5 Keys To The 2009 BCS National Championship
The Bowl Championship Series field is debatable, the outcry for respect and the demand for a playoff system is high, and teams are coming out with chips on their shoulders, ready to prove a point to the nation.
But above all, two teams have emerged from the submission that we as college football fans have come to know: the computers, the percentages, the countless polls, and most importantly, the BCS.
Amidst the controversy and chaos of the 2008-2009 campaign, we have the Big XII's Oklahoma Sooners and the SEC's Florida Gators squaring off in Miami, Florida, to be crowned 2009 National Champions.
The college football world hasn't seen such an immense and entertaining buildup such as this one since possibly 2005, when Vince Young's Texas Longhorns faced Southern California's Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.
It's no secret that this game will be a hard-fought, highly contested and determined football game, possibly going down to the wire. Unlike the past two National Championships, many figure this one will be a lot closer and competitive down the stretch.
Here are 10 keys to watch for on January 8, most of which will decide who hoists the Championship Trophy and be donned "the best" in college football.
1. ) "Big Game Bob"
One factor that's been highly documented in this game's buildup is Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops' struggles when it comes to BCS Bowl games, and coaching in them.
Since taking over as Oklahoma head coach in 2000, Stoops is 4-4 overall in bowl games. However, the record that burns in the back of Sooner fans minds is the atrocious 2-4 BCS record.
That includes a 1-2 record in the National Championship game, and an average margin of defeat in those championship games of 21.5 points. (The Sooners lost to LSU 21-14 in 2003, and lost to Southern California 55-19 in 2004)
Stoops has lost four of his last five bowl games, the one he didn't lose being the non-BCS Holiday Bowl against Oregon.
Oklahoma has beaten ranked opponents by an average margin of 28.8 points per game this season, beating five on the season. During the stretch of their last five bowl games, Oklahoma has lost by an average of 16 points.
It's apparent by the numbers that the Sooners struggle come bowl season, despite succeeding during the regular season.
2. ) The Heisman 'Curse'
Heisman trophy winners are 2-6 in their respective bowl games since 2000, including 1-5 in the National Championship game.
Jason White, who won the Heisman for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2003, lost the National Championship game to LSU.
Heisman Winners have lost three consecutive bowl games, and are 1-4 when their teams score under 20 in a bowl game since the start of the BCS era in 1998. The Florida Gators, Sam Bradford's opponent, allows 12.85 points per game.
Since 2000, Heisman winners whose teams are in the top five overall in scoring offense are averaging 22.25 points in their bowl games, but that includes Chris Weinke's Seminoles scoring only two in a loss to Oklahoma in 2000, as well as the 2003 Oklahoma Sooners and Jason White producing only 14.
Matt Leinart's USC Trojans had 38 points in a bowl loss to Texas in 2005, and Tim Tebow's Florida Gators had 35 points in a bowl loss to Michigan last season.
All the teams and Heisman winners mentioned above lost their bowl games by a combined total of 7.5 points. Oklahoma lost one game on the season, losing by 10 to Texas.
Sam Bradford, who won the Heisman this season, has a tough task at hand with the Heisman curse following him into the Orange Bowl.
3. ) Oklahoma's Dominate Offense Resembles 2006 Ohio State Defense
Ohio State made the 2006 National Championship from one thing: their dominate defense and consistent offense. Oklahoma made this season's championship doing the exact opposite, they had a juggernaut offense and a consistent defense.
Oklahoma's offense is in the top 20 in the four major categories, (pass offense, rush offense, total offense, scoring offense) while Ohio State was in the top 20 in three of the four major defensive categories. (rush defense, total defense, scoring defense)
The fewest points Oklahoma scored on the regular season was 35, while the most points the 2006 Buckeyes allowed on the season was 39. Oklahoma scored an average of 54 points per game, while the Buckeyes allowed an average of 12.77 points per game.
An adequate comparison in terms of dominating on one side of the football, and consistently performing on the other.
Like Oklahoma, the 2006 Ohio State Buckeyes had a Heisman winner at the QB position. Ohio State played almost equally tough offensive competition compared to what the Sooners have faced.
There were six teams in the top 50 total offense for the Buckeyes defense to face in Big Ten conference play, and nine for Oklahoma to play. Ohio State also played four teams in the top 50 total defense in 2006, while Oklahoma has played three in the top 50 total defense this season.
To end the statistical comparison, both play Florida in the National Championship. Ohio State lost 41-14, and are looking identical to this year's Sooners team in some aspects. Is that something to watch for?
4. ) Game Preparation
As I mentioned earlier, Bob Stoops has a 4-4 bowl record while at Oklahoma. Florida head coach Urban Meyer has bounced around from Bowling Green State to Utah and finally to Florida. He's accumulated a 4-1 bowl record during this time, including a 2-0 record in BCS games.
The Gators are 6-0 since 2005 in the regular season when given more than a week to prepare for a football game. The Sooners are 4-1.
Both schools have excellent defensive coordinators, and a month (give or take a few days) to prepare for each other. While Oklahoma can't re-create Florida's speed in practice, Florida can't prepare for an explosive offense like Oklahoma's against a scout team.
It all comes down to being mentally ready for this game. Both teams will come in motivated, but the team that is more ready and has more knowledge of the opponent will win. As Florida coach Urban Meyer once said: “I have yet to be in a game where luck was involved. Well-prepared players make plays. I have yet to be in a game where the most prepared team didn't win.”
That quote has never been more useful than now.
5. ) Down the Stretch Play, Who's Got the Advantage?
If this game goes down to the wire, who steps up and performs?
Leading up to the Alabama game, Tim Tebow had never led the Gators to a fourth quarter comeback. Things changed in that one, as Florida prevailed 31-20.
A determined Tebow wouldn't allow the Gators to lose, would he?
Another thing to consider is the kicking matchup. Jonathon Phillips, a fifth year senior, kicks the field goals for Florida, while Jimmy Stevens, a freshman, kicks the field goals for Oklahoma.
Phillips is 11 of 12 on the season, going perfect up until the Alabama game, where he missed a field goal that would have tied the game. Stevens, the seldom used kicker, is 8 of 11 on the season.
Florida has blocked two field goals on the season, and stopped a fake field goal attempt by Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Florida also has the special teams advantage, with two punt return touchdowns on the year, and three blocked punts. The Gators are eighth in net punting, while Oklahoma is 83rd. If the game comes down to field position, Florida certainly has the advantage.
Key Matchup: Brent Venables v.s. Charlie Strong
There's several routes I could take as far as impact player, thing to watch and so forth, but I'm not indulging into one significant player. Championship games are won by an entire team, hence why Heisman winners struggle in these games. Florida has played the best on both sides of the football this season, and has had an explosive offense recently.
My key matchup is Oklahoma's defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, against Florida's defensive coordinator, Charlie Strong.
Many say that Florida's defense is unlike anything seen by Oklahoma, but upon further investigation that might not be accurate. Oklahoma has played three teams in the top 50 overall scoring defense (TCU, Texas and Cincinnati) and averaged 40.6 points in these three football games.
Florida has played six teams in the top 50 scoring offense, while Oklahoma has played nine. If anything, Florida's scoring defense is a bit overrated. (Which I disagree with)
Above all, both defensive coordinators could be playing to get their name out there. Both have come up on numerous coaching rumors in the past, and that could increase with a big showing in the 2009 BCS National Championship.
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