BCS National Championship Preview: Heisman Winners to Battle

Pigskin HeavenCorrespondent IJanuary 6, 2009

It's finally here. The game to crown College Football's National Champion. The Bowl Championship Series title game pairs the Florida Gators, fresh off a statement making win over Alabama in the SEC Title game and the high-powered Oklahoma Sooners, led by Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford.

Tim Tebow, last year's Heisman winner, not only has the same award as Bradford, but a National Title on his resume—a game he didn't start. 

Will Tebow and the Gators upend the hot Sooners or will Bob Stoops break his Bowl game-woes over fellow Ohioan and friend Urban Meyer?

Brett Adams and Whit Prowdy break down the game from all aspects.KEYS TO THE GAME

Florida Gators

Win the Field Position/Special Teams Battle

This is one of the most overlooked match ups in this game and could be the deciding factor.

The Gators have had one of the best special team units in the nation this season, while Oklahoma has struggled on special teams giving up four touchdown returns. It is imperative to give Oklahoma's offense a long field to work.

We all know they can score in bunches and from anywhere on the field, but it gives the Gators defense a better chance to stop the Sooner offense. Gator punter Chas Henry has been a very good asset for the Gators.

The few times he has been called on to punt this season he has pinned opponents deep in our territory. Also, Henry was a signal caller in high school, so don't be surprised to see a potential fake punt pass which we haven't used yet this season.

On the other hand the Gators need to get good returns from one of the top return men in the nation Brandon James. Brandon James has tied the school record for returns in a season with three, but he hasn't been able to take one to the house since early in the season.

Urban Meyer does like to call punt blocks early and often and the Gators have tons of speed to get in to block the punt led by Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.

Make Sam Bradford Uncomfortable

Bradford has only been sacked 11 times all season. The Gators are led by backup end Carlos Dunlap in sacks with nine. They have a three headed defensive-end tandem that is very good with sophomores Dunlap, Jermaine Cunningham, and Justin Trattou.

The middle of the line has taken some hits, but it has held on pretty good led by Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, and Jay Howard. A key guy in this game could be tackle Torry Davis. He has played pretty good lately and has all the talent in the world.

Even if they aren't sacking Bradford, they will need to get some hurries, quarterback hits, and a hand in up to try to deflect some passes.

This doesn't count just getting pressure on Bradford, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is going to have to dial up a good mix of man to man and zone to try to fluster Bradford and of course the secondary is going to have to make some plays jumping routes and deflecting passes. - BA

Oklahoma Sooners

Play it again, Sam

The man behind the machine that is the Oklahoma Sooners offense, Heisman Trophy winner deserves a spot in one of those Citizen Eco-Drive watches. He’s unstoppable.

The Sooners have scored no fewer than 35 points this season. They also had nine games of 52 or more points, and concluding their season on a five game tear, putting up 62, 66, 65, 61, and 62 points, the latter three against ranked Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and then Missouri in the Big 12 Championship game.

Their total of over 700 points scored makes them the most prolific offense in NCAA history. Bradford is the architect behind the Stoops juggernaut, but all of this will be a moot point if he’s unable to keep his scoring antics up against a stingy Florida defense that has forced 24 interceptions this season, only allows an incredible 12.8 points per game, and just allows 174.0 passing yards per game, their weakest defensive area.

Bradford needs to use his weapons, most namely Juaquin Iglesias, Jermaine Gresham, and Manuel Johnson, the top three wideouts he has, to their fullest…especially now since thousand-yard back DeMarco Murray has been ruled out. Bradford cannot afford to make mistakes, because Florida has a mighty prolific offense of their own, 18th in the nation in yards per game, and Tim Tebow will not hesitate to capitalize on any mistakes the redshirt sophomore makes.

We’ll see first hand, just what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object.


Tim Tebow did not get invited to two straight Heisman ceremonies for nothing. A most efficient quarterback in his own right, Tebow has 27 touchdowns to an astounding two interceptions. Somehow, the Sooner defense needs to get in Tebow’s head and force him to make mistakes.

