Ohio St plays Florida in national title game Monday

Jan 8, 2007 - 4:33 PM By PA SportsTicker

Top-ranked Ohio State is seeking its second national championship in five years under coach Jim Tressel. No. 2 Florida is playing for the title in Urban Meyer's second year as coach.

The schools will meet in the BCS National Championship in Glendale, Arizona on Monday night.

Four years ago, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith was a member of the scout team that helped prepare Ohio State (12-0) for a double-overtime upset win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.

This time, the Buckeyes are in the role of favorite. They began the season ranked No. 1 and remained there all campaign thanks in large part to Smith, who earned the Heisman Trophy after completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,507 yards and 30 touchdowns with just five interceptions.

Smith was particularly cool under pressure in the Buckeyes' two biggest games in 2006, throwing for 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 24-7 win at then-No. 2 Texas on September 9 and passing for 316 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in a 42-39 win over another second-ranked team, archrival Michigan, on November 18.

Ohio State also boasts an 1,100-yard rusher in Antonio Pittman and the nation's second-stingiest scoring defense at 10.4 points per game.

Meyer, a former Buckeye assistant who turned down Notre Dame in favor of the position in Gainesville, guided the Gators to a 12-1 record, losing just at Auburn on October 14, 27-17.

Even before the Gators won the Southeastern Conference championship with a 38-28 victory over Arkansas on December 2, Meyer lobbied on behalf of his team for a spot in the BCS title game. After No. 2 Southern California was shocked by UCLA and the fourth-ranked Gators defeated the Razorbacks, Meyer had his wish fulfilled, as Florida leapfrogged idle No. 3 Michigan for the all-important No. 2 spot in the final BCS standings.

In order to keep defenses on their heels, Meyer has had mobile true freshman Tim Tebow occasionally spell senior quarterback Chris Leak this season, particularly for rushing plays.

But Florida's most dangerous offensive player is ultra-fast true freshman receiver Percy Harvin, who combined for 191 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 10 caries in the Gators' last two contests, at Florida State and vs. Arkansas in the league title game.

While the Gators at times struggled to find their offensive rhythm this season, they almost always shut down their opposition, finishing in the top 10 nationally in rushing defense (74.46 yards per game), total defense (268.77) and scoring defense (13.46).

"We're really fired up," Gators junior linebacker Brandon Siler said. "Our defense thinks they are one of the best. Actually, our defense thinks it is the best defense in the country, so we think going against a guy like (Smith) is another way to try to make our point."

Florida last won the national championship in 1996 under Steve Spurrier.

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