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5 Thoughts on Florida's championship
We need a playoff more than ever, the post-game analysis, Ron Zook's role, and more.
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OSU vs. Fla. Predictions
The morning after
media, don’t get sloppy (cough, Gameday crew, cough) and don’t fall into
the easy traps in the post-game analysis of Florida's domination of Ohio
The 50+ day layoff didn’t hurt Ohio State, it helped Florida. DeShawn
Wynn looked and played quicker and faster than he had since earlier in
the year, the defensive line had a spring in its step, and the extra
time gave the Gator coaching staff time to dissect the Buckeye
weaknesses. Florida would’ve won this game if the Buckeyes had been off
20, 30 or 40 days; this was a different Gator team that struggled so
much against teams like Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Georgia. It was
Troy Smith wasn’t off; he didn’t have anywhere to throw and didn’t get
any time to do anything. A player who’s that good doesn’t go four of 14
for 36 yards with an interception without a total team breakdown. Did he
miss any open receivers? From my count, I saw him overthrow one open guy
in the third quarter, and while I'm sure he made a few mistakes, no one
else did anything. He was holding on to the ball, taking sacks, and
throwing it in the ankles of Gator defensive backs because there wasn’t
anyone to get the ball to.
And finally, don’t go back to that dopey SEC-speed myth. Florida is
really, really fast, but that doesn’t mean Ohio State and the Big Ten
are slow. Florida played better, executed better, coached better, and
outplayed the Buckeyes. It's actually discrediting what the Gators
accomplished to simply blame the blowout on a discrepancy in team speed.
Add up the 40 times of the two teams and it would come out more even
than you think.
Wisconsin and Penn State proved that the Big Ten can move in bowl wins
over SEC teams, and you and ten friends would look quick against Notre
Dame (although LSU is really, really fast). Florida is a national
championship team because it has talent, athleticism, and yes, loads and
loads of speed. Championship teams tend to be a wee bit fast. It’s the
best team in America this year, well, maybe, because …
We need a playoff more
And what if just a
few voters had a change of heart and voted Michigan number two at the
end of the regular season rather than Florida forcing a
Buckeye-Wolverine rematch for the national championship? Obviously, we
wouldn’t have had the right answer for the national title, and it once
again makes everyone wonder what else the BCS missed over the last
BCS got lucky. Very, very, very lucky, and now it’s time, more than
ever, for a playoff. Everything about Glendale, Arizona proved that.
Think about it. Had USC beaten UCLA, Florida would’ve gone to the Sugar
Bowl, blown out Notre Dame, and finished second, maybe third, instead of
ending the year as the unquestioned national champion. Boise State,
after its win over Oklahoma, finished the season as the nation’s only
unbeaten team and won’t even be in the discussion for the national
Don’t you want to see USC play Florida now? Don’t you want to see Boise
State get its shot? Do you feel fully satisfied? Probably not.
Would it really have been so hard to take the six BCS conference winners
(Ohio State, Florida, USC, Oklahoma, Wake Forest and Louisville), the
top rated conference champion from one of the other leagues (Boise
State), and because Notre Dame didn't finish in the top eight in the
final BCS rankings, another conference champion (BYU) and had a playoff?
It would've been settled on the field, and not because a few voters made
it that way.
Flavor of Zook
some renegade network had put a camera on Ron Zook for three hours
tonight, it would have had an interesting new reality show. Lord knows,
watching the Zooker pace around his living room would have been more
compelling than Florida's pasting of Ohio State.
Forget recruiting. Forget tradition. Winning big in
college athletics is all about coaching. Always has been and always
will. That was never more evident than on Monday night, when the Gators
shocked the Buckeyes and the rest of the nation with a 41-14 rout. As
soon as it became obvious in the third quarter that this game was
over, I couldn't stop thinking about Zook.
