Gator News and World Report (1/8/2007)

The Gator News and World Report for Monday, January 8, 2007. Defenses wary of allowing big plays; Healthy Harvin is seeking spotlight; Players: The long layoff a nonissue; Underdog Gators say they are not second-class; Winner makes history, loser gets misery; OSU faithful confident it's the Buckeyes' night; Harvin sprinting to glory; Secondary a major concern for Gators and more....

Florida Gator National Championship Game

Defenses wary of allowing big plays
Ohio State in Monday's BCS national title game. "It's very important," Everett said. "In a big game like this it's hard coming from behind." Big games often produce big plays. But the big play is something Florida and Ohio State's defenses have avoided giving up this season.

Healthy Harvin is seeking spotlight
Coming out of high school, Percy Harvin had a reputation for being a troublemaker. Since he's been at Florida, he's been a maker of a different kind.

Emotional finale for seniors
The Gators held their last practice Saturday and ended it in their traditional way by honoring the seniors.

Players: The long layoff a nonissue
Fifty-one days is a long time in the college football world. Just how long? During the regular season, 51 days can encompass seven games. Now, imagine not playing for 51 days.

Buckeyes on lookout for UF tricks
Having watched enough film of Florida to go through vats of Visine, the Ohio State Buckeyes are convinced the Gators' offensive playbook was drawn up by either the Nutty Professor or some frat boy after a hard night of partying.

Underdog Gators say they are not second-class
Florida doesn't have a chance against Ohio State in tonight's BCS national championship game.

For UF, playing cuts into recruiting
Recruiting over the past month has been a good-news, bad-news situation for the University of Florida. The good news: UF playing in the SEC championship and BCS national championship games gives the program unprecedented national exposure.

Give'em a break: Layoff is no issue
Don't try to talk to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith about the Buckeyes' 51-day layoff between their last game and tonight's BCS national championship game.

They may party hard on game day and be hung over Tuesday, but University of Florida students will be expected to attend classes even though the Gators will play Ohio State for the college football national championship tonight, a university spokesman said.

Is lucky charm's return a sign?
J.P. "Pat" Mulrennan expects a miracle tonight when his beloved Florida Gators play Ohio State in the BCS championship game.

Past Shows David Can Beat Goliath
Doug Datish remembers his first trip to the desert as an Ohio State Buckeye.

Earle Bruce And The Gator Connection
A name pretty much out of the college coaching news is now flying around sports like a Zacchini.

UF's defense at the forefront
Gators coach Urban Meyer gives his defense - anchored by a speedy front four - the credit for making tonight's title game, but will it be enough to stop a potent Ohio State offense?

Winner makes history, loser gets misery
There are signs the coaches finally may have run out of meaningful words to tell their teams in the long, l-o-n-g buildup to tonight's Ohio State-Florida game in nearby Glendale for the college football national championship.

Leak simply the best
The commitment came with no promises. Chris Leak went on national television as a high school senior and declared his allegiance to the University of Florida with a wide grin and poised demeanor, pledging to do his part to bring a championship to the school and give his all for coach Ron Zook.

Journey of a lifetime for UF fans
Parents, students and alumni flock to Arizona by any means necessary to attend tonight's national title game.

Buckeyes' LB shows animal instincts
Nagurski Award winner James Laurinaitis, son of wrestling's Road Warrior 'Animal,' has made sure Ohio State's defense didn't miss a beat

Gators' cheerleader has role in big game
His eyes dart back-and-forth, from a quiet conversation to a buzzing group of Florida Gator fans, who have just arrived at the Hilton decked out in Orange & Blue.

Offensive versatility should make difference
It's possible Ohio State, vintage 2006, is one of the best teams in college football history and nobody knows it.

Ohio State Vs. Florida on Tap Tonight
Ohio State and Florida are set to usher in a new era in college football, one where it doesn't take a bowl to produce a champion.

Gator fans stationed in Iraq gear up for championship game
Florida Army National Guard 1st Lt. Geoffrey Fahringer will be on call in Iraq when his beloved Florida Gators take on undefeated Ohio State for the national championship, so he'll be wearing orange and blue over olive drab.

