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DEJA VU ON THE BAYOU: FLORIDA ST., FLORIDA CLASH : TODAY'S BOWL GAME FLORIDA STATE (11-0) VS. FLORIDA (11-1) AT NEW ORLEANS, 5 P.M., CHANNEL 7.

Byline: Richard Rosenblatt Associated Press

Florida gets another shot at the national title in tonight's Sugar Bowl, and all the Gators have to do this time is beat their biggest rival and the only team to defeat them this season - No. 1 Florida State.

The third-ranked Gators (11-1) received the help they desperately needed Wednesday when No. 4 Ohio State beat No. 2 Arizona State 20-17 in the Rose Bowl. The result left the Seminoles (11-0) as the nation's only unbeaten team and stamped the Sugar Bowl as a true national-title game.

So forget the rematch, forget the revenge, forget the late-hit controversy fueled all week by Gators coach Steve Spurrier. It's title time on the bayou, Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel vs. All-American ends Peter Boulware and Reinard Wilson.

``This is the national-championship game,'' Boulware said. ``This is for all the marbles. People make a big deal out of us playing Florida again. We've got to win this game to win the national championship.''

A Florida win would leave each of the top five teams with one loss. But the Gators have a commanding 85-point lead over the Buckeyes and would likely be No. 1 by winning the Sugar Bowl. BYU (14-1) is ranked fifth and trails the Gators by 217 points.

What the Rose Bowl outcome does is put the Seminoles in a situation coach Bobby Bowden hoped to avoid - giving Florida a chance to avenge two losses with one win. There's the 24-21 loss Nov. 30 to Florida State and last year's 62-24 whipping by Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl title game.

``I don't want to play a team again that we beat because I'm afraid they'll beat us,'' Bowden said, adding it was easier to prepare for Florida in the 1995 Sugar Bowl because the teams tied in the regular season.

``So now they have the incentive of we beat them last time and they can pay us back. And we simply have to go out and do it again, and I think that's a little bit harder.''

Florida finished its final walk-through at the Superdome during halftime of the Rose Bowl and moved into a hotel outside the city.

At the Sugar Bowl headquarters hotel, Gators fans streamed into the hallways when Ohio State sealed its victory, filling the Hyatt Regency with their cheers. At the team hotel in Gonzalez, La., a desk clerk reported hearing cheers when the game ended.

Spurrier told school officials he wouldn't comment on the Rose Bowl result.

``What happens out there has no bearing on how we play,'' Spurrier said earlier in the day when the coaches shook hands and posed alongside national-championship and Sugar Bowl trophies. ``We should be ready to play as hard and as well as we possibly can, regardless of that game. We've got no excuses. If we get beat we have no excuses. If we get beat you can all blame me.''

Bowden had plenty to say after the Rose Bowl.

``Arizona State's loss solved any potential debate of two undefeated teams and which ones should be the champions,'' Bowden said. ``The Rose Bowl's outcome means the Sugar Bowl truly is for the national championship. If a vote was taken tonight, I assume we would be No. 1 and Florida No. 2.''

The Gators and Seminoles have been going at each other for decades, but just 33 days after playing the 40th and biggest game of the series, this one tops them all.

For the 11th time, teams that played in the regular season will meet in a bowl game. There have been four sweeps, and the two times No. 1 teams were involved in rematches - Michigan State in 1965 and Ohio State in 1975 - they both lost.

While the Gators are looking for their first title, the Seminoles are shooting for their second in the last four years.

``This year has been a great run and hopefully we can make it one more game,'' said FSU's running back Warrick Dunn, who had a career-best 185 yards against Florida last month.

AP Rankings-Florida State No. 1; Florida No. 3

Bowl Records-Florida State 18-7; Florida 10-13

Series Record-Florida leads 24-14-2

Last Meeting-The Seminoles defeated the Gators in Tallahassee 24-21.

Coaches-Steve Spurrier's seventh season at Florida (72-14-1), 10th overall (92-27-1); Bobby Bowden's 21st season at Florida State (197-49-4), 31st overall (269-81-4).

Players to watch-Florida State: RB Warrick Dunn has 1,179 yards rushing and averages 6.2 yards per rush. QB Thad Busby has thrown for 16 TDs and 1,866 yards. Wide receivers E.G Green and Andre Cooper have combined for 60