MIAMI — COACH Bobby Bowden and Florida State won their first national championship Sunday, finishing No. 1 in the Associated Press college football poll after beating Nebraska 18-16 in the Orange Bowl.
Polls are used to determine the national collegiate football championship because there is no playoff system.
The Seminoles, who came close to winning the poll in each of the last six seasons, retained their top ranking when Nebraska's Byron Bennett missed a 45-yard field goal on the final play Saturday night.
Florida State (12-1) easily beat out No. 2 Notre Dame (11-1) for the title, even though the Fighting Irish handed the Seminoles their only defeat, 31-24, at South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 13.
The Seminoles received 46 of 62 first-place votes and 1,532 points in voting by a nationwide panel of writers and broadcasters. Notre Dame, which moved up from No. 4, got 12 first-place votes and 1,478 points after beating Texas A&M 24-21 in the Cotton Bowl.
Bowden said Florida State deserved the national title despite its loss to Notre Dame.
``I think that the national champion should be based on the whole season and not just one game,'' he said.
However, Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said his team should get the edge over Florida State because of its head-to-head win.
Nebraska (11-1) dropped one spot to No. 3. The other four first-place votes went to No. 4 Auburn (11-0), the only undefeated team in Division I-A. The Tigers, coached by Bowden's son Terry, were barred from postseason play because of NCAA probation.
The final USA Today-CNN coaches' poll, released Sunday, also named Florida State No. 1.
West Virginia (11-1) fell from No. 3 to No. 7 in the AP poll following a 41-7 loss to Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The victory moved the Gators (11-2) up three spots to No. 5.
Wisconsin (10-1-1) jumped three notches to No. 6 with a 21-16 victory over UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
Rounding out the Top 10 were Penn State (10-2), Texas A&M (10-2), and Arizona (10-2).
Penn State climbed five places after toppling Tennessee 31-13 in the Citrus Bowl, while Arizona rose six spots after blanking Miami 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl.