Another sweet matchup
State bragging rights, national title on the line at Sugar
Updated: Tuesday January 02, 2001 12:39 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Miami has it tough enough in the Sugar Bowl, facing in-state rival Florida for the first time since 1987.
The Hurricanes also might be coming into the game with a 23-point deficit if they want to win a share of the national championship.
As important as it is to beat the seventh-ranked Gators, Miami also probably needs to do it more impressively than Florida State did in a 30-7 win last month to convince voters to crown the Hurricanes the national champions.
That's because No. 2 Miami finished behind the Seminoles in the Bowl Championship Series standings, despite beating Florida State 27-24 on Oct. 7 and being ranked one spot ahead in the Associated Press poll. Florida State plays No. 1 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
"You could say if the BCS didn't exist there's a good chance we could be playing in the national championship game," Miami coach Butch Davis said.
It is conceivable that if the Seminoles beat the Sooners and the Hurricanes win the Sugar Bowl, the AP media poll could vote Miami No. 1 while the coaches poll would be obligated to crown the Seminoles champions.
But Florida coach Steve Spurrier said it shouldn't have come to that for the Hurricanes.
"I don't think the BCS is what it should be," Spurrier said. "If we had scored once more against FSU would that have put Miami into the championship? I don't know."
The seventh-ranked Gators (10-2) almost did. But on the game's last possession, quarterback Rex Grossman was unaware of the clock, and stood under center as it ran out with Florida on the Seminoles' 1.
The Sugar Bowl has no complaints with the matchup. After playing host to the national championship game last year, the Sugar Bowl was supposed to wait three years for another title game.
"We'll stick to the BCS rankings and let everyone else speculate on the other rankings," Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan said. "We think we have two outstanding teams, an exciting game, and Miami's numbers are very, very close to Oklahoma's in the BCS."
The Sugar Bowl has found ticket sales slow and national television ratings down in the past when they have not held the championship game. Hoolahan said he does not expect that to happen this year.
"It's a good matchup with two exciting teams," Hoolahan said. "And we're sitting there all alone on Jan. 2, so I think we'll not only see strong ticket sales, but good ratings as well."
Last year, the Sugar Bowl matched unbeatens Florida State against Virginia Tech, which were ranked 1-2 in both the AP and coaches' polls. The Seminoles won their second national title with a 46-29 victory.
Miami (10-1) and Florida (10-2) have not played each other since 1987, but once maintained a heated cross-state rivalry. The Big East champion Hurricanes and SEC champion Gators are scheduled to play again in 2002.
"The strong feelings between the team remain, but there's more than state pride on the line," Davis said. "It's a good opportunity to find out how far we've come," Davis said. "In the past we were just happy to get to a bowl game."