Oklahoma-Florida: Who Will Win?

Gerald BallCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2008

Oklahoma versus Florida. Meyer versus Stoops. Tebow versus Bradford. Big 12 versus SEC. Who will win? A brief, unscientific, unprofessional, and completely biased breakdown.


Things Favoring Oklahoma

1. Oklahoma is more tested. Oklahoma played better coached, more talented teams in and out of conference this year, and it isn't close. The Sooners played Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State in conference, and Cincinnati and TCU out of conference. Florida's only games against teams comparable to these five were Alabama and Georgia. Advantage: Oklahoma.

What gives Florida hope: If USC, FSU, and Ohio State have won national titles from conferences that are almost always down, Florida can win a national title from a conference that had one bad year.

2. The matchups would appear to favor Oklahoma. Oklahoma's best in NCAA history offense (702 points, 4000 yard passers, and two 1,000 yard rushers) against a young undersized Florida defense with a battered secondary favors Oklahoma. Meanwhile, if Oklahoma's defense were able to slow down Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, they could do the same to Florida's offense.

What gives Florida hope: Florida will still easily be the most talented offense or defense Oklahoma will play this year. Also, Oklahoma has generally relied on big plays on both sides of the ball.

If Florida is able to avoid sacks and turnovers on offense and force Oklahoma to sustain drives on defense, will Oklahoma be able to win the type of game Florida just did in the SEC title game?

3. Bob Stoops has lost several BCS games in a row, including two national title games and humiliating losses to Boise, USC, and West Virginia. Can't keep a guy like him down forever. He is due, and will pull out all the stops, and so will his players.

What gives Florida hope: It may be that Stoops' recent troubles in big games indicate some sort of persistent flaw in his program talented, well-coached teams with a month to prepare can exploit, such as the pass defense and protection problems plaguing Oklahoma since 2004.

Then again, Florida is not exactly a passing team, and their undersized, battered defensive line may not be able to get much pressure on Sam Bradford without blitzing.

4. As many problems as Stoops has had recently in big games, he has been there before. He is a much more experienced coach in big games than is Meyer, whose entire big game history was a BCS game at Utah against 8-5 Pitt, a 2006 regular season showdown against LSU (at home), the 2006 national title game against Ohio State, and this year's SEC championship game.

By contrast, this will be Meyer's first big game against a team with equal or better coaching and talent.

What gives Florida hope: Where Stoops is only about .500 in big games and is actually way under .500 since 2003, Meyer is undefeated. Maybe he and his staff simply are just that good. Then again, until the 2003 national title game, Stoops was the guy who just simply never lost. Meyer will eventually lose the big one, and this year may be the year.

So those are four huge areas that favor Oklahoma.


This Is Basically All That Favors Florida

1. Texas beat Florida 45-35. Florida runs the same schemes as Texas does on both sides of the ball, except with better coaching and players. As a matter of fact, Texas has won three out of four against Oklahoma since switching to the read option, and West Virginia shredded Oklahoma with that offense last year also.

So...why don't more Big 12 teams go to the read option instead of continuing to emulate Oklahoma? Ask the next Big 12 coach who refuses to hire Texas or Florida coordinators Greg Davis, Dan Mullen, or Charlie Strong, or for that matter refuses to hire the guys who put in the read option at Penn State who saved Joe Paterno's job.

It is obvious this offense gives Stoops problems, and this is the best version of it Stoops has ever faced in terms of talent and coaching.

And on defense: Will Muschamp and Charlie Strong run basically what is becoming the boilerplate SEC defense? Which is a shame because Strong was more of an innovator at South Carolina.

Difference: Charlie Strong is in his fourth year of putting in his defense at Florida, Muschamp is in his first year of doing so at Texas, as Mack Brown foolishly let Duane Akina undo what Gene Chizik accomplished.

What gives Oklahoma hope: Even though the Sooners lost, Oklahoma has already faced a top-three team very similar to Florida. By contrast, Florida has not seen anything at all to prepare them for Oklahoma since, well, ever. Three teams ran a spread offense in the SEC this year.

However, they were South Carolina, Auburn, and Tennessee. Combined record: 17-19. Get the picture? Now the Ohio State team Florida defeated for the national title was running a conservative version of the Oklahoma offense.

