Courtesy of Stewart Mandel
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Greetings from the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa, media headquarters for this year's BCS Championship Game. You'll have to excuse me if my writing seems a bit "distracted" this week. The accompanying photo shows the view from my room.
On the morning after Bowl Upset Friday, Oklahoma's and Florida's players participated in their first media sessions of the week, and both Utah's Sugar Bowl stunner over Alabama and Ole Miss' Cotton Bowl upset of Texas Tech were fresh on everyone's minds. Think about it: Florida's biggest victory of the season was against then-12-0 Alabama. The Sooners' biggest victory of the season was their trouncing of then-10-0 Texas Tech. Both teams lost to substantial underdogs Friday. (In Texas Tech's case, to the one team that beat the Gators.)
"I thought Texas Tech was going to win, but Ole Miss has some real talented players," said Florida cornerback Joe Haden. "I thought Alabama was going to murder Utah."
A word to the wise for anyone trying to draw signals about Thursday's BCS Championship Game from those, or any other conference bowl results to date: Don't.
Is it a bit embarrassing for the SEC to see its runner-up get physically dominated by a Mountain West team? Sure. But the Gators also clobbered several SEC foes -- LSU, Georgia, Kentucky and Vanderbilt -- that had little trouble winning their postseason games. Have we learned over the past week that the Big 12's defenses, as suspected, aren't exactly juggernauts? Yep. But no one's suggesting Oklahoma needs to score its usual 60 points to beat Florida.
The whole scenario reminds me of the last time Oklahoma played for the national championship here four years ago, against USC. The week of the game, 7-4 Texas Tech stunned 10-1 Cal in the Holiday Bowl, eliciting all kinds of questions as to what that said about the Sooners' and Trojans' conferences. Was the Big 12 better than advertised? Was the Pac-10 overrated?
We all remember how that one turned out.
A few other random nuggets from Saturday's media session:
* While ESPN has already anointed OU star Sam Bradford as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft come April, sources within the program expect the third-year sophomore to return for another year. (Of course, that could change with a big bowl performance.)
Bradford, arguably the shyest "star" player I've ever been around, didn't have much to say about his decision Saturday (or about anything else), when asked if he was looking forward to watching the NFL playoffs, Bradford sheepishly replied: "I'm not a big NFL guy. I don't watch a lot of it."
* The night before heading to South Florida, Haden had his Gainesville barber shave a special message into the side of his head: "BCS 1." It looks pretty cool, but we couldn't figure out what exactly it means. "The BCS No. 1 game," said Haden, who admitted he had no idea what "BCS" stood for.
* Finally, Oklahoma-Florida isn't the only game in town this week. The Dolphins host the Ravens on Sunday in the NFL playoffs ... and it just so happens that the Ravens are staying in this hotel. Fortunately for Ravens QB Troy Smith, Florida's defense left the building prior to their arrival.