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2009 BCS Champ. Preview - Florida vs. OU
Florida's Tim Tebow & Oklahoma's Sam Bradford
Florida's Tim Tebow & Oklahoma's Sam Bradford
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 7, 2009


A strong bowl season ends with the two heavyweights in what will be a historic BCS Championship Game one way or another. Will Florida make it two titles in three years, or will OU establish itself as the team of the decade with a win? Check out the CFN 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship Preview & Prediction.

2009 BCS Championship

Florida (12-1) vs. Oklahoma (12-1)

 
Jan. 8, 8:00 p.m. ET, Fox



Payout:
$17 million   Location: Dolphin Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL

- 2008 BCS Championship Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More

Alright, fine. If you’re going to go on résumés and what actually happened on the field this season, bowl games included, this game should probably be Utah vs. Texas. Utah is the nation’s lone unbeaten team, beat the team that beat USC, and throttled the Alabama team Florida struggled to get by. Texas, of course, beat Oklahoma.

However, in lieu of a playoff, if you’re going to go by the two most impressive teams this college football season, and if you’re going to go with the two teams you
think are the two best in America, with all due respect to USC, it’s almost impossible to argue against Florida vs. Oklahoma. When all is said and done, the winner of this game will be the national champion.

Period.

 
National Rankings
Florida Oklahoma
Total Offense
17th  442.38 ypg 3rd  562.08 ypg
Total Defense
8th  279.31 ypg 63rd  359.08 ypg
Scoring Offense
3rd  45.15 ppg 1st  54 ppg
Scoring Defense
4th  12.85 ppg 58th  24.54 ppg
Run Offense
11th  229.77 ypg 18th  205.54 ypg
Run Defense
15th  105.31 ypg 16th  106 ypg
Pass Offense
62nd  212.62 ypg  3rd  356.54 ypg
Pass Defense
16th  174 ypg 98th  253.08 ypg
Turnover Margin
2nd  1.69 1st  1.77
Florida
Hawaii W 56-10
Miami W 26-3
at Tenn W 30-6
Ole Miss L 31-30
at Arkansas W 38-7
LSU W 51-21
Kentucky W 63-5
Georgia W 49-10
at Vandy W 42-14
S Carolina W 56-6
The Citadel W 70-19
at Fla St W 45-15
SEC Champ
Alabama W 31-20
Oklahoma
Chattanooga W 57-2
Cincinnati W 52-26
at Wash. W 55-14
TCU W 35-10
at Baylor W 49-14
Texas  L 45-35
Kansas W 45-31
at Kansas St W 58-35
Nebraska W 62-28
at Tex A&M W 66-28
Texas Tech W 65-21
at Okla St W 61-41
Big 12 Champ.
Missouri W 62-21
Position Ratings
relative to each other
F 5 highest
1 lowest
O
5 Quarterbacks 5
4 RBs 3.5
5 Receivers 5
4.5 O Line 5
4.5 D Line 4
4.5 Linebackers 4
5 Secondary 2.5
5 Spec Teams 3.5
5 Coaching 5

For all the weeping and gnashing of teeth done this bowl season from teams that think they should be No. 1, this is it. This is the big show. This is the game featuring the two champions from the two best conferences in college football, with Florida finishing the season with an average margin of victory of 32.3 points per game, and Oklahoma closing out the final six games, including wins over Nebraska, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Missouri, by averaging 62.3 points per game.

This is the game that’ll either make it three straight championships for the SEC, and two in three years for Florida, or it’ll mean Oklahoma would be the program of the decade with its seventh BCS appearance, 103rd win, and second national title, in nine years.       
 
This is the game featuring the last two Heisman Trophy winners, a whole mess of future NFL starters, and two coaches looking to join the elite of the elite fraternity of current head coaches with two national titles (Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, Dennis Erickson, and debatably, Pete Carroll, being the others).

This is the game for the national championship, and it has all the makings of a classic.
 
It’ll be asking a lot to live up to an ultra-solid BCS season, and a good year overall for the bowl games, but these two teams have the firepower, the attitude, and the ridiculous stockpile of athletes to put on a great show.  What’s more, unlike the last several national title games, this one is almost a toss-up with several questions needing to be answered to finally put some perspective on the season.
 
