Florida, Oklahoma To Play For Championship

The Florida Gators will take on the Oklahoma Sooners for the BCS national title Jan. 8 in Miami. The Gators and Sooners each carry 12-1 records into the title game after winning their respective conference championships over the weekend.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Florida will play Oklahoma on January 8th in Miami, and that will be college football's National Championship Game. The match-up was announced yesterday after the Gators and the Sooners won their conference championship games on Saturday to wrap up the top two spots in what's known as the Bowl Championship Series standings. All the bowls announced their match-ups yesterday, and commentator John Feinstein is here to talk about them. John, good morning.

JOHN FEINSTEIN: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So Oklahoma managed to squeak in after winning their game against Missouri 62-21?

FEINSTEIN: Yeah, they scored 60 points for the fifth straight time. They have a very good offense and a coach who likes to run up the score. And they wanted to make it clear to those who vote because the BCS standings are decided by computers and by human vote. And then they add it all up and stick it in a computer to get the final standings.

And they wanted to convince the human voters that there was no doubt that they and Florida, who had beaten Alabama, as you mentioned, were one and two, because their fellow Big 12 Conference member Texas, which beat Oklahoma in the regular season, was there lurking at number three, hoping Oklahoma would play poorly so they could get into the championship game.

INSKEEP: Well now, is this going to be another occasion for somebody like Texas fans, say, to complain about the way the system is run? Because Texas could argue they should have a chance at this.

FEINSTEIN: You bet. And they have a very good argument. They won head to head against Oklahoma on a neutral field. Both teams had one loss. But because there was a three-way tie in their division of the Big 12, along with Texas Tech, which also had one loss but beat Texas, the computers decided that Oklahoma got to play in the championship game. And it gets back to the same argument that computers should not be deciding championships. Players should decide championships.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about another nuance of this. You mentioned that Oklahoma scored over 60 points five straight times. Is that what you said?

FEINSTEIN: Correct.

INSKEEP: Aren't they right behind Florida? What has Florida done to be number one, in comparison with Oklahoma?

FEINSTEIN: Well, again, it gets back to the whole computer system of who's - of human voters and the computers. Florida beat the number one ranked team in the country on Saturday. They beat Alabama, which was the only undefeated team left in the BCS conferences. Now, there are two undefeated teams in college football, Steve. Utah, which will get to play in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas, and Boise State, which, in spite of being undefeated, in spite of being ranked ahead of Ohio State in those same BCS rankings, will not get to play in one of those BCS bowls because of politics. Ohio State's in a BCS conference, Boise state is not. The rules don't require a second non-BCS team to be chosen, so Ohio State goes and Boise State does not.

INSKEEP: OK, another ugly mess. But we do have this game, January 8th, Florida and Oklahoma. Is it too early to make a prediction?

FEINSTEIN: Well, you - I think that it's really tough to make a prediction because both teams have been so dominant in recent weeks. They have both played well. They each had a loss early in the season. Florida's was to Mississippi, by the way. But I think that you have to give Oklahoma a slight edge right now, because their offense has just been so extraordinary. It'll be interesting, though, because the two quarterbacks, Tebow of Florida, Bradford of Oklahoma, will probably finish one, two in the Heisman Trophy race next Saturday.

INSKEEP: John, we've just got a few seconds, but has President-elect Obama's support for a playoff system in college football caused people in college football to reconsider what they're doing?

FEINSTEIN: Absolutely not. They just signed a new television contract to extend the BCS for four more years - ironically enough, that phrase. They don't want anything to do with President Obama intervening, because they know if he does, they may have to change their system and share some of their money. But maybe we can see a change in 2014. That's the earliest it can happen now.

INSKEEP: John, thanks very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Comments from John Feinstein. He's author of "A Civil War: Army versus Navy, A year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry." You hear John regularly on Morning Edition from NPR News.

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Correction Dec. 8, 2008

We mistakenly said that Texas will be playing Utah in the Fiesta Bowl. In fact, Texas will play Ohio State. Also, in some versions of this interview, we misidentified Oklahoma's quarterback as Chad Bradford. His name is Sam Bradford.

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