Sports

Gators vs. OU: a dreamy first date

Florida was an up-and-coming power and Oklahoma was a declining one when Bob Stoops made his move. He left his post as Gators defensive coordinator to take his first head-coaching job with the Sooners.

Ten years later, both programs are on top. On Sunday, they earned their invitations to play for the BCS national championship on Jan. 8 in Miami.

As expected, the final BCS standings had Oklahoma at No. 1 and Florida at No. 2 — the reverse order of their rankings in The Associated Press poll — setting up the first meeting between these storied programs.

"Nine weeks ago our team got together and said let's make every game count," Gators Coach Urban Meyer said, speaking of Florida's rebound from its only loss, in September to Mississippi.

Tim Tebow and the Gators did just that. So did Oklahoma, which bounced back from a loss in October to Texas.

Two teams with one loss each doesn't normally make for a debate-free lead-up to the title game, but even President-elect Barack Obama — outspokenly in favor of a playoff for college football — might have to agree that both these teams belong.

Florida (12-1) has averaged 49 points in the nine games since its only lost. Oklahoma (12-1) became the first team since 1919 to score 60-plus in five straight games.

Other teams had their chances this season, and also finished with one loss: Texas, Southern California, Alabama, Texas Tech and Penn State.

Of them, Texas had the best argument for why it should've been playing for the title. The Longhorns finished in a three-way tie in the nation's toughest division — the Big 12 South — but were denied a spot in the title game because of the tiebreaker, which looks to the BCS standings.

Oklahoma won the tiebreaker. Texas protested.

"They went to a system we all agreed upon before the season," Stoops said. "If someone didn't like it, they should have decided to change it before the season, and I'd have played by whatever rules they wanted to play by."

Instead, Texas finished third in the BCS and AP rankings and will play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

And who outside of Texas would argue that this title game is a matchup with tons of entertainment potential?

"Oklahoma's a traditional power just like Florida is now," said Steve Spurrier, the former Gators coach who brought Stoops on as his defensive coordinator in 1996.

Meyer is trying to lead Florida to its second title in three years. Stoops has put Oklahoma in the conversation almost every year since he arrived in 1999, but he is going for his first national title since his 13-2 win over Florida State to end the 2000 season.

The winner will join LSU as the second team with two BCS titles this decade.

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