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Repeating history

Florida-OSU title game is a mind-boggling possibility

Posted: Monday March 26, 2007 10:21AM; Updated: Wednesday March 28, 2007 3:21PM
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If Ohio State and Florida meet for a national title, can Greg Oden & Co. do what their football brethren failed to do and beat the Gators for a championship?
If Ohio State and Florida meet for a national title, can Greg Oden & Co. do what their football brethren failed to do and beat the Gators for a championship?
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When the final buzzer sounded on Florida's Elite Eight victory over Oregon on Sunday, a group of arena employees immediately leapt to work erecting a temporary stage on the court for the Gators' trophy presentation. The guy who appeared to be doing most of the work was wearing an Ohio State "Block O" baseball cap.

O, the irony.

We sit here today on the brink of a potentially epic Final Four. We've got all 1 and 2 seeds for the first time since 1993. We've got Florida attempting to become the first repeat champion since '92. We've got Florida and UCLA staging the first rematch of a previous year's Final Four game since Duke and UNLV in '91 (with Ohio State and Georgetown staging a rematch last year's second-round game as well). And we've got the Hoyas returning to the Final Four for the first time since '85 (under another John Thompson at that).

If, however, like me, you happen to be a follower of both college basketball and football, one storyline is just screaming off the page right now: the possibility of another Ohio State-Florida championship game.

Let the smack talk begin.

If you haven't noticed, a heated little rivalry -- albeit a highly one-sided rivalry thus far -- has broken out recently between these two athletic heavyweights, which happen to be excelling in both football and basketball at the same time. First, Joakim Noah and the Gators gave Greg Oden and the Buckeyes a rude welcoming party at the O'Connell Center on Dec. 23 (Florida won 86-60). At that game, a Florida student held up what seemed at the time a presumptuous sign that read: "Troy Smith, you're next."

Sure enough, on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz., Urban Meyer's football Gators not only beat season-long No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS championship game but flat-out humiliated the Buckeyes and their Heisman Trophy winner, 41-14.

Teams beat each other in championship games every year in every sport, but I've ever seen such a result generate as much backlash on both sides as that one did. Florida fans seemed to revel as much in humbling a perceived media darling and asserting their SEC superiority over the Big Ten (after hearing for weeks Michigan should have been in the game instead of them) than they did in actually winning a championship.

For Buckeyes fans, the loss was made even more painful by the fact it came at the hands of a program that stood almost diametrically opposite to everything they hold sacred. They fumed at the brash and cocky Gators for speaking so disrespectfully of their classy, upstanding heroes. They scoffed at the "gimmick" offense used by new-age coach Meyer to defeat the buttoned-down Tressel.

Suffice to say, the two sides don't like each other very much. So can you imagine if wind up meeting again for the basketball championship?

For one thing, the roles would be reversed, with the younger Buckeyes playing the part of the underdog attempting to ruin the other team's supposedly destined championship run. (Though technically, according to the final regular season rankings, Ohio State is ranked No. 1). Ironically, Meyer actually addressed Florida's basketball team before it's December meeting with the Buckeyes from the perspective of someone about to face an opponent with a supposed aura of invincibility -- i.e. instructing Billy Donovan's team how to avoid the type of pitfall Jim Tressel's team was about to experience.

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