Oklahoma will prevail in shootout by winning turnover battle
Florida's defense will have trouble keeping up with OU's no-huddle offense
With premium protection, Sam Bradford should pick apart Florida's secondary
A month of hearing about how you'll get beat would make anyone angry
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Every time someone asks who I think will win the BCS title game, I go hunting in my pocket for a coin to flip. Florida has emerged as the slight favorite in Las Vegas and the overwhelming favorite among media types, but both teams were so dominant at the end of the season that it seems foolish to believe either team is significantly better than the other.
That said, Oklahoma coaches and players probably appreciate all the love the Gators are getting. The Sooners entered their last two bowl games as heavy favorites and lost both. Maybe playing as an underdog is exactly the motivation the Sooners need.
Quarterback Sam Bradford, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, cracks open his Bible and reads the story of David and Goliath before every game. Bradford said he doesn't consider the Sooners to be David to Florida's Goliath in this situation, and he's correct. These teams are much more evenly matched than David and his Philistine foe.
Here are five reasons why Oklahoma will win:
1) Tempo, tempo, tempo. In about the time it takes to read this sentence, Oklahoma has called its next play, gathered at the line of scrimmage and snapped the ball. Florida, a team that routinely milks the play clock, has tried to simulate the chaos Oklahoma's no-huddle offense causes, but the simulation may not do justice to a scheme that virtually eliminates between-play defensive substitutions and saps the energy from pass-rushers.
"Momentum is such a big part of college football, and you don't have to take that little break. You keep going," Sooners center Jon Cooper said. "If you can catch a team off guard a couple times, they don't really have time to disguise coverages or fronts."
2) The best offensive line in college football. Oklahoma allowed just 11 sacks this season. Florida ranked No. 30 in the nation in sacks with 32. So a team that rarely allows rushers to reach the quarterback has to block a team that is only slightly above average at rushing the quarterback. Bradford isn't going to get touched.
Phil Loadholt, Duke Robinson, Cooper, Brandon Walker and Trent Williams will face their stiffest challenge when trying to establish the run. Lack of a consistent run game was a major reason the Sooners lost to Texas, and Oklahoma's linemen know they must open holes for Chris Brown and Mossis Madu to beat the Gators.
The good news is that Alabama, which boasted an excellent offensive line -- but one that isn't as good as Oklahoma's -- ran for 136 yards against a Florida team that didn't have to worry about getting torched in the passing game. Against Oklahoma, the Gators will have to respect the pass, which should allow the Sooners' linemen to blast open paths for the backs.
3) They make opponents give them the ball. Let's be honest. No matter what Sooners defenders say, Oklahoma does not have an elite defense. It doesn't have a bad defense, either. And the thing the Sooners do best is the one thing that can produce a massive momentum shift and/or negate any talent advantage on the other side of the ball.
They can force turnovers.
Oklahoma led the nation in turnover margin at plus-23 -- Florida was second -- and defensive coordinator Brent Venables is a wiz at designing schemes that force opposing teams to make mistakes. Remember, Ole Miss did not have an elite defense, but Florida put the ball on the ground five times in that game, and the Rebels recovered three of those fumbles. That's why Florida lost.
If safety/linebacker Nic Harris can channel his frustration with the criticism of the defense into a few bone-jarring hits, the ball may squirt free. If it does, it's anybody's game.