When I was writing about Florida’s chances of repeating as mythical champs, it struck me just how similar the Gators were to the last two uber-talented teams who opened the following season No. 1 and seemed destined to repeat: Miami in 2002 and USC in 2005. Like Florida, both teams:
• Returned a senior Heisman contender in his third year as a starter at quarterback.
• Were subsequently exceptional (and balanced) on offense, finishing in the top six nationally in total yards and scoring.
• Were ludicrously talented: Miami sent eight players up in the ’03 draft (four in the first round), and USC had 11 players taken in the ’06 draft (five in the first two rounds, all on offense).
• Went wire-to-wire on top of both major polls entering the bowl game.
And, of course, both lost classics as relatively substantial favorites (Miami -11 over Ohio State, USC -7 over Texas) in the final game.
The superficial similarities between this year’s Gators and the ’05 Trojans are really startling — both are coming off championship wins over Oklahoma in Miami and have no competition whatsoever as the preseason favorite — down to their Heisman-winning, golden boy quarterbacks taking it easy in the classroom. There’s also the "greatest ever?" hype that incensed so many fans ahead of the ’06 Rose Bowl, and that looms ominously over the horizon if Florida gets out of Baton Rouge unscathed on Oct. 10. The parallels are hardly lost on Pete Carroll, given the task of throwing cold water on the Washington Times’ "Tebow greatest?" story on Tuesday:
"Look, I think Tim Tebow is fabulous, but it seems like just yesterday we were having exactly the same discussion about Matt Leinart and along comes Texas and Vince Young. It can all change in the blink of an eye, so I think we have to let it all play out before we evaluate careers."
I’ll sign on to that bit of hindsight/foresight, especially if it means we get a game as enthralling as the ’03 Fiesta or ’06 Rose bowls this January.
Another interesting corollary between ’02 Miami and ’05 USC: Both had to come from behind for a literally last-second win over a rival in October (Miami survived an upset bid from Florida State on the "Wide Left" kick; USC has the Bush Push at Notre Dame), and both were somewhat exposed in too-close-for-comfort shootouts late in the season against outmanned Virginia Tech and Fresno State, respectively, widely ignored signs of their eventual demise. Just worth keeping in mind if LSU or Georgia takes the Gators to the brink.