College Football: Florida 7, Oklahoma 7

    
January 8th, 2009

It's halftime and the offensive explosion that many of us anticiapted hasn't come to pass yet. Florida and Oklahoma head into the locker room tied at seven, with both defenses making critical stops to steal some of the offensive momentum. The two quarterbacks have combined for three interceptions so far, but the offenses have been unable to take advantage of the good fortune. A few points that I saw in the first thirty minutes:

1. Percy Harvin's ankle looks fine. And with Chris Rainey going down it had better hold up for another thirty. 

Harvin has been one of two players on Florida's offense that the Oklahoma defense had trouble with in the first half (TE Aaron Hernandez also hurt them through the air). In situations when Florida can get a hat on a hat and let Harvin do his work, he looks as if an explosion is just one play away. He broke one on the drive following the fourth and goal stop out to near midfield, but Florida eventually had to punt. Rainey going down with what right now is categorized as a right ankle sprain (personally I thought that was a horsecollar tackle) makes Harvin's impact on this game even more important. 

2. Oklahoma's offensive staff needs to be quicker in getting the plays/audibles in. 

When the Sooners spent 10-20 seconds in between plays Florida had a hard time slowing them down, and that was painfully evident on the touchdown drive that began with the explosion of Chris Brown in the running game. Even on the last drive of the half the Sooners were able to get things going with the fast break offense, including one play where TE Jermaine Gresham was essentially covered by no one (Brandon Spikes was unsure of his assignment and the All-American ended up free on the left side). Before the touchdown drive the Sooners were spending 25-30 seconds between snaps, allowing the Gators to at the least adjust their scheme since they didn't have time to substitute. Look for this to be something that offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson changes in the second half. 

3. Florida seems convinced in their strategy to cover Gresham with a linebacker. And they may end up paying for it. 

There were two plays in which Charlie Strong's defense was burned by this strategy, with the second being the play I described in the point above. The first possession saw Gresham free for a big play donw the left sideline on what I think was a wheel route. As fast as the Gator linebackers are, they flat-out cannot cover Gresham in the open field. I know it isn't too appealing to risk a safety to cover Gresham (Ahmad Black would be my choice in order to leave big hitter Major Wright free) when Sam Bradford can use the wideouts to pick apart your secondary, but they may have to do it. And that wheel route didn't even count due to a holding penalty on Duke Robinson. Which leads to something else to watch in the second half.

4. Watch the timing of penalties because one could very well cost someone a national title. 

Chalk it up as one for each team so far. Robinson's hold in the first quarter, then a Louis Murphy unsportmanlike conduct penalty for signalling "first down" after a big completion. These are two of the worst teams in the nation when it comes to penalties, so we all know that guys are going to pick up flags. But you'd better make sure that it doesn't cost you a big play. As close as this game is fixing to be, that could be all that the opponent needs to take home the crystal ball. 

In order to win...

Florida needs to: Continue to blitz Bradford since their front four hasn't had much success getting to him without help; find more ways to get Harvin the ball; be stout in stopping the run.

Oklahoma needs to: Pick up the pace in their fast break offense; continue to pressure Tebow since it's already forced one interception by Gerald McCoy on a bad read (the other was without pressure); keep giving the ball to Chris Brown.