Monday, January 08, 2007

Gator Nation

Well, the BCS got what it wanted. In creating a stand-alone national championship game, they aimed to create a college football Super Bowl.

What they got tonight was a boring, one-sided game where the product on the field failed to even approach the endless hype. So in other words, they go their Super Bowl. Only this one didn't have new commercials to keep viewers interested once the game was a foregone conclusion.

There are a number of possible angles to explain tonight's result, a 41-14 Florida win for those not following along at home.

1. Coaching
Florida was poised, focused, and determined. Ohio State was...there. I was surprised by this. While I had limited exposure to the Gators during the regular season, it didn't seem to me that they did much of anything on offense that was new. Nonetheless, Ohio State didn't seem to be able to contain them. Florida chipped away at them with mostly short-yardage plays, and the Buckeyes never made the necessary adjustments to slow them down.

Offensively, the Buckeyes didn't seem to have much of a gameplan. Some of this could be attributed to losing Ted Ginn Jr. early on, but for the most part they (again) didn't seem to make any adjustments. They didn't keep extra men in to block on passing downs, and they abandoned the run early even though a focus on the running game produced their only scoring drive.

2. Ted Ginn Jr.
His absence for most of the game obviously hurt the Buckeyes, but given all of the weapons they have on offense, you can't blame his absence for the lack of production. Also, he wouldn't have helped stopped any of the 41 points the defense gave up.

3. Hype
It's entirely possible that OSU got complacent and overconfident after six weeks of being hyped as an overwhelming favorite. Florida also used their underdog status as motivation, another credit to their coaching staff.

4. Letdown
There's an argument to be made that the Buckeyes played their national title game on November 18th against Michigan. It became clear a few weeks beforehand that, barring a major upset (which almost happened to both teams), this would be a matchup of the top two teams in the nation, both undefeated going into their season finale. Add in the rivalry element, and that game probably felt like the highest stakes either team would experience all year. After an emotional win like that, it must be tough to get up for another game, especially since there was a lot of talk about how Florida didn't deserve to be in the national title game.

5. Talent
It's possible that we misjudged how talented Ohio State actually was (and the Big Ten overall, since Michigan got rolled by USC in the Rose Bowl). The Buckeyes certainly have loads of talent, but in hindsight, it's easy to think that they were never as dominant of a team as we thought they were.

For one, who did they beat? Their first marquee win came on the road against a Texas team that had a true freshman quarterback in his second game, and was distracted by the suspension of one of their starting defensive backs a few days before the game. Their other one came at home against Michigan, in a game where they could have won big, but kept making mistakes that let the Wolverines hang around in the second half. The rest of their wins came against middling non-conference foes such as Cincinnati and Northern Illinois, and an underachieving Big Ten slate. They lucked out in not having to face conference rival Wisconsin, who lost once (to Michigan in Ann Arbor) and beat a talented Arkansas team in the Capital One Bowl.

Florida, on the other hand, plays in the much deeper SEC. They lost once, to Auburn in a game that they could have won had a controversial officials' call gone the other way, and hold wins over Sugar Bowl champion LSU, and Arkansas, whose four losses this season (including the bowl game) came against teams that will finish in the top 10 (USC, LSU, Florida, and Wisconsin). The Gators were lucky to escape with wins against Tennessee and South Carolina, but they also proved their mettle against some stiff competition.

6. Off-Day
Everyone has bad days, and 51 days of rest certainly didn't help the Buckeyes. Had this game been played December 9th, they might have won (or at least made it respectable).

I'd say the actual reason is some combination of 1,4,5, and 6. Plus the Gators are damn good. Forgot about that.

Some other thoughts:

• Credit to my dad for pointing out how it must hurt for Irish fans to see Urban Meyer win a championship just seconds after the game was over. Very true, believe me.

• If I had a vote in the Associated Press poll, I would seriously consider voting for Boise State, just because I could.

• When I am named Commissioner of All Sports, I will enact a rule forcing the college football season to end on January 1.

• I hate Emmitt Smith. Could he have been any less gracious about his school winning the championship? God. It's not he's still a player, or he had anything to do with them winning, but he kept rubbing it in to poor Eddie George. Emmitt struck me as the kind of guy who probably also spent the commercial breaks reminding George how he has three Super Bowl rings to Eddie's zero. I kind of wish they had shown clips from "Dancing With the Stars" just to shut him up. That, or that George would have punched him in the face. What a douchebag.

• I quite like Thom Brenneman as a play-by-play guy, aside from his editorializing towards the end of the Fiesta Bowl about the need for a college football playoff.

• Speaking of, doesn't every football game feel like a letdown after Boise State-Oklahoma?


At 3:32 AM, Blogger sacamano said...

Man, I hate the Gators. The fact that they have both the hoops and pigskin titles is incredibly irritating to me.

At 8:31 AM, Anonymous NextBlitz said...

Best analysis I've seen, thanks. Agree BCS has to go. Too many reasons to list, but blogged about it some here and over here, and finally in this blog post


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