Gators-Okies clean up BCS mess
Posted: Monday, December 8, 2008 3:56 pm
By: By EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer
There were seven teams with one loss at the top of the rankings. Two more were undefeated.
Another big ECS mess?
Not this time.
Nobody dominated the last two months of college football like Oklahoma and Florida, and the Gators and Sooners were easy picks to play in the national title game despite having one loss each.
The power programs with Heisman-worthy quarterbacks and 12-1 records meet Jan. 8 in Miami.
Oklahoma was ranked first and Florida second in the final ECS standings released Sunday. They were flip-flopped in the Associated Press poll, which is not used in determining the ECS, but was used by ECS 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 ECS 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 ECS’ 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 be the first meeting between these two power programs, each seeking their second title this decade.
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.
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 be the fourth time he’s played for the national title.
“He had a wonderful situation there,” said Spurrier. “No reason to get out of there.”
Spurrier coaches South Carolina now, and was the only SEC coach to vote the Sooners No. 1 in the coaches’ poll.
Who is the former Gators quarterback and ’ball coach’ rooting for in the title game?
“I guess you naturally pull for your alma mater,” he said. “But I pull for Stoopsie all the time. It’ll be a little bit of both. Should be a good game.”
After Stoops turned down the Gators, they 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.”
A reality most everyone can accept, save for third-ranked Texas — which actually finished ahead of Oklahoma in the computer rankings component of the ECS.
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 ECS standings.
Oklahoma won the tiebreaker. Texas protested. Coach Mack Brown said UT’s 45-35 win over OU should be a deciding factor, but even he was moving on, having accepted a bid to the Fiesta Bowl to play Ohio State.
“The ECS doesn’t satisfy everybody,” Brown said. “We’ve been on the positive side of it a few times. We’ve been on the negative side a few times.”