Not much excitement in OSU-Florida rematch

Published 1:30 pm Saturday, December 31, 2011


For The Tribune


COLUMBUS — Five years feels more like 50, considering all that has happened in Ohio State’s football program since 2006.

But the Buckeyes’ Gator Bowl matchup with Florida is a rematch of one of the biggest games — and biggest disasters — in OSU football history, which happened only five years ago.

On Jan. 8, 2007, Florida won the BCS national championship game 41-14 over Ohio State and its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith.

The Gators dominated from start to finish, holding Ohio State to 82 yards total offense and sacking Heisman winner Smith five times.

It was a particularly stunning outcome because OSU had roared through the 2006 season unbeaten and had won 10 of its 12 regular-season games by 17 points or more.

Coming into the game, Florida was viewed as lucky to be there, thanks to an upset loss suffered by USC and the reluctance of many poll voters to have a rematch between Michigan and Ohio State.

It has been far from a national championship season for either OSU (6-6) or Florida (6-6) this fall.

There has been little talk about revenge or making up for that 41-14 loss around OSU. Maybe because time marches on, or maybe because there are so many other more recent things the Buckeyes would like to put in the past.

Ohio State goes into the Gator Bowl on a three-game losing streak. Florida had a four-game losing streak earlier this season and has lost six of its last eight games.

The Gator Bowl’s organizers hoped a Florida-Ohio State rematch, along with the fact former Florida coach Urban Meyer will coach OSU in 2012, would push ticket sales.

But so far both schools have sold only around half of their ticket allotments. And Meyer says he won’t be in Jacksonville for the game when Luke Fickell and the current staff coach the Buckeyes. In fact, he says he might not even watch the game on television.

The Gator Bowl doesn’t look like a game that will be filled with offensive fireworks.

Florida ranks No. 102 nationally in total offense (334.2 yards a game) and Ohio State is No. 107 (319.7 yards a game). Defensively, the two teams show up a little better. Florida ranks No. 25 in points allowed (20.6 points a game) and OSU is 26th (20.7 points a game).

Running back Chris Rainey (790 yards rushing, 28 catches for 350 yards) and kicker Caleb Sturgis (21 of 25 on field goals) were the only Gators selected first-team All-Southeastern Conference. That is the fewest All-SEC picks for Florida since 1987.

Quarterback John Brantley (1,912 yards passing, 10 touchdowns) missed 2 1/2 games with a badly sprained ankle, then suffered a concussion behind a struggling offensive line in the regular-season finale against Florida State. In two years as a starter, he has thrown 19 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.

Brantley, who is not a particularly good runner, struggled in Meyer’s spread offense in 2010. He appeared more comfortable in the pro style offense Florida used with first-year coach Will Muschamp in his first season this fall, but the Gators’ offense still was ineffective.

While Ohio State had one signature win, a 33-29 decision over Big Ten champion Wisconsin, there is no such win for Florida. The Gators’ three SEC wins were over Tennessee (5-7), Kentucky (5-7) and Vanderbilt (6-6).