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December 7, 2008The only suspense remaining in the BCS Championship Game is whether it will pit two Heisman-winning quarterbacks against each other.
As expected, No. 1 Oklahoma (12-1) and No. 2 Florida (12-1) filled the first two spots in the final BCS standings released Sunday, setting the stage for a national championship showdown Jan. 8 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.
Other BCS pairings are No. 5 USC (11-1) vs. No. 8 Penn State (11-1) in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl, No. 12 Cincinnati (11-2) vs. No. 19 Virginia Tech (9-4) in the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl, No. 4 Alabama (12-1) vs. No. 6 Utah (12-0) in the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl and No. 3 Texas (11-1) vs. No. 10 Ohio State (10-2) in the Jan. 5 Fiesta Bowl.
"The matchup's going to be tremendous," Florida coach Urban Meyer said.
Meyer was referring to the game itself, but he also may as well have been talking about the showdown between the quarterbacks. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow won the 2007 Heisman, while Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is the front-runner to win the award this season.
Bradford's stellar performance helped Oklahoma set an NCAA scoring record, becoming the first team in NCAA history to put up at least 60 points in five consecutive games. Tebow has thrown 28 touchdown passes and has run for 12 scores this season while being intercepted just twice.
The presence of the quarterbacks offers the potential for a shootout similar to the championship game from three years ago, when Texas' Vince Young outdueled USC's Matt Leinart in the Longhorns' 41-38 victory.
Oklahoma is first and Florida third in the nation in scoring. The big difference between these teams is on the other side of the ball: Florida ranks fifth in the nation in scoring defense and Oklahoma is 57th.
"We've had better defensive years," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm fully aware of that. But in the end, some of it has been geared to the style we've decided to play on offense, snapping the ball as quick as we can."
This championship game also represents a reunion of sorts for Stoops, who worked as a defensive coordinator on former Gators coach Steve Spurrier's Florida staff from 1996-98. When Spurrier left Florida at the end of the 2001 season, Stoops was the first person Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley pursued for the job. Stoops chose to stay at Oklahoma, and the Gators hired Ron Zook instead. Zook was fired during the 2004 season, and Florida hired Meyer after that season.
"I have great memories of my time there and experiences there, but I also had been making my own [niche] here at Oklahoma," Stoops said. "With the administration being as loyal as it's been to me and as hard as they'd worked to improve the program, I felt strongly about what we were doing and positive about what we were doing here that I felt I wanted to continue to see it through."
While Oklahoma and Florida celebrated the BCS announcements, Texas and Boise State had plenty of reason to gripe.
Florida's 31-20 victory over top-ranked Alabama in the SEC Championship Game allowed the Gators to leapfrog Texas in the BCS standings and earn a shot at the national title. One week earlier, Oklahoma had moved ahead of Texas in similar fashion, even though Texas had beaten the Sooners on a neutral field during the regular season.
Texas coach Mack Brown said the disappointment of missing out on a championship game appearance wouldn't hurt his team's focus for the Fiesta Bowl. "It's an exciting time for us," he said. "It's time for us to put the past week behind us with all the BCS stuff and move forward and look forward to a great game."
Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Big 12 South. Under the fifth tiebreaker, Oklahoma won the spot in the Big 12 Championship Game as the highest-rated team in the BCS standings. Oklahoma then earned its date in Miami by whipping Missouri 62-21 in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Stoops had pointed out that Texas' head-to-head victory over the Sooners shouldn't be the sole consideration because Texas Tech had beaten Texas and Oklahoma had blown out Texas Tech.
"They went to a system that we all agreed upon before the season," Stoops said. "If someone didn't like that system, whether it be the media or whether it be some other team, just change it before the season and I'll play by whatever rules they want to play by. Just let me know before the season starts."
Ohio State earned the Fiesta Bowl date instead of No. 9 Boise State even though Boise State (12-0) had a better record than the Buckeyes and was ranked higher in the BCS standings. But the draw of Ohio State and its large alumni base was too enticing for Fiesta Bowl officials.
Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.