Bradford's Choice Shows Risks In Returning

Sam Bradford watched Oklahoma lose again, his decision to come back for another season as a Sooner not going well at all.

Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators should take note of the Sooners' plight. Playing without a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is not easy.

A BCS buster falls in west Texas (according to reports) and yet another celebration leads to sorrow as the college football season started its second month.

The Big Story

Bradford was on the sideline Saturday night, out of uniform and helpless to do anything about Oklahoma's 21-20 loss at Miami.

Any chance he had to lead the Sooners back to the championship game are now _ barring some very strange events _ gone.

All is not lost for the star quarterback and the Sooners. They can still win the Big 12 and reach the BCS, but this is not what Bradford had in mind when he decided to return to school and lead Oklahoma's offense for a third season.

Bradford directed the highest-scoring offense in major college history last season, breaking records, winning the Heisman, getting his team within one victory of a national title and proving himself to be a potential future franchise quarterback in the NFL.

Instead of calling it a college career and cashing in when his stock could not have been higher, Bradford returned for one more shot at a national championship. Sooners fans were thrilled. Bradford faced no criticism. Who could argue with staying in school?

Mark Sanchez made the opposite decision, leaving Southern California after one excellent season. USC fans lamented, his decision was picked over by the media (What's the hurry?) and even questioned by his coach, Pete Carroll.

Sanchez was drafted fifth overall and is currently a millionaire and the starter for the New York Jets.

Pretty smart move by Sanchez, huh.

The point of this is not to pick on Bradford while he's down. Nor is it to praise Sanchez for his good fortune.

Bradford wanted to keep playing college football and that's great. Hopefully, for his sake, he'll return from his sprained shoulder soon, play well down the stretch and still be a high draft pick next April.

No, the point is both choices (staying or going) come with risks and while it seems noble to stay in school there's nothing wrong with trying to get a job.

As long as the player is making a decision based on good information and truly doing what he wants to do _ and not what somebody else thinks is best _ than whatever choice he makes is the right choice.

So, Tim, how you doing?

Last week the big question was: Will Bradford play?

This week, the focus shifts to Gainesville and Florida's healing Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow. Will Tebow, on the mend from a concussion, be ready to play for the top-ranked Gators at No. 4 LSU on Saturday?

Meyer has said Tebow does not have to practice to play against the Tigers. A rusty Tebow is better than no Tebow, no matter how much confidence the Gators have in backup John Brantley.

So loaded and experienced on both sides of the ball, Florida is better equipped to play without Tebow than Oklahoma was to go without Bradford.

But Tiger Stadium at night is a daunting place, even for a team trying to win its third national title in four seasons. And a talented but enigmatic LSU team should be emboldened by its latest great escape _ a 20-13 victory at Georgia _ and a chance to stamp itself as national title contenders.

The news on Tebow coming out of Gainesville has generally been positive, but it's also all coming from Meyer so it has to be taken with at least a small dose of skepticism.

Any attempts to speculate about whether Tebow will play is just silly _ unless you're a doctor who is privy to his medical records. It's probably safe to say that if Tebow practices he will play. Beyond that, who knows?

The stage is being set for Tebow to add to his warriors mystic, returning to action after two weeks of football inactivity to lead the Gators in one of the most hostile of road environments.

It figures to be one anxious week of waiting for Florida fans.

In case you missed it

And unless you were in Sun Bowl Stadium Saturday night, you did because UTEP's 58-41 upset of then-No. 12 Houston was not on television.

Not sure what is more stunning, the Cougars' loss to a team that ranked last in the nation in total offense coming in or the fact that with all the television coverage college football gets these days, a game involving a ranked team was not on the tube.

The hurry-up

_ It probably won't happen, but there needs to be a change in the way penalties are called for excessive celebration, such as the one Georgia's A.J. Green got hit with that helped LSU come back to win in Athens. For a game to be influenced by a spontaneous show of emotion, is ridiculous.

_ Wisconsin (5-0) is the only undefeated team not ranked in the AP poll this week. The Badgers don't have an eye-catching victory, but their lack of support among voters is more about a lack of respect for the Big Ten.

_ The leading rusher in the nation is ....... Darius Marshall of Marshall. If you knew that without looking it up, you likely live in or around Huntington, W.Va.

Looking ahead

The undercard for Florida-LSU is enticing, too. No. 3 Alabama goes to No. 20 Mississippi. The Rebels have not played up to their preseason hype, but all sins will be forgiven with a victory against the Tide.

___

Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. Write to him at rrusso(at)ap.org.

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