Gators ready to strut stuff
If there has been one source of annoyance for Florida players this past week, it has been the suggestion they are unwanted gate-crashers at college football's big end-of-season party.

Do Gators look like '02 Bucks?
The plane tickets, rental car and hotel were reserved. There was only one small problem. My request for media credentials were denied and I'm too cheap to spend $1,000 or more for a ticket.

Doug Lesmerises: Ohio State 31, Florida 17 -- It's not about the speed, it's about the slip-ups. Both teams can make big plays, but Florida will make more mistakes.

Florida's Harvin floors it
Glendale, Ariz.- Percy Harvin is fast. Slippery fast. Blink-and-he's-gone fast. The Florida freshman receiver who doubles as a tailback when the Gators want offensive magic to happen is fast enough to elude most ev ery opponent. He's even speedy enough to distance himself from the problems of his past, the ones he says are far in the rearview mirror now as he prepares for tonight's BCS Championship Game against Ohio State.

OSU faithful confident it's the Buckeyes' night
After weeks of waiting, the BCS Championship Game between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Florida is today. What will be the deciding factor in the game? Which player will have the biggest impact and who do you think will win?

"We are not afraid of Troy Smith at all. That's not what this is. He is a great player. He has a great arm and he can run the ball. Those are definitely strengths. Don't get it confused, we are not afraid at all."

How They Match Up
Troy Smith vs. Chris Leak/Tim Tebow: Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner, has been at his best in big games. He is flawless in the red zone (21 TD passes; 0 interceptions). Leak/Tebow have been effective but Leak (13 interceptions) still makes mistakes. Tebow is a freshman. EDGE: Ohio State.

Scarlet and gray, it's game day!
Their first names may not be Scarlet and Gray, but Jill and Tom Buckeye are Ohio State fans to the extreme.

Harvin sprinting to glory
There's no telling where Florida's Percy Harvin might show up tonight. When the Gators take on Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game, Harvin could be near the sideline at his natural position of wide receiver. He could be steps off the line, gearing for an end-around. But Harvin also might line up at running back. And he might take the snap directly.

This BCS Game Needs a Body Slam
What college football needs at the moment, even more than a playoff, is a good body slam.

Troy Smith Took the Right Path
Troy Smith would rather talk about other things. Florida's defense is fair game. So are Smith's thoughts about winning the Heisman trophy.

Gators come into big game smiling
A new era of college football begins tonight with No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Florida playing a game that's grown too big to be called a bowl.

Secondary a major concern for Gators
Coach Urban Meyer's biggest concern heading into tonight's BCS national championship game is whether Florida's secondary will hold up against Ohio State.

T-shirt plants eagerly await Gator national victory
Workers at a couple of area screen-printing T-shirt plants will be watching the Florida-Ohio State game closely tonight.

'What-if' story lines are mind-boggling
Did you ever wonder how much fate controls your life and your destiny? Perhaps one day you forgot your briefcase on the way to your car and you muttered an expletive as you took an extra minute to retrieve it. But that minute kept you from being blind-sided by a red-light runner at an intersection, thus saving your life.

Yes, folks, Florida really is a Gator state
If nothing else, the whole run-up to tonight's college football championship game has served as a reminder: Yes, Miami and Florida State can enjoy a couple decades of success and collect plenty of the game's biggest trophies, but Florida remains, by and large, a Gator state.

Can the Gators break through?
For starters, there's the Buckeyes' head coach, Jim Tressel, who has earned the label "Big Game James" during his 21-year coaching career.

Meyer hoping to follow good pal Donovan's path
Set to play for the national championship, Florida coach Urban Meyer is fully aware of the fine line between success and skewers in college sports.

UF vs. OSU: Breaking down the game txt
Ohio State: Though he sometimes gets lost in the aerial fireworks, running back Antonio Pittman (1,171 yards) has a knack for excelling in big games, including a 139-yard effort against Michigan. He is just the fifth OSU back to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

Keys to victory florida
Pressure Troy Smith, but don't let him get away. Smith has obviously shown he can avoid opposing pressure, as we all saw from his Heisman Trophy highlights. But often, that's because the defensive player who does have a shot at him doesn't make the hit or complete the tackle. Smith seems unflappable, but if he has little time to throw and no room to run, the Buckeyes' offense goes nowhere.

