Buckeye perspective on Florida Gators

BuckNuts Assistant Editor Dave Biddle spoke with Gator Country Senior
Columnist Mark McLeod about the national championship match-up between The
Ohio State University and the Mighty Gators of Florida.

In this piece, Dave provides us with the Ohio State perspective of the Michigan/Florida non controversy, the first ever meeting between the Buckeyes and the Gators, and discusses the prowess of the Big 10 conference. This is the first of several interviews with Dave as he gets us coached up on the Buckeyes before the big game.

Mark McLeod: Dave, I guess I want to get started first and kind of clear this up for the last time. I know it’s the last time I want to ask the question. What is the Ohio State perspective among the fans and maybe the writers up there on the whole Michigan or Florida controversy? I mean it seems like down here Big Blue has really turned into the Big Boo-Hoo. Is that kind of what you guys are getting up there?

Dave Biddle: Yes it is Mark and we’re used to not liking Michigan so it’s nothing new but they are whining a little bit about it but it’s one of those things where Michigan for the longest time said, we’re not going to campaign, we’re not going to campaign for it and then when the selection show came down it’s like since then they’ve been in kind of a whining mode so it’s been since then so…I mean but do they deserve it? No, I think Ohio State fans, writers, everybody up here pretty much agreed even going into the Michigan game. The loser of this game is out they’re not going to be the champion of your Conference. We don’t want a repeat of what happened with Nebraska a few years ago. The second place team in the conference shouldn’t go. If you lose late- you shouldn’t go. Michigan and Ohio State had a chance to there to play each other I think in a national semi final game, that’s how it was billed going into it and the loser was done. Jim Tressel said you know the loser should not go to the national championship game and that’s the way it’s turned out. I think Florida deserves it they play in arguably the best conference in football they’re the champion of that conference. Auburn you argue got screwed a couple of years ago out of the SCC. I think if they would have put Michigan in there it would have been terrible for college football. Ohio State and Michigan have already played let’s see the Buckeyes and Gators now, everybody up here is definitely in favor of this matchup.

I know we talked on your show the other day, there are so many people from the state of Ohio who have moved down to Florida and really enjoy life down here. You see the bumper stickers, you see the jackets, you see the T-shirts, you see all of the Ohio State Buckeye paraphernalia and yet this will be the first meeting. Among the Ohio State faithful is this going to be a fun matchup?

Oh without a doubt, without a doubt. We talked a little bit about the other day on our show it reminds me a little bit about when Ohio State and Texas played last year, obviously the marbles are a lot bigger this time on the grand stage of the national title but it’s a huge matchup. You look at Florida and Ohio State, two of the top programs in the history of college football and the fact that they’ve never played just adds so much intrigue to this game from my perspective. I mean you look at Florida, the 1996 National Champs, I think Ohio State fans have always watched that program from afar and just with a lot of interest that fun and gun offense that Spurrier had there just the success they had in the 90’s and there were also a couple of down years there, but Urban Myer turned that program around. Just that Gator helmet, I’m sure Gator fans feel the same as the Buckeyes, a helmet that you’ve never played against a team you watched from afar it’s just a great matchup between two historical teams. You know teams that have never played. Ohio State is 0-7 against SEC teams in bowl games in their history. So that’s another little tidbit there. Ohio State’s trying to get that SEC monkey off their back as far as Bowl games so yeah everybody’s very excited about this matchup. I think even more so than if it would have been Ohio State and USC just because Ohio State and USC have played so many times through the years with the Big 10 Pack 10 matchup during the Rose Bowl, so definitely everybody’s very excited about this matchup. Florida’s a deserving team and it’s just any national title game, Mark would be interesting but the fact that it’s the Buckeyes and Gators just adds a little bit more to it in my opinion.

I totally agree. Even from a personal perspective, I’ve got family who are big Ohio State fans, they live in Cincinnati and I know they are just all jacked up about the game. And I’ve got a friend from Ohio and he’s a Florida guy, but he’s back up there living and even he said this is just great because he grew up loving the Buckeyes and then he moved down to Florida and really became a big Gator fan. Talk about the best of both worlds. Is that kind of what you deal with on a personal level yourself?

