Bowden takes aim at undefeated Oklahoma
By PEYTON BERG
Head coach Bobby Bowden's college football dynasty looks stronger than ever as the defending champs travel south to the Orange Bowl for a date with top-ranked and undefeated Oklahoma.
Critics of the Bowl Champion-ship Series have questioned Florida State's No. 2 ranking. Both the Seminoles and the Miami Hurricanes finished with identical 11-1 records, but the 'Canes defeated the 'Noles 27-24 in October. Despite being ranked No. 2 in both the AP and Coaches' polls, Miami will face Florida in the Nokia Sugar Bowl. Apparently, Florida State had the edge in the strength of schedule and margin of victory variables in the BCS formula.
At 28, Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke enters the Orange Bowl with a 35-2 record as a starter. He has one national championship ring, will play for another and picked up the Heisman Trophy Saturday.
Weinke's numbers are certainly impressive. He has thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions. Weinke is the undisputed leader of the team, and his poise and maturity are a big reason why the Seminoles return to the Big Game this year.
He may, however, simply be in the right place at the right time.
Florida State possesses the fastest, most potent offense in the country. Weinke can throw deep to game-breakers "Snoop" Minnis and "Quan" Bolden, or hand off to the underrated Travis Minor.
Oklahoma began the season ranked No. 20, but finished undefeated and ranked No. 1. In what may have been the most impressive run of the season, the Sooners defeated then-No. 5 Texas, then-No. 2 Kansas State, then-No. 1 Nebraska, Baylor, and then-No. 22 Texas A&M on six consecutive Saturdays.
Once thought to be unstoppable, lately the Big XII Champions have turned the ball over and failed to put up their usual prolific offensive numbers.
Oklahoma beat Kansas State 27-24 in the championship Dec. 2, but quarterback Josh Heupel clearly struggled.
He threw three interceptions, and the bursar's sac on his injured throwing arm noticeably limited his velocity and accuracy. Instinctively speaking, Heupel has a tremendous knack for eluding the pass rush and knowing when to tuck the ball and run.
Unfortunately for Heupel and the Sooners, they have not seen a defense as fast as that of the Seminoles. Big XII defenses are built to stop the run, SEC defenses are built to stop the pass, and Florida State does both equally well.
The Seminoles' front four of Jamal Reynolds, Kevin Emmanuel, Chris Woods and Roland Seymour are quick, big, and aggressive. The other half of the problem is the Florida State secondary, which boasts a lineage that includes NFL stars Terrell Buckley, Samari Rolle, Devon Bush, and Deion Sanders. Cornerback Tay Cody and safety Chris Hope virtually shut down the formidable Florida offense, and look to do the same against the Sooners.
The X factor in this game is the Oklahoma defense.
Heupel and the offense get all the attention, but the defense has been stronger down the stretch. The defense kept Oklahoma State out of the end zone on its final possession and forced key Kansas State turnovers. Linebackers Rocky Calmus and Torrance Marshall are the best tandem in the country.
Oklahoma's chances will turn on how well they can adjust to the Seminoles' team speed and limit big plays.
Weinke is not mobile, so the Sooners must chase him out of the pocket and apply constant pressure.
Both offenses can score points, which means defense and special teams will decide this game.
Oklahoma gave up a touchdown to Kansas State's Aaron Lockett on a punt return, but Florida State has struggled with field goals all season.
The Seminoles have been here before, but the Sooners probably want it a little more.
Smart money usually gives the nod to a big, powerful Midwestern team that can run over a smaller, pass-oriented team, as evidenced by Nebraska's pounding of Florida in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl or Alabama's victory over Miami in the 1993 Sugar Bowl. Instead of a grinding running attack, however, this Oklahoma offense bears more resemblance to Florida State than it does to the 1985 Sooners that last played for the national championship.
All things considered, this should be an exciting match-up between two of the most storied programs in past and recent college football history.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, December 12, 2000