2007 National Championship Game Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 01/04/2007
So this is it. This is what it has come down to. After hundreds of games - backdoor covers, blowouts, upsets, overtimes, turnovers, comebacks and John L. Smith - we've finally reached the apex of the college football season, the BCS National Championship.
Florida (12-1) will meet Ohio State (12-0) at 8 p.m. on Monday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, to decide which team will be crowned the King of College Ball. The Buckeyes have gone wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country and opened as a 7.5-point favorite. The line has fluctuated at a few online books, but for the most part it has held firm. It also is available at -7 or -8 at certain shops.
This season the Buckeyes went 9-3 against the spread, and at one point had covered in 12 consecutive games dating back to the 2005-06 season. That's quite impressive considering that Ohio State was shackled with some monster numbers during that span while holding a very public position in the gambling world.
Now, I'm not going to waste your time running down the prominent players on both sides. If you don't know who Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr. and Chris Leak are, well, you should probably stick to betting on Australian Rules Football or who is the real father of Anna Nicole Smith's child.
Instead, I'll use this time to remind you that Big 10 teams are 4-3 ATS thus far in the Bowl Season while SEC schools are 5-3 versus the number. However, in head-to-head matchups the Big 10 is 2-0 SU and ATS in bowl games against the SEC. Penn State and Wisconsin upset Tennessee and Arkansas, respectively, on New Year's Day. Both won in convincing fashion, almost forcing me to down three-quarters of a bottle of Drano in the process.
The underlying theme of the Penn State and Wisconsin victories was that their raw power and solid game planning was able to suppress the faster and more athletic Southeastern clubs. I always say that football is a violent game, and that patty-cake teams don't come through when the stakes are high and the money is flying around. This could be one of those times.
Florida certainly is a flashy squad. Their speed, on both sides of the ball, is superior to anyone they match up against and is greater than anything that the Buckeyes have faced this year. Urban Meyer is an offensive mastermind, and with over a month to plan for this game he will most likely have an intricate combination of offensive formations perfected for this game. Florida can put pressure on a defense in a variety of ways and they can hang a big number on the board if this turns into a shootout.
If there is a weakness for OSU it could be that their defense - though they performed incredibly this season - is still a bit inexperienced. Florida's defense is the Forgotten Man in this title tilt. They yielded only two touchdowns per game and are always flying around the ball looking to create momentum-changing turnovers.
The Gators do have holes, though. They were one of the most penalized teams in the country, and if they don't play disciplined on Monday they don't stand a chance. Also, kicker Chris Hetland is an accident waiting to happen. He's an atrocious 1-for-10 on field goals of over 30 yards this season and Meyer has already said that his ineptitude may alter how he calls his game.
On the flip side, Ohio State certainly has the look of a champion. They have played in some huge games over the past two years - most notably against Texas last year and against Michigan this season. They have the requisite playmakers and one of college football's best Big Game coaches in Jim Tressel. And most importantly, the Buckeyes will have a member of the Legion of Doom in their corner.
That's right. In case you hadn't heard, starting OSU linebacker James Laurinaitis is the son of Animal. He and Hawk used to wreak havoc across the country in the old WWF. How can you bet against that?
I've got two more potential X-factors for you. The first is Leak. He's had a star-crossed career at Florida, having never fully realized the nearly impossible expectations that were hoisted upon him out of high school. Does he really have the makings of a Champion? With Vince Young last year, there was never any doubt. But if things get dicey can Leak lead this team as adeptly as Smith can his?
Second, Ohio State has only played in two games that were decided by 10 points or less. The first was a perplexing 17-10 struggle against doormat Illinois and the second was the 42-39 Michigan game. Conversely, Florida was involved in seven such games. They managed to find a way to win six of those games, learning what it takes to execute in Crunch Time and in the fourth quarter in the process. If the Buckeyes don't blow out Florida it will be interesting to see if that experience factor benefits the Gators.
The Gators deserve to be on the field with the Buckeyes, no matter what the general betting public thinks. The SEC is no joke and the Gators were the clear-cut top team in the nation's top conference. Last year I predicted that Texas would beat USC. While I don't have nearly the same level of confidence in this season's Florida club, I do think that this game will be more competitive than folks believe. However, beating Ohio State truly would be a monumental feat.
In the end, on Tuesday morning college football will have its championship and hopefully I will have a bigger stack of chips. Everyone will be happy, I can't think of a better way to end a fantastic season.
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