Originally created 12/09/96

Gators paired with Florida in Sugar Bowl



NEW YORK - The rematch nobody except Florida wanted is official: Top-ranked Florida State will have to beat the Gators again, this time in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, to win the national championship.

Florida State (11-0) beat Florida 24-21 in Tallahassee on Nov. 30, and Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden winced at the thought of playing coach Steve Spurrier's Fun N' Gun offense a second time.

"You would think that if you beat No. 1 during the regular season, you wouldn't have to beat them twice," Bowden said. "But we will go into the Sugar Bowl more concerned with winning the national championship than who we are playing."

On bowl bid Sunday, the rest of the postseason picture came into focus. The Fiesta Bowl matches No. 7 Penn State (10-2) against No. 20 Texas (8-4) on Jan. 1, while the Orange Bowl pits No. 6 Nebraska (10-2) against No. 10 Virginia Tech (10-1) on Dec. 31.

The biggest bowl loser was No. 5 Brigham Young, which saw an $8.5 million payday disappear when it was excluded from an alliance game. The Cougars, 13-1 after a 28-25 overtime win over No. 22 Wyoming in the WAC title game, were passed over despite being the highest-ranked team available after the Sugar Bowl picked.

"I'm obviously disappointed," BYU athletic director Rondo Fehlberg said. "I think BYU clearly had a team and a season that deserved to be in the alliance."

BYU will play No. 14 Kansas State (9-2) in the Cotton Bowl, which pays each team $2 million.

Roy Kramer, chairman of the alliance and SEC commissioner, said the alliance basically puts together the two highest-ranked teams available "and the other bowls are free to select the at-large spots as they see fit."

After the Fiesta picked Penn State with the No. 3 choice, the Orange went for Nebraska with the fourth pick.

Keith Tribble, executive director of the Orange Bowl, explained his choice: "We tried to make a decision that, one, was going to get the highest ranked team that we possibly can that was good for our community, that was able to put on a competitive game," he said.

Spurrier, meanwhile, was elated to get another shot at the Seminoles after his Gators (11-1) won the SEC title with a 45-30 win over Alabama.

"We didn't think we'd be back in the Sugar Bowl after what happened a week ago," he said. "But Texas upset Nebraska. Heck, we're looking forward to the game. We'll see if we can play a little better against them than last time."

In the non-alliance Rose Bowl, it's No. 2 Arizona State (11-0) against No. 4 Ohio State (10-1). The Sun Devils could win the national title with a win over the Buckeyes and a Florida victory over Florida State.

Nebraska, stunned by Texas 37-27 in the Big 12 championship game, dropped out of contention for a third straight national title but still made the alliance.

"We feel fortunate to be sitting here talking to you today," coach Tom Osborne said. "Our objective was to get through that game and we played a team kind of on a roll.

"And we didn't get it done. Everybody took it pretty hard, of course. I think a little time off will serve us well."

The Fiesta was locked into the Nittany Lions for weeks.

"BYU has a fine team, but we felt Penn State was the most logical choice," Fiesta executive director John Junker said. "For us, they bring the most plusses to the table."

Texas qualified for the alliance as Big 12 champ, as did ACC winner Florida State, Big East champ Virginia Tech and SEC winner Florida.

The exclusion of the Cougars could create a stir, with WAC commissioner Karl Benson considering legal action against the alliance.

"I don't know anything about any type of action," Kramer said. "We are continuing our contractual agreement with the bowls."

And finally, Army may have beaten Navy 28-24 on Saturday, but the Mids (8-3) are off to Hawaii to play California in the Aloha Bowl. The Cadets (10-1), meanwhile, are off to Shreveport, La., to play Auburn in the Independence Bowl.