Sunday, December 7, 2008

Florida Will Be Worthy Foe For Oklahoma

The BCS selections won’t be announced for more than four hours, although I’m inclined to agree with Stewart Mandel when he says, in Sports lllustrated, that "there will be little suspense" — and most of that will be over whether Oklahoma or Florida should be ranked #1.

In spite of the three-way tie for the Big 12 South title and the rule that put the tiebreaker in the hands of the BCS, it’s hard to argue against Oklahoma’s inclusion in the national championship game after the Sooners exceeded 60 points for the fifth consecutive game Saturday night.

If the Sooners had scored another field goal against Kansas State, they would have broken 60 in six straight.

It’s the most productive offense in memory — the first in the modern era, observes Jake Trotter in The Oklahoman, to score more than 700 points in a season.

Even in their only loss of the year, the Sooners scored five touchdowns.

Now, Oklahoma will have to face what is arguably the best defense it has faced all season. "Finally, perhaps, the Sooner offense may meet its match," writes Trotter.

Actually, Texas fans might argue that the Sooner offense already met its match.

Quarterback Tim Tebow — who won last year’s Heisman but will, I believe, finish second to Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford this year — and the Gator offense get all the attention, but the defense has been quietly doing its job all season.

Granted, TCU — which held the Sooners to 35 points in their September meeting — ranks higher in every team defense category than Florida or any of the teams Oklahoma played this season.

In all fairness, TCU does play in the Mountain West conference. And, while that conference has some respectable programs — like Utah and Brigham Young — it isn’t exactly as deep as the Southeastern Conference.

That’s why Florida will be a worthy adversary in Oklahoma’s final hurdle to the national title. The Gators face high-quality programs every week.

The Gators haven’t scored as prodigiously as the Sooners, and it’s the very absence of the kind of glittering numbers he compiled last year that appears to stand in Tebow’s way this year.

But perhaps the Heisman voters will remember that his success as a sophomore made Tebow the target of everyone he played as a junior — much like the 1973 Miami Dolphins team that had to defend not only its Super Bowl title but its undefeated season every time it took the field.

It’s hard to meet expectations when you’ve got a target on your chest in every game.

Even so, Tebow and the Gators haven’t done poorly. The offense hasn't put up Oklahoma-like numbers, but the defense is highly ranked in most categories and held the top-ranked team in the nation, Alabama, to 20 points in yesterday’s SEC title game.

For the record, the ’73 Dolphins didn’t do too badly, either. In spite of the pressure of being the squad that had to defend the legendary 17-0 season, Miami only lost two games the next year, won the Super Bowl and finished with an overall record of 15-2.

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