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A look ahead

Expect changes in BCS format, Sooners' lineup

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Posted: Thursday January 04, 2001 4:04 PM
Updated: Thursday January 04, 2001 4:10 PM

  Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops (right) along with quarterback Josh Heupel (left) and linebacker Torrance Marshall talk to the media. AP

MIAMI (AP) -- In the end, the Bowl Championship Series worked again.

That makes the BCS 3-for-3 in staging a national title game that produced an undisputed champion. Controversy, though, is always close by.

The way No. 1 Oklahoma dominated No. 5 Florida State in Wednesday night's 13-2 victory in the Orange Bowl, even Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden wondered if the Sooners (13-0) played the right team.

"When I look at it now, I think it should have been Miami and Oklahoma," Bowden said.

It could have been. Oklahoma, Miami and Florida State finished 1-2-3 in the final regular-season AP poll and the coaches poll, but the BCS standings matched the Seminoles against the Sooners primarily because of a higher computer ranking. So what if Miami beat Florida State during the season, the computer said.

Now, BCS chairman John Swofford says a tweaking of the system is up for discussion. He touched on two points of concern -- trying to lessen the importance of margin of victory and increasing the value of head-to-head matchups.

As the season came down to its final few weeks, Florida State and Miami were in a close points race to finish second in the BCS standings as long as first-place Oklahoma kept winning.

Even though Miami defeated Florida State 27-24 on Oct. 7, the Seminoles moved ahead of the Hurricanes in the BCS standings with the help of a 54-7 rout of highly-ranked Clemson in early November.

Swofford said there are possible "sportsmanship issues" with running up scores and the commissioners of the six conferences that make up the BCS might ask the eight computer rankings not to give extra credit for blowouts. Of those eight, six have a cap of 21-28 points; one has no value for margin of victory; and the other has a limitless bonus for routs.

"I would be for telling the computer partners, 'This is the way it is or you can't be a part of the BCS formula,'" Swofford said.

Also, Swofford said, the BCS might change the way the at-large berths are granted so deserving teams aren't passed over by a lower-rated team.

This year's example would be Notre Dame's selection over a higher-ranked Virginia Tech to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon State easily beat Notre Dame 41-9 on Jan. 1.

On Thursday, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops accepted national championship trophies for finishing a unanimous No. 1 in the AP media poll and the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.

His underdogs Sooners completed a perfect season with a nearly perfect game plan to shut down the high-flying Seminoles, who went into the game as 10 1/2-point favorites.

"It was an excellent all-around team effort, but one expected by us," Stoops said. "We respect everybody but are not intimidated by anybody."

Oklahoma's defense, anchored by All-American linebacker Rocky Calmus and Orange Bowl MVP Torrance Marshall, forced 10 Florida State punts and allowed the Seminoles to convert only one of 15 third-down plays. With Josh Heupel directing the offense, OU had the ball for more than 36 minutes to just 23 minutes for Florida State.

The Seminoles came into the game leading the country with 549 yards per game and averaging 42.4 points. They had 301 yards and 2 points against the Sooners. Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke was 25 of 51 for 274 yards and two interceptions; Travis Minor and Weinke combined for 17 carries and 27 yards.

"The defense was probably the best I have ever been associated with," said Stoops, Florida's defensive coordinator the year the Gators beat the Seminoles 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl to win the '96 title. "Our co-coordinators, my brother Mike and Brent Venables, had a magnificent plan and it was executed exceptionally."

In just two years, Stoops has returned that championship feeling the Sooners were lacking since the glory days under Barry Switzer and Bud Wilkinson. Each coached three national championship teams and each won consecutive titles; Switzer in 1974-75, Wilkinson in 1955-56.

Now the 40-year-old Stoops has a chance, and he knows Sooner fans expect nothing less.

"I've said for two years that I wanted expectations to rise, that we should expect to win and compete for championships," Stoops said. "So I welcome that, and certainly that's what we're going to push for every year."

While 23 freshmen and sophomores dot the depth chart, the Sooners must replace Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel at quarterback and Marshall at linebacker.

No matter who steps in, Bowden sounded a warning about the Sooners.

"They are a better team then I thought they were. They were for real," he said. "Bob Stoops was saying it all week, but we all assumed -- I assumed -- that the Big 12 wasn't that good."

Florida State (11-2) fell to 1-3 in title games over the last five seasons and had its worst AP poll finish in 14 years.

"I can't feel like fifth is the end of the dynasty," Bowden said. "It's like they say about freedom -- you have to defend it every year. We've got to defend the dynasty thing. There'll be some hard work to do next year."

Related information
SI's Tim Layden: Musings on a season
Oklahoma smothers FSU for 7th national title
Final Top 25 polls: Coaches | Media
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