Anyone watching the national championship marathon on ESPN Classic? Good stuff. Howard Schnellenberger had gray hair way back in 1984? Wow...
It's here. It's finally here. After 248,282 days since they last played in their conference championships, the No.1-ranked Florida Gators (12-1) and No.2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-1) play for it all on Thursday in Dolphin Stadium. Before we get started with the often imitated but never duplicated Ultimate Preview, let me remind everyone to buy a copy of The Miami Herald today for our BCS national championship game special section ... OK, on with the show.
WHO: No.1 Florida (12-1) vs. No.2 Oklahoma (12-1); While Florida is the writers' top-ranked team, the Gators enter the game ranked No.2 in the BCS standings. Oklahoma is the No.1 team in the BCS standings.
THE LINE: While Oklahoma is ranked No.1 in the BCS standings, Florida is the favorite to win the game. According to Las Vegas, UF is a 4 1/2-point favorite. The over/under is 70 points.
THE WEATHER: The low for Thursday night is 55 degrees. Bring a jacket or sweatshirt...or just wear nothing and drink a lot of booze.
THE TICKETS: Hope you've already purchased your tickets. The game has been sold our for over a month. Anyone planning on buying a ticket from a scalper? If you are, then beware of counterfeit tickets.
PERCY HARVIN'S ANKLE: Florida receiver Percy Harvin injured his ankle against Florida State on Nov.29 and has been vigorously rehabilitating the sprain ever since. Trainers told Harvin his high-ankle sprain was one of the most severe injuires of its kind they had ever seen. Harvin says the hard work has paid off and plans to be a contributor on Thursday. During the past month, Harvin said he averaged about 15 hours a day with trainers and rarely took a day off. He remained on campus over the holidays. Harvin began practicing with the team for the first time since the injury on Saturday, the Gators' first practice in South Florida. Harvin said this week that his ankle was at 90 percent and he is still having trouble running routes. Is he healthy enough to help the Gators?
HEISMAN VS. HEISMAN: UF quarterback Tim Tebow won the Heisman in 2007. OU quarterback Sam Bradford won the Heisman in 2008. One of them will win the national title in 2009. Will it be Tebow and his punishing style? Will it be Bradford with his pinpoint accuracy?
THE PROMISE: Everyone remembers 'The Promise,' correct? It's the speech UF quarterback Tim Tebow gave Gator Nation and his teammates after Ole Miss 31, Florida 30. Tebow has one more thing to do to make good on that promise. If UF wins on Thursday, the university will probably cast 'The Promise' in bronze and make a statue out of it. In case you need refreshing, here's a video of the 'The Promise.' I watch it every morning while drinking my coffee.
Florida and Oklahoma haven't shied away from enraging the each other with high-quality smack talk. The pregame war of words has turned into a storyline of its own. UF's defense thinks OU defense is trash. OU thinks UF's offense is overrated. Yada, yada, yada...
The Florida Gators love assistant coach Steve Addazio. His fiery speeches before games have come to be known doses of "Vitam in-A." While Addazio is a great motivator, excellent recruiter and quality offensive line coach, can he be an offensive coordinator? He was named OC after Dan Mullen left for Mississippi State. Addazio will call plays from the sidelines on Thursday while simultaneously coaching his offensive line. Dan Mullen will be in the press box, communicating with Tebow during the game. Sounds confusing to me.
Anyone remember the last time Oklahoma played at Dolphin Stadium? Eeeh. Sooners fans would like to forget it. Southern Cal defeated OU 55-19 in the 2005 BCS championship game. (Auburn should have been there.) Oklahoma has played in the Orange Bowl more than anyone but the last time the Sooners won in Miami was in 2001 when OU defeated FSU in the title game. Oklahoma has lost four consecutive BCS games. Will they make it five?
Oklahoma leads the nation in turnover margin. Florida is ranked No.2 nationally. Something's gotta give on Thursday night. UF's secondary has 24 interceptions.
THREE FLORIDA PLAYERS TO WATCH
CLICK ME to find out which three players nobody is talking about could make a huge impact tonight.
THREE OKLAHOMA PLAYERS TO WATCH
Same things only with the other team...CLICK ME!
UF quarterback Tim Tebow vs. OU middle linebackers Austin Box and Mike Balogun: Tim Tebow is Tim Tebow and Austin Box is a redshirt freshman. Advantage: Florida. Box has been crying all week about lack of respect. "That's just fueling us," Box said. "We just take that stuff in and hear what people are saying. All the talk doesn't mean anything until you prove it on the field, and that's what we're going to do."
UF middle linebacker linebacker Brandon Spikes vs. OU running back Chris Brown: Chris Brown averaged 5.5 yards per carry this season. Brandon Spikes led the Gators with 78 tackles. They'll exchange pleasantries a few times on Thursday night.
UF strong safety Ahmad Black vs. OU tight end Jermaine Greshman: Black might be about four feet shorter than Greshman (actually Greshman is almost a foot taller). It should make for an interesting match-up. Black has six interceptions this season and despite his small stature has performed well against some of the nation's best tight ends.
UF cornerback Joe Haden vs. OU wide receiver Dominique Franks: It's hard to tell which player is more flashy. Haden showed up this week with stars and the number "1" shaved into the side of his head. On top was a Mohawk. Franks showed up this week ready to fight the world. He told anyone who would listen that the Big 12 is better than the SEC at nearly every position.
UF running backs Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey vs. OU outside linebackers Keenan Clayton and Travis Lewis: Hope Clayton and Lewis are wearing their track shoes on Thursday night.
UF defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh vs. OU center Jon Cooper: This will be one of the game's best match-ups between unsung heroes.
UF defensive end Carlos Dunlap vs. OU offensive tackles Phil Loadholt and Trent Williams: Can UF pressure Sam Bradford into mistakes? This is my No.1 key to the game. Enter Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap. If Dunlap can consistently pressure Bradford then UF will win this game.