Possible National Title Matchup Breakdowns

Posted Dec 3, 2008

The 2008 national champion will either be Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma or, fair or not, Texas. Jumping the gun, since we'll know the actual matchup in a few short days from now, here are the breakdowns of the four possible BCS Championship matchups.

The Four Possible National Title Matchups

An early breakdown of the four BCS Championship possibilities

By Pete Fiutak   

This much we know. Either Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas or Florida will be your 2008 college football national champion. Yeah, if Missouri beats Oklahoma there will be a groundswell of support for USC to get in over a Texas team that didn't win its own division (if OU loses, then theoretically, Texas Tech should be ahead of Texas in the overall pecking order), but since everyone feels a little lousy about Texas getting the shaft in the Big 12 South tiebreaker, the Trojans would almost certainly be out.

Going into the equivalent of the Final Four weekend, even if the Longhorns are on the sidelines, here's the first look at the four potential matchup options.

Potential Matchup No. 4

Texas vs. Alabama
This might be the least sexy of the national title matchups, but it would be for the fans of defense. Each team has an offense, the Longhorns might be ninth in the nation in total offense and sixth in scoring, but in a division with Texas Tech and Oklahoma it's hard to get any kind of attention. Alabama has the SEC's second best rushing attack, but that means next to nothing this year in a league chock full of horrendous offenses. No, this is about the defensive fronts with the two teams tied for second in the nation in run defense allowing just 73.58 rushing yards per game. If Alabama gets here against Texas, it'll have already proved it could handle a running quarterback in Tim Tebow, not to mention the high-powered Gator attack, while Texas will be well-rested and extremely motivated as it would look to prove that it belonged in the Big 12 title game as well as in the BCS Championship over USC, Utah and Penn State.

One Reason Texas Would Have The Advantage: The nation's No. 1 pass rush would give the Tide offensive line problems. The Bama front five, led by superstar OT Andre Smith, has been dominant all season long, but it had problems containing the tremendous Ole Miss defensive line in the 24- 20 win. It also had major problems with the Kentucky front four chock full of NFL talent, back when it was healthy.

One Reason Alabama Would Have The Advantage: The Alabama defense would be the best Texas has faced this season by a wide, wide margin. The Big 12 is all about offense, but the defenses stunk. Oklahoma's D was fine at times, but inconsistent, and the loss of LB Ryan Reynolds in the Red River Rivalry allowed Colt McCoy to complete pass after pass across the middle. McCoy is a good runner, but he wouldn't find much room to run against the Tide linebackers, while huge DT Terence Cody would stuff everything up the middle.

The Winner Would Likely Be ... Alabama 27 ... Texas 24

Potential Matchup No. 3

Texas vs. Florida
The quarterback hype between Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy would be off the charts. If this matchup happens, that would mean, obviously, that Oklahoma lost to Missouri, and it would also likely mean Sam Bradford would be out of the Heisman equation. This wouldn't just be a battle of the top two teams; it would almost certainly be a battle between the Heisman winner and the runner-up.This would also be a matchup of, arguably, the nation's two most complete teams. Alabama is heavy on defense and the running game, Oklahoma has the high-octane offense and the athletic, hit-or-miss D. Florida has been great at everything during the winning streak since the loss to Ole Miss, while Texas has one of the few return games that can match Florida's, and the defense is almost as strong as the offense.

One Reason Texas Would Have The Advantage: Part of Florida's big spark all season long has been the punting and the punt return game. Texas should at least play Florida evenly, and it might even have a little bit of an advantage. The Texas coverage teams would likely keep Brandon James from hitting the home runs needed to blow open the game, while Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby are each gamebreaking return men who could throw a scare into the Gators on kick and punt returns.

One Reason Florida Would Have The Advantage: Florida is basically Texas, only better, faster, more athletic, and with a better secondary. Outside of a consistent pass rush, there isn't anything Texas head-and-shoulders better than Florida. The Gators don't make mistakes, ever, and they're brutally efficient. Texas pounces on teams that let their guards down. Texas Tech appeared to take its foot off the gas a wee bit in the second half, and it almost got burned. Oklahoma's offense started to struggle a bit in the second half, and Texas jumped on the opening scoring 25 second half points. Florida might be the most focused team in America from one play to the next.

