It is debatable whether they are the top two teams in the nation or just two of the top three alongside Texas. But one thing is certain. The BCS National Championship Game between Florida and Oklahoma will be one of the most anticipated contests ever!
The grand battle, held in Miami’s Dolphin Stadium on January 8 can probably only be surpassed in recent years by the 2006 Rose Bowl. In that one, Vince Young guided his 12-0 Texas squad to a thrilling, 41-38 come-from-behind victory over Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart’s 12-0 USC team.
Although both are once-beaten in 2008, Florida and Oklahoma are known for explosive offensives, quick and athletic defenses, and whopping margins of victory.
Just two seasons ago, Coach Urban Meyer led Florida to an overwhelming 41-14 win over No. 1 Ohio State to capture a national title. The Gators only setback this season was 31-30 against fellow Southeastern Conference (SEC) Mississippi. Even so, Florida topped off its regular season with a 31-20 win over then No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game, and outscored its opponents, 587-167, including 321-51 in the first half alone.
Everyone knows the Gators offense is led by 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. The junior quarterback finished third in this year’s voting, but repeated his Maxwell Trophy triumph as best all-around college player.
This season, Tebow is 174-of-268 passing, a 64.9 completion percentage, for 2,515 yards, 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has also scrambled and rushed for 564 more yards and 12 TDs on a team high 154 attempts.
Tebow’s top passing target is junior Percy Harvin. Despite missing two full games due to injury, Harvin caught 35 passes for 595 yards and seven TDs. Senior Louis Murphy latched onto 36 for 611 yards and six scores.
Florida’s running game has also netted 2,987 yards, led by 655 on 83 carries from Chris Rainey. Fellow freshman Jeffery Demps has added 582 more on just 69 tries, and Harvin has carried 61 times for 538 yards. Some of the Gators top offensive linemen are a trio of seniors, 6-foot-6 and 312-pound Phil Trautwein, 6-3 and 315 Jim Tartt, 6-6 and 310 Jason Watkins, and also 6-5 and 312 sophomores Mike and Maurkice Pouncey.
Senior Jonathan Phillips has converted 11-of-12 field goal attempts, missing only his most recent attempt, a 42-yarder against Alabama. Junior Brandon James is an excellent return man, averaging 14.1 yards with punts and 23.7 on kickoffs.
Brandon Spikes was selected the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by The Sporting News. The 6-3 junior linebacker has not only intercepted four passes, but also has two sacks among 8.0 tackles for losses among a team-leading 87 total tackles.
Other top performers are sophomore end Carlos Dunlap with nine sacks, junior end Jermaine Cunningham with six sacks, and sophomore safety Ahmad Black with six picks.
OFFENSE??? Oklahoma’s was truly unbelievable! Coach Bob Stoops’ Sooners, whose only defeat was 45-35 against Texas in Dallas, set several NCAA major college records.
Not only is Oklahoma the first team to score 700 points in a season (702) while yielding 319, but the Sooners have outscored opponents, 456-150 in the first half alone. They also are the first ever to score more than 60 points in five consecutive games, including a 62-21 rout of Missouri in the Big 12 championship game. In the contest prior to the streak, Oklahoma led Kansas State 55-24 at the half before calling off the dogs to settle for a 58-31 triumph!
What a magical year it has been for Sam Bradford! The sophomore QB has not only rushed for five TDs, but Bradford’s Heisman Trophy numbers include 302-of-442 passing (68.3 per cent) for an incredible 4,464 yards and 48 TDs with a mere six picks.
Senior wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias has been fantastic with 69 catches for 1,092 yards and 10 TDs. But has 6-6, 260 junior tight end Jermaine Gresham. He caught 58 aerials for 888 yards and 12 TDs, joining Bradford and 6-5, 335 senior guard Duke Robinson as Oklahoma’s three First Team offensive All-America selections.
Junior Chris Brown leads Oklahoma’s rushing game with 1,110 yards and 20 TDs on 195 carries. Unfortunately, the Sooners No. 2 man, explosive sophomore DeMarco Murray, the Sooners top kick returner, who also rushed for 1,002 yards and 14 TDs, and caught 31 passes for 394 yards, is sidelined by surgery after injuring his hamstring early in the Big 12 title game. His spot will be taken by sophomore Mossis Madu, who rushed for 114 yards and three TDs in just 15 carries against Mizzou.
Oklahoma’s defense has been extremely active and one that constantly pressures opposing QBs. The top gun is sophomore tackle Gerald McCoy, the Sooner’s fourth All-America selection with 6.5 sacks among 10.0 tackles for losses. Sophomore end Jeremy Beal has 8.5 sacks with 14 tackles for losses. As a team, Oklahoma recorded 42 sacks.
Other top performers are All-World tackler- freshman linebacker Travis Lewis-with team-leading 68 solo tackles, 67 assists and 135 total tackles. Lewis also added 3.5 sacks, 12 tackles for losses, and four interceptions, playing in a heavily pass-oriented conference. Senior defensive back Lendy Holmes leads Oklahoma with five picks while sophomore back Dominique Franks added four.
Despite Oklahoma’s high-powered offense, the question remains if the Sooners can overcome the loss of Murray, and the fact that Florida possesses a far superior kicking game.
Sources used in this story were Sports.espn.go.com, gatorzone.com, soonersports.com