Sooners come much later for UF

1:57 PM, Dec 30, 2008   |    comments
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GAINESVILLE - Florida coach Urban Meyer seems to have it figured out. His teams have a combined record of 26-3, a winning percentage of 89.7 percent, when having more than one week to prepare for a game.

Perhaps the biggest shocker was in the 2006 BCS national title game, a 41-14 win against Ohio State. The Gators (12-1) meet Oklahoma (12-1) on Jan. 8 for this year's national championship in Miami.

By the time they take the field for the kickoff at approximately 8 p.m. it will have been more than a month since both teams last played - winning conference titles last Saturday.

The break can be looked at it two different ways. It's time to rest and recover from the long season. Or it's too long of a wait and a team's momentum can be lost.

How each team handles that massive break will be a key element in who wins.

"I think that's one of the challenges of preparing for a bowl game,'' Meyer said. "You always have too much time on your hands, especially when it gets near Christmas time."

The game plan for Oklahoma won't go in until after that. Recruiting also has to take up some of that time to protect the future. National signing day is in early February.

Meyer said Florida will spend the next couple of weeks getting back to basics - blocking and tackling and working on basic plays.

"I think when you sit back and you watch bowl teams play, you can see a lot of times ball security fails, a lot of penalties, very poor tackling,'' Meyer said.

That means UF will be doing a lot of the drills in December it did in August.

"We spend the first week and a half on just nothing but fundamentals and just base stuff before we get knee deep in the game planning,'' Meyer said.

Aside of allowing a team to get sloppy, there's the other factor.

"The second thing you have to be careful of is injuries and right now we are a banged up team and how much scrimmage work we're going to do, we're going to have to figure that out,'' he said.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops admits he's still looking for that perfect formula as well. Oklahoma has lost its last four BCS games.

"There' no magic to it,'' he confessed. "But just because you change some things doesn't mean you are going to play better. In the end, how you execute, how you play, how you are prepared to play, that's what gets it done for you. In the end, just because you change some things up doesn't guarantee any success.

"Obviously we'll make some adjustments, do what we feel is right as far as scheduling and how we prepare. We'll work hard at it. But again, I don't know that we haven't done that other years. I believe we have. In the end, you get a chance to play, you have to be at your best when you get out there.''

Stoops won the national title in 2000. So it's not like he's never had a plan that worked well. It's just a matter of finding what works with different teams. Like Meyer, he plans to work on fundamentals the next couple of weeks and, with a defensive unit that has been banged up, give people time to get healthy.

"I think there's a fine line between how much you do,'' Stoops said. "You have a lot of time, you don't want to do too much. You don't want to get away from what's been good for you. Everybody has a few wrinkles. But you want to manage them and make sure it's not too many.''

Both coaching staffs will use every free hour in the film room studying the other team and looking for an edge. It's a coach's version of homework.

"I think all teams are different in what they do and it will take some time to study them, to get a feel for (Florida's team),'' Stoops said.

By David Jones, FLORIDA TODAY

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