Yeah no doubt about it. Just look at some of the players from around here. We had a kid from right here in Columbus Keiwan Ratliff you guys are very familiar with we do the defensive player of the year as a senior there in the SEC. It was down to Florida and Ohio State and he ended up going down to Florida and now he’s starting with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Bengals are a big deal up here in Columbus, as well. We kind of split between the Bengals and Browns. Just looking at some of the players that have gone down to play for Florida, Deshawn Wynn was starting tailback with at Cincinnati Redding. I don’t know personally a lot of Florida fans up here. I think it’s a little different with it being so cold up here. I know I was telling you that we woke up with snow on the ground here, so a lot of people from Ohio move down to Florida obviously. So we don’t have as many Florida transplants up here as far as fans but just from watching the program from afar it’s just been one of those programs I’ve always respected and I’m sure Ohio State fans across the board just respect that Florida program.

Dave, you kind of alluded to the strength of the Southeastern Conference. The overall assessment of Florida fans is that this is really not a strong year for the Big 10, you’ve got Ohio State who is head and shoulders above everyone else, you have Michigan who is outstanding, and then you kind of have a little drop off to Wisconsin and then it’s kind of like everybody else. Would you agree with that assessment?

It’s a little bit of a down year we won’t know for sure until after the Bowls are played and I think in 2002 the Ohio State won the national title there was some talk that year that the Big 10 was down and then they went 8 and 0 in Bowl games. So we won’t know until the Bowl games but yes I think talking to you right now Mark I think there was a little bit of a down year for the Big 10 you talk about Ohio State and Michigan 2 of the best teams in the country obviously right there at the top so definitely I…they’re top heavy this year but you go right down the list, Wisconsin they’re 11 and 1 they’re the worst 1 loss team in the country, Mark. They haven’t played anybody they played Michigan and they actually gave Michigan a decent game so they have played 1 team. They played nobody in the non – Conference schedule they missed Ohio State in the Big 10 schedule you don’t play 2 teams per year in the Big 10. So Wisconsin it’s going to be really interesting to see how they do in the Bowl game against Auburn because I just…they haven’t played anybody this year and they’re the #3 team in the Big 10 so going right down the list, Iowa was supposed to have a good year. With the senior Quarterback Drew Tate, you guys know about Iowa you played him last year in the Outback Bowl I believe. And Iowa is supposed to have a good year. Kirk Ferentz is one of the top coaches in the country, Drew Tate was coming back as a senior they were 6 and 6 so they had a real down year. You know Minnesota didn’t really do much Michigan State had a terrible year so yes overall it was a down year for the Big 10.

Florida has played the toughest schedule in the country 10 of the 12 teams that they have matched up against are going to bowl games. Is that fact lost on Ohio State fans because some of the stuff that we’re seeing on the message boards, there seems to be a lot of Ohio State fans who really think this game going to be a blow out.

I hope Ohio State fans don’t feel that way. I like to think the knowledgeable Ohio State fans know this is not going to be a blowout. I think what I’ve been hearing about from Ohio State fans is I hear a lot of comparisons this Florida team reminds us of the Ohio State team in 2002 where it didn’t have a lot of blowouts during the regular season but you just found a way to win. I keep hearing people say well Florida had so many close games this year but you look and their close games were against darn good teams like Tennessee and Alabama, well Alabama wasn’t that close, LSU wasn’t really that close Georgia was a 21 – 14 game you guys won, South Carolina 1 point. You guys found a way to win all year with a tough schedule and that’s what it’s all about. It’s hard for me to really give a pulse for the Ohio State fans it’s such a vast nation and we get so many opinions but I haven’t seen too much of that. You know you’re going to see some fans coming to games saying oh we’re going to beat Michigan by 40, we’re going to beat Michigan by 30 but the knowledgeable Ohio State fans knew that wasn’t going to happen and I think the same case is true here. The teams are so evenly matched that there’s not going to be a blow out either way. I hope Ohio State fans aren’t giving us a bad name by sounding off on message boards about blow outs because it’s going to be a tough game. These teams have weeks to prepare for each other they’re the two best teams in the country. You look at it on paper, Mark, I mean you look at some of these stats they match up so well against each other. It’s going to be a tight game in Glendale, Arizona.