College Football: Sooner talking trash

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 5, 2009

By Mark Long
Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. ó The Florida Gators may have some bulletin-board material, a little extra motivation heading into the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks, a sophomore from Tulsa, Okla., called Florida’s Tim Tebow the fourth-best quarterback in the country Sunday.
Franks said Tebow, who is already miffed he finished third in Heisman voting last month, ranks behind Sooners teammate and Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, Texas’ Colt McCoy and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell. Franks added that preparing for McCoy and Harrell was tougher than getting ready to face the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Tebow.
“If you look at the three best quarterbacks in the country, (they) came from the Big 12,” Franks said. “The three best receivers in the country came from the Big 12. The three best tight ends came from the Big 12. A lot of people don’t understand that other conferences don’t have what we face.”
Franks then acknowledged that Tebow would be fourth on his QB list.
“Yup. I think our quarterbacks are better,” Franks said. “Just the way they conduct themselves and how they play on the field. I just think, playing against those guys, it’s a lot harder to prepare for those guys than it is for Tebow.”
Franks said devising a game plan for a quarterback who is going to throw the ball 40 or more times a game is more difficult than getting ready for someone like Tebow, who likely will throw the ball far less.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables defended his player, saying Franks was “going to bat for the guys he has a lot of respect for.”
“I think he’s just a young guy that doesn’t know any better, too,” Venables said. “He hasn’t watched enough tape. And I really mean that. … Not that he doesn’t have (respect for Tebow), but guys that he’s familiar with.
“We’re in a situation to answer questions about how this guy compares and how the conference compares. But it really doesn’t matter. It’s how you match up on Thursday. It’s not the SEC vs. the Big 12. It’s not the defense vs. the offense. It’s this team vs. this team, Florida against Oklahoma.”
Tebow has played some of his best games against opponents who got chatty before the game. Remember Florida State linebacker Geno Hayes? How about LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois?
Hayes said Tebow was “going down” a few days before the Seminoles played Florida in 2007. Tebow responded on the field, running for 89 yards and two touchdowns and throwing for 262 yards and three scores as the Gators rolled 45-12. Hayes, meanwhile, had a meaningless tackle in the fourth quarter.
Jean-Francois has even less success when he said the Tigers would try to knock Tebow out of their matchup this season. Tebow laughed it off, then accounted for three touchdowns in Florida’s 51-21 romp. Jean-Francois, meanwhile, missed the game because of an injury.
Tebow was unavailable for comment following Franks’ remarks Sunday. Franks wasn’t the only Sooners player feeling confident about the facing Tebow, either.
“He’s a great player, but I think we’ll be able to handle him,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.
HEISMAN JINX?: Florida has experienced both sides of the so-called “Heisman Jinx” the last two seasons. The Gators would like to see it happen one more time.
Ohio State’s Troy Smith struggled mightily against Florida in the 2007 BCS title game, completing four of 14 passes for 35 yards, throwing an interception and getting sacked five times in a 41-14 rout.
Florida’s Tim Tebow had better numbers against Michigan in the 2008 Capital One Bowl ó he threw for 154 yards and three touchdowns and had 19 yards rushing and a score ó but still ended up on the losing end. The 41-35 loss dropped former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks to 5-8 in bowl games since 1980.
Could Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford be next?
“It’s really hard for me to talk about previous winners and the difficulties they’ve had in their bowl games because I wasn’t there when they were on their trip, so I don’t know what they got caught up doing and how they prepared for the game,” Bradford said. “I know as soon as I got back from New York I forgot about that experience, got back to business, getting ready to prepare for this game and help my team win.”
Doug Flutie (Boston College, 1984), Charlie Ward (Florida State, 1993), Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1996), Carson Palmer (USC, 2002) and Matt Leinart (USC, 2004) are Heisman quarterbacks who won bowl games.
Vinny Testaverde (Miami, 1986), Ty Detmer (BYU, 1990), Gino Torretta (Miami, 1992), Chris Weinke (Florida State, 2000), Eric Crouch (Nebraska, 2001), Jason White (Oklahoma, 2003), Smith and Tebow helped foster the notion of the Heisman jinx.
WHITE HELPS: If Oklahoma snaps its four-game losing streak in BCS bowl games, the Sooners might want to thank West Virginia quarterback Pat White.
After White threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 150 yards against Oklahoma in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, he proclaimed that the Mountaineers “wanted it more” than the Sooners. Oklahoma coaches placed White’s quote on a huge poster in the weight room to serve as a motivational reminder during the offseason.
“They wanted it more than us,” receiver Juaquin Iglesias said. “I believe that’s true. I believe that’s the reason why they won the game. We just want to win a BCS game and quiet all that talk. … It’s still in the back of your mind. That’s what this team was.”
BRADFORD SAYS: “I wish I was 240 and could run over people sometimes.” ó Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford when asked what he liked most about Tim Tebow’s playing style.