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Sugar Bowl's tale of two very different teams

The Sporting Scene

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When the Virginia Tech Hokies play the Florida State Seminoles tonight in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans to determine the college football national champion, intriguing angles will abound.

Most football experts believe that Florida State should win. However, an analysis of these angles points toward a game that may succeed in keeping weary football fans staring at their television sets deep into the night.

Intriguing angle No. 1: FSU coach Bobby Bowden vs. Tech coach Frank Beamer.

Bowden is a laughing, likable man who since taking the FSU job in 1976 - following a stretch when the team won just four of its previous 33 games - has become a national icon. This season was the fifth in the past 12 that his team was ranked No. 1 at the start of the year; it has played for the title three of the past four years; it has the best record among all major college football teams for the '90s.

And, armed with a new contract ($1.5 million a year) through 2004, it seems almost certain that Bowden will pass the late Alabama coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant, as the winningest college football coach in the game's history.

Yet, while Bowden is widely considered one of the best coaches this year or any year, it's also true that in playing for the title the two previous seasons, the Seminoles lost. They have won one title, in 1993. This puts Bowden at risk, according to some observers, of becoming known as a coach who stumbles in the big ones despite enormous talent on the field.

Asked earlier in the season if his team might be the best in the land, Bowden grumbled, "We're not playing like it."

Conversely, Hokie boss Beamer is far less known. But he has been in Blacksburg 13 years (88-59-2) and has lifted Tech to impressive heights - but never this height. The last time the Hokies failed to go a post-season bowl was 1992.

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