2009 BCS Championship Position Breakdown
OU's Nic Harris & Florida's Louis Murphy
OU's Nic Harris & Florida's Louis Murphy
Posted Jan 8, 2009

It's finally here ... national championship night. While the stars will come out to shine, the outcome might come down to the slightly lesser-known big-time players like OU's Nic Harris and Florida's Louis Murphy. Check out the position-by-position breakdown of the Sooners and Gators.

BCS Championship Breakdown

Florida vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 8, 2009

Florida | Oklahoma
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- 2008 BCS Championship Breakdown: LSU vs. Ohio State

- Sam Bradford belonged among the Heisman finalists in 2007 when he threw 36 touchdown passes, 3,121 yards and eight interceptions while leading the nation in passing efficiency and leading the Sooners to the Big 12 title. Shut out as a freshman, he came back roaring with a 4,464-yard, 48 touchdown, six interception season on the way to the Heisman and the Big 12 title. Last off-season the offense changed things up a bit to a more up-tempo offense designed to get the ball out of Bradford's hands in a hurry, and after a brief adjustment period this spring, he became a legend. Backup Joey Halzle is a good senior who can step in and produce if needed.
Florida - Tim Tebow didn't necessarily carry the team on his back to the national title, but he took the pressure off everyone else by demanding more of himself, and the team, after the loss to Ole Miss. He all but said it was on him to make sure the Gators played up to their capabilities, and he was focused and lethal throughout the season with 28 touchdown passes, two interceptions, and 12 rushing touchdowns. The 2007 Heisman winner finished third in the 2008 race and will be the favorite in 2009 if he chooses to return for his senior season. While he's known for his bruising running style, he's been among the nation's most efficient passers for the last two years. However, his only 300-yard passing game this season came in the loss to Ole Miss. Redshirt freshman Jonathan Brantley completed 18-of-28 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns with an interception in mop-up duty. The one-time blue-chip recruit is waiting in the wings to be the next Gator passing star.
ADVANTAGE: Even. Neither one has won a bowl game as the starter (Tebow was along for Chris Leak's ride in the 2007 BCS Championship), but each has proven he can come up big in the big game. More pressure is on Tebow. OU can win if Bradford isn't lights out; Florida can't win if Tebow isn't amazing.

- Losing DeMarco Murray, a speedster with first day draft pick talent, will hurt, but mostly for his kickoff return ability. Because of the great OU offensive line, it doesn't take a superior back to to produce. While there's no Adrian Peterson in the backfield, Chris Brown isn't a bad fill-in. He has played a second-fiddle role throughout his career, but he took over the reins this season with a team-leading 1,110 yards and 20 touchdowns with at least one in every game but the loss to Texas and the blowout over Washington. Sophomore Mossis Madu is yet another Oklahoma ultra-quick back who can carry the load when needed.
Florida - The Gators have the epitome of a running back by committee situation. They ran for 2,987 yards and 41 touchdowns on the year, finishing 11th in the nation in rushing offense and first in the SEC, and while there are several different options at tailback, to go along with the occasional carry from WR Percy Harvin, it's Tim Tebow who runs the ball in crunch time. Four different Gators ran for 500 yards or more with speedster Chris Rainey leading the way with 655 yards and four touchdowns. USC transfer Emmanuel Moody was supposed to take over the ground game, but he was relegated to a part-time role. Jeffrey Demps is another speed option who can make big plays.
ADVANTAGE: Even ... surprisingly. Both teams are known for their passing offenses, and for Florida, it's running game usually revolves around Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin, but each team is among the best in America on the ground. Both teams will use several players to run the ball.

