By Dean Blevin, NEWS 9 Sports Director
MIAMI, Florida -- Good morning from Title Town USA, two days out and counting down to the ultimate showdown for the coveted crystal between those confident Florida Gators and those Chippy Sooners.
An overlooked part of this BCS title game is that it is a home game for Florida. Coincidentally, and unluckily for the Sooners, three of the four BCS Championship games Bob Stoops has taken OU to in the past nine seasons has been what is in effect a road game.
OU beat a Florida State in Miami and lost to LSU in a hostile New Orleans setting. Of course they were taken to the woodshed by a USC that did not have any advantage--other than terrific players, coaches and the fact that they played with passion with a bundle of NFL-gifted talent against the obviously cocksure Sooners who had agents and the NFL on the forefront of their minds.
Thursday, OU is officially the home team by virtue of their No. 1 BCS ranking. But they'd trade the payoff they get for that for the significant home field advantage-I'm guessing over 3 to 1 and perhaps a 4-1 Gator edge in fans-to not be playing in another BCS title game that is literally on the road.
OU is a fabulous "home" team. They are 4-0 on the road but clearly much, much better at home. Their defense must-must be ready to weather some inevitable tidal waves of success Florida will have on offense, and not let the impact of the crowd become a big factor in their effort and execution. Easier said than done.
But at the end of the night, Stoops will not bring up the home field disadvantage. Nor should he. The officiating will be fair and that's the most important thing. These officials are the best of the best and have the whole world watching every call. It's not like a crew in say, Lubbock, which can be persuaded by a crowd in a game where every call is scrutinized very closely.
The fact is Stoops and the Sooners are very fortunate to even be here. Complaining about being the road team is not worth mention by anyone from Norman. And to their credit, it has not been.
Just go play. Block, tackle, run, throw and don't turn the ball over. That's a lot more important than a disparity in the stands. Let the cow chips fall where they may.
There's an interesting angle on the big game in a piece written in today's ESPN.com. Pat Forde looks at the facts surrounding the winning margins that both OU and Florida had late in the season where they helped their case of being voted in and making it to Miami. His last point is most telling. The gifted Forde writes in part: "Oklahoma did its best to tilt the scoreboard late in its last couple of games -- but the Sooners did no such thing for most of the season. In fact, other highly ranked teams did more of it.
"Of the teams that finished the regular season in The Associated Press top five, only Alabama scored a smaller percentage of its points in the fourth quarter than Oklahoma -- the Crimson Tide scored 12.9 percent of their points in the final 15 minutes, Oklahoma 13.3 percent. Texas, whose fans were maddest at the Sooners because of their down-to-the-wire battle for a BCS berth, scored 21.8 percent of its points in the fourth quarter. Florida: 22.8 percent. And USC was the team most likely to pad its margin late at 23.6 percent." Unbiased good stuff grounded in facts and with objective analysis sprinkled in. It's worth the read on ESPN.com.
For the record, I felt OU was not running up the score on OSU but it would not have been against the law had they done so. The late touchdown was simply a handoff where OSU failed to tackle Chris Brown. It led to a twenty point final margin which was in no way indicative of the closeness of the game and no doubt helped OU with a few voters. But most voters watched the game and knew it was not a twenty point game.
The other example is clearer. Sam Bradford chunked a long ball into the Missouri end zone late in OU's route to win the Big 12 Championship. It was unneeded. The only explanation that might hold water is that in the heat of the battle, Bob Stoops may have simply chosen to lock up a trip to the title game rather than take any chance at all of being passed by Texas. That logic was clearly wrong but it the heat of the battle with all the elements involved in making decisions on the sideline, it is somewhat understandable.
But enough of the sideshow. I've got more nuggets on this one than McDonalds. We'll toss them out in the next couple of days and hope you follow our coverage here in Miami nightly and will watch our thirty minute special Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
This one is intriguing. The lingering thoughts are: One, the nightmare drubbing the last time here in Miami inflicted by the talented Trojans. And two, the optimism surrounding the Sooners as they are focused on one thing: taking that eighth title back to Norman. The heavyweight battle looms.
Now, we'll get to see if they are both true heavyweights. Contenders or pretenders?