No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (12-1) vs. No. 2 Florida Gators (12-1)
"With all due respect, those are two great programs, I don't think anybody can beat the Trojans."—USC coach Pete Carroll.
Life's tough Pete, get a helmet. Whether you like it or not, these are the two teams playing for the National Championship. This is the current system, and unfortunately college football fans have to live with it until something better comes along.
This is the first ever meeting between Florida and Oklahoma.
Florida wins the game if...
1) The Florida defensive front seven controls the Sooners' rushing offense.
Florida's defensive line rotation will need to eat up blocks up front, control the Sooners' offensive line, and allow the back seven to make plays. The Sooners' O-line isn't a very active line in terms of pulling and trapping on run plays. They drive block and zone block very well, which opens up huge cutback lanes on the second level of the defense.
Tying up the Sooners' O-line will allow Florida's fast linebackers to play downhill against the run, and with safety help from Major Wright, Ahmad Black, and Will Hill, the Gators' defense will stop the Sooners' rushing attack, which is averaging over 200 yards a game.
Florida held their own against Alabama in the SEC Championship, which is the best O-line they have faced all season. Oklahoma returns all five starters from a year ago.
2) Florida's playmakers protect the football.
For either team to win, you obviously must protect the football. This is more of an importance for Florida to hang on to the football and keep the Sooners offense off of the field.
Florida will try to get their playmakers into space with the football; Oklahoma gives up a lot of space. Then, Oklahoma's defense will hold up a runner with one defender and then let two or three more come and strip the ball away. They try to force turnovers, but they don't want to put pads on people.
3) Florida wins the three and out battle.
Oklahoma has had 18 drives this season of a minute or less, in addition to scoring 700+ points, winning their last six games while scoring 60 points or more, etc. With the exception of TCU, Oklahoma hasn't faced a better defense, at least statistically. Florida has much better personnel on defense than TCU, and they should be able to force Oklahoma into more three and out situations than Oklahoma is used to.
Florida will capitalize on this and use it to their advantage.
Florida loses the game if...
1) Sam Bradford has time to throw the football.
Florida's defense needs to pressure Sam Bradford effectively to get him and the rest of the Sooners offense out of a rhythm and then off the field. Texas' defensive ends pressured and harassed Bradford in the second half, combined for three sacks, and put him on the ground a number of times.
Florida has a decent pair of defensive ends of their own, including Carlos Dunlap, the SEC sacks leader. Oklahoma's tackles tend to play a little bit high in pass blocking, which make them vulnerable to edge rushing. Florida's rotation of defensive tackles will generate enough of a push to cave in the gaps between the center and guard, pressuring Bradford effectively.
2) Florida's offense becomes one-dimensional.
Florida must continue to spread the wealth on offense. Despite playing without their best player in the SEC Championship, Florida was still able to get the ball to all of their playmakers in order to win the game. Now that Percy Harvin will be back in the lineup, the offense cannot focus solely on him and Tim Tebow.
The offense must continue to utilize every weapon in the arsenal. This is especially important with the situation regarding the play calling for the Gators.
The X-factors will be...
1) Florida kick returner Brandon James vs. Oklahoma's special teams
Brandon James is one of the most dangerous kick returners in the nation, with four career return touchdowns. Oklahoma has allowed four kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, including the momentum turner against Texas. If Oklahoma kicks to him, it could be a long night for the Sooners.
2) Florida quarterback Tim Tebow
There aren't too many players in college football who can dictate a game on their own. There isn't anyone who can dictate a game this season like Tim Tebow has. The do-it-all quarterback has evolved from a freshman game-changer to a junior team leader who is playing like a man possessed.
Tim has lived up to the hype and finally delivered wins of meaning, and will add another one on Jan. 8.
3) The Heisman Effect
Sam Bradford is a very talented quarterback. He would not be the second sophomore to win the Heisman if he wasn't. The only thing is that with Heisman winners, the bowl game is either hit or miss, especially if there is a national championship on the line. Only four Heisman winners have ever won a national championship in the same season.
Something to think about...
The last time Florida played on Jan. 8, they beat No. 1 Ohio State 41-14 to win the National Championship.
Game Prediction: Florida 49, Oklahoma 24