throwing on the move and will be effective. However, that limits his options and, as strange as this might sound considering the plays he makes, limits his creativity. He's even more imaginative, and far more dangerous, when he's in the pocket and able to set up his receivers. Florida wants to get the ball out of Smith's hands in a hurry, so the better the pass rush, the better the Gators will do.

Florida will win if... Chris Leak gets enough time to look for a second and third option. Not as athletic as Smith and not nearly as creative when things break down, Leak must get time to operate or the Florida offense can be painfully stagnant. The Gators can all but forget about running the ball on the Buckeyes, despite what Mike Hart and Michigan did in the season finale, but it should be able to throw on the OSU corners. Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith will be in the NFL someday, and there's no questioning their aggressiveness or talent, but Florida's receivers will push right back and should be able to beat the jams at the line without a problem. Make Leak hurry, and he'll try to make plays that aren't there. If OSU gets two picks, it's over.

What will happen: It'll be a better game than you think, and it's likely not going to be any sort of an offensive shootout (although, that's what we said about the Michigan - Ohio State game). The two defensive front sevens are so good, and the NFL caliber secondaries so talented, that it'll take every ounce of creativity in the two coaching staffs to generate points. In a game with such even teams, and they are even, the team with the better quarterback and better field goal kicker usually wins. That's Ohio State.

Line: Ohio State --8 ... CFN Prediction:
Ohio State 27 ... Florida 21

Get Tickets for the BCS Championship | Get more picks for this game

BCS Championship Player Profile: Ohio State WR Anthony Gonzalez, bowl history & more