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Sunshine State basking in BCS possibilities

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© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000

TALLAHASSEE -- It's got to be a sunshine lock: A Florida school will be in the Jan. 3 national championship game. But why can't our state go hoggy, snagging both roles in college football's No. 1 passion play?

Odds against, maybe 8 to 1.

What if Nebraska, in a Big 12 rematch, becomes a conference playoff pain for Oklahoma? Depending on BCS witchcraft, I could see computer bypass surgery being performed on both the Cornhuskers and Sooners.

Are you with me?

Next weekend, Florida State is scheduled to inflict its annual humiliation on Wake Forest. Meanwhile, in Gainesville, if the Florida Gators do away with South Carolina, my BCS scenario could see the FSU-UF winner of Nov. 18 in an eventual pairing with Miami for the Sears Trophy.

I'm not regionally nuts.

There is much other business to be handled, but after the exploits of Saturday, I see just five schools with legitimate shots at playing for No. 1. Three from Florida along with Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Clemson is cooked.

Virginia Tech finished.

Oregon? O-State? Washington?


Even with all the Bowden-on-Bowden coaching mustard, it was Seminoles heroic status quo in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Nine seasons a member, FSU is yet to finish as low as second place.

Going into a new century, the ACC is still FSU and the Eight Runts. So rarely threatened, the 'Noles are never outdone. Someday perhaps Tommy Bowden and Clemson will catch up to Bobby Bowden at Florida State, but will it be before Daddy turns 100?

Lucky for Eight, basketball's coming.

Now that Michael Vick has hobbled out of Heisman Trophy contention, it should be a duel between two other quarterbacks, Josh Heupel of Oklahoma and Florida State's wondrous graybeard, Chris Weinke.

Stock is smoking for the FSU fellow. In a 'Noles history rich with bountiful passers, nobody has gained as many air yards in a season as Weinke. He gets better with rising age. Games with 300 yards are now so-so Saturdays for Chris. He's into 400-plus, with a career-best 536 flurry against defenseless Duke. He had 521 against Clemson. Now, his ultimate play

In FSU's squashing of Clemson, the 'Noles executed a beauty we will repeatedly see in network TV highlights packages, not just today but maybe for years.

In this swatch of Weinke artistry, Clemson played dual parts, one heroic and then that of a pitiful sucker. Jamie Somaini of the Tigers hit the punt of his life, a driving spiral that soared, then bounced, then died at the 'Noles 2. Seventy-four yarder.

Now, the rest of the story

On first down, his fanny scraping the goal line, Weinke made an adroit, David Copperfield-style fake. Making it appear to all of Clemsonville that running back Jeff Chaney had taken a handoff before running off left guard.

But with extraordinary sleight of hand, the 28-year-old senior had retained the football, hiding it beautifully until Marvin "Snoop" Minnis could break free behind Clemson's secondary.

Tigers safety Charles Hafley bit hard, then got smoked by Minnis. Weinke delivered a precise bazooka, hitting Minnis on what became a 98-yard touchdown.

Briefly, it had seemed Clemson might challenge. Not for long. One more conference trophy coming for the Seminoles, who have bigger and shinier hardware in mind.

Back-to-back national championships are a sizzling FSU possibility, depending on Nebraska-Oklahoma and Miami's ever-changing BCS status and other No. 1 funks.

Sadly, we have no big-time NCAA playoffs, leaving this complex, unsatisfactory mess called the BCS -- which, to me, means "Bad College System" -- but let's cling to hope the two most deserving institutions wind up playing for the championship.

Ego is unquestionably a whopping part of the appeal of high-voltage athletics. Fans adore the bragging shout, "We're No. 1." My neighbors, don't ever take it for granted. Bathe in it.

Think how we Floridians might feel if such a sizzling big-media spotlight were so endlessly on hot schools from California, Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan or Ohio.

Oh, about playoffs ...

If the public and media were polled, I'm betting there'd be a massive plurality of 75-percent-plus in favor of a major NCAA football tournament that could be a 16-team or eight-school version of basketball's March Madness.

It won't happen as long as commissioners of five major conferences are in control. This is their personal ego trip. I see it as old guys robbing college kids.

One thing can change it: a demand from all TV networks involved, including heavier money, for the NCAA majors to flush the BCS system and go for playoffs.

Oh, I do fantasize.

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