- Juaquin Iglesias is the game-breaker who always seems to come up with a back-breaking catch that turns games into blowouts. Along with being an elite receiver, he'll bring his 4.4 speed to the special teams as a kickoff returner. Iglesias should be a first day draft pick, while tight end Jermaine Gresham might go in the first round. While not a devastating blocker, he's not bad, and he's a prototype receiving tight end with 58 catches for 888 yards and 12 scores on the year. The Sooners have several other big, fast targets, like Manuel Johnson, Ryan Broyles, and Quentin Chaney all get fat by having Bradford throwing to them.
Florida - While all the attention has been on the ankle of Percy Harvin, just as important is Louis Murphy's banged up knee. The team's leading receiver might not be Harvin, but he's been able to come up with a big catch a game over the second half of the year including the SEC title game. Cornelius Ingram was supposed to be the star tight end after changing his mind about leaving early for the NFL at the last second, but he hurt his knee before the season. Aaron Hernandez has been a more-than-adequate replacement finishing third on the team with 29 catches for 324 yards and five scores.
ADVANTAGE: Oklahoma, but mostly because they get more opportunities. Harvin's the best receiver in the game, but Gresham is a special talent. Both teams have speed to burn with gamebreakers galore.

Oklahoma - This is the best offensive line in America. Tackles Phil Loadholt and Trent Williams, and guard Duke Robinson, could start in the NFL right now, and center Jon Cooper is an excellent quarterback up front. This group can pound away when needed, can move well enough to keep up in the up-tempo attack, and is tremendous in in pass protection allowing 11 sacks on the year. However, seven of those sacks came in the two lowest scoring Sooner games of the year (TCU and Texas).
Florida - This isn't Oklahoma's front five, but it's plenty good. OU's line is helped by Bradford, who gets the ball out of his hands in a hurry, while Florida's line is helped by Tebow, who's strong enough to fight off most pass rushers and mobile enough to make things happen when there's a breakdown. Left tackle Phil Trautwein and guard Jim Tartt are the stars of the show, while the rest of the line, helped by sophomore brothers Maurkice Pouncey at center and Mike Pouncey at guard, provide good athleticism to a big, veteran line. This group doesn't make many mistakes.
ADVANTAGE: Oklahoma. Florida's offensive front might be among the five best in America, but the OU line is flawless. Alabama's talented offensive line dominated Florida during a key stretch in the SEC title game, and OU's needs to shine to pull off the win.

- While he's not Tommie Harris, Gerald McCoy is the best defensive tackle OU has had for a long time. The time off between the end of the regular season and the title game turned was a huge bonus for Auston English, the team's best pass rusher who struggled through a knee injury late in the season, causing him to miss two games. Jeremy Beal was able to fill in nicely and provides another pass rushing option with tremendous quickness on the outside. This isn't a massive defensive front, and it struggled against the Oklahoma State ground game, but it's athletic and is fantastic at making plays in the backfield.
Florida - This is a talented, athletic line, but by comparison to the rest of the talented Gator defense, it's the relative weak link. Injuries have been a problem, especially at tackle, but the line held up relatively well, with the exception of the third quarter against Alabama, and now all the parts are ready to go. Carlos Dunlap is a big-time speed rusher on the outside and Jermaine Cunningham will be in the NFL sooner than later, but they'll have to prove they can get by the star Sooner offensive tackles. This is a young, young, young group with seven sophomores and Cunningham, a junior.
ADVANTAGE: Oklahoma. Next year the Gator defensive front will be phenomenal, and it's hardly bad now, but the Oklahoma line is a bit better at tackle and generates tremendous production on the ends. However, the Florida ends are more talented and they could be the story of the game if they win the battle against the OU star offensive tackles.

Oklahoma - OU has had horrendous luck with injuries in the middle. It's not a stretch to say the loss of Ryan Reynolds to a knee injury cost the Sooners the Texas game as McCoy took advantage middle of the OU defense in the second half. Travis Lewis is the new star. The 232-pound redshirt freshman dominated on the weakside with a team leading 137 stops. Athleticism isn't a problem, but this group is very young and very inconsistent. When needed, safety Nic Harris moves up and serves as a linebacker.
Florida - Brandon Spikes is one of the best linebackers in America. Wake Forest's Aaron Curry won the Butkus, and USC's tandem of Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing are terrific, but the 6-3, 245-pound Spikes will likely be the top linebacker taken in the 2009 NFL Draft (or he'll be second behind Curry). A tackling machine, he has sideline-to-sideline range and he's the unquestioned leader of the defense. The Gators rotate several players on the outside, including Brandon Hicks, A.J. Jones, and Ryan Stamper, and they can all fly.
ADVANTAGE: Florida. The Sooner linebacking corps is excellent, and it'll be special next year, but Spikes and all the speed on the outside should swarm all over the OU running game.

