With all the other BCS bowl games out of the way, the Oklahoma Sooners and Florida Gators are set to face off for the BCS Championship on Thursday. Even in the storied history of both schools, this will be the first time they've ever played one another. Here's my breakdown....
Scoring offense: 54.0(1st)
Total yards p/g: 562.1(3rd)
Passing yards p/g: 356.5(3rd)
Rushing yards p/g: 205.5(19th)
Scoring defense: 24.5(57th)
Total yards allowed p/g: 359.1(65th)
Passing yards allowed p/g: 253.1(100th)
Rushing yards allowed p/g: 106.0(18th)
August 30 Chattanooga W 57-2
September 6 Cincinnati W 52-26
September 13 @ Washington W 55-14
September 27 TCU W 35-10
October 4 @ Baylor W 49-17
October 11 Texas in Dallas L 45-35
October 18 Kansas W 45-31
October 25 @ Kansas State W 58-35
November 1 Nebraska W 62-28
November 8 @ Texas A&M W 66-28
November 22 Texas Tech W 65-21
November 29 @ Oklahoma State W 61-41
December 6 Missouri(Big 12 Championship) W 62-21
Oklahoma's high-powered and balanced offense set numerous records during the regular season including the most points scored. Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford led the way with over 4,400 passing yards with 48 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. Wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias led the team in receptions with 69 and receiving yards with 1,092. Tight end Jermaine Gresham led the team with 12 receiving touchdowns. The offense will miss explosive 1,000-yard rusher DeMarco Murray for the game who had to have surgery to repair a hamstring tear. But Chris Brown also rushed for 1,100 yards during the season, and Mossis Madu will back him up in the BCS Championship Game. The offensive line is one of the most experienced and best in the country while only allowing 11 sacks in 472 pass attempts on the season.
On defense, the Sooners played in a very pass-happy Big 12 Conference. The Sooners strength on defense is the front four as ends Frank Alexander and Jeremy Beal have played well in the absence of the injured Auston English. Gerald McCoy is one of the nation's best interior lineman, and will be counted on to disrupt the Florida offense. Injuries at linebacker to Ryan Reynolds and Austin Box(who could play against Florida) likely means Mike Balogun will start in the middle. Linebacker Travis Lewis led the team in tackles on the season. Lendy Holmes led the team in inteceptions. The secondary has been much maligned for its play as they gave up yards in chunks on the season. Because of the conference they played in, it's tough to judge them as they prepare for an offense that played in a defensive conference.
Three keys to victory for the Sooners:
1. Run the ball. As good as Bradford has been this year, I think how Brown and Madu play will determine how effective the offense will be against a very good Florida defense. If they run the ball effectively, Florida's defense could be in for a long night.
2. Defensive line must win at the line of scrimmage. Oklahoma has been good upfront all year, and they must continue that in this game. Containment of Tebow in the pocket and getting upfield to slow down the running game is on their shoulders. Should the Sooners have to bring more guys in the box, they'll be torched all night.
3. Special teams play. The Gators have scored with blocked punts and in the return game throughout the season, and this is an area the Sooners have had problems in. They cannot afford to let the Gators score touchdowns on special teams in this game.
Scoring offense: 45.2(3rd)
Total yards p/g: 442.4(18th)
Passing yards p/g: 212.6(61st)
Rushing yards p/g: 229.8(11th)
Scoring defense: 12.8(5th)
Total yards allowed: 279.3(8th)
Passing yards allowed p/g: 174.0(19th)
Rushing yards allowed p/g: 105.3(16th)
August 30 Hawaii W 56-10
September 6 Miami(FL) W 26-3
September 20 @ Tennessee W 30-6
September 27 Mississippi L 31-30
October 4 @ Arkansas W 38-7
October 11 LSU W 51-21
October 25 Kentucky W 63-5
November 1 Georgia in Jacksonville, FL W 49-10
November 8 @ Vanderbilt W 42-14
November 15 South Carolina W 56-6
November 22 Citadel W 70-19
November 29 @ Florida State W 45-15
December 6 Alabama(SEC Championship) W 31-20
Florida's offense once again goes as 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow goes after throwing 28 touchdowns with just two interceptions while rushing for over 500 yards to go along with 12 touchdowns. Wide receiver Percy Harvin will return for this game, and he's capable of scoring everytime he touches the ball as his 16 touchdowns(9 rushing, 7 receiving) will attest to. Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps are both explosive with each having broken off big runs this year. Louis Murphy led the team in receptions with 36 and receiving yards with 611. The offensive line has allowed 16 total sacks and is a big reason why five players have rushed for over 400 yards on the season. The offense is very balanced with playmakers that can change a game in a hurry.
The obvious strength of the Gators is on defense. They have five interception return touchdowns on the season with linebacker Brandon Spikes and safety Ahmad Black having two a piece. Spikes is one of the nation's top linebackers and seldom if ever misses a tackle. Major Wright and Will Hill are also solid safeties, and Hill has been effective on blitzes this year, too. Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins have been solid at the cornerback spots. Ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham along with nose tackle Lawrence Marsh have led a young, but very active front four as the team finished 8th in yards allowed on the campaign.
Three keys to victory for the Gators:
1. The secondary and defensive line must play well. The defense hasn't seen this kind of offense all year, but then again, the Sooners haven't seen this kind of defense. Nonetheless, the secondary must tackle well and keep the Sooners from stretching out big plays. The defensive line must win upfront against what maybe the best offensive line they've seen.
2. It's all about Tebow. The offense runs as well as he plays, and if the defense is unable to slow down the Sooners, then it's up to him to win the game. This could pose to be a problem because the Gators have won with defense and special teams all year, and the Gators only loss on the season came when Tebow didn't play well.
3. Turnover battle. The Gators had 24 interceptions on defense this year, and only had three as a team on offense. Giving the Sooners a short field on turnovers has proven to be costly to anyone that has played them this year. I don't see Florida winning this game if they lose in turnover margin.
No matter what anyone says, this game is not only for bragging rights, but for conference supremecy. Make no mistake about it, the Big 12 has evolved into an offensive conference. The SEC has continued to thrive on being a defensive conference. This is one game where something will truly have to give, and we'll know which school's strength wins out. Two Heisman Trophy winners clash in what should be a fun-filled game to watch. The test for both teams is coming in the BCS Championship in South Florida.
1/06/2009 02:45:00 PM David Funk