SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/08/2007 10:29:00 PM
Ohio State's Troy Smith faced heavy pressure throughout the first half.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Wow. I feel like I’m covering the USC-Oklahoma 2005 Orange Bowl all over again -- only this time, the season-long No. 1 team, which the Trojans were that year, is the one getting absolutely humiliated.
You knew Florida’s speedy defense would cause problems for Troy Smith and Ohio State -- but never in a million years would I have predicted Smith’s halftime stat line to be: 2-of-8, 24 yards, three sacks, two turnovers. That alone gives you a pretty good explanation for Florida 34, Ohio State 14.
Florida’s front four has been even better than advertised, as the Buckeyes’ blockers have had no answer for ends Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey. That along with stifling coverage of OSU’s receivers -- losing Ted Ginn Jr. early was a huge blow -- has rendered Smith helpless. And the Gators’ offense has been equally impressive, first and foremost for its game plan. Florida presented every possible look imaginable on its first two series alone, from lining up Tim Tebow at running back, then splitting Chris Leak wide to lining up Percy Harvin everywhere imaginable. Leak could not have been more crisp and efficient for much of the half, and by limiting his throws to mostly quick outs for 5-to-7-yard gains, they’ve prevented opportunities for turnovers.
Finally, Ohio State didn’t do itself any favors by choosing to go for it on fourth-and-one from its own 29 down 24-14. Though Florida only got a field goal following its stop of Chris Wells, it was a tremendous momentum-changer that had to crush the Buckeyes’ confidence.
For Ohio State to have any chance of mounting a comeback in the second half, the Buckeyes are going to have to find a way to neutralize Florida’s pass-rushers. Smith did have success on a few running plays early, including a 13-yard scramble on the Buckeyes’ lone touchdown drive. They might want to call more inside running plays for him in the second half to neutralize the ends and potentially provide him more time when he does stay in the pocket.
It won’t matter, however, unless they’re also able to completely shut down Florida’s offense in the second half. Judging by that Tebow touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell just before halftime, I'm guessing Urban Meyer has plenty more wrinkles in store for the second half.
I wasn't necessarily shocked that OSU went for it on 4th down, but that they ran the same bland, vanilla play call on both 3rd & 4th down. I thought for sure on 4th down Troy Smith could have easily scrambled for the first. It's one of those plays that swings the momentum to the other team, and it often never returns
The outcome of the game isn't suprising. If you gave Florida the joke Big Ten schedule OSU played this year they would be undefeated. If you gave OSU the SEC schedule Florida played this year they wouldn't even be talking BCS championship in Columbus. Bottom line is after Michigan got trashed by USC and OSU gets laughed out of Arizona the Big Ten really shows it's true toughness!!!
I fault Jimmy Tressel more than anyone on the side of the Buckeyes. Bad play calling all night; no blocking for Troy to get the ball out there and not working out the problems on defense till the second half. What shocked me was how the running game was working for OSU and how they didn't use it. "Three yards and a cloud of dust." Can still work in today’s NCAA world. OU showed us that with Peterson up till he got hurt. How I hope Woody did not watch this game on his cloud up in the sky. I can almost hear him screaming and throwing a chair right now.
Florida dominated every aspect of the game, confused the Buckeyes on defense for the first half, and stopped the OSU offense when the defense started holding up its end of the bargain in the latter quarters. Florida proved it's the best team in the country and I'd like to see Florida take on Southern Cal next season for the title. Great job Gators.
And to my Buckeyes: Don't worry. Another title will come Columbus' way sometime, and it won't take 33 years to get it like the last one did. Go Bucks and Go Gators!