Monday, January 08, 2007

Expect the unexpected

By now, Boise State's exploits in the Fiesta Bowl are the stuff of legend.

They rallied on a hook-and-ladder play. They won the game with a two-point conversion, down by a point in overtime. That call took a rare combination of icy resolve, intestinal fortitude and man organs the size of grapefruits.

Give Boise State coach Chris Petersen an "A" for boldness, but not for creativity. He probably saw that play before.

Urban Meyer, then the coach at Bowling Green, ran a similar do-or-die two-point conversion to beat Northwestern in 2001.

Meyer knew his team couldn't stack up talentwise with a Big Ten school, so he pulled out all the stops. In his two seasons at BG, it usually worked. Meyer had a habit of pulling out wins against ostensibly better teams from bigger schools. His BG resume also included wins over Kansas and Missouri.

It's not quite as severe as a MAC school against a BCS conference school, but Meyer knows his current team, the Florida Gators, are the underdog as they face Ohio State tonight for the national title.

A word to the wise, which I count Jim Tressel among: Expect the unexpected. Meyer knows his team can't go blow-for-blow with the powerful and well-balanced Buckeyes, so expect him to use smoke, mirrors and the element of surprise to try and gain the upper hand.

Meyer is quite simply the best offensive head coach in the land. His playbook, chock full of innovative formations, misdirections and other chicanery, would be enough to make a Browns fan weep.

Meyer will likely employ Muhammad Ali tactics tonight. If the Buckeyes come right at the Gators, slugging away, he'll probably instruct his team to rope-a-dope as much as possible, trying to withstand an early barrage of energy from the fired-up Buckeyes. Then, if he can keep the score close and tire the Buckeye defense out, he'll use his team's speed and a few dips into the bag of tricks to try and eke out the win.

If Tressel is wise, he'll instruct his team to leave something in the tank for the fourth quarter. It's the national championship, adrenaline will be flowing on both sides, but a team that is too fired up in the first quarter can be the team that is spent by the fourth quarter.

Meyer is the kind of coach who preys on your fatigue. He isn't trying to wear you out physically so much as mentally. That's when you let your guard down. That's when he can spring something on you.

You might think, in a moment of arrogance, that maybe Florida shouldn't be in Arizona tonight. Maybe USC or Michigan would have made for better competition. But even if you think Florida's roster isn't national title-caliber, their coach most certainly is. That matters more than you might want to believe.


Zach said...

Being from Cleveland has disallowed any possiblity for arrogance in this contest. It's the biggest game of anyone's life to this point.
That means the line between winning and losing ought to be thin.
I appreciate Ohio State, and want it to win. But as always, I have that nagging feeling of doom.
Ah well, it's just a game.

Dawg Pound said...

I simply cannot wait any longer for this game! Jim Tressel is one of the best "big game" coaches there is. I don't see him allowing players to become complacent in a national championship game.

Best of luck to the Gators..they'll need it ;)