It's hard to believe Oklahoma and Florida will be meeting for the first time in football when they play in the 11th Bowl Championship Series title game. Both teams are happy, if not lucky, to be in South Florida after a season in which several one-loss schools and undefeated Utah could have made cases for earning the honor. Florida rebounded after a one-point loss to Mississippi in September, winning nine straight games; Oklahoma survived a 10-point loss to Texas at Dallas in early October. Here are some of the key issues and matchups in tonight's game:
The P factor
Florida junior wide receiver Percy Harvin returns to action after missing the Southeastern Conference title game with a severe ankle sprain. His impact could be huge.
Harvin is perhaps college football's most exciting player, a hybrid tailback/receiver who has rushed for 1,730 yards in his career while totaling 1,880 yards in 128 catches.
Harvin said Florida trainers told him the ankle injury he suffered against Florida State was one of the worst they had ever seen.
It killed Harvin to miss the SEC title game against Alabama.
"It was almost like I was at a funeral," he said. However, had Harvin tried to play in that game he surely would have not been able to play in the BCS title game. "This happened for a reason," he said.
Harvin said his ankle is about 90% healed.
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow offered this assessment of Harvin after seeing him practice: "Whether he's 100% or not, he looked faster than anybody else."
State of the (BCS) union
Ohio State isn't in the title game, but the state of Ohio is.
Florida Coach Urban Meyer was raised in Ashtabula; Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops hails from Youngstown.
Miami of Ohio has been called the cradle of coaches, producing the likes of Earl Blaik, Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Sid Gillman and Bo Schembechler.
"There's an awful lot of coaches from that area," Stoops said this week. " . . . Football is important there, and it's developed, from the little leagues all the way up through high school."
Claim of fame
Oklahoma's Dominique Franks, a sophomore defensive back, made his coaches cringe when he called out Florida's Tebow, saying the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner would rank only as the fourth best quarterback in the Big 12 behind Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Colt McCoy (Texas) and Graham Harrell (Texas Tech).
The secondary has been Oklahoma's weak link this season, the unit ranking 98th nationally in pass defense. So, it's surprising Franks would dare say such a thing -- unless he's prepared to back it up.
Stoops suggested reporters had baited Franks into his comments, but Franks didn't need much coaxing.
Florida freshman tailback Jeff Demps said Franks may regret his comments, warning, "You better watch out for Tebow."
The biggest problem trying to defend Oklahoma's no-huddle offense is trying to keep pace with the Sooners' frenetic pace.
Oklahoma works fast in order to keep opponents from making defensive adjustments.
"They're up on the ball so quick, it's going to be tough to substitute," Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said. "You can't get tired."
Strong said while Florida's offense averages 60 to 65 plays a game, the no-huddle allows Oklahoma to run between 85 and 90.
Oklahoma has scored 702 points -- the most in college football's modern era -- and a school-record 97 touchdowns.
What impressed Strong most about watching film on Oklahoma?
"Looking at all the extra points," he said. "God almighty, there's a lot of extra points."
Pros and cons
One question coming out of this game is whether we've seen the last of Bradford, a sophomore, and Tebow, a junior. Both probably will test their value in the NFL market.
Bradford is considered the more NFL-ready; Tebow is a question mark because he is more of a run-oriented quarterback.
Alex Smith, who ran the spread offense so effectively for Meyer at Utah, has been largely a bust after being selected by the San Francisco 49ers as the top pick of the 2005 draft.
Meyer says Tebow's success will depend on how he's used.
"If someone knows what they're doing, he'll be a great NFL quarterback," Meyer said.
By the numbers
*--* OKLA. CATEGORY FLA. 54.0 Scoring 45.2 24.5 Points given up 12.8 356.5 Passing offense 212.6 205.5 Rushing offense 229.8 562.1 Total offense 443.3 253.1 Passing defense 174.0 106.0 Rushing defense 105.3 324.0 Total defense 279.3 *--*