This national championship squad, which decimated the nation's
top-ranked team, wasn't terribly different in terms of talent than the
ones the coach had for three years in Gainesville. Yet, from 2002-2004,
there were no SEC titles, no national titles and five losses in each
season. It took the hiring of Urban Meyer for the light to go back on
at Florida. You know Meyer, the guy everyone was dogging last year
because his offense wasn't putting up 50 points a game right out of the
gate. Or the guy whose offense would never stand up to the speed of the
league. Somehow he got it done, motivating and preparing the Gators
brilliantly for this game, while thoroughly out coaching Jim Tressel
from start to finish.
One man took only two years to bring a school just its second national
championship in a century. It's why universities are now willing to
shell out unprecedented salaries to the right coaching candidate. And
why all the talent in the world won't bring titles without the presence
of a great leader to guide it.
Saban might have wanted to think
harder about that decision
4. The day before the national championship game, I was reading
an article in a Florida newspaper pertaining to the top 75 recruits in
the state of Florida. As I started going down the list, by position,
the words “committed to Florida” were all over the place. Quarterback –
John Brantley. Running Back – Chris Rainey and Bo Williams. Offensive
line – the Pouncey twins from Lakeland. And, the list went on and on
and on. Now, those are only commitments, but there are a good dozen or
so of the rest considering the University of Florida (and that number
could increase after the domination of this BCS National Championship
The point? The rest of the SEC, and the rest of the nation, may be
playing catch-up to this group for a long, long time. The offense loses
Chris Leak and Dallas Baker, but still has Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow,
Bubba Caldwell, Cornelius Ingram and four offensive line starters. The
defense will have some holes to fill, but this unit could be even better
next year (especially if some key players decide to pull a Joakim Noah
and decide to do it all over again in 2007.
Combine this recruiting class, the one that is shaping up currently with
a solid mix of skill players and linemen, with the returning nucleus
coming back to Gainesville, and, uh, it isn’t looking real good for
those in Knoxville, Athens and Tuscaloosa in the near future. And, to
think, many thought that 2007 would be the year that the Gators would be
a serious contender for a national title. They were all wrong – it’s
going to be 2007, 2008, 2009 and beyond (I’m putting my money on the
Gators to win in 2016, at the very least. Think about it. 1996?
2006? Get me to Vegas!.
The emotions ruled
5. And so another campaign concludes with the
same lesson that college football provides every single year--in
both the regular season and the bowl season: the realm of the mind
reigns supreme in this sport.
After his team stunned Louisville but then lost by 19 at
Cincinnati in November, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said that no
college football team will play with maximum emotional intensity on
a weekly basis. The challenge of college football, according to
Schiano (and, one suspects, his brother coaches), is to survive the
days when the emotions aren't there.
In bowl games, though, the emotions have to be there, because if
one team is asleep at the wheel, the other team will surely take
The above explanations show why the Florida Gators are national
champions, while the Ohio State Buckeyes are wondering what
Florida didn't play consistent football in 2006, but the Gators
survived their most sluggish performances and then--angered by a
perceived lack of respect--peaked in their bowl game. Ohio State, on
the other hand, was very consistent in an awesome Autumn, but didn't
bring much intensity to a one-game championship challenge.
Spare the talk about the OSU layoff or Ted Ginn's injury. Florida
peaked and invested itself in the game from an emotional standpoint.
Hunger makes a lasting difference in a sport where emotion is the
We're left with a champion that almost got excluded from this
Ironically, the school Florida beat to win the basketball
championship--UCLA--also made the Gators' football title possible.
Meanwhile, Ohio State and Michigan--once thought to be title game
combatants--are both left bruised, beaten and humiliated at the end
of this season. Florida's title offers more proof of the disconnect
between bowl games and regular season games, and more justification
for a playoff in college football.
Tonight's BCS title game shows why emotions rule this sport. It
also helps explain why Urban Meyer--master of motivation that he
is--stands above his coaching peers right now.
question asked before the national title has been answered. What if
Ohio State played Florida’s schedule and Florida played Ohio State’s
schedule? The Gators would’ve been the unquestioned number one going
into the BCS Championship game, and the Buckeyes would've had at
least one loss.