By BRIAN LANDMAN and BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 3, 2001
EDGE TO: FSU. Oklahoma senior Josh Heupel, the AP player of the year and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, completed 280 of 433 passes for 3,392 yards and 20 touchdowns and added 144 yards rushing and seven more touchdowns. But he threw 14 interceptions and struggled down the stretch. Yet the left-hander is remarkably accurate (.632 for his career) and poised, reminding some of former FSU-killer, Danny Wuerffel. FSU's Chris Weinke, the Heisman winner, completed 266 of 431 for 4,167 yards and 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He played the second half of the season on a sprained left foot and beat Florida a day after he was hospitalized.
EDGE TO: Oklahoma. OU's Quentin Griffin rushed for 783 yards and 16 touchdowns, giving the Sooners balance and a reason to believe Josh Heupel might not throw. But OU is better by default, because of all the injuries in the FSU backfield. Travis Minor had 5.1 yards a carry, but depth at tailback and fullback has been depleted.
EDGE TO: FSU. FSU lost All-American and Biletnikoff finalist Marvin Minnis (63 catches, 1,340 yards, 11 touchdowns) to academic ineligibility. But the Seminoles still boast standouts such as sophomore Anquan Boldin (41 catches, 664 yards, six touchdowns) and juniors Atrews Bell (37 catches, 675 yards, 10 touchdowns), Javon Walker (20 catches, 313 yards, three touchdowns) and Robert Morgan (19 catches, 366 yards, three touchdowns). They need Bell (hamstring) and Morgan (broken toe) to be healthy. OU has a strong, less-heralded group, led by sophomores Antwone Savage (48 catches, 598 yards, three touchdowns), Curtis Fagan (40 catches, 567 yards, seven touchdowns) and Andre Woolfolk (39 catches, 573 yards, five touchdowns).
EDGE TO: FSU. You'd never know the Seminoles lost three standout linemen, Ross Brannon and Jerry Carmichael before the season and Tarlos Thomas, named the ACC's top blocker, midway through the season. Tackles Char-ron Dorsey and Brett Williams, guards Justin Amman and Montrae Holland and center Jarad Moon have used their size (average: nearly 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds) and quickness to pave the way for the nation's top-ranked offense (549 yards) and No. 3 scoring offense (42.4 points). OU's line isn't nearly as big average: about 6-31/2, 289), but tackles Frank Romero and Scott Kempenich, guards Howard Duncan and Mike Skinner and center Bubba Burcham have done a solid job protecting Heupel and spearheading a high-powered attack (429.2 yards and 39 points).
EDGE TO: FSU. FSU end Jamal Reynolds (12 sacks), a first-team All-American and Lombardi winner, has been doubled much of the season, which has helped fellow senior end David Warren live up to expectations (eight sacks, 12 hurries, four forced fumbles). The key for FSU has been the strong play of the tackles, especially freshman Darnell Dockett. He was moved inside from end for the season opener and blossomed (team-high 18 tackles for loss, seven sacks, 16 hurries). OU senior tackles Ryan Fisher (five sacks) and Ramon Richardson (seven tackles for loss, four sacks, 13 hurries) and senior end Corey Callens (seven tackles for loss, five sacks) anchor a line that hasn't received notoriety or acclaim. Only Fisher earned first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors.
EDGE TO: Oklahoma. OU linebacker Rocky Calmus made 122 tackles and broke Brian Bosworth's school record for tackles for loss. With Torrance Marshall, Calmus has been used in blitz packages all season. They have been the key element in ranking seventh in scoring defense nationally. FSU's Tommy Polley, Bradley Jennings and Brian Allen each had more than 100 tackles. Edge: Oklahoma.
EDGE TO: FSU. The Seminoles boast a veteran secondary of senior corners Tay Cody (six interceptions, 12 passes broken up, 82 tackles) and Clevan Thomas, senior safety Derrick Gibson (71 tackles, seven passes broken up) and junior Chris Hope (83 tackles, eight passes broken up). All four started in last year's Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. Gibson could be a first-round NFL draft pick and Cody also could be picked. Hope is contemplating early departure. Meanwhile, OU senior safety J.T. Thatcher, a first-team All-America (Football News and The Sporting News) has eight interceptions and has broken up 16 passes. Sophomore Roy Williams is steady and, like Thatcher, was first-team all-conference. The potential problem rests with the young corners, redshirt freshman Derrick Strait and sophomore Michael Thompson.
EDGE TO: Oklahoma. OU's Tim Duncan was 2-for-6 from 40 yards and beyond, but he made a 46-yarder in the fourth quarter of the Big 12 title game against Kansas State. He was 13-for-21 overall. The last thing the Seminoles want is for the game to come down to a kick. They made 14 of their 24 field-goal attempts all season, with Brett Cimorelli emerging from three who have tried.
EDGE TO: FSU. Oklahoma's second-year coach Bob Stoops, the former defensive coordinator at Florida when it beat FSU for the 1996 national title, has restored the luster to a Sooner program that had fallen from college football's elite more than a decade ago. He was a consensus choice as coach of the year. But Bowden is one of the most successful coaches in Division I-A history, fourth with 315 wins, and has a 17-5-1 bowl record; 16-4-1 in his 25 years at FSU. His team has extended its record for 10-win seasons to 14. And a title game is nothing new for him. The Seminoles, in the BCS finale for the third consecutive year and in their fifth title game in eight years, are trying to become the first champion to repeat in more than two decades.
EDGE TO: Oklahoma. The Sooners have had more than four weeks since their last game, but the Seminoles have gone more than six weeks since defeating Florida on Nov. 18. At the time, FSU was hot. How much have the Seminoles cooled? Will they regain their timing? The Sooners face the same concerns, but the time off could have been put to good use to fix offensive woes that cropped up in the past three games and install some trickery for FSU. Edge: Oklahoma.
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