Gators, Sooners Arrive For BCS Title Tilt
Jan. 2, 2009
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - For this season's national championship game, Florida coach Urban Meyer is following the plan used when the Gators won the title two years ago.
That's no surprise, considering how Florida dominated Ohio State for that crown.
Also not surprising: Oklahoma is tweaking the way it prepares for a Bowl Championship Series showdown.
Apparently, losing four straight times in college football's showcase bowl games is still grating on the Sooners - who weren't afraid to say so on Friday, when the teams made mid-afternoon arrivals at different South Florida airports to begin final preparations for the Jan. 8 title showdown.
"We're going to change one major thing and that's to get a win," Oklahoma defensive back Nic Harris said shortly after the Sooners' plane landed. "The past couple BCS bowls we've been in, we came out on the other end of the stick. Today we plan to get a win, and that's about it."
With that, the first official bulletin-board fodder of BCS title week in Miami was offered.
Oklahoma's plane touched down in Miami about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, Florida landed in Fort Lauderdale about an hour later, and both teams got the requisite orange-carpet treatment from the Orange Bowl committee. Water cannons were fired as each plane taxied to a stop, players got gifts and an orange (Florida's fruit, oddly, came out of boxes marked 'California Delight') and the travel parties boarded fleets of specially decorated charter buses adorned with their respective school's logo.
"This is why you live," Meyer said. "This is what we do."
It's still unclear what Meyer's quarterback, Tim Tebow, will do after this game.
Tebow said Friday that he sent in paperwork to an NFL advisory committee, seeking its input on his potential draft status. Such a move was hardly unexpected, and last season's Heisman Trophy winner - Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford won this season's Heisman - isn't saying yet if he's leaning one way or another about turning pro a year early.
"It's filed. I feel good," Tebow said. "I'm not even worried about it. I'm excited to be here in Miami and I'm ready to go play the Sooners."
There's always a stigma about South Florida for out-of-town teams, that the combination of alluring beaches, balmy weather and a steamy club scene doesn't exactly bring out the best in teams. Some NBA coaches, when their teams come to face the Miami Heat, have referred to the phenomenon as South Beach-itis, where late-night carousing takes a toll on players.
Won't happen this week, say the Gators and Sooners.
"Miami's a great town, but just like any big city, there's another element to it," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "Miami's no different than everywhere else, any other big city and a lot of our guys are from some bigger cities and hopefully we'll conduct ourselves the right way, stay away from trouble spots that there may be. But Miami's a fabulous city."
It didn't treat his team so well four years ago.
Oklahoma's last trip to the Orange Bowl was a night to forget, a 55-19 pounding at the hands of Southern California at the end of the 2004 season. That loss is part of the Sooners' four-game BCS slide, which also includes losing the 2004 Sugar Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl in each of the past two years.
"Of course we have something to prove," Sooners' wide receiver Manuel Johnson said. "The last four BCS games, we haven't won. This year it's the national championship. Who doesn't want to win that?"
Meyer isn't worried about the Gators' mind-set when it comes to the sun and sand.
There's no shortage of players on Florida's roster from the Sunshine State anyway, so the notion of getaways to Miami's tropical climate isn't exactly unheard of for them.
"I trust these guys," Meyer said. "We're going to enjoy ourselves here, but there's no doubt why we got on this plane. I can't say that's true of every athlete on that airplane, because there's some guys who aren't going to play. That's probably why they're not going to play. They're not real professional. But the professionals, there's no doubt - they're on a mission."
Notes: Oklahoma left redshirt freshman defensive back Desmond Jackson home "for disciplinary reasons," Stoops said. ... Meyer said much of the Gators' game plan is installed, with just the parts featuring WR Percy Harvin remaining. Harvin was slowed during the regular season by a high ankle sprain that kept him out of the Southeastern Conference championship game against Alabama. "Oh, he's playing, unless there's a setback," Meyer said. ... Odd sight: Florida RB Chris Rainey got off the plane wearing a knit winter cap. It was 74 degrees outside at the time.