Wild Weekends: Florida/Oklahoma and The Bowls

And with last Thursday’s national title game came the end to another season of college football. It does seem that every season that has come and gone has its own theme no matter how meaningless in the long run a year should turn out to be historically. While the 2007 season was the season of the upset, if there were to be one theme that would describe the 2008 season it would be the rise of the small schools. The MAC, Conference USA, and Mountain West conferences each experienced what it was like to be equals with the BCS conferences because that was what they were being treated as by the end of the season. Utah, Rice, TCU, Boise St., Ball St., BYU, and Buffalo all won at least eight games this season with Utah and Buffalo also taking conference championships, and Utah gaining the biggest win of the year for the little guy’s by beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The win was Utah’s second BCS game (the only non-BCS conference school with two BCS wins) and was the kind of win that legitimized the small school at-large team when it comes to the BCS mix. While Boise St.’s win over Oklahoma will live on much, much longer than Utah’s Sugar Bowl win (the game will too), it is Utah’s win that is the more important win. Boise’s win made it seem possible that a non-BCS conference team could beat a traditional powerhouse in a big game, but had the added “was it a fluke” factor because of the ending. Utah’s win makes it seem possible that a non-BCS conference team can convincingly beat a traditional powerhouse in a big game. One word added, but a powerful one and considering the performance the Utes put on in New Orleans it’s also a fitting one.

Tebow, Harvin push Gators over the hump for second national title in three years

Don’t call it a comeback because he’s been here for years.

Percy Harvin’s effectiveness was questioned up until game time, but during the Gators’ 24-14 national title win over Oklahoma, Harvin proved that he hadn’t missed a beat since he last put his hands on a football.

Harvin rushed for 122 yards on nine carries, caught five passes for 49 yards and scored in the third quarter.

The big weapons Oklahoma had left after DeMarco Murray’s injury prevented him from playing in the national title game all had off nights compared to the usual firestorm of offense they have been able to produce. Chris Brown ran for 110 yards on 22 carries, but didn’t score with Juaquin Iglesias caught five pass for 58 yards (also without a score) and Jermaine Gresham kept Oklahoma in the game with eight catches for 62 yards and two scores.

In the battle of the past two Heisman Trophy winners, it was 2007 winner Tim Tebow who shined brightest.

2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford had an average game by his standards this season throwing 26/41 for 256 yards and two touchdowns, but both of Bradford’s interceptions proved costly.

Bradford’s first interception came at the end of the first half as Oklahoma attempted to score from inside the Gator 10. Bradford’s pass on this play was tipped by almost five Gator defensive players before Major Wright pulled it in for Florida. In the fourth quarter, a Bradford pass appeared to be caught by its intended receiver before Ahmad Black in the play of the night literally swiped the ball out of the Sooner receiver’s hands. Florida would score on the ensuing drive.

Tim Tebow was not immune to the same mistakes Bradford suffered from as the Gator quarterback had the first two-interception game of his Florida career throwing both in the first half.

However, Tebow rebounded from his early mistakes and ended up having quite the game going 18/30 passing for 231 yards and two touchdowns to as well as 109 yards rushing on 22 carries.

The Sooners blew an early opportunity by choosing to go for it on fourth and goal from the Florida 1 after intercepting Tim Tebow. The same kind of rushing play they had ran the previous three times didn’t fool the Gator defense and instead of seven or even three points had Stoops chosen to go for the easy points instead, the Sooners ended up with nothing; almost a metaphor for the game itself for Stoops and the Sooners.

Is Florida #1? Yes. I don’t care what Utah fans or USC fans or supporters of both teams have to say, the Gators are the champs. Most importantly, they won the title game for the system that all of the teams (even Utah and USC) have agreed upon for years to go by. Is it the right system? No, and my personal opinion is that they had it right with the late-90’s Bowl Alliance system, but that’s a debate for another day. Right now, it’s all about the big Florida debate. Why is it a debate? Because Utah went unbeaten while Florida & USC both have one loss. While Utah may have a legit point with the fact that they didn’t lose this year, the strength of schedule element does enter into the conversation and most rational people would have to assume that the Utes would’ve lost at least one game had they been playing in the Pac-10 or the Big-12 or any of the BCS conferences. And why not Texas? Texas has been in the debate due to them having only one loss as well. It is a jumbled mess, but let’s look at the lone losses for these three shall we: Florida lost to Ole Miss who beat Texas Tech, the team that beat Texas this year, and USC lost to Oregon St. who won a 3-0 Sun Bowl over Pittsburgh. Yes, Oregon St. wasn’t the same without both Rodgers brothers in the huddle and Texas Tech never got over the pummeling they got at the hands of Oklahoma, but Ole Miss did keep it together for the whole year having their best year as a team in recent memory. So does that mean that Florida is number one because their loss turned out to be the best loss of the three? Well Florida’s loss was by only one point. In the end, the Gators faced a healthy mix of competition and low-level teams through the course of the season that there was no rational reason you could eliminate them from the title picture. For Utah, it was the schedule, for Texas it was the schedule at the end of the year, and for USC it was just the timing of their loss that saw them lose to a team that at the time seemed big when the team that beat the Trojans turned out to be so much better than people believed they were even after they had just upset the top-ranked team in the country. This year didn’t prove that there needs to be a playoff in college football, quite the opposite. This year may have helped the point that the bowl system is the way to go because the selection committees collectively made this year a year where the anticipation for BCS games were off the charts and outside of the national title game the reason for this anticipation was the fact that three BCS games played before January 8 featured teams that people believed had a case to be national champion. That is college football, almost old school. Think 1975, 1977, 1983, 1984 and the words will come. Those were years where every big bowl game was suspect and held a piece of the puzzle no matter how big or small. This year wasn’t much different and with four of the top five teams having one loss or less, the adage that has bound college football through the years rang true once again: every game counts.