Champions

January 9, 2007

Words can’t describe. Fireworks going off everywhere. University Ave. a mob scene. People standing around on roofs. Horns honking. People yelling, high-fiving strangers. Where did that game come from?

41-14.

Beautiful. Wonderful. Champions.


BCS Title Game Preview, Part 3

January 8, 2007

I really don’t have anything else to say. I have no good feeling on how the game is going to go. Sorry. To paraphrase a caller on Heath Cline’s show today, my head says Ohio State wins, but my heart says that Florida will find a way. Since I don’t have any good direction on this, I’m going to pull a score out of Florida’s history then go line up at the O’Dome to get a free t-shirt.

Florida 32, Ohio State 29


BCS Title Game Preview, Part 2

January 8, 2007

Today started as a really dreary day here in Gainesville. It was cool, overcast, and drizzly. Shortly after noon though it began to break and now it is a beautiful day. Basically, it was a typical cold front day. It may feel fine now, but it’ll get colder after the sun goes down. If the Gators win tonight, expect to see lots of jackets, sweatshirts, and knitted wool hats.

Bonus Overrated Media Story

The SEC Has More Speed than the Big 10

While this may be true overall, on a top-to-bottom basis, let’s face it: everyone has speed nowadays. Florida has it, Ohio State has it, and if you saw any of the Fiesta Bowl, you’ll know that even Boise State has it. With the way that training science has improved over the years, it turns out you probably can teach speed, or at least improve it. Ted Ginn and Percy Harvin have the unteachable kind of speed, but with the kind of facilities and resources that most college programs have, everyone has speed.

Stuff that Actually Matters

The Layoffs

Both coaches in this game have proved that they are sharp if you give them extra time to prepare, so that’s a non-factor. What does matter is how much time both teams have had off. Ohio State’s 51-day break from games will be a factor initially because no team can go that long without a game and play well for all 60 minutes. Ohio State will find their groove again, but I don’t expect to see the Buckeyes light up the scoreboard in the first quarter without big help from turnovers or special teams.

Florida has had a more traditional break, but their problem is one that has been there for the past 4 years: focus. The Gators have a hard time handling success during a game lately, which is why there have been so few blowouts and the Ron Zook-led teams gave away so many leads. You can always tell when it’s going to happen too: they’ll come out for a kickoff jumping around, waving their arms, pointing at the crowd, and then the defense will come out and do the same. Scoring drives of 5 plays or less usually follow this behavior. Urban Meyer has done a lot to curb this, but half of the team is still Zook players, and this will remain a concern for me at least the whole game.

Reggie Nelson

This guy is as crucial a player as there is in this game. Florida’s secondary is undersized and inexperienced. Nelson and Ryan Smith have player pretty well for the most part, but Tony Joiner is not going to be at full-strength and Reggie Lewis cannot be trusted against top-flight receivers. Beyond that, you have the freshman Dorian Monroe and the McCollum brothers. These are hardly promising prospects against the talent Ohio State has on offense.

This brings us back to Reggie Nelson. He and/or Ryan Smith have made some kind of huge play in the second half of every win that in some capacity seals the game for Florida. The only game that neither made such a play in was the Auburn game. These guys need to make something happen. Nelson will be very emotional with the recent passing of his mother, with whom he was very close. I expect he’ll try to play hard in her honor and memory, but I hope that doesn’t mean he overpursues looking to make a big hit somewhere. He’s been known to do that when he gets excited. Nelson must play well for Florida to have a chance.

Eliminating the Big Mistake

Whether it is Eric Wilbur dropping a punt or Chris Leak throwing bad interceptions, this Gator team has been susceptible to making very bad plays at inopportune times. Each of Florida’s past two games they have come out flat after halftime and had a terrible third quarter. In the Arkansas game, it was probably because at halftime they heard that USC had lost and they lost focus, as I have described above, allowing their minds to go to Arizona before finishing the job in Atlanta. Having that one disastrous quarter against Ohio State means going home humiliated.

Close Game Experience

Nearly everyone agrees that this game will be close. Florida has had much more experience in winning close games than OSU has had this year. From rallying from 10 points down at Tennessee to putting Arkansas away after falling behind in the second half, Florida has been winning close games all year. Ohio State on the other hand, has really only been in danger once, against Illinois, and the Illini would have had to drive the length of the field to tie it up (highly unlikely given the two teams involved). And no, the Michigan game was not that close.

I don’t know how good Ohio State is in a hurry-up offense because I just haven’t seen that much game film of them playing. I do know that Chris Leak is at his absolute best in the 2-minute drill. When he’s out there just throwing and not thinking hard, not worrying about having to run the option, and knowing exactly where he needs to put the ball (near the sidelines), he executes with outstanding precision. When it comes to the last two minutes, I have much more faith in Florida’s ability to move the ball down the field and score than I do in its ability to keep an opposing offense from moving down the field to get within field goal range.

Well, hopefully there’s some unique things in there for you. Final predictions in a bit.


