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January 6, 2009

SCS.comWhile the BCS has been an undisputed source of a national champion for 10 years, this year is the third time the BCS Championship is a separate game at a location of one of the four BCS bowl games. This season Miami welcomes the two worst teams in the BCS on New Year's Day in Cincinnati and Virginia Tech, but then the top two teams in the country in this game. While there may be some controversy about the inclusion of Oklahoma over Texas, these are the conference champions of the best two conferences in college football. Will the SEC make it 3 for 3 in the BCS Championship?

BCS CHAMPIONSHIP - Oklahoma vs Florida
January 8 - 7:00 PM CST FOX TV - Miami, FL

The matchup...

The script almost could not be written better. The SEC versus the Big XII. High powered offenses on both sides. The current Heisman winner against last year's Heisman winner. Two coaches who have won BCS Championships once before. Despite the controversy present seemingly every year in the BCS, this matchup is a dream for college football fans.
Each team also clearly dominated when it matters most, the final two months of the season. Oklahoma overcame the early loss to Texas to roll through a series of tough opponents in Texas Tech, Missouri, and Oklahoma State. Florida recovered from a shocking home loss against Mississippi to maul every single team remaining on their schedule, capping the season with a fourth quarter comeback and domination of previously unbeaten Alabama. Now these powerhouse programs meet for the crystal football.

When Oklahoma has the ball...

The Sooners scored an incredible 702 points in 13 games, nabbing over 60 points in their last four contests. QB Sam Bradford earned the Heisman by throwing for nearly 4500 yards and 48 touchdowns against a lowly 6 interceptions. Four wide receivers are true threats in Juaquin Iglesias, Jermain Gresham, Manuel Johnson, and Ryan Broyles. Oklahoma obviously did not roll up all those points by being one-dimensional. The rushing attack is also strong with Chris Brown and Mossis Madu in this game, thanks to DeMarco Murray's ruptured hamstring forcing him out of this title match. Bradford will have all the weapons he needs in this shootout.
Florida plays hard-nosed defense under Urban Meyer, which is what led them to a national title two seasons ago. Last season Florida struggled because the defense had not jelled, but this season the Gators are holding opponents under 13 points per game. Safety Ahmad Black and cornerback Joe Haden are each huge threats to up Bradford's interception numbers if he gets careless. Furthermore, LB Brandon Spikes will disrupt everything Oklahoma will try to do. In a game where defensive stops will come at a premium, Florida has the defense to get the job done.

When Florida has the ball...

The only thing better than a current Heisman winner could very well be a previous Heisman winner. QB Tim Tebow did not have the monster stats from a year ago, but nobody doubts that Tebow had much more around him this season and that allowed him to mature into a game manager. Tebow is a threat to run the ball just as much as pass, but the key to the Florida offense is the decisionmaking of Tebow. WR Percy Harvin will be Tebow's primary focus, but Tebow and Chris Rainey should not be ignored in the rushing game. There's a lot of ground for the OU defense to cover.
Thankfully for Oklahoma, their defense is used to great offenses in the Big XII. However, Oklahoma may not be able to just outscore this opponent. The key will be holding Florida down early, as Tebow and company will wear the defense down and charge in the second half. The Sooners play as a unit defensively and create a lot of turnovers by bringing pressure. Look for Bob Stoops to continue this rushing strategy to try and contain Tim Tebow and disrupt his decisionmaking.

Special Teams and Coaching...

Jonathan Phillips handles the kicking duties for the Gators, but he has not really been tested in 2008. Only 11/12 overall on field goals and 1/2 from over 40 yards, Florida should not rely on Phillips if at all possible. Jimmy Stevens is even less consistent for the Sooners at 8/11 field goals. Furthermore, Stevens has missed five PAT's this season. Each team will have to get within the red zone to feel comfortable about a field goal try, but this game will likely not be won with kicking and punting.
For the first time, we are guaranteed a coach will win his second BCS Championship. Urban Meyer is the next big thing, leading his Gators through the minefield of the SEC for the second time in three seasons with a strong defense. Bob Stoops has not been hugely successful on this level since 1999, but Big Game Bob has been in 3 BCS Championships already. There's really no edge here, as both coaches are experienced and capable of inspiring a game-changing performance.

Star watch...

With DeMarco Murray sitting this one out on the sidelines, there's no good choice for Oklahoma other than your Heisman winner Sam Bradford. Bradford will face his stiffest test of the season in the Florida defense, and he will need to stay away from mistakes in this battle. Bradford hopes to avoid what Troy Smith experienced two years ago, that being the blitz-happy disruption of Urban Meyer's defense. Bradford faces a tall task, but he has stepped up so far.
On the Florida side, the superstar is also the Heisman winner, Tim Tebow. Teboew runs the spread option with masterful decisionmaking and a level of toughness not seen in any championship quarterback since maybe Craig Krenzel. Tebow is a proven winner and would love to have his second championship ring this season. Tebow is the emotional leader of his team as well, so look for him to inspire both the offense and the defense to new heights in this game.

Deciding factor...

This game will likely end up with the winner above 40 points, if not 50 or 60. However, there will be some defense in this game. The only noticeable edge is on the defensive side of the ball, where Florida has played better all season. While Oklahoma should get a slight pass for playing in the Big XII, Florida stopped elite teams whereas Oklahoma did not. Florida will get one or two important defensive stops and pull ahead by a margin that will hold throughout most of the game. Florida wins with defense.
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