Rather than bore you with the usual prediction articles, here at InsideTennessee.com we've made a case, and are now ready to let you decide for yourself whether Florida will repeat as National Champions.
The BCS District Court-Regional Court House Knoxville Tennessee.
BCS History v. 2009 Florida Gators Football Team
Offense: The Florida Gators stand accused of attempting to break precedent by winning consecutive BCS titles.
Defense Opening Statement: the University of Florida Gators are better prepared than any other previous reigning champion to win back-to-back BCS titles. With seasoned upperclassmen and a generous schedule, the Defendants feel more than confident in their ability to emerge victorious from Pasadena this January.
Prosecution Opening Statement: The Gators will not win the BCS this season. Why? The law of averages. In the BCS era, no team has been able to win the crystal ball back-to-back and until this recent run of SEC dominance, no team was even able to win the trophy twice at all.
Exhibit A: In 2000, life for Bobby Bowden was much different than it is today; his Seminoles were on the warpath and dominating the ACC like never before with eight straight conference championships from 1992-1999.
Though they lost a close one to the Tennessee Volunteers in the inaugural BCS Title Game in 1998, the ‘Noles rebounded the following season and became the first team in NCAA history to go “wire-to-wire,” or holding the #1 ranking from the preseason all the way through the bowl season.
But as they were on their way to claim the crystal for a second time something strange happened: FSU lost in arguably the worst performance of any team in a BCS title game.
Despite averaging over 42 points per game and scoring more than 50 points on five different occasions during the 2000 season, Papa Bowden and crew got derailed 13-2 by a Cinderella Oklahoma Sooner team led by second year coach, Bob Stoops.
Despite being a 7.5 point favorite, the ’Noles only managed to net two points from a safety in the fourth quarter.
To which one can only say, wow!
The Defense: Objection! Maybe the Sooners were just better prepared that night. After all, ahem, a former Gator defensive coordinator was coaching them.
Exhibit B: In 2002, the juggernaut that was the Miami Hurricanes returned several key starters from their championship ‘01 squad—a team that is frequently cited, by fans and journalists alike, as one of the best in the sport’s history—and were seemingly a lock for another title.
The Canes’ rode into the Arizona desert with a jaw-dropping 34 game win streak when they, too, were knocked off; this time by an 11-point underdog Ohio State Buckeyes, led by another second year coach, Jim Tressel.
(Odd Note: Both Jim Tressel and Bob Stoops were born in Northeast Ohio—54 miles from one another, to be precise. Bob was born in Youngstown, OH; while Jim would later coach at Youngstown State. Both would be in their second year, coaching schools that start with the letter “O” when they halted repeats from two rival Florida programs—it proved to be the last time either could win the big one as they would both go on to lose subsequent BCS title games to LSU and Florida, respectively. Oh yeah, and they both have exactly 19 letters in their full names: James Patrick Tressel and Robert Anthony Stoops. Coincidence, maybe?)
Like FSU in 2000, Miami also averaged 42-points per game during the 2002 season. Led by senior QB Ken Dorsey, the Hurricanes faced scant resistance throughout the season. But that night in Tempe they clearly weren’t themselves; they coughed up five turnovers yet still managed to force the game into OT, and for a brief moment, thought they had pulled it off until a controversial pass interference call gave the Buckeyes new life and then a few plays later, their first title since Woody Hayes’ 1968 squad.
(Ironically, the game would prove to be a high point for both coaches. For the Buckeye’s, it was the last time they held their own in a BCS title game before getting introduced to the SEC style of play. And as for Miami, it started a complete downward spiral that ultimately led to Coach Larry Coker getting the boot. In many ways the Hurricanes still have not recovered from that game.)
The Defense: Objection! Your Honor, Hubris! The Canes’ gave the blue-collar Buck’s no respect until it was too late.
