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Post Thinking through tonight’s game

Thursday January 8, 2009

I should admit straight off that I am of a like mind with other Georgia fans when it comes to how I *hope* the game turns out. I’d be giddy for days if we saw another 1995 national title game. I am also free of any confusing loyalties based on conference affiliation (though take what I wrote there about Ole Miss and Bama and reverse it, please). Tonight the SEC can rot. I think we’ll survive.

Bias can work both ways. It would be easy to jump from Georgia fan -> JEAN SHORTS -> Florida will lose. But the other side of bias is that we’ve seen, traumatically, what Florida can do. We’re not observers; we’re survivors. Victims. So it would be pretty easy to assume that every other school would kneel before Zod just as the rest of the SEC did in the second half of the season.

When so much of the attention is on individuals (Tebow vs. Bradford), it’s usually something else that will prove to be more important. We saw that in our own bowl game. It was all about Moreno vs. Ringer, but the difference in passing games is what ultimately separated Georgia from Michigan State.

Take the running game. Oklahoma will be absent DeMarco Murray, but Chris Brown is more than capable of carrying the load. A defense just can’t sit back and pick on Bradford; there’s a 1,100 yard rusher to worry about. Similarly, Florida isn’t just Tebow. They’ll use a cocktail of five or six players to move the ball on the ground from nearly every position and formation. Better defenses have slowed the Oklahoma running game, but Florida can hit you in more unpredictable ways.

The most interesting matchup tonight will be Florida’s defensive pressure against Oklahoma’s heralded offensive line. Brian Orakpo was able to break through, but the Gators, while talented, don’t have an Orakpo. We’ll see how creative Charlie Strong and company can be in creating pressure.

I’ve seen it mentioned a few times that Oklahoma didn’t see anything comparable to the Florida defense. That’s true, at least in conference play. Florida ranks high in both scoring defense and total defense. But the Sooners did play TCU with a defense that finished above Florida in both catagories. TCU showed, in games against Utah and Boise State, that their defense ratings weren’t flukes. The fact that TCU held Oklahoma to “only” 35 – their lowest total of the season – leads me to think that the score predictions I’ve seen with Oklahoma scoring in the 20s to low 30s just don’t hold water.

Who wins? I still have to go with Florida. Call it survivor shock. It might be their defense, running game, punt block unit (watch out for that), return teams, or even boring old Tebow, but they’re a complete team with the mindset to win. Doesn’t mean I won’t be hating life, especially when a blare of trumpets from the clouds heralds the announcement that the core of the team will be back next season.

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