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Sugar bowl briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 28, 2000

UM coach has an MVP eye

NEW ORLEANS -- Miami wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson said Hurricanes receiver Santana Moss reminds him a lot of St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk, this season's NFL Most Valuable Player.

Johnson should know. He coached Faulk in college while an assistant at San Diego State. In fact, Johnson gets a lot of the credit for discovering Faulk.

Johnson, a New Orleans native, recruited Faulk at Carver High. Many recruiting experts pegged Faulk as a college defensive back; San Diego State was the only major school that told him he could play running back. The rest is history.

The two keep in touch. Johnson said he talked with Faulk before the Rams' game against the Saints on Sunday.

"He told me that if he had to, he was going to win the game all by himself," Johnson said.

Faulk was true to his word, rushing for 220 yards out of the team's 246 and two touchdowns in the Rams' 26-21 victory.

FUMING: After three weeks of being battered by media projections, the underdog Gators arrived harboring ill will toward a neighbor.

"We're definitely mad when we turn on the TV and everybody's talking about the University of Miami," redshirt freshman quarterback Rex Grossman said. "Miami needs to do this, and Miami needs to do that.

"We've got a little chip on our shoulders, but not too big of a chip. We're trying to get ourselves mentally prepared for this game, because it's going to be a 60-minute war."

The last time these teams played was in 1987, when Grossman was a second-grader in Bloomington, Ind., and Gators coach Steve Spurrier was in his first year as coach at Duke.

Now, 13 years later, Spurrier and Grossman are trying to deprive the second-ranked Hurricanes of a possible share of the national championship.

"We've already lost to Florida State (30-7), so we don't want to go 0-2 against in-state schools," Grossman said. "We want to prove that we're one of the best teams in the country, even though we've lost a couple of times.

"I think we've got a good game plan, and I'm comfortable we can move the ball against them. I like our chances with Coach Spurrier calling the game."

SPLIT BALLOT: Miami coach Butch Davis no sooner set foot on the ground at New Orleans International Airport on Tuesday than the question was asked: If you win and Oklahoma loses, should you be co-national champions with Florida State?

It's a question Davis will, no doubt, be asked all week.

Though Miami was second in both polls, the Hurricanes finished third in the BCS formula behind Oklahoma and FSU. Though the coaches' poll must name the winner of the Oklahoma-Florida State game its national champ, the Associated Press poll is not bound by the Orange Bowl outcome.

Davis was diplomatic.

"You can't predict how other people are going to vote and how people will see it," he said. "This football team, we've worked extremely hard to have a great season. We've won some big games. We've put ourselves in a position to have a great game on Jan. 2. And whatever will happen will happen. We have to make sure we take care of our business and try to win the game."

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