BCS Title Game Preview, Part 1

January 8, 2007

Today is the first day of classes at UF. If something smells funny about that, it would be because the same institution that sold student tickets for tonight’s game in Arizona also expects students to be in class today. It doesn’t matter for me as I am a graduate student now, and the grad school sets its own calendar, but there is just a hint of hypocrisy about this. In any event, this will have to be in parts because of that and I don’t know how many parts there will be.

Overrated Media Stories

1. Jim Tressel is Conservative but Urban Meyer is Crazy!

In the past, Jim Tressel coached football like he was in the 1960s SEC. This year though, he’s had far too many good wide receivers not to spread the field. Ohio State’s spread is more conservative than Florida’s is, but it’s not like Tressel goes into run-out-the-clock mode with a lead in the second quarter. He knows the Florida defense is good, and I expect to see him call some tricks as a result.

2. Holy Cow! Percy Harvin vs. Ted Ginn!!!

Yes, both are dynamic talents, but it’s not like they’re going to be playing directly against each other. There are some similarities, but there are also some differences in the way that they are used, namely that Ginn is used as a return man and Harvin takes handoffs in the backfield. Ginn also is more elusive in traffic, whereas Harvin is more of a one-move-and-blow-by-you kind of guy. Are they important guys for their teams? Absolutely. However, the quarterback, linebacker, and secondary play for both teams is far more important than these two guys. They’re momentum swingers at best.

3. Florida Can’t Run the Ball

Um, yes it can. Florida averaged the same yardage per rush as Ohio State did, and averaged 160 yards rushing per game in a conference where “Stop the Run!” is the motto for 11 of the 12 teams (I’m not sure that Vanderbilt has a football motto). Ohio State has the more traditional run game, with a workhorse back and a burner for a change of pace. Florida has done it by a committee approach with a mix of running backs and receivers, with Tim Tebow for short-yardage situations. Tebow has shown in some instances that he can run for big gains, but he’s unlikely to have such plays called for him this game.

The biggest factor for Florida here is that DeShawn Wynn is healthy again. He showed he can carry the load against Tennessee, but the coaches have also shown that they can forget about him entirely, such as in the FSU game. If Florida plans on running the ball effectively against Ohio State, it will have to do it at least in part by using Wynn effectively. This reeks of potential redemption game for him.

That’s all for now, more to come later.


Off-Topic: Petrino to Atlanta Falcons

January 8, 2007

The man who built Louisville football with one foot out the door has finally left, accepting a job with the Atlanta Falcons. Bobby Petrino has interviewed for various jobs for years, most famously the Auburn job when Auburn’s president and boosters tried to replace Tommy Tuberville.

Petrino will get $24 million over 5 years, or a little more than Nick Saban will get each year from Alabama. It is roughly on par with Steve Spurrier’s contract with the Redskins, and interestingly enough, he also leaves after winning the Orange Bowl, which was also Spurrier’s last game before going to Washington.

Petrino says he believes it’s the best job in the NFL, which had better be right for someone who a year ago signed a 10-year contract extension and announced he was there for the long haul. The Cardinals players are understandably in shock. If there was any doubt that Brian Brohm and Michael Bush were going to the NFL, I think it’s pretty much gone now.

According to ESPN’s writeup, the leading candidate to replace him at Louisville is Tulsa’s coach Steve Kragthorpe, which makes sense since he took Tulsa from being a terrible team to one of the better mid-majors. *I also expect Jimbo Fisher’s name will be linked to the job since he is no longer a candidate for the offensive coordinator job at both FSU and Alabama. He apparently wanted more time than those programs wanted to give him (because of recruiting) because he might replace Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech should the Miami Dolphins hire Gailey away. Personally, I think the Louisville job is a better job at this point, so if the Louisville leadership is not set on having someone with head coaching experience, Fisher might have a shot. (Note: see update below)

So will Petrino be any good? His only NFL experience is two years as quarterbacks coach and one year as offensive coordinator during three of the four worst years in Jacksonville Jaguars history. Granted, that was the fault of management, who was gutting the roster to get under the salary cap. However, he doesn’t have a long history or anything else to suggest that he’ll be good as an NFL coach. At the same time, the Falcons need a great quarterbacks coach as much as anything else, and Petrino fits that bill. He is creative enough to figure out a way to turn Mike Vick into some kind of Vince Young clone, or something even better.

To be honest, Petrino strikes me as a classic college coach and not NFL material. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. He’ll flame out in 3 or 4 years probably, then return to college, perhaps to replace Saban at Alabama when he takes off for whatever else his heart desires. It’s worth a shot for the Falcons since there aren’t a whole lot of appealing coaches with NFL head-coaching experience available right now, but it’s still an awfully big risk.

*UPDATE: Fisher is going to FSU after all, and Louiville appears near to having Kragthorpe. Well, that didn’t take long. It appears that ol’ Jimbo would rather take his chances with succeeding Bobby Bowden than waiting on the unlikely (I think) premise that the Dolphins would hire Chan Gailey.