However, that Florida defense was bigger, more experienced, healthier, and better than this current version. But in general, Florida doesn't see a quality wide open offense of the sort Oklahoma has, and despite what is commonly believed, Florida's defense is actually more likely to give up some quick early scores and get blown off the field.

Also, if Florida's undersized defensive line can't pressure Bradford or stop the run without blitzing, and if their young battered secondary does as poor a job against Oklahoma's WRs as they did against Julio Jones, Florida is not going to keep Oklahoma under 45.

2. Tim Tebow is the best player Oklahoma will face this season. Why? Because he is the best player in college football.

He doesn't deserve the Heisman, as a matter of fact, he would be third on my list behind Colt McCoy and Michael Crabtree. But if there is anyone capable of making big plays throwing and passing to keep his team in the game so they can have a chance to win at the end, then it is Tebow.

What gives Oklahoma hope: Three things actually. First off, Tebow isn't Vince Young. While off the field it may not NECESSARILY be a bad thing (and this coming from someone who is a huge Vince Young fan!), on the field, Young had the key ingredient a QB in this offense needs; an extra gear, and breakaway speed. Where Tebow runs like a fullback, Young runs like a wide receiver.

Second, Tebow isn't Colt McCoy, either. McCoy is a much better passer at this stage.

Third, Bradford may not be Tebow, but Bradford has Chris Brown, DeMarco Murray, Juaquin Iglesias, Jermaine Gresham, Manuel Johnson, Ryan Broyles, Quentin Chaney, and apparently now someone named Mossis Madu. While Tebow definitely has much more around him than does Colt McCoy, based on stats it appears that Bradford has more help.

This Oklahoma team is more loaded than the somewhat overrated (Okay, a lot overrated!) team which lost back to back BCS title games 2003-2004. And if you notice the only players from that team that are doing anything in the NFL are Mark Clayton (and he isn't doing much) and Adrian Peterson (who Oklahoma only had in 2004).

Though he lacks a single player as good as Tebow, this is still Stoops' best offensive team ever, and it isn't close.


Final Analysis

Now, I am an SEC homer, so my official prediction is Florida will find some way to pull it out. But based on objective facts, I would predict Oklahoma 49 Florida 35.



Oklahoma would beat USC 28-14. USC's great defense would put up a valiant performance only to be betrayed by Steve Sarkisian over and over and over again.

Oklahoma would beat Alabama by a "who cares" amount. Alabama really only has about five players who are above average, most of whom are underclassmen. Saban and staff would use their smoke and mirrors to keep it close, but Oklahoma would make adjustments which Alabama is too thin and inexperienced to counter, plus Alabama would tire out. Basically the SEC title game all over again.

Texas would beat Oklahoma. See No. 1 under "things that favor Florida."

Texas would lose to Alabama, Florida, or USC. Reason: lack of a supporting cast for Colt McCoy. Texas has no starting tailback to speak of, and for a dropback QB who will make a fortune in an NFL west coast offense (Detroit Lions please take note!), Colt McCoy can only do as good a job that a pro-style QB pretending to be a dual threat QB is capable of. Also, WRs Jordan Shipley and Quan Crosby are not exactly stretch the field types.

Texas, and particularly Colt McCoy, deserves a world of credit for winning 11 games with a read option offense when they don't actually have read option personnel, but they have too many flaws that would get exposed by defenses that can fill the gaps and pursue, which describes Alabama, Florida, and USC.

This is not to say that any of them would shut Texas out, but because Texas doesn't exactly have a great defense, they wouldn't have to, which is why I supported Oklahoma going to the BCS title game. Texas is better than Oklahoma in a head-to-head matchup, but Oklahoma would beat more teams than Texas would.

Florida would beat USC. 1) Offenses similar to Florida's have always given Pete Carroll defenses fits, going back to that Kansas State game in 2002. Even Isaiah Stanback and Jake Locker for those horrible Washington teams put frights into mighty USC. USC fans can talk about how they shut down Juice Williams and Illinois, but come on, it was a 9-3 No. 15 team coached by the fellow Florida hired to fire Meyer who went 5-7 the following season. 2) USC's great defense would put up a valiant performance only to be betrayed by Steve Sarkisian over and over and over again.

Also, I think USC and Penn State will be a great game. USC will win, but it will be a lot closer than USC fans realize. However, USC fans will blame it on being bored with the Rose Bowl and continue to deny the fact a good read option team (which again Illinois never was) is a real threat to beat them.


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