The Winner Would Likely Be ... Florida 34 ... Texas 27

Potential Matchup No. 2

Oklahoma vs. Alabama
If this was 1979, this would be the mother of all showdowns with  two of the decade's three biggest superpowers (USC being the other) waging a war in what would've been one of the most hyped national title games in college football history. As is, this would be a fantastic matchup for the end of the 2008 season, and it would also be the most interesting contrasts in style among of the four national title options. It would be the power running of Alabama vs. the athleticism and speed of the Sooner defense. It would be the ruthless precision of the Oklahoma passing game vs. the hard-nosed, rock-solid Crimson Tide defense that's been among the best in the country all season long. If this matchup actually happens, it would almost certainly be the showcase for newly crowned Heisman winner, Sam Bradford, while Bama fans would be all too quick to draw parallels to the 1992 national championship when Heisman winner Gino Torretta and the high-powered Miami Hurricanes took on the defensive-minded Crimson Tide in the 1993 Sugar Bowl for the national title. Alabama won 34-13.

One Reason Oklahoma Would Have The Advantage: Alabama's secondary hasn't exactly been pushed. The SEC's collapse this season can mainly be traced to one simple factor: the quarterbacks. The Tide faced Georgia's Matthew Stafford, who'll almost certainly be the first quarterback taken in the 2009 NFL Draft if he comes out early, and did a decent job against him. If Bama gets to Miami, it'll have beaten Tim Tebow. Stafford and Tebow are special, but their passing games aren't Oklahoma's. With all due respect to Clemson QB Cullen Harper, outside of Stafford and Tebow, the Tide won't have faced anyone who can throw the forward pass with any semblance of regularity this season. Because of the air attack, Oklahoma can come back on Alabama, while Alabama doesn't have the firepower to come back on Oklahoma.

One Reason Alabama Would Have The Advantage: Has anyone gone smashmouth on Oklahoma? Has anyone been able to? Oklahoma State can certainly run the ball, and it came up with 198 yards in the loss to the Sooners, but it got caught up in the shootout and had to start throwing. The same goes for Texas. Oddly enough for a traditionally running conference, no one else in the Big 12 had much in the way of rushing attacks. Oklahoma is a rhythm team. It's fast-paced, up-tempo style of offense is all about keeping defenses on their heels and never letting them get comfortable. For the first time since the Texas game, Oklahoma would probably be forced to play at someone else's tempo, at least it would for a few key stretches.
The Winner Would Likely Be ... Oklahoma 34 ... Alabama 30

Potential Matchup No. 1

Oklahoma vs. Florida
If this turns out to be the game to end the 2008 season, get your popcorn ready. Of course Alabama is good enough to win the national championship. Of course Texas is talented enough to win it all if given a shot. There's no glaringly wrong answer among the four national title possibilities, but there's one very bright, very shiny, very fun answer. Let's just say Oklahoma vs. Florida wouldn't be a 7-3 slugfest.

It would be a matchup of the Heisman winner and the runner-up (you figure out which one is which) as Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford would be the marquee stars. It would be the unstoppable passing attack of Oklahoma vs. the unstoppable will of Florida's diverse and lethal offense. And it would also be the chance for redemption for one head coach and further validation for another.

Only three current head coaches have won multiple D-I/FBS national championships (keep the AP title to yourself, USC fans), Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, and Dennis Erickson. A win for Florida's Urban Meyer would be his second national championship in three years and would make him the official big man on coaching campus. For Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, a win would all but wipe away a suddenly bizarre string of BCS post-season gaffes since winning the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2002 season. His Sooners were on the wrong end of the last two Fiesta Bowls, all but quit in the 2004 national title, losing 55-19 to USC, and lost to LSU in the 2003 national championship.

Alabama was one of the surprises of the season, and Texas wasn't supposed to be this good. Oklahoma and Florida were expected to be here, and if this matchup really happens, everyone should get their money's worth.

One Reason Florida Would Have The Advantage: Florida has the speed and athleticism on defense keep up with all the Oklahoma athletes. The Gators don't have a dominant pass rush, but they have enough of one to get into the backfield on a regular basis to give Bradford a few shots. The secondary hasn't been tested all that often, but it has clamped down on everyone's passing game with a defensive backfield currently ranking second in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Florida can play anyway it needs to against OU. It can grind out drives, it can get rolling in a shootout, and it can put on just as big a show as the Sooners can.

One Reason Oklahoma Would Have The Advantage: The SEC is awful this year. If Florida gets here, it'll have proven its worth by beating Alabama, but it's not like the Tide had to deal with Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Missouri, not to mention TCU and Cincinnati. For all the great things the Gators have done, they haven't seen a passing game anywhere near the high-rent district that Oklahoma's is at. Oklahoma is far better battle tested, while Florida has played a schedule that looks like Tarzan, but played like Jane. All the great stats and all the blowouts Florida has come up with aren't going to mean a whole bunch when it has to play a team that's been great all season long, and will be even better, benefiting more than anyone else in this four-team equation, with a month off to heal.

The Winner Would Likely Be ... Florida 45 ... Oklahoma 37