Yes Gators can win; will they?
Sports can lead to dumb questions, and there has been a consistent one the last month: Can Florida win?

Reggie Has a Heavy Heart
Before every game, Florida free safety Reggie Nelson toted a cellphone through the locker room and corridor. The move violated team policy. Nelson knew it, and so did co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.

The Gators were eighth in the SEC and 48th nationally in pass defense, at 194.3 yards per game. Opponents completed 54.1 percent of their passes, and the average completion was 10.53 yards, the 10th-best mark in the nation.

Five things to watch in the title game tonight
Heisman jinx. Ohio State senior quarterback Troy Smith will try to buck the trend that has seen Heisman Trophy winners go 1-4 in BCS title games. The lone winner was Matt Leinart of Southern Cal in the 2005 Orange Bowl. He threw for 332 yards and five touchdowns in a 55-19 rout of Oklahoma. Those who tried and failed were Chris Weinke of Florida State against Oklahoma in the '01 Orange (13-2 loss), Eric Crouch of Nebraska against Miami in the '02 Rose Bowl (37-14 loss), Jason White of Oklahoma against LSU in the '04 Sugar Bowl (21-14 loss) and USC running back Reggie Bush against Texas in the '06 Rose Bowl (41-38 loss). Smith is 5-0 in career big-game starts against Michigan, Texas and Notre Dame and already has beaten two No. 2 teams, the Longhorns and Wolverines, this season.

OSU fans should treasure this time
Never take this for granted, Ohio State fans. Your team will not always beat Michigan. It will not always be playing for a national title. Things will not always come out a beautiful scarlet and gray.

An astral matchup lights up the desert
In a spanking-new stadium that looks like a steroid-induced space module plopped in the middle of the desert, No. 1 Ohio State (12-0) and No. 2 Florida (12-1) will shoot for the moon when they conclude the college football season tonight in the BCS National Championship game.

Chain stands for unity
Linebacker Brandon Siler made a silver chain with the name of a Florida player on each link. He brought it to the sideline for the Gators' game against LSU, and it has become a talisman for the second-ranked Gators.

Gators, Buckeyes set sights on winning BCS, hoops titles
Florida coach Urban Meyer got a firsthand look last April when the Gators won the national title in basketball. He's hoping to take home a trophy of his own tonight.

Coaches may have a few tricks left up their sleeves
The hook-and-ladder was great. The Statue of Liberty was tremendous. The flanker passes, onside kicks and fake field goal were beautiful.

Shelley caught up in Urban's success
Six short years ago, Shelley Meyer was still caring for a toddler son and a modestly paid husband who woke her in the middle of the night fearing he might fail in the first head coaching job he'd ever taken.

Ohio State: The first Script Ohio was spelled out on Oct. 10, 1936 in a game against Pittsburgh. The rest, as they say, is history. It has become the most distinctive band formation in football, and the dotting of the "i" is a much-anticipated event and a highlight in lives of the sousaphone players who compete to earn that honor.

Moss' block saved season for Gators
When Florida's Jarvis Moss raised the middle finger on his very large left hand in the last seconds of the game against South Carolina on Nov. 11, he meant no offense.

Gators hope ghost of Frazier doesn't come back
They all remember the 1996 championship game. They were in grade school then, but they can remember the night Danny Wuerffel shredded Florida State to give Florida its first national title.

Orange, blue flood streets of Gainesville
Jeremy Latimer picked a perfect decade to be a University of Florida student. He started on his first of four degrees when the Gators made their way to the 1996 college football national championship.

By the numbers
1 The number of great teams in Florida history, according to Gators coach Urban Meyer. "Florida has been around for 100 years, and there has been really one great team," Meyer said, referring to the 1996 national title team. "There have been a bunch of really good teams. But one great team."

Tailback DeShawn Wynn should be back near full strength after...
Florida: Tailback DeShawn Wynn should be back near full strength after battling shoulder woes as the regular season wound down. He had just one carry in the SEC title game against Arkansas -- losing 2 yards. Backup Kestahn Moore gets spot work, though he had three carries for 32 yards against Arkansas.

Fightin Gators Top Stories