Gators Healthy as Thursday Nears

Florida head coach Urban Meyer addressed the media on Wednesday for the final time before Thursday night's BCS National Championship Game. After a 33-day layoff, game time is almost here and the comparisons between offenses and whose defense will stop who are nearing an end.

Most offenses start with the quarterback, so the key to Florida's success in stopping Oklahoma will come in their ability to slow down Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford. The quarterback is looked to for leadership and Meyer said you can see Bradford's leadership on film.

"Coach Stoops and I are friends, and he's often told me about Sam, and you can see that on film," Meyer said. "The one play that sticks out in my mind with the quarterback we're playing is not the throwing, it's the play on the 4-yard line where he laid out to go try to score a touchdown. You have to be a leader, you have to show toughness, and you have to have the ability to raise the level of play of people around you. Our quarterback, I can't imagine there's a better one in America doing that."

Still, one of the major keys to stopping Oklahoma's style of offense is slowing down their tempo.

"You have substitution limitations because of tempo, you have the fatigue factor and you have the chaos factor where you like to line up," Meyer said. "The positive is we've had three weeks to prepare and we've been operating at a very high level of chaos on defense trying to get lined up and be ready to go. They create a lot of plays because teams are misaligned. TCU is a perfect example. They were playing their tails off and even the coach Gary Patterson made a comment he screwed them up because he was talking when the play was snapped. We have to get lined up and get ready to go. That's a problem."

Both teams have played challenging schedules this season and they represent the two best conferences in college football. In Florida's last two games, they've faced two smash-mouth, physical defenses, and Meyer said that's tested the Gator offense.

"It's always good to play top-flight competition, especially when you're on a roll, and I felt our team at the end of the year in that fourth quarter, really the game against FSU and then that Alabama game, that's as fine of football as I've been around," Meyer said. "I was very proud of our team and our preparation and the way they played. With it comes risk, and the risk is if we had to play this game any earlier than January 8th, I don't think we've had a chance to win just because of our injury situation."

The Gators will be short on the defensive line, especially with the injury to Brandon Antiwne. But Percy Harvin will be back for Thursday's matchup after missing the SEC Championship Game with a sprained ankle.

"The good thing is January 8th we should be fairly healthy," Meyer said. "I like the way Percy Harvin had limited practice yesterday, went full practice the day before, today he'll do some stuff, but we are expecting him to be close to full speed, and Carl Johnson is going to be ready to go, Louis Murphy and Kestahn Moore, who actually had cartilage surgery right after the Alabama game will be ready to go, as well."

Florida's favored heading into Thursday mainly because of their tremendous speed aided by Percy Harvin. It was an obvious advantage for the Gators in the 2006 BCS Championship Game.

"Speed running into a big pile of people and getting tackled is not utilizing speed, so we run a style of play where we try to match that speed against some inferior speed and let them go to work in the open field," Meyer said. "But also, it's much deeper than that on our punt block unit or punt return unit, we have a lot of tremendous amount of athleticism in that group, and when you recruit you can start utilizing it in other areas. And also it's unselfish speed. I use Jeff Demps. Jeff Demps is the fastest player out there, 10-flat 100 meters. Someone told me he's the fastest running back to ever play the game. If that's true, then he's also the fastest left missile on kickoff and our fastest No. 7 on punt block unit, and he understands he's as important in those units as carrying the ball. That's how we utilize the speed."

With the exception of the last few games, the Gators have had a major advantage when it comes to special teams. And Meyer has eluded to the fact that he believes special teams play could determine the outcome on Thursday.

"We're facing great athletes and the minute you face great athletes and miss a tackle you have a problem," Meyer said. "We have worked as hard at the kicking game the last three weeks as we have for a Bowl game. I don't know how to say this other than I really believe for us to win this game or have a chance to win this game we have to be dominant as far as field position and return yards, and if we don't do that, then I don't know if Florida can win this game."

Whichever team comes out on top on Thursday, history will be made. Florida or Oklahoma will become the first team to win the BCS Championship twice.

"It's very humbling when you start thinking of all the great head coaches out there and great coaching staffs," Meyer said. "Other than that, I just worry about 3rd down and 6 and make sure our punting is ready to go."

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