Long time since I last posted...We're getting ready for a little New Year's football. I can't wait for the the big showdown in Glendale...a week from Monday, we're going to find out who's No.1....Numero Uno...The Big Enchilada. Grandaddy Of Them All....
Meanwhile, we've been inundated with some lesser bowls this week. It was nice to see Alabama get their coachless hearts broken in the Poulan Independence Bowl. Today, we get Spurrier's Gamecocks v. an underrated potent Houston Cougars team. Should be interesting. But back to 'The Game'.
The pundits, my friends, and seemingly everyone else, save Mark May and I, aren't giving the Gators a shot at this thing. Heisman winner Troy Smith and the Buckeyes are the consensus pick to roll over the Gators and expose them for the charlatans that they seemingly.
Not so fast my friend! Ohio State does have speed and talent at the skilled positions. Fact. They've scored a ton of points vs. weak Big 10 opponents, shutting down anemic offenses like Michigan State, Penn State, Illinois, Indiana, et al. They shut down a good Texas team as well. But, it should be noted that Texas was a quite different ball club early in the year, before they established Colt McCoy as their starting quarterback! (think Arkansas' offense without McFadden v. Southern Cal in the opener) Further, they didn't shut down the only other potent offense they faced (Michigan).
On offense, Ohio State overwhelmed slower, sometimes smaller defenses, with an array of skilled players, coming from all angles. 3-4 capable, future pro prospects lined up on any given play, with a mobile, accurate, poised QB at the helm.....the stuff National Championships are made of. Ask Gino Toretta how good it must've felt, cruising through a regular season with innumerable weapons in his arsenal, facing the Boston Colleges of the world with fast NFL receivers.
Enter 1992 Alabama! Win or lose, I think that Troy Smith will face a defense that he isn't accustomed to.
On the other side of the ball, Florida counters with its own stable of WRs and RBs destined for the NFL. Percy Harvin leads this charge. The electrifying super Frosh enters this game as the key component of the Gator attack. Under-utilized and oft-injured in the regular season, Harvin came into his own during the F$U and Arkansas games. How Ohio State defends against him will be a big story of the game. Also, senior Deshawn Wynn will start his final game in his somewhat disappointing Gator career. The Cincinnati native was once considered the 'other guy' in the state, behind Maurice Clarett in the recruiting wars for the prized Ohio RBs. He has a chance to end his career with an exclamation point. But, most of all, Chris Leak is the guy that I'm going to be thinking mostly of.
Leak came to Florida as the heralded wonder boy...a cool cucumber, dedicated, talented, and focused on bringing glory to the Gators. Well.....it just didn't turn out quite that way! In fact, poor Chris Leak had to endure 3 offensive coordinators, 2 head coaches, and a radical shift in offensive philosophy (imagine if Danny Wuerffel had been asked to run the spread option!). Compounding this fact, he endured possibly the most polarizing epoch in Gator football history, the Zook years. In ways, he personified the era. He was the prototypical Zook recruit, a guy promised early playing time, a stable of talent surrounding him, and the opportunity to win championships in a 'non-Spurrier' fashion. (Well, it proved to be non-Spurrier alright! )
Leak began studying the Zook/Zaunbrecher offense, shortly after his much publicized committment to the orange and blue, proclaiming that he'd bring championships to the Gator Nation. He helped recruit several other blue chippers by his mere presence, notably Andre Caldwell and Chad Jackson. At any rate, he studied and played his way into the starting job as a true freshman, at one point, defeating the eventual No.1 LSU Tigers and highly ranked Dawgs. As would be the case with the 'Zook years' however, the SEC title eluded him.
In year 2, Zook replaced Zaunbrecher with Larry Fedora, presenting Leak with new challenges, learning a new offense in year 2. In what would be Zook's swan song as coach, Leak managed to see the ultimate highs and lows (a lowly loss to Miss.St and the first road win vs. F$U in over 15 years). Year 3 promised to be an improvement, right? Well, the coaching got better, but Leak was asked to learn yet another offense, this time the cooky West Coast spread option...Leak regressed, as he went from a prodigy QB to a bumbling veteran, getting sacked and looking confused for much of the year. Luckily, the team got better, and covered his mistakes and ineptitude. After beating Georgia, Tennessee, and F$U, the SEC title still eluded him, as that pain in the ass Spurrier ironically denied the Gators a trip to Atlanta.
So.....enter year 4. Same offense, same coach. Beat Tennessee, Beat Georgia, Beat L$U, Beat F$U....even Beat South Carolina (thanks to 2 blocked FGS!)...SEC Title.....Yet, poor Chris Leak is dismissed as a bumbling square peg in a round hole. A player not equipped to run the Urban Meyer offense. At one point in the season, he was booed at home when the new prodigy, Tim Tebow, was yanked in favor of the veteran one-time star. How bad can it get for a 4 year starter that is about to play for the National Championship?! Well...all that can be erased if ole Chris Leak just plays like Chris Leak. He doesn't have to do anything special, he just needs to ooze the character, leadership, and moxy that he has demonstrated for these 4 tumultuous years. He does that, and I think he'll go out with the one thing he promised after the 2002 Army All-American High School Game, when he donned the Gator hat and told America that he was bringing a championship to Gainesville....In the end, he'll probably go down as one of my 3 favorite Gators of All-Time. (Leak, Emmitt Smith, and Ciatrick Fason) Ironically, none (aside from Leak) won any championships at Florida. Smith and Fason excelled for some subpar Gator squads, yet I loved the way they carried the football (and the team when need be) in the non-Spurrier days.
Well....there you have it! Speaking of Spurrier, I'm going to check the TV and see how he's doing against that tough little Conference USA opponent. hehehehe