Exhibit C: In 2005, the USC Trojans were on quite a hot streak of their own, led by two Heisman winners: Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Having steamrolled the Oklahoma Sooners in the last title game 55-19, the Trojans, just like Miami before them, brought their own 34-game win streak up the 110-North Highway to the title game in Pasadena.
During the 2006 Rose Bowl, despite several bad breaks going against the Trojans early, they had a 12-point lead with less than five minutes left in the game. All they needed were two yards on a fourth down from one of the greatest backfield duos in the game’s history and, of course, they came up short.
(Note: No disrespect to Lane (Kiffin) and Steve (Sarkisian), but I wonder if Norm Chow would’ve had Reggie on the field during that 4th down play?)
The Defense: Objection! Your Honor, Double Hubris! ESPN foretold the loss by ranking the Trojans “one of the best teams ever” immediately before the Rose Bowl—taking an already steaming Longhorn feeling of disrespect to a full-boil.
Plus, Mr. Leinart and Mr. Bush were probably partying at Les Deux in Hollywood the night before the game, and then made the mistake of thinking it was over after WR Dwayne Jarrett reached the ball over the goal line at the six minute mark.
Judge: Sustained. But the Defense should cease with the ad hominem attacks.
Exhibit D: Since 1973 both the Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl have been a graveyard for national champions looking to continue their title runs. As for the Rose Bowl, no reigning champions have gone into the game and retained their crown. Not one.
Things have been equally dim in the Orange Bowl: since 1973, 11 teams have won the national championship in the game, but of those 11, only one—the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers—have been able to repeat as the consensus champion the following year.
The Defense: Objection! Your Honor, no one is saying it won’t be hard.
Judge: Overruled. The history of disappointments for reigning champions is very relevant to these proceedings. Let’s begin closing arguments.
The Defense: The arguments presented here today, by the prosecution, have zero merit. The University of Florida will be returning 17 starters from their Championship 2008 team—11 on the defense alone.
Coach Meyer’s teams have proven their ability to emerge from FBS’s most challenging conference, and then soundly defeat the champion from whatever conference it was matched against.
And let us not forget who will be leading the team during their title run: Heisman winner Timothy Richard Tebow—arguably College Football’s Greatest Player or All-Time.
Your Honor, we rest our case on the glowing track record of Coach Meyer and Tim Tebow, and their ability to forestall any slip-ups on the way to back-to-back titles and their third in four years.
The Prosecution: The eerie parallels these teams shared cannot be discarded. We’ve already discussed some above, but we’re ready to give the Court another that will send chills down the Gators’ spines:
The ’09 Gators share similarities to all of the previous champions, but none more so than the ’05 USC Trojans: Both teams succeeded LSU as the BCS Champion; both won a BCS crown in the Orange Bowl by defeating the Oklahoma Sooners, who were led by a Heisman Trophy winning QB (Jason White and Sam Bradford), and thus by order of rotation, were forced to defend their title in the Rose Bowl—USC could not; both returned their Heisman winning quarterbacks even though they were draft eligible, had won the Heisman and two Championships, and had been cited as maybe the “best ever”; both lost their offensive coordinators after their title games; both played Michigan in a bowl game the year before defeating the Sooners; and both Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer won the BCS in their fourth year—Pete couldn’t repeat for year five.
Also, USC lost to Texas—a team that held #2 in most pre-season polls and kept the spot throughout the season. By all accounts, when the first polls are released this fall, the rankings will begin #1 UF, #2 Texas. The 2008 Longhorns also share odd similarities with their 2004 squad: both had begun the season coming off Holiday Bowl appearances and then received “at-large” BCS bids, where they both barely defeated a Big Ten team during those contests.
These arguments make clear that BCS history often repeats itself, while the champion doesn’t. Florida’s schedule may not look daunting, they may have returned every key player, may be the best team in FBS, but make no mistake; they’re no match for a showdown with history.
The BCS gods have made it clear they hate repeats. The stage has, once again, been set for another upset.
Mark it down, barring Divine intervention, the 2009 Gators will not be leaving victorious from Pasadena this year.
Judge: Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?