BCS ratings pick Florida, Oklahoma for title game

Published 1:31 am Monday, December 8, 2008

That logjam at the top of the rankings wasn’t so hard to figure out.

Nobody dominated the last two months of college football like Oklahoma and Florida. Every poll and pretty much everyone outside of Texas agreed on that.

No surprise, then, that the Gators and Sooners were the easy picks despite having one loss each. This pair of power programs with Heisman-worthy quarterbacks and 12-1 records will meet Jan. 8 in Miami for the BCS national championship.

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Oklahoma was ranked first and Florida second in the final BCS standings released Sunday. They were flip-flopped in the Associated Press poll, which is not used in determining the BCS, but was used by BCS chairman John Swofford as another way of validating the matchup.

‘‘One of the interesting aspects of where we are, looking at the standings, is that Florida and Oklahoma are one or two in the Harris poll, coaches’ poll and even the AP poll, which is not used in the BCS standings,’’ Swofford said.

‘‘You have a consistency there with the human polls on those same two teams,’’ he said.

Including Texas, Southern California, Texas Tech, Penn State and Alabama, there were seven teams with one loss in the BCS’ final top 10. Two more — Utah and Boise State — finished undefeated.

But only two had resumes like Florida and Oklahoma.

Led by Tim Tebow, the Gators rebounded from their only loss to dominate the next nine games, scoring more than 49 points a game in wins that culminated with a 31-20 victory over Alabama on Saturday for the SEC title.

Sam Bradford was the same kind of force for Oklahoma. The Sooners lost 45-35 to Texas in October, but still ended up with an NCAA-record 702 points this season. They ended the season by becoming the first team since 1919 to score 60-plus in five straight games.

‘‘We beat five ranked teams and three ranked teams as the last three games of the year,’’ Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. ‘‘That decided it.’’

This will mark the first-ever meeting between these two power programs, each seeking their second title of the 2000s.

Florida was an up-and-coming power and Oklahoma was a declining one back in 1998, when Stoops decided to leave his post as Gators defensive coordinator and take his first head-coaching job with the Sooners.

In 2000, he helped Oklahoma to its seventh national title. Still, when Steve Spurrier left Florida a year later, many Gators thought Stoops’ return was only a matter of logistics.

Who wouldn’t take the sun and fun of Florida over the grit and dust of Norman, right?

Stoops declined, though, saying he had everything a coach could ever ask for at Oklahoma — nice campus, good boosters, fantastic resources and, yes, even more tradition than they had at Florida.

‘‘I had great memories of my time there and great experiences,’’ Stoops said. ‘‘But I had also been making my own here at Oklahoma. I felt so strongly about what we were doing and positive about what we were doing, I wanted to see it through.’’

He has won six conference championships and this will mark the fourth time he’s played for the national title.

‘‘He had a wonderful situation there,’’ Spurrier said. ‘‘No reason to get out of there.’’

Florida ended up fine, as well. After Stoops said ‘No,’ the Gators hired Ron Zook, then after three years, they turned to Urban Meyer. He’s trying for Florida’s second title in three seasons. Tebow has a chance to become only the second player to win back-to-back Heismans.

Two years ago, Meyer took some heat for lobbying to get his team into the title game. This time, he didn’t have to work so hard. It was fairly clear-cut that if Florida defeated a top-ranked Alabama team in the SEC title game that the Gators would be going.

‘‘When I hear coaches sticking up for their team, they’re simply doing their job,’’ Meyer said. ‘‘But after a while, enough is enough. The rules are in place. Until it changes, that’s the way it is.’’

Surely any college football fan would love to see how No. 5 USC’s top-ranked defense would fare against either of these teams, but the Trojans are headed to the Rose Bowl and haven’t been seriously in the title-game conversation for weeks.

Instead, the third-ranked Texas Longhorns are the ones feeling robbed.

The Longhorns finished in a three-way tie in the nation’s toughest division — the Big 12 South — but were denied a spot in the title game because of the tiebreaker, which looks to the BCS standings.

Oklahoma won the tiebreaker. Texas protested. Coach Mack Brown said UT’s 45-35 win over OU should be a deciding factor. He left out the fact that Texas lost to Texas Tech and Oklahoma beat the Red Raiders 65-21.

‘‘The team that beat them, we beat by 44 just three weeks ago,’’ Stoops said. ‘‘Those are the facts. Head-to-head seems to matter in one case but they don’t want it to matter the other way.’’

But that debate is over and football fans are bracing for a game that might have a score with numbers befitting the Final Four more than the BCS.

The kind of game that will send defensive coordinators running for cover.

‘‘A terrific culmination,’’ Swofford said, ‘‘of what has been a very, very intriguing regular season.’’