5 Thoughts on Florida's championship

Posted Jan 9, 2007

We need a playoff more than ever, the post-game analysis, Ron Zook's role, and more.

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The morning after

By Pete Fiutak   

1.  Come on 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 State.

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 fresh.

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 than ever

By Pete Fiutak

2.  The 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 championship.

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 several seasons.

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

By Richard Cirminiello

3.  If 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

By John Harris

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 game). 

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

By Matthew Zemek

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 advantage.

The above explanations show why the Florida Gators are national champions, while the Ohio State Buckeyes are wondering what happened.

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 eternal lifeblood.

We're left with a champion that almost got excluded from this title game.

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.

The 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.