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By BRIAN LANDMAN and BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 3, 2001
MIAMI -- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden was so loose the day before today's Orange Bowl against Oklahoma that he took a good-natured jab at Florida's Steve Spurrier.
Asked if he thought OU coach Bob Stoops, a former UF defensive coordinator, and OU receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. might ask UF's coach for advice on how to play his team, Bowden quipped:
"Not if they want to win."
The Seminoles have beaten UF three straight times.
"That was for Steve. That was for Steve," Bowden said. "No. I imagine they have had good talks with Steve. ... If they don't ask him, they're nuts because that's what I would do."
While Stoops said he and his former boss talk often, Spurrier's not "sitting here trying to tell us what to do or to coach this game." Rather, he wished Stoops luck. Besides, Stoops faced FSU four times while at UF and has a good idea about the Seminoles' offensive and defensive tendencies.
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Bowden was visibly upset when told that friend John Cooper was expected to be fired as coach at Ohio State.
"I hope not. Is that true?" he asked. "No. 1, I hate that. I had not even heard a hint of that. That's how much football has changed the last 10 years. We fire them from bowls. It's hard to get to a bowl. Now, lose a bowl and lose your job."
The Buckeyes lost to South Carolina 24-7 in Monday's Outback Bowl and Cooper's firing was made official later Tuesday.
HOPING FOR A REPEAT, PART I: OU tight end Trent Smith watched a tape of the FSU-Miami game with great interest. One reason: It was the only Seminole loss the past two seasons. Also, he noticed how the 'Canes did it. Tight end Jeremy Shockey caught a 13-yard touchdown in the final minute.
"He's from Oklahoma, too, did you know that?" Smith said, grinning. "It's just something else to build your confidence ... and hopefully have the same kind of success."
Smith has tasted that kind of success. In the Big 12 Championship Game, he had eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown in a 27-24 win over Kansas State.
QUESTIONING CORSO: Told ESPN commentator Lee Corso said FSU expects to win and OU hopes to win, Stoops responded:
"Lee has not been to one practice. Lee has not been to our locker room. He has not been anywhere near our program. Plus, didn't he graduate from Florida State?"
"Oklahoma has six national championships," Stoops said. "Our players just played an incredible schedule and played the Big 12 Championship Game, had the tougher road to get here and did it in a confident way and expected to win in every one of those games. And that will be no different in this game. (If) Lee starts coming to practice or starts getting around us a little bit or getting around our players, that might mean something. But outside of that, that's just Florida State talk from a guy from Florida State."
HOPING FOR A REPEAT, PART II: Bowden used to have an empty picture frame in his office waiting for a shot of his first undefeated team. It's no longer empty. Now, he has one waiting for a shot of his first back-to-back champions.
"You're always looking for something to motivate the boys with," he said. "And I can pick up other frames, too."
SAND AND SNOW: Oklahoma players needed only a glimpse of television on New Year's Eve to see how far they have come.
After a 7-4 regular season in 1999, the Sooners went to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. For a team that had not been to the post-season for a while, any bowl trip was good, though OU lost to Mississippi.
But it paled in comparison with South Beach and the Orange Bowl. Several Sooners didn't miss the irony when watching Mississippi State defeat Texas A&M in a snowstorm Sunday.
"I just kept thinking about all the things we've been through and how far we've come," OU offensive tackle Frank Romero said. "Miami and palm trees is a lot better than Shreveport in the snow."
NO GROUND: The OU defense knows it could be in for a long night trying to contain FSU quarterback Chris Weinke. But one aspect it's not concerned about: his ability to run the ball. The Sooners figure that's one area they can ignore.
"I think the only weakness is his feet and getting out of the pocket," linebacker Rocky Calmus said. "We really don't have to worry about him getting outside. We can just concentrate on dropping in our zones."
SEE YA, SCHOONER: Though the Sooner Schooner will not be inside Pro Player Stadium tonight because of Bowl Championship Series regulations barring live animals, Oklahoma's covered wagon will be at the game. "Circling around the stadium," OU athletic director Joe Catiglione said.