December 4, 2008

Roundtable: Who will play in the title game?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

This week's question: Who do you think will play in the Jan. 8 national title game and why?

Terry Bowden's answer:
(Preseason pick was Ohio State-USC.) Oklahoma will play Alabama in the national championship game. Oklahoma will win the Big 12 title game because they will come ready to play. Obviously, they have more talent than Missouri. If it was up to talent alone, the Tigers wouldn't have a chance. But more than once, the Sooners have shown they can be upset away from home. If Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel gets on a roll and starts getting the ball consistently to Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin and Derrick Washington, it could get dicey. But Oklahoma is relentless on offense and won't be denied. The SEC Championship Game is a little more difficult to call. I have held consistently throughout the season that Florida would win the SEC, but Alabama wasn't even on my early season radar not even after an opening-day pummeling of Clemson. But as the victories started adding up, I couldn't help but jump on the Crimson Tide bandwagon. Now, I will pick them to upset the explosive Gators. Alabama will play its best game of the season and win it with their line in the trenches on offense and with their tackling in the open field on defense.

Olin Buchanan's answer:
(Preseason pick was Missouri-USC.) Look for a wide-open offensive shootout between Florida and Oklahoma, two of the highest-scoring teams in the nation. The SEC and the Big 12 are the best conferences in the nation and it would make sense to match those conference champions. Oklahoma is second in the BCS standings, and it would stand to reason the Sooners would advance to the championship game with a victory over Missouri in the Big 12 title game. Although Florida is No. 4, the Gators will make a big move with a victory over No. 1 Alabama and jump into the championship game. Alas, Texas gets bumped again.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
(Preseason pick was Georgia-USC.) I think the title game will feature Alabama and Oklahoma, a matchup of two of college football's iconic programs. The Crimson Tide will get to the title game because of strong, basic fundamental football. Nick Saban's team does nothing fancy, winning with a killer defense led by a strong line. Alabama also rarely misses tackles, which will allow the Tide to make stops in space against Florida. And the offense is able to control the ball and the clock with a punishing ground game. And then there are the Tide's special teams, which are second to none. Oklahoma will get to Dolphin Stadium because of an offense that has no peer, leading the nation with a 53.3 scoring average. It all begins with a devastating line, which allows an abundance of skill players like QB Sam Bradford, RB DeMarco Murray, WR Juaquin Iglesias and TE Jermaine Gresham to strut their stuff. And the offense's explosive ability helps cover for a defense that at times is spotty. Missouri? It's merely a speed bump.

David Fox's answer:
(Preseason pick was Missouri-USC.) I'm going with Oklahoma and Florida in the national championship game. Between the two, the Sooners are a more convincing lock, even though Texas still has a legitimate beef with the selection process. Missouri is even less equipped to beat Oklahoma than the Tigers were last season, when they lost twice to the Sooners. Missouri's defense is ranked 92nd overall and 117th against the pass. That's not a good recipe for beating Oklahoma. I'm less sure about Florida, but I still think the Gators can hand Alabama its first loss. Even if Percy Harvin is unavailable, this remains an explosive offense with running backs Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey. Between two big-game coaches, stout defenses, excellent special teams and the SEC's top two running games, Florida has the edge in home run threats who can turn the game on a dime.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
(Preseason pick was Florida-USC.) I would be shocked if Oklahoma's not in the national title game, and I will be surprised if Florida doesn't make it. While Oklahoma's defense has some issues, the Sooners' offense should carve up Missouri's defense in the Big 12 title game. If you give up 40 to Kansas, as Mizzou did last week, what is Oklahoma's offense going to do to you? OU has scored 60 points in four consecutive games. While the Sooners won't reach 60 this week, they'll still win comfortably. Florida's trip to Miami likely will be more difficult because it has go through Alabama in the SEC title game. The Gators' defensive tackles are banged up, and Alabama has the most physical rushing attack the Gators have seen this season. If UF star wide receiver Percy Harvin plays, he won't be at 100 percent. Still, I think Florida wins. The Gators' defense is just a notch below Alabama's and Florida's offense is miles better. And if Florida stymies Alabama's rushing attack, this could get ugly: The Tide has thrown just 10 TD passes this season.

Steve Megargee's answer:
(Preseason pick was Oklahoma-USC.) While I understand I'm providing a boring answer, I have to assume Florida and Oklahoma will win as expected this weekend before advancing to a showdown in the BCS Championship Game. Oklahoma's an obvious call. While I believe Texas should have earned the right to represent the South Division in the Big 12 Championship Game instead, I have little doubt Oklahoma will beat Missouri. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the Sooners covered the big spread. Oklahoma simply has too much firepower for a Missouri team that ranks 92nd in the nation in total defense. Oklahoma proved in last season's Big 12 Championship Game that it has Missouri's number even when the Tigers are playing well. It's hard to imagine Oklahoma's mastery of its Big 12 rival ending when the Tigers are coming off a loss to Kansas. Florida's road to the championship game is a little more dangerous. Florida's injuries on the defensive line could give the Gators problems against Alabama, which boasts arguably the top offensive line in the nation. Alabama has a legitimate shot at pulling the upset, particularly if Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin's ankle injury slows him down. The SEC Championship Game may be closer than Florida's status as a 10-point favorite suggests, but the Gators still ought to win the game and earn a trip to Miami.

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