Consider this scenario: A No. 2 Florida State

By Richard Rosenblatt Associated Press Published:

Consider this scenario:

A No. 2 Florida State beats a No. 1 Tennessee in a poorly played game that features little scoring. The result leaves all the top teams with a loss, but the Seminoles are assured of a national title because the coaches agreed to automatically crown the Fiesta winner its champion.

Three nights earlier, though, a No. 3 Ohio State routs a No. 8 Texas A&M 49-3 and coach John Cooper starts stumping for votes, claiming his Buckeyes should share the national title by finishing No. 1 in The Associated Press' media poll.

A loss by the Vols would free up all 70 first-place votes in the AP poll, and when the final results are released on Jan. 5, can anyone be certain Florida State will be the clear-cut champion?

On Sunday, when his third-ranked Buckeyes (10-1) were matched against the Aggies (11-2) in the Sugar, Cooper planted a seed.

"We're happy to be in the Sugar Bowl, but I think we can make an argument that we're one of the top two," Cooper said. "We were No. 1 for nine straight weeks. It's difficult to run the table to go undefeated. The day we got beat, we did not play our best game.

"You stub your toe one time, you've got to be a great team to get a chance to come back."

Ohio State was beaten 28-24 by unranked Michigan State on Nov. 7, while Florida State lost to unranked North Carolina State 24-7 on Sept. 12.

Last season, Michigan was No. 1 in both polls entering the bowls. The Wolverines won a close Rose Bowl, while a No. 2 Nebraska beat Tennessee in the Orange Bowl in coach Tom Osborne's final game. When the final polls came out, Michigan was the AP national champion, Nebraska the coaches' champion, marking the third time in the 1990s there were co-champions.

It might happen again.

After Saturday's wild, woolly and wacky results saw both Kansas State and UCLA lose perfect seasons and chances to play in the Fiesta Bowl, the two other BCS pairings matched No. 6 UCLA (10-1) vs. No. 9 Wisconsin (10-1) in the Rose Bowl and No. 7 Florida (9-2) vs. No. 18 Syracuse (8-3) in the Orange Bowl.

Kansas State (11-1), ranked third in the final BCS standings, was left out of the $12 million per team payout a BCS game carries, and toppled down to the Alamo Bowl against unranked Purdue (8-4).

"How can we go from being one point away, one play away from playing Tennessee for the national championship to playing Purdue in the Alamo Bowl?" Kansas State president Jon Wefald wondered. "We should be in a BCS bowl."

K-State couldn't even get into the Big 12's more lucrative bowl games because Texas (8-3) had the Cotton Bowl locked up and Nebraska (9-3) had already been invited to the Holiday Bowl.

For now, though, the big game will be Florida State vs. Tennessee _ only the second time the teams have met (Florida State won 10-0 in 1958).

"It looks like a situation where Tennessee came in through the front door and we kind of feel like we came in through the back door," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said. "But now we're going to face off in the middle of the room and it's going to be a heck of a shootout."

Saturday's shootouts set up Sunday's bowl picture. Miami's 49-45 of UCLA knocked the Bruins out of title picture, while Texas A&M upset Kansas State 36-33 in double overtime to win the Big 12 title and gain an automatic spot in a BCS game.

Tennessee was the only team to remain perfect when it came through with a 24-14 win over Mississippi State in the SEC title game.

In the final BCS standings, which uses a complicated formula of polls, computers and strength-of-schedule, the Vols and Seminoles came out a clear 1-2

Tennessee finished with 3.47 points _ 1 point for poll average, 1.67 points for computer ranking, 0.80 for the 20th-toughest schedule and zero points for losses.

Florida State, in fourth place last week, jumped ahead of UCLA and Kansas State with 4.91 points _ 2 points for poll average, 1.75 for computer ranking, 0.16 for the fourth-toughest schedule and 1 for a loss.

Kansas State was a distant third, with 9.96 points _ 4 for poll average, 3.00 for computer ranking, 1.96 for the 49th-toughest schedule and 1 for a loss.

Ohio State was fourth with 10.37 points and UCLA was fifth with 10.90 points.

"I feel we arrived at two tremendously qualified teams to be ranked 1-2," BCS chairman Roy Kramer said. "They deserved to be there based on all the criteria. We want to create 1 vs. 2 The others are up to the individual bowls."

The Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., was the site of the last 1-2 matchup in a postseason game. In the '96 Fiesta, a No. 1 Nebraska won the national title with a 62-24 rout of a No. 2 Florida. It also marks the 12th time No. 1 will play No. 2 in a bowl game. Top-ranked teams have won six times.

"We have been a resilient team all season and we've found a way to get it done," Vols coach Phillip Fulmer said. "We've been on the edge of playing in a national championship game, and now we have a chance to do it."

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