Was the Big 12 overrated? It certainly seems that way after the bowl season, and that would be confirmed by a big Florida win. Can the OU offense be stopped? Will Florida have enough offense to keep up in a shootout? Is the young Gator defense ready to handle the barrage? Is Tim Tebow good enough to outslug Sam Bradford, and will the voters wish they could take back their Heisman ballots?  And most importantly, which team’s phenomenal season will be validated?

Florida had one hiccup in a 31-30 loss to Ole Miss, which appeared to be a disaster at the time, but now, especially after the Rebels destroyed Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl, seems completely forgivable. The Gators dominated, but they allowed one big pass play, had an extra point blocked, had two sure touchdowns just miss on slight Tebow overthrows, and they were stuffed on a fourth down play. If any one of those things had gone the other way, Florida is the unbeaten No. 1 team at the moment. Despite facing 10 bowl teams (not including Tennessee and Arkansas) Florida wasn’t challenged by anyone out than Ole Miss until the SEC title game. All 12 wins were by 11 points or more, 11 of the wins were by 20 points or more, and between the Rebel loss and the Bama win, a span of eight games, only Vanderbilt, in a 42-14 loss, came within 30. In other words, Florida was special.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma had one bad half against Texas, and then it put on an offensive display never seen before in the history of college football. Only 18 teams averaged 35 points or more per game; the 35 scored against Texas and TCU represent the low points for the OU offense. The Sooners scored more in their final seven games than 80 teams scored all season long. To be even more absurd, they scored more this year than Army, Washington, Washington State and Wyoming combined. The bar has been set high for Bradford and the perfectly run attack, and while the offense likely won’t score 60 on the Gators, it’ll take a big-time effort to keep it in check. 

For a few hours, all the debates, all the question marks, and all the controversies will be thrown aside, and these two magnificent teams will play a Super Bowl-like game at the highest of levels. After two straight Ohio State duds, this should set the bar high for future BCS Championship games.
 
Players to watch: Left tackle Phil Loadholt, left guard Duke Robinson, center Jon Cooper, right guard Brandon Walker, and right tackle Trent Williams. These five Sooners form the nation’s best offensive line and they’re the reason the offense is as high-powered as it is. Of course, Sam Bradford has a lot to do with it, and there are talented backs and receivers ready to step in at any time, but because everyone has all the time they need to operate, the offense is unstoppable. The attack is designed to get the ball out of Bradford’s hands in a hurry, and while the system helps keep the sack total down, the ability of the front five to limit the pressure in the backfield, while giving a future top five NFL draft pick an extra half-tick to work, has led the way to the historic season. The massive 6-8, 337-pound Loadholt and 6-5, 335-pound Robinson will be multi-millionaires in a few months, while the 6-5, 308-pound Williams is the team’s most talented lineman. On the year, this group has allowed just 11 sacks and paved the way for 206 rushing yards per game.
 
For Florida, all eyes will be on the ankle of Percy Harvin, the magnificent receiver who can break a game open at any time. The 5-11, 195-pounder might seem slight on the field, and he has a problem staying healthy, but he’s strong, compact, and if a flash of lightning whenever he gets the ball in his hands averaging 8.8 yards per carry while catching 35 passes for 595 yards and seven scores. He missed the opener against Hawaii and the SEC title game against Alabama, and while he says he’s at around 90%, he’ll have to show he can last the entire game with the OU defense focusing most of its efforts on keeping him in check.  
 
Of course, the main focus of the game will be on the two stars: Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford. Tebow, with a Heisman and a national title, albeit in a supporting role, under his belt can start to lay claim to being the greatest college quarterback of all-time if he’s able to pull off the win. He wants to turn pro early, but will likely be considered no better than a late second round pick and will likely return. On the other side, Bradford might be a Detroit Lion in late April. He’s 6-4, 218 pounds with a tremendous command of a timing offense that suits his talents perfectly. While he’s not the runner Tebow is, Bradford is hardly immobile, running for 65 yards and five touchdowns on the year. Most importantly, he rarely takes sacks because of his ability to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry and his mobility to escape danger.
 
Bradford’s numbers are astounding. He has thrown just one interception, along with 25 touchdown passes, in the seven games since the Texas loss when he threw for 387 yards and five touchdowns. While he didn’t put up Graham Harrell-Texas Tech-like passing numbers, he went over 300 yards in every game but two, and in one of the games (Chattanooga) he was done at halftime. In two years, Bradford has thrown for 7,585 career yards and 84 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. The Heisman winner wasn’t always sharp, he struggled a bit against Kansas State, but he doesn’t make mistakes and he has an uncanny knack for always coming up with the big throw when needed.

Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency in each of the last two years, while Tebow finished second last season and fourth this year. While he’s not considered the passer Bradford is, Tebow  has only thrown two interceptions on the year, neither one mattered, and 28 touchdown passes with two scoring throws or more in every game but the loss to Ole Miss and the season opener against Hawaii. Of course, Tebow has made his living as a runner with 1,928 career yards and 43 touchdowns, and while he’s a bull for the hard yards, he’s not speedy enough to take off when he gets into open spaces. Oklahoma will let him try to run rather than take a chance on Harvin, or one of the other Florida speedsters, breaking one open.

Florida will win if... it hits Bradford. Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham aren’t going to beat the Oklahoma tackles on a regular basis, but they’re good enough to make a few plays here and there in the backfield. There were only two teams this year that made Bradford finish with negative rushing yards, TCU and Texas, and those were the two games OU was held to under points. Of the 11 sacks allowed by the Sooners, seven were allowed in those two games; Florida has to get Bradford at least three times, or at least make him hurry. The Horned Frogs were able to get four sacks and nine tackles for loss, mainly because the Sooner offensive line had to spend so much time keeping Jerry Hughes in check, and Texas came up with three sacks with Brian Orakpo getting two.  

Florida has score early and take advantage of a potentially rusty Sooner attack. With more than a month to prepare, the Gator coaches should be able to come up with a wrinkle or two that Bradford hasn’t seen, while the OU offense might take a little while to warm up. High-octane offenses with a long layoff before dealing with good defenses, tend to lose a little bit of the timing and the precision they had when the regular season ended. Colt McCoy and the Texas passing attack didn’t get rolling until the second half against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Texas Tech had one really good, crisp scoring drive in the first three quarters in the loss to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl and Missouri’s Chase Daniel was off all game long in the win over Northwestern in the Alamo. Bradford and the offense will eventually get rolling and it will put points on the board, but if it take a few drives to get there, Florida had better have a lead.
 
Oklahoma will win if
... it forces Florida mistakes and if it keeps the running game under wraps. Oklahoma leads the nation in turnover margin. Florida is second. On the year, the Gators gave the ball away just 11 times with three of the turnovers, all fumbles, coming in the loss to Ole Miss. Florida also struggled to get the ground game going against the great Rebel defensive front, finishing with 124 yards. It’s no coincidence that the three other struggles the Gators had, relatively speaking, were against Miami, Tennessee and Alabama; the three games when the offense wasn’t quite clicking. Florida has several backs at its disposal, led by Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey, and Oklahoma has to keep them from finding a groove. If the offense is Tebow left, Tebow right, Tebow up the middle, the Sooners aren’t going to argue. Considering how quickly Bradford and the OU offense can strike, the defense will be more than happy if Florida is plodding.

In an emotionally-charged game like this will be, the easiest way to calm things down will be to let the line do the work, and no one outside of Alabama has been able to do that on Florida. OU should be able to. Alabama had Florida dead-to-rights in the third quarter of the SEC Championship by pounding away on a key long drive to take the lead. Even without DeMarco Murray, OU can’t be afraid to try to win with the running game by using its big, NFL-caliber offensive front to control the tempo early until Bradford and the passing game start working.
 
What will happen: Traditionally, the more well-rounded teams tend to win national championships over the ones that are known for their high-powered offenses. Whether it’s Florida State losing to Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl, Miami having a hard time getting going against Ohio State in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, Troy Smith and Ohio State getting shut down cold by Florida in the 2007 BCS Championship, or Jason White and the Sooners losing to LSU in the 2004 Sugar Bowl, teams that have the defense and special teams to go along with a good offense, if not an explosive one, win. That’ll be the case for Florida as the defense does just enough to give Bradford a hard time by swarming the receivers and keeping the big plays to a minimum. Expect a repeat of what Ohio State did against Colt McCoy in the Fiesta, up until the game deciding play, by letting Bradford make his throws before blasting the receivers to force several third down chances. Florida will find a decent enough balance offensively, and will dominate on special teams, to make it three in a row for the SEC.

CFN Prediction: Florida 38 … Oklahoma 27 …  Line: Florida -3