While the intangibles and a matched set of defenses could make this game the most competitive in the bowl lineup, Nebraska's rushing attack should give Osborne his fifth bowl victory in the last seven seasons. The Huskers have run for 35 touchdowns and rank third in the nation with 345.1 yards a game on the ground. And if Nebraska can't move the ball with basic stuff it isn't loath to resort to trickery, such as the "guard-around" on which Randy Schleusener scooped up a "fumble" and scored from 15 yards out against Oklahoma. But Quarterback Jeff Quinn will more often call upon Jarvis Redwine. The transfer from Oregon State rushed for 1,042 yards and relegated I.M. Hipp to second string this season.
Houston also relies on its running game. The Cougars' veer ranked seventh nationally, with 296.1 yards a game, and piled up 29 touchdowns. Quarterback Delrick Brown's prime mover is Terald Clark, a 5'9", 196-pound junior who gained 1,063 yards.
The Cougars play tougher as the game goes on. In fourth quarters this season, Houston rallied to win six times and outscored the opposition 102-24. If the Cougars can somehow hold the Huskers at bay for the first three quarters, this year's fourth could be a big one—not a bad one—for Houston.
Florida State (11-0) vs. Oklahoma (10-1)
Shortly after his Florida State team had beaten archrival Florida to close out the regular season with a perfect record, Seminole Coach Bobby Bowden was asked who should be voted the No. I team in the nation. A deeply religious man, Bowden answered with a parable: "People ask us: 'Do you have the best defense in the nation?' Nope, not close. 'The best offense?' Nope, not close. 'How about your record?' Well, yeah, we're pretty close there."
But probably only until New Year's night, because the surprising Seminoles, in their first major bowl game, will be facing perennial postseason-invitee Oklahoma, which ranks second in the nation in scoring with 34.7 points per game, and a healthy and fired-up Billy Sims. The 1978 Heisman winner needs 187 yards to become the 10th NCAA player to rush for 4,000 career yards. Sims means to do it. In the Sooners' final two regular-season games, against the staunch defenses of Missouri and Nebraska, he gained a dazzling 529 yards.
Given Oklahoma's formidable offense, Bowden can thank the Lord for his 6'1", 238-pound All-America nose guard, Ron Simmons. Quick as a cornerback and strong as The Hulk, Simmons leads Florida State in bench-pressing (530 pounds) and tackles for losses (17), despite almost always being double-teamed. Yet he is the quiet sort who does not seek the limelight. "Strength can only get you so far," he says. "Then it's all up there." He points to his head, securely anchored to his 19½-inch neck.
On offense, Florida State will counter Oklahoma's ground game with the passing of interchangeable quarterbacks Wally Woodham and Jimmy Jordan. Between them they have completed 167 passes—more than twice as many as Oklahoma has attempted—for 17 TDs.
Bowden says with a grin that "the only way we can win the national championship is by an act of God...and, of course, I talk to Him every day." If Simmons can force the Sooners to bobble the ball—Oklahoma lost 36 fumbles this season—while the Seminole offense hits a bomb or two, a miracle could happen.