Dynasties past and present meet
Updated: Monday January 01, 2001 7:23 PM
By Stewart Mandel, CNNSI.com
MIAMI -- Florida State has one and would like to keep it going. Oklahoma has had several before and would like to start a new one.
We're talking college football dynasties here, like the one going on 14 years in Tallahassee, all top four finishes in the rankings. Or the one at OU that won 47 games in a row under Bud Wilkinson in the 1950s, or under Barry Switzer that netted the '76 and '85 national titles.
When the two programs square off in Wednesday's Orange Bowl, FSU will be looking to add the latest chapter to the long book of success written by coach Bobby Bowden; OU, in only Bob Stoops' second season, could finish 13-0 and plant the seeds for a budding Big 12 juggernaut.
"They used to win a lot of games around here," said OU fullback Seth Littrell, whose father Jim won two national titles with the Sooners in the '70s. "This year, at the start of the year we made a goal for this team to become one of the top ones in the country. We're looking at this game as a chance to change our program around a little bit."
"Bob has done a lot better than I did," said FSU architect Bobby Bowden. "He does it in two years ... meanwhile, the old man coached 45 years before he gets an undefeated season."
That's because more and more teams are rising from the pack to claim breakthrough seasons like Fiesta Bowl participant Oregon State, which claimed its first 10-win season this year. But that very same parity across college football has prevented most from achieving sustained runs of dominance. Even traditional powerhouses like Notre Dame, USC, Penn State and Alabama are being bit by spells of mediocrity to which they've not previously accustomed.
Which makes it all the more astounding how the FSU express keeps right on rolling. Not scholarship reduction nor player or coach defection, nor the rise or re-emergence in strength of rivals Florida and Miami have been able to slow down the Seminoles.
"With parity these days, I don't know how we've been as fortunate as we have been," said Bowden. "If you look especially at the last four years or so, what we've been able to do has probably been harder than it was 50 years ago. Back then, a team like Alabama, they wouldn't just get their own players, they'd get yours too. Now with less scholarships, parity is more obvious these days."
But don't go trying out that parity excuse on Sooners fans, who just suffered from a more than decade-long exile from the nation's elite. The bar has been set for a return to old expectations, and Stoops has embraced the idea of once again making the Sooners a regular national contender.
He has the physical evidence to suggest he could. Next year's team does lose star Josh Heupel, but only 12 of 44 on the entire two-deep are leaving after this season. And OU is attracting higher caliber recruits than ever before, including current freshman RB Renaldo Works and incoming Louisiana QB Brent Rawls.
But he can brace for the wrath if the Sooners go "only" 9-3 next year.
"Hey, I'll be mad too," Stoops said.
If OU indeed wants to become the next Florida State, the secret, according to Bowden, may not have anything to do with quarterbacks or linebackers.
"I've been able to keep the staff together," said the FSU coach of 25 years. "We've had some guys get offered some pretty good jobs and turn them down. Chuck [Amato], when he went to N.C. State, he thought a long time about it. [New Georgia coach Mark Richt] thought a long time about it. That's because they know what great stability we have here."
Such staff retention may be more difficult for Stoops considering the youth of his assistants, many of whom are already considered hot head coaching material. Co-defensive coordinators Mike Stoops and Brent Venables are 38 and 30 respectively. Steve Spurrier Jr., only 29, is sure to attract attention on name recognition alone. The same could be said for former college stars Chuck Long and Cale Gundy.
But perhaps the biggest obstacle facing an aspiring dynasty like Oklahoma's is its Big 12 competition.
Nebraska just wrapped up its 32nd straight nine-win-or-better season. Mack Brown has Texas rising. Kansas State isn't going away any time soon.
Since joining the ACC, meanwhile, Florida State has usually faced insignificant challenges outside its rivalry dates with Miami and Florida. Expect even that to change, in the form of rising programs at Clemson (under a Bowden, Tommy), N.C. State (under Amato) and Georgia Tech.
"The SEC, along with the Big 12, plays a championship game and having to beat a team for a second time is difficult to do," said Stoops. "So our road to this game is a little tougher than most."
Hard as it may be for OU to string together championships, not even the Florida State can realistically expect to keep showing up in the BCS title game every year. Among the hurdles on the near horizon: The loss of Heisman winner Chris Weinke and 13 other starters next season, the addition of a 12th game to all teams' schedules in 2002 (for FSU, the new opponent is Notre Dame) and the fact that the BCS computer so kind to the 'Noles this season could just as easily backfire on them next time.
All the more reason to appreciate what's taking place right now.
"It's pretty amazing what this senior class has been able to do," said junior FSU safety Chris Hope. "The only thing that could beat it is if my class of '98 can go to the Rose Bowl."
Like there's any other option.