- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 10, 2009

MIAMI

Now that a new year is here, it’s time to let go of some BCS-induced angst. In that vein, congrats to No. 1 Florida.

As for the yipping ankle-biters otherwise known as Utah, Southern Cal and Texas: Get over it.

Trojans, not only did you lose, you also lost to by far the worst team (Oregon State) among those squads with one loss.

Longhorns, your team stunk up the Fiesta Bowl, barely edging a one-dimensional Ohio State bunch that hasn’t completed a forward pass since Troy Smith left Columbus.

And it’s hard to buy the Utes’ movement. They think they deserve a piece of the national title for finishing undefeated in the Mountain West. Really?

First, stop deluding yourselves about the Sugar Bowl victory against an Alabama bunch that emotionally and literally disbanded after coming up one quarter short of the national title game. When Florida’s Tim Tebow shattered the Crimson Tide’s crystal-football dreams in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship game, Alabama took a rain check on the postseason.

Though the rest of the team was psychologically MIA in New Orleans, Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith was officially absent, taking his game and the cornerstone of Alabama’s power-based offense to the NFL. The team Utah beat was more like the Crimson Hyde.

Second, is there anyone in America who thinks the Utes could stay on the same field with Florida? Urban Meyer invented the Utah offense and now runs it in Gainesville with real athletes.

Third, there’s no playoff. Amazingly, most teams were familiar with this entering the season. It’s unfortunate, perhaps even a touch unfair, but it’s also reality.

Until a playoff is adopted, the college football season is to some extent a four-month fashion show. Utah should know it’s not hip to scrape by unranked teams like Michigan (25-23), New Mexico (13-10) and Air Force (30-23) while Florida and Oklahoma are busy euthanizing better opponents by far larger margins.

The two best teams this season met Thursday night at Dolphin Stadium. Florida edged Oklahoma for two reasons: First, Tebow trumped newly minted Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford with his dual-threat brilliance, turning in the best title-game performance this side of Vince Young by tormenting the Sooners with his arm (231 passing yards, two touchdowns) and his legs (109 rushing yards).

And second, the Gators’ superb secondary turned a pair of competent Bradford throws - both would-be receptions and one a would-be touchdown - into interceptions with sheer athleticism.

“I don’t think they had seen a secondary like ours,” said Florida safety Major Wright, who set the tone by blasting Oklahoma’s Manuel Johnson along the sideline on the third play from scrimmage. He ended the first half with a pick of Bradford at the Florida 3-yard line.

As for the near future, these are two programs heading in drastically different directions.

Oklahoma insiders are certain Bradford is going to declare for the NFL Draft. The redshirt sophomore would be foolhardy to stay in school given that the Sooners are losing five of their top six offensive linemen, receiver Juaquin Iglesias, tight end Jermaine Gresham and likely top tailback DeMarco Murray. Given such attrition, Bradford, projected by most analysts to be the first or second quarterback taken, couldn’t possibly match this season’s numbers - 4,921 passing yards, 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions.

The Sooners will be down next season, but don’t think Bob Stoops is done playing for titles. There’s also no sign that Stoops’ title-game skein - three straight losses - will cause permanent psychological damage.

“If that’s the worst burden I ever have to carry,” he said, “I’ll consider myself a lucky man.”

Florida, on the other hand, could be even better - perhaps far better - next season. The Gators are likely to lose junior All-Americans Percy Harvin (a receiver) and Brandon Spikes (a linebacker) to the NFL. But if Tebow, who has no defined pro position, comes back as a senior to stake his claim to being the greatest college quarterback in history, the Gators will be an almost impossible out.

With Tebow, the Gators would return nine of their top 11 yardage guys on offense. On defense, the Gators don’t feature a senior in their two-deep. How’s that for scary?

Remember Nebraska circa 1994-97? Welcome back.

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