FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- For the leader of the greatest offense of all time, Sam Bradford doesn't look like a legend. It's early and the Heisman winner has a bit of bed head at a Saturday interview session for the BCS title game.
"Obviously, we're not claiming that," Bradford said of the label that has been slapped on the offense he has led into statistical immortality. "That's all the media."
|'We want to be different than those offenses,' Sam Bradford says Saturday of OU teams that didn't seal the deal. (US Presswire)|
Rumor has it, that team had a bit of a recruiting advantage with the future of the free world at stake.
OU? Bob Stoops and his staff had to work long and hard to put this offense together -- and carry the resulting burden. None of them -- players and coaches -- want to accept any of the labels. Not yet. Bad for morale, you know. All those yards, all those points and, really, Oklahoma hasn't done a damn thing yet.
"What really defines a team is how many games you've won," said Jimmy Johnson, the former Miami coach who coached a few offensive juggernauts here in South Florida. "Even though individuals score a lot of points, then that really goes by the wayside if you don't win."
If possible, Barry Switzer was even harsher.
"Oklahoma has to define itself by winning this football game," the former Sooners coach said, "to prove that they deserve the right to be in the championship game, by winning the championship game."
The burden of backing up the numbers is significant and understandable. This is Stoops' fourth BCS title game. He has won one. Florida is no offensive slouch itself and -- OU's production be damned -- is favored to win its second title in three years.
Back when Oklahoma was laying waste to the college football word with the wishbone in the 1970s and 1980s, it had better players than everyone else. Now those players are more spread around and some of Oklahoma's success is because it has a better scheme.
Stoops decided to install the no-huddle before the season to keep defenders off balance. It has worked. The offense snapped the ball more than any in the country, averaging almost 80 plays per game. Two players rushed for 1,000 yards. Bradford won the Heisman.
But it's still almost like Oklahoma is reluctant to admit the obvious: This is the most productive offense in more than 100 years -- maybe ever if you throw out the numbers and use your eye test. But OU is reluctant because admitting to any of that stuff would go directly up on the Florida bulletin board, if it hasn't already.
"It definitely has been discussed," Florida defensive back Major Wright said. "It's something that we feed off of."
Right now the Sooners are paper legends. Their time will come, but only if they finish. The 1983 Nebraska "Scoring Explosion" averaged 52 points but fell short in that epic Orange Bowl against Miami. Houston went 9-2 in 1989 averaging an all-time record 625 yards per game and 53.5 points -- and didn't go bowling.
Oklahoma would like to be more like the Nebraska teams of the mid-'90s that claimed three titles while leading the country in scoring twice and rushing three times. Texas in 2005 led the country in scoring (50.2) and sealed the deal against Southern California in the Rose Bowl. Two Sooners teams of the wishbone era -- 1971 and 1986 -- led the country in scoring and rushing. Neither won a national championship.
"Some people talk about the '03 or '04 Oklahoma offenses," Bradford said, "but obviously when it counted in the national championship they didn't come through. We want to be different than those offenses."
Those units actually contributed to the burden, scoring a combined 33 points in championship-game losses to LSU in 2003 and USC in 2004.
Oklahoma isn't over the hump yet, even with a load of All-Big 12 players and a couple of All-Americans (Bradford and offensive lineman Duke Robinson).
"It's crazy to me," Robinson said. "We go down in history a couple of times for scoring 60 times in five consecutive games. Our goal was never to score 60 points a game. Our goal is to beat Texas, beat Oklahoma State, go to a Big 12 championship and compete in a national championship game."
Apologies are not in order. Analysis is. The same media Bradford has blamed for giving props to his boys are looking behind the curtain in breaking down this national championship game. There, they found Oklahoma put up some of those numbers against six teams ranked 86th or lower in NCAA total defense.
Florida's Tim Tebow, earlier this season, reportedly told some TV types off-camera, "I can't wait to play against one of those Big 12 defenses."
Oklahoma is certainly one of them, rated second in the Big 12 but only 63rd nationally, giving up 359 yards per game. Tebow, by the way, said he was kidding.
Florida defensive back Joe Haden wasn't.
"They haven't played against us," Haden told reporters last month. "Nobody puts 60 points up on us."