Oklahoma - The secondary is better than the stats. Teams have to fire away to try to keep up with the OU offense, and while the Sooners give up their share of big plays, they come up with their stops, too. The spotlight will be on Dominique Franks, the talented sophomore whose comments about Tim Tebow became headline material. He's a nice player who can do a little of everything well, but the safeties are the stars. FS Lendy Holmes is a big-time playmakers, and he's great against the run, but it's his speed that makes him a standout. Nic Harris can serve as a strong safety or as a linebacker depending on the situation.
Florida - The young secondary that got ripped up last year, and was a major reason for a great, but not special season, is all grown up. Sophomore Joe Haden is a shut-down defender who locks on to everyone's No. 1 target, while sophomore safeties Major Wright and Ahmad Black will be in charge of keeping the big plays on the OU timing patterns to a minimum. Haden is the best tackler of the bunch, but Wright is the big hitter. On a team with elite speed all over the place, this group's wheels are at another level.
ADVANTAGE: Florida, but here's the issue ... the secondary hasn't faced anyone who can throw outside of Georgia's Matthew Stafford, and he had a nightmare of a day in the loss. For the most part, the SEC passing games were horrendous. Oklahoma will either expose the Gator defensive backfield as a bit of a fraud, after it finished second in the nation in pass efficiency defense and 15th in the country in pass D, or it'll struggle against the speed.

- You'd think the kickoff coverage team would shine considering all the practice it gets, but it's among the worst in the country allowing 24.05 yards per try with four touchdowns on the 100 kickoffs. By comparison, Notre Dame, who led the nation in kickoff coverage, allowed 16.47 yards per try on 59 kicks. The OU kickers aren't bad connecting on 8-of-12 attempts, but punter Mike Knall is merely average and the punt return game is mediocre. The loss of DeMarco Murray from the kickoff return team that averages over 25 yards per try will hurt a little bit, but Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson are explosive.
Florida - If Florida doesn't have the best special teams in America, they're close. Brandon James is one of the best all-around return men in college football; he all but won the Tennessee game by himself. The Gators are ninth in the nation in punting and kicker Jonathan Phillips has hit 11-of-12 field goal attempts. The one problem is the kickoff coverage, allowing 22.35 yards per return.
ADVANTAGE: Florida. The Gators should have a huge advantage here with James likely to exploit OU's biggest weakness, the kickoff coverage team, while Phillips is all but automatic.

- OU has been a factory for turning out assistants into head coaches, but it's Bob Stoops who runs the show. He's been the best head coach in America over the last decade as far as his consistency and his ability to adapt, adjust, and change from year to year. While he's been criticized for the recent BCS failures, it should say something that he's able to get his teams into the big games year after year.
Florida - Urban Meyer is the shooting star who went from being a hot name at Bowling Green to a rent-a-coach at Utah to a legend at Florida. It's next to impossible to replace Steve Spurrier as far as success on a national scale, but Meyer can do it with a win over the Sooners. Remember, Spurrier only won one national title. The big question mark is with the assistants, as offensive coordinator Dan Mullen will be off to Mississippi State after the game, while defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been in the news for being critical over not being offered a head coaching job somewhere, and rightly so, despite being one of the most qualified coordinators in college football.
Florida ... by a paper thin margin. Stoops and Meyer are two of the best in the business. Each will have multiple national titles on the résumé when their done, and, obviously, one will get his second on Thursday night. However, when given time, Meyer has the better big-game track record in recent years.

Florida | Oklahoma
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2009 BCS Championship Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More