GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Randy Abbott, a 20-year-old business major at the University of Florida, took Thursday off so he could get ready for the BCS National Championship football game between the Florida Gators and the Oklahoma Sooners.
"Today is a holiday for me, I had three classes and didn't attend one," the Vero Beach student said as he wandered near Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with a bunch of his friends, who were discussing a bar with 25-cent beers.
All of them claimed Oklahoma didn't have a chance and its Big 12 Conference defense would be ineffective against a Southeastern Conference powerhouse like Florida.
"Of course, we are going to win," said Adam Batley, 19, a sophomore from Plant City majoring in building contracting. "We have a more diversified kind of offense. But I'm excited about the quarterback showdown."
The game features two Heisman Trophy winners: Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, who won this season, and Tim Tebow, who won last season.
Thousand of students wearing orange and blue were expected to crowd into the O'Connell Center and the Reitz Student Union on campus to watch the game on huge screens.
If the Gators win most will head to University Boulevard, where bars line the road across the street from campus. In the past three years, the Gators have won two basketball titles and one football title and recently received the dubious honor as the nation's No. 1 party school.
Summer Hallett, a spokeswoman for the Gainesville Police Department, said dozens of officers will be ready for the crowd, win or lose.
All the light poles have been greased to keep students from climbing them and video cameras will scan the crowds for problem areas.
Police want to prevent another tragedy like two years ago, when an officer was struck and killed by a pickup truck after the Gators won a basketball championship. The driver of the truck was a student at University of North Florida who was visiting Gainesville to celebrate.
Although the street was closed to traffic at the time, there were no barricades to stop the driver from proceeding. This year, police are using hard barricades to keep out vehicles.
University of Florida President Bernie Machen urged students to remain in Gainesville instead of traveling to the game in Miami, saying students will not be cut any slack if they miss classes because of the game.
"I feel better about our kids being here than anyplace else," Machen said.
The Gators' 2007 football championship game in Arizona, when they beat Ohio State 42-14, coincided with the first day of classes of the spring semester.
Machen sent out a university-wide memo urging the faculty to help students make up missed work. This year, the game is being played on the fourth day of classes and students are expected in class Friday.