Troy Smith has a 25-2 career record as the Buckeyes' starting quarterback, including a 10-1 mark against ranked teams.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If you look back at the previous eight BCS championship games, you will find a discernible pattern. The years when there has been a consensus regarding the two participants -- 1998 (Tennessee-Florida State), '99 (FSU-Virginia Tech), 2002 (Miami-Ohio State) and '05 (USC-Texas) -- the games have been exciting and competitive, including No. 2 upsetting No. 1 in the past two such meetings.
In the years when there's been controversy about the second team -- 2000 (Oklahoma-Florida State), '01 (Miami-Nebraska), '03 (Oklahoma-LSU) and '04 (USC-Oklahoma) -- the games have been ugly. And in each case, the team who everyone agreed on beat up on the team causing contention.
The consensus participant this season, 12-0 Ohio State, has been beating up on people all year long, and I see no reason why that won't continue against 12-1 but heavily flawed Florida. Here are five reasons why the Buckeyes will hoist the crystal trophy on Monday night:
1) Troy Smith will have yet another big game. No question, the Gators possess the toughest defense Smith and the Buckeyes have faced. Their speedy front seven will present problems. But Ohio State's Heisman winner is ideal antidote to such a defense -- he's a pinpoint passer who can also use his feet to get out of trouble.
Smith will face more pressure than he's seen all season, which means he'll have to throw on the run more often than usual, but some of his best plays this season (the reverse field, 37-yard touchdown to Brian Robiskie against Penn State, his rollout TD pass to Anthony Gonzalez against Texas) have come in similar situations.
It's also possible that OSU's coaches, in an effort to negate Florida's fast blitzers, will call more of the designed runs for Smith that used to be central to their game-plans but virtually vanished this season. And we also know well how dangerous he can be scrambling when the pocket collapses. "He's a playmaker when the plays aren't there," said Florida coach Urban Meyer. By no means do I expect Smith to put on a Vince Young-in-the-Rose Bowl running performance, but like Young, Smith has repeatedly produced his best performances in the biggest games. This is his biggest one yet.
2) Conversely, Chris Leak is in trouble. The Gators' senior quarterback has a solid command of the offense and throws as pretty a spiral as any passer in the country. He remains haunted, however, by a penchant for making at least one or two extremely ill-advised decisions per game. Though his 62.9 completion percentage this season was the best of his four seasons as starter, he also threw a career-high 13 interceptions, including two on consecutive third-quarter possessions in the SEC title game that allowed Arkansas to get back in the contest.
Now, Leak is going up against a Buckeyes defense that has feasted on opposing quarterbacks' slightest missteps. OSU has intercepted 21 passes, tied for third-best nationally, with 11 different players getting at least one pick. "A lot of their interceptions, they get off tipped balls," said Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen. "If you force it into coverage and the ball gets tipped up, somebody is making a play."
You can expect the Gators to try and keep OSU's defense off balance with a heavy dose of screen plays misdirection running plays with speedy receivers Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell, but sooner or later Leak is going to throw downfield, and that's when the Buckeyes will pounce. "Especially with as much as they throw the ball, our goal is to create turnovers and big plays," said OSU cornerback Michael Jenkins. "Hopefully they'll throw some balls our way."