Though seemingly easier said than done…the key is pressure, and not giving one of the most accurate quarterbacks in recent memory time in the pocket.

Sophomores Jeremy Beal and Gerald McCoy need to step up big time on the national scale and get pressure on Tebow early and often, forcing him to make a rare mistake for Bradford and Co. to capitalize on.

Containing Percy Harvin is of the utmost importance too, because when Tebow isn’t running for yardage, Harvin is…to a much more elusive degree. He’s the lightning to Tebow’s thunder and he needs to be shut down.  Find the Kryptonite for these Supermen, and the Sooners will bring home the hardware. - WP

Key Matchups

Florida Secondary vs. Oklahoma Receivers
In particular the likely matchup Ahmad Black vs. Daniel Gresham.  Ahmad Black came out of nowhere to be an impact player at Safety leading the Gators with five interceptions, including two that he took back to the house.

Corners Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden have to continue to play physical and can't make the mistakes that a true freshman and sophomore tend to make. Free Safety Major Wright has bit on some play-fakes by Quarterbacks leaving receivers wide-open down the field.

That can't happen or we might see a little more of true-freshman playmaker Will Hill, who will likely play a little nickel corner and both safety positions as well as all special teams. - BA

Tim Tebow vs. Sam Bradford

You may ask yourself why this is a key matchup since neither will be on the field at the same time.  Fact is, with two dynamic offenses like these squaring off, it’s going to come down to who flinches, blinks, or slips up first.

Bradford has incredible weapons in his Wide Receivers and distributes the ball very well, avoiding having only one or two true threats. Couple that with 1110-yard back Chris Brown, Bradford doesn’t need to win the game all by himself.

Good thing too, since defeating Florida requires a balanced attack. Staring back is Tim Tebow, who, as mentioned before does not turn the ball over, and manages the ball very well. The first QB to make a mistake is going to lose this game…since the other will take advantage. - WP


Gators Everything Man, Percy Harvin

Like always, the health of Percy Harvin. There is no question that he is going to play in this game and he is listed as probable right now. He stayed in Gainesville during the entire winter break to spend 10-plus hours in the training room to get ready.

He's a competitor and won't sit out this game. The question is how effective he can be. In his three years at UF he has eclipsed 3600 total yards with 31 TD's. He currently has a streak of 14 straight games with a TD.

Regardless of the durability issues that have circled around him his entire UF career the guy goes out and produces when he is on the field. He averages 10 yards per touch and needs to be efesfective out of the backfield, in the slot, and on deep routes. He has to be on the field to open up holes in the running game for Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Tim Tebow and possibly Emmanuel Moody. - BA

Sooners WLB, Travis Lewis

Who you say? Lost in Oklahoma’s offensive fireworks has been the hard work put forth by Lewis. Leader of Oklahoma’s defensive eleven, Lewis has notched 136 tackles. To give you perspective on his dominance, the second-leading tackler on Oklahoma has 79. 12 tackles have been for negative yardage, three for sacks, and he’s also picked off four passes.

Since containing Tebow, Harvin, and the rest of Florida’s offense is so crucial, Lewis is going to need to have a mammoth performance Thursday night to make the offense’s job not-so arduous. - WP


Florida 42 Oklahoma 31, but Florida scores a late TD to put it out of reach, so the score doesn't indicate how close the game really was. Similar to the SEC CG. -BA

This is perhaps the toughest game I've ever had to make a prediction for. Both offenses as we know are stellar, but when push comes to shove, Florida’s defense is just more stout and more solid.

Oklahoma’s defense showed up in grand fashion towards the end of the season, shutting down the likes of Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree and Chase Daniel, but it’s just not impressive enough for me to like them in this one, despite everything Bradford can do.

In a back and forth thriller, dissimilar to previous National Championships (cough Ohio State), I reluctantly take Florida despite a nagging that says Bradford will yank a rabbit out of his hat late. Sorry Sam...Heisman curse lives, 45-41 Florida. - WP


This is an original Bowl Preview by Pigskin Heaven Writer Whit Prowdy and staffer Brett Adams. You can read it, more Bowl Previews, and more from the Pigskin Heaven staff, here.


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