Friday, January 9, 2009

Gators Grab National Crown

Congratulations to Florida on its victory over Oklahoma last night.

The Gators now have their second national title in three years — and the Southeastern Conference has its fourth national title in six years.

In fact, in those six years, the SEC has compiled a record of 7-2 in BCS bowl games — only Georgia (in the January 2006 Sugar Bowl) and Alabama (in the January 2009 Sugar Bowl) have failed to emerge victorious in BCS bowls in that time span.

Viewers who tuned in to the game expecting to see another 60-point performance by the Sooners were disappointed. OU only managed to get a single TD in each half.

And those who enjoy controversy may have been denied that opportunity this year. If Oklahoma had won the game, Texas fans might have been able to argue convincingly that they were more deserving of the national title since the Longhorns beat the Sooners in October.

But OU lost by the same margin (10 points) to Florida as to Texas, and the Gators' defense did a better job of stopping Oklahoma's admired offense than Texas did.

So, if Mack Brown follows through with his pledge to vote Texas #1 in today's poll, what will be his justification?

Florida followed the prescribed formula for winning the national title.

Does that mean the national championship will be spared controversy this year? Not necessarily. After all, Utah finished the season undefeated — and beat Alabama more convincingly than Florida did last month.

Doug Robinson of the Deseret News is armed with the blue-collar argument: "This is about nothing more than money, a case of the rich getting richer and not wanting to share the loot with the lower classes. It's the good-ol'-boys bowl network protecting its turf."

And he isn't finished.

"No matter how you cut it, the arrangement is just plain un-American," he writes. "In America, it's what you do, not who you are or what club you belong to or how much money you have. It's about fairness and equal opportunity and performance, or it's supposed to be."

Ah, yes, performance.

That's an area where Oklahoma came up far short of expectations, after routinely putting up 50 or 60 points against foes during the regular season — and even in its Big 12 title game.

During halftime, Barry Switzer may have been on to something when he pointed to OU's failure to score in the red zone as a potential factor in the game. Instead of attempting what should have been a chip shot field goal on a fourth-and-goal situation with the score tied late in the second quarter, the Sooners tried to score a touchdown and were rejected by the Gators.

That's the kind of play that gives confidence and momentum to the defense while robbing the offense of the same things.

Late in the game, OU coach Bob Stoops may have wished the Sooners had kicked that field goal in the first half. If the Sooners had settled for the three points before halftime, the whole complexion of the game could have been altered, strategies would have been different, and the Sooners might not have faced impossible odds late in the contest.

So this loss was as much Stoops' failure as his team's.

If not moreso.

As a result, as Kevin Sherrington suggests in the Dallas Morning News, Stoops' moniker of "Big Game Bob" may not survive.

But Florida's Urban Meyer, who has now won two national championships in three years, may now be overdue for a nickname that implies his winning ways.

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