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Saturday, November 25, 2006
BCS style debate irks Florida's Meyer

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Urban Meyer is a big believer in doing things the right way. Win the game. Don't embarrass the opponent. Move on to the next game.

Yet when No. 4 Florida took over the ball on downs at the Florida State eight-yard line with :58 to play and a 21-14 lead, Meyer forgot all that. He wanted to put another touchdown on the scoreboard so that voters across the country would see a 28-14 victory that might camouflage how much the Gators struggled to put the 6-6 Seminoles away.

"I thought about it," Meyer said. "On the headset, I said, 'Let's go score.' Somebody said, 'What are you doing? Let's win the game and get out.'"

Urban Meyer
Florida's BCS standing had Urban Meyer thinking about trying for a late score against FSU.

That somebody was offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, who saved his boss from his impulse. Meyer didn't like that he even thought it. But his team is one game away from being 12-1 and finishing behind the USC-Notre Dame winner and Michigan in the BCS standings.

That happened to Meyer two years ago, when his Utah team finished 12-0 and finished No. 4 in the polls. Meyer knows that this team is better and that it has played a more difficult schedule. But he's in the same position.

"In 2004," Meyer said, "I was watching TV and [Oklahoma coach] Bob Stoops, who is a fine football coach and a good competitor, said after a game that he tried to score one more time because of the polls. If that's what happening, sportsmanship is out the window."

Meyer's problem is that the Gators won Saturday the same way that they have won all season: with stiff defense and just enough offense. If this team has a favorite TV show, it's "Ugly Betty." Meyer was asked in his postgame news conference about being a "non-style" team.

"Here's our style," Meyer said. "Let's see, you got at Tennessee, you got Kentucky, who's 7-4 [7-5 after the loss to Tennessee on Saturday], you got Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Auburn and at Tallahassee. So much for style. You want to put that against anyone in the country, let's go ahead and go. … The style points? That's what's wrong with it. [If] that's what making decisions, I want to stand by my comment a week ago. Implode it. It's over. If that's what making a decision, style points, which that's what I imagine it is, you got a problem. Let's call it winning and losing and playing a difficult schedule."

Meyer said Saturday that his Florida team has 34 first-year players and 21 seniors. There are series of outstanding plays on offense that are interspersed with brain cramps and various misfires. Penalties continue to stop drives, and the running game is barely existent in the best of times.

When Percy Harvin had to be carted off the field early in the third quarter after a violent tackle caused numbness in his neck -- Meyer said after the game that Harvin will be fine -- Florida had no running game at all. Florida scored the winning touchdown on a 10-play, 74-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Chris Leak threw eight times, including the 25-yard touchdown to Dallas Baker. He ran once and wide receiver Andre Caldwell ran once. The runs netted a loss of five yards.

Meyer's comment a week ago, which he alluded to above, included this statement from a coach who is a self-professed proponent of the bowls: "I do believe as this thing moves on we do need a playoff system."

There is no playoff, so everyone is left to guess, and the voters are guessing that Florida is too inconsistent on offense. The voters may understand the whys and wherefores. Meyer's response is that the Gators have been consistent in producing Ws. If it were that easy to go 11-1, there would be more contenders to play Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game.

But apples must be compared with oranges, and Wolverines with Gators. As USC prepares to play Notre Dame, there are four contenders to get Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 8, and it's hard to figure out how Florida can claw its way out of the bottom of the pile.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.