Fiesta Bowl Will Be a Battle of the Titans
BOSTON — CHRISTMAS will come late for college football fans this year. On Jan. 2, the wrappings come off the most dazzling game of the season: No. 1-ranked Nebraska vs. No. 2 Florida at the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
The dream matchup came about when Ohio State, the only other major college team that still had a chance at an undefeated season, lost its final game to Michigan. That let the Fiesta Bowl, with first choice of teams this year, pair up the top two.
These aren't your ordinary, everyday undefeated teams, either. Florida seemed to fly past its opponents on cruise control; its closest margin of victory was 11 points. But wait: Only one team came within two touchdowns of Nebraska's juggernaut.
Both squads kept scoreboards lighting up from the opening whistle, bringing on charges that they ran up scores to impress poll voters and boost their rankings. Florida's "Fun 'n' Gun" pass-oriented offense topped 60 points in two games and 40 or more in five others. Nebraska's run-oriented attack scored more than 70 points twice - and averaged 52 points per game, the best in the nation.
Both teams can play defense, too. Nebraska held its opponents to 78 rushing yards and 13.6 points per game, including two shutouts. Florida held six of its opponents to 10 points or less.
The teams feature outstanding quarterbacks who finished high in this year's voting for the Heisman Trophy, which honors the nation's best college player. Each sets the style of his team's offense. Though their approaches couldn't be more different, it's hard to say who has been most effective.
The Gators' junior quarterback Danny Wuerffel set a major college record for passing efficiency, a mark that had stood since Brigham Young's Jim McMahon set it in 1980. Wuerffel had a 65 percent completion average and tossed 35 touchdowns.
The Cornhuskers' senior All-American Tommie Frazier accounted for 31 touchdowns, passing for 17 and running for 14 more. Nebraska averaged a modest 156 yards per game through the air, using the pass sparingly to stretch defenses and make them more vulnerable to its high-powered triple-option running game.
Two of the most respected coaches in college football will roam the sidelines. Admirers of Florida's Steve Spurrier say he has designed the most awesome passing attack in the college ranks. They point to a midseason game when he was forced to use his backup quarterback - who still managed to throw for more than 400 yards in a lopsided win. Nebraska's 23-year-veteran Tom Osborne, meanwhile, has a 34-1 record over the last three seasons. He will be trying to help his team become the first back-to-back national champions since Alabama did it in 1978-79.
Will "Air" Wuerffel fly high or will the fleet-footed Frazier run rampant? Clear the calendar, heat up the cocoa, and pop some popcorn Jan. 2. That's when we'll all find out.