Throw everything out the window

Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 11:15 p.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE Tonight, the window is finally here.


The pick is in

FORT LAUDERDALE Dr. Football is wrapping up a season of struggling with The Picks with another mediocre performance. But to be fair, picking bowl games is difficult.

Just ask my competition.

Drew Copeland of Sister Hazel and I are both 6-5 with one game to go. Copey picked Florida, of course, in the BCS National Title Game. So the easy thing for me would be to pick Florida and assure myself of a tie.

But like Tina Turner I nevah, evah do anything nice and easy.
I'm picking the Sooners, 35-31. Here are my five reasons:

1. Oklahoma's defensive numbers have been skewed by the blowouts. "They're just beating the mess out of teams so you cut their competitive snaps in half," Urban Meyer said. "I see a fine defense."

2. The Sooners seem ticked off. They're the ones with the attitude that Florida had two years ago.

3. As good as Florida's defense is, the Gators haven't faced anything like this. The no-huddle is going to be an issue.

4. Jim Tressel isn't coaching Oklahoma.

5. Oklahoma's offensive line will negate Florida's pressure. "You watch Sam Bradford on tape and he never gets hit," said Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.

But Dr. Football has been wrong before.

Open it up and toss it all through it. Toss everything out of the window because none of it matters once toe meets leather in the BCS National Championship Game.

The records, the statistics, the history.

None of it matters.

Only one thing matters.

One team will get crystal and confetti. The other will know that it is one of many teams that can't claim it was the best for the 2008 college football season.

Utah has a claim. So do Texas and Southern Cal. Tonight's loser has none. The winner has more than a claim. It has everything.

Tonight when the game kicks off, we can forget about comparing conferences and defenses and offensive lines and who said what. We can forget about all of the history of Bob Stoops and Florida. We can forget about the long layoff, and Oklahoma's history in BCS games, and Florida's title two years ago.

Because none of it matters.

After a month of hype and a week of hype on steroids, the only thing that matters tonight is which team plays better for 60 minutes of football.

It has been a dream matchup for those of us in the media. Heisman vs. Heisman. Florida's old defensive coordinator against the Gators. Big 12 vs. SEC. Gaudy offensive numbers everywhere. Players getting chippy with each other.

After all of this time off, they finally settle it on the field.

"I feel good it's building the right way," Stoops said Wednesday. "You don't want to get too excited early in the week. You want it to be at the right time."

The build-up has been intense. Hours of interviews. Hours of watching the talking heads dissect a game you are going to play and they aren't. Hours of everything south Florida has to offer.

But tonight, the only thing that matters is the three-plus hours it will take to play this game.

"When you walk in that arena and the flashbulbs, that is a very critical element," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "Especially guys who have not played in this. How we start the game is going to be very critical."

We could be seeing Percy Harvin's last game as a Gator, Brandon Spikes', maybe Tim Tebow's. But who is going pro doesn't matter tonight. All that matters is how they play football.

For a game with so many storylines, only one truly means anything. Which team gets it done.

In a game with so much sex appeal, it will come down to toughness.

"We've recruited toughness," said Meyer. "Last year's team was not a tough team. This is one of the toughest teams I've been around."

Oklahoma feels slighted because it is the underdog. Florida is using the same motivation.

"Every time we turn on ESPN, they're talking about how Oklahoma can't be stopped," Gator linebacker Ryan Stamper said. "So we feel like we're the underdogs."

Motivation. Toughness. Execution. Nerves.

Those are the things that are important tonight.

Not Barry Switzer or Steve Spurrier. Not Albert or the Boomer Schooner or famous alums from the two schools. Not what Ole Miss did to Texas Tech or Alabama's loss or the records of the two conferences in the bowl games. All of those things have been fun to talk about, but they are side dishes.

Tonight is the main course.

Two of the best coaches in America.

Two of the best programs in America.

The two best teams in America.

The Spread 'n' Shred vs. the hurry-up. Blitzes, man coverage, zone drops. Special teams, penalties, turnovers. Injuries that have healed and those still to come. Bad calls, lucky breaks, broken coverages.

This isn't about South Beach anymore. It's not about what you paid for a ticket. It's not about tailgating or GameDay or SAT scores.

It's certainly not about us.

It's about them.

Throw the rest of it out the window.

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