Gators, who are celebrating their 100th year of
collegiate competition and are 2-1 in previous
BCS bowl games, are playing in their 16th straight
bowl, but this is their first appearance in the
BCS championship game. If Meyer's club wins here,
he will become only the sixth coach in major college
history to win the national title in just his
first or second year at the helm.
Ironically, one of the coaches
on that list is Ohio State's Jim Tressel, whose
Buckeyes won it all in 2002. Having recently won
their third Big Ten crown in the last six years,
OSU is riding the crest of a 19-game win streak,
14 of which come against Big Ten competition.
The Buckeyes, who went wire-to-wire as the No.
1 team in the land this season, are 4-0 all-time
in BCS bowl games and topped Miami-Florida in
the 2003 Fiesta Bowl to win the national championship.
This game marks the first-ever
meeting between Florida and Ohio State on the
Not quite the offensive juggernaut
of seasons past, this year's Florida club averaged
just under 30 ppg while falling just shy of 400
total ypg. Not exactly figures to sneeze at, but
not among the national leaders and thus, there
were some who thought perhaps the team had underachieved.
However, 12 wins in 13 tries is certainly impressive
and with the QB tandem of Chris Leak and Tim Tebow
leading the way, the UF offense certainly did
enough to warrant the team's appearance in this
championship game. With both signal callers completing
better than 62 percent of their passes, the Gators
were able to march up and down the field against
some of the tougher defensive teams in the country.
Leak saw the bulk of the action, throwing for
2,729 yards, 22 TDs and 13 INTs, while Tebow was
a change of pace guy who threw four TDs against
only one pick and finished second on the team
in rushing with 460 yards and a club-best seven
TDs. The team's top options down the field are
Dallas Baker and Andre Caldwell, and the two have
combined for 111 catches, 1,468 yards and 14 TDs.
The UF ground assault features the talents of
not only Tebow, but also DeShawn Wynn, who earned
630 yards and five scores.
The Florida defense is the
primary reason the team has enjoyed as much success
as it has this year, as foes are scoring just
13.5 ppg and generating a mere 268.8 yards of
total offense. The Gators have been particularly
strong against the run, yielding just 74.5 ypg
and only seven TDs. Earl Everett is the team's
leading tackler to this point, having logged 78
total stops, while Brandon Siler is close behind
with 73 tackles, nine of which were made behind
the line of scrimmage. Derrick Harvey led the
team in TFLs with 10, and he was credited with
eight of the team's 29 sacks. The defensive backfield
duo of Ryan Smith and Reggie Nelson are arguably
the best in the nation as they combined to pick
off an astounding 14 passes while also securing
102 total tackles.
The Gators will need to be
at their best in all facets of the game as they
take on an Ohio State club that is as well-rounded
as any team in recent memory.
Led by 2006 Heisman Trophy
winner Troy Smith, the Ohio State offense has
been highly efficient and extremely explosive.
A 67 percent passer who threw for 2,507 yards,
30 TDs and only five INTs during the regular season,
Smith is as poised a quarterback as there is in
the country. His ability to make big plays and
run the offense with control and precision has
the Buckeyes riding high atop the college football
world. Smith has plenty of talented specialists
with which to look to, particularly receivers
Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez. Ginn Jr. is
the team's top pass catcher with 59 grabs for
781 yards and nine TDs, while Gonzalez checks
in with 49 receptions, 723 yards and eight scores.
Not to be overshadowed, the Buckeye rushing attack
boasts the talents of RB Antonio Pittman, he of
1,171 yards and 13 TDs. An elusive runner, Pittman
averaged 5.0 ypc and helped lead an Ohio State
offense that averaged 36.3 points and 409.8 total
yards per game.
What was thought to be the
team's weak spot entering the season, the Ohio
State defense has stood tall time and time again
in 2006, and finished as one of the top units
in the nation. Foes found it difficult to move
the ball on the ground, doing so for just 93.5
ypg and only reaching the end zone six times.
As a result, the Buckeyes ranked first in the
country in scoring defense, allowing only 10.4
ppg. Butkus Award finalist James Laurinaitis led
the OSU stand with 100 total tackles, and he also
recorded four sacks and five INTs for good measure.
A menace wherever he lines up, Laurinaitis must
be accounted for on virtually every snap, much
in the same way former OSU great A.J. Hawk had
to be. Antonio Smith is another terrific Buckeye
defender and he made 66 stops this year, including
10 behind the line of scrimmage. Vernon Gholston
and Quinn Pitcock combined to post 15 of the team's
Big Ten-best 37 sacks, and Malcolm Jenkins finished
just one off the pace of the team lead in INTs
On paper, Ohio State is the
better team and the Buckeyes will likely find
a way to win this game. Still, the Gators are
talented, well coached and should be ready to
play. In the end, Smith will lead his team to
victory as OSU claims its second national title
in the last four years.
My Sportsbook National Championship
Prediction: Ohio State 31, Florida 21
Posted by MySportsbook January
4th, 2006, at 11:12 AM ET
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