On the last week of the regular season, second-ranked Southern California was beaten by UCLA 13-9 in what was considered the biggest or at least most important upset of the season. When the game was over, all Trojans head coach Pete Carroll could say was, "I never saw it coming."
On Monday, I did radio interviews all across the country to break down and discuss the national championship game. I was on 12 radio stations from 10 a.m. to noon representing Yahoo! Sports, then I did a three-hour satellite radio show from noon to 3 p.m., followed by a one-hour national network gig with five more interviews. I finished my day with my own three-hour sports talk show before I ran home to settle down for the BCS title game.
As I sat on the couch waiting for the game to start, I reflected back on all the interviews I had done. It dawned on me that not one person in any city and in any state even slightly suggested that Florida had a chance to beat Ohio State. In fact, most predicted that the game would not even be close.
It made me wonder what kind of effect this would have on the Buckeyes and Gators as they prepared to play the game. You know they had to have heard the same thing that I had, that there was no way Ohio State could lose this game and no way Florida could win.
After watching the Gators rout the Buckeyes 41-14, I could come to only one conclusion: Ohio State was mentally unprepared to play the game. The Buckeyes brought no emotion into the game, and they played with no intensity. Clearly, they thought they could just show up and the Gators would do what everybody predicted – lose.
Obviously, Florida had heard the same comments. However, the Gators didn't listen to what everyone had predicted. They didn't give up, and they didn't lie down. They took it personally and got mad, and they brought an attitude that they were going to show the world how good their team really was.
This game proved once again that football can't be played without emotion. Every team, no matter what people say, must be given respect, and if you don't give it, you will suffer the consequences.
To tell you how bad it was, Ohio State's prolific offense that came into the game averaging 410 yards per game was held to 82. On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes' No. 1-ranked scoring defense, which was giving up only 10 points per game, watched as the Gators racked up 41. Isn't it amazing what a little emotion can do?
As for individual performances, Troy Smith, Ohio State's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, finished 4-for-14 for 35 yards and ended up with the lowest passing efficiency rating of any quarterback in BCS history. Not exactly the way anyone wants to end a college career. On the other hand, Florida's Chris Leak, in an MVP performance, completed 25 of 36 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown to cap his illustrious career.
To make matters even worse for the Buckeyes, Jim Tressel lost his composure while trailing only 24-14 in the first half and went for an ill-advised fourth-and-1 on his own 29-yard line. Ohio State's failure to get the first down led to another Gators score.
Even in the second half, when you would think Ohio State would have been able to regroup and come to its senses, it again was outclassed on both sides of the ball.
The bottom line is that the Gators came to play football Monday night, and the Ohio State Buckeyes didn't. Florida is the best team in college football and is the national champion.
After the game, the Gators rallied at midfield to accept their championship trophy. I saw coach Tressel walking toward the dressing room, and I'm pretty sure I was able to read his lips.
I think he said, "I never saw it coming."