Oklahoma, Florida show why losing early is the ticket
December 11, 2008
As long as each team continues to play as it has, we should be in for quite an entertaining BCS national championship game between Florida and Oklahoma. Both can score on any play, both deliver sensational speed on either side of the ball, and by then we could be watching the past two Heisman Trophy winners face off under center, in the Gators’ Tim Tebow and the Sooners’ Sam Bradford.
There are a number of fellow one-loss teams with cases to state, namely the Texas Longhorns, but lost in the controversy over who really should be playing for the title is the lesson in those who are.
Both Florida and Oklahoma lost relatively early in their seasons, the Gators at home to Mississippi on Sept. 27 and the Sooners on a neutral field to archrival Texas on Oct. 11.
Whereas so much is made of one loss “eliminating” a team from the national title race ” or “crippling its hopes,” at the very least – these two did all you can do to prove such a theory wrong.
Oklahoma and Florida used their humbling defeats as motivation and played each subsequent week to their highest potential, dominating teams that perhaps earlier in the year they might have struggled to beat.
Oklahoma set an NCAA scoring record, posting 702 points in 12 games and scoring more than 60 in each of the last five. The Gators, meanwhile, didn’t allow an opponent within 28 points after the Ole Miss loss, other than No. 1 Alabama, whom they beat in the SEC title game 31-20.
Thanks to such clout, it’s nearly impossible to predict who will win the championship. Freed from the pressure to be perfect, both contenders suddenly look the part more than ever. …
Three years ago, the Miami Heat were the NBA champions and Dwyane Wade was Flash, arguably the hottest athlete on Planet Earth.
Then he injured his shoulder and faded away like the jumpers he used to nail. The Heat became one of the worst teams in the league as Wade watched from the bench.
Which is why what Wade is doing this year bears mentioning in this space. Having rediscovered his hops, he is leading the NBA in scoring ” his 28.9 points per game are 2.4 better than No. 2 man LeBron James ” while inspiring the Heat to an 11-9 mark through Monday.
He’s also averaging 7.7 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.8 blocks – Magic Johnson numbers, you could say. …
The iconic Greg Maddux announced his retirement on Monday after an 8-13 season last year. Maddux, who won four straight Cy Young Awards from 1992-’95 ” highlighted by a 19-2 mark with a 1.63 ERA in ’95 ” will turn 43 in April.
He won 13 or more games in 20 straight seasons, last year being the first since 1988 that he did not. He will be remembered as old-school for many reasons, notably his precision, confounding changeup and ability to field his position like a shortstop, as evidenced by his 18 Gold Gloves.
But when we think of Greg Maddux years from now, we should not overlook the most beautifully ironic stat: In finishing with 355 wins in his career, Maddux ended with one more than Roger Clemens, the epitome of the modern power pitcher, and one who felt he needed more than God gave him to succeed. …
Stat of the Week comes from the NFL, where the Lions are 0-13 but have scored more points than the 7-6 Redskins (219-218). …
There are two college basketball players I would pay handily to see play. One is Blake Griffin, the 6-foot-11 muscle of sophomore domination who runs the show for No. 6 Oklahoma. He controls a game inside like very few who have played college hoops in the last 10 years, averaging 25 points and 16 rebounds while sinking an astounding 67 percent of his field goals.
The other is Stephen Curry, a 6-foot-3 junior guard who hits shots from anywhere and averages 31 points for No. 22 Davidson. You might remember Curry from last year’s NCAA Tournament, but what he has done in his team’s last two games ” both of them wins ” is equally impressive.
First, he did not score a single point against Loyola (Md.), electing to pass out of constant double teams so his open teammates could score. Then, with LeBron James in the stands Saturday against N.C. State, Curry scored 44 points on 33 shots, prompting James to gush about what he saw afterward.
Coincidentally, Davidson’s only loss this year came at Oklahoma. Curry scored 44; Griffin countered with 25 points and 21 rebounds. …
In parting, forget today’s pros. O.J. Simpson, 61, who was sentenced to nine to 33 years in prison last week, should forever be known as the posterboy for what happens when athletes think they exist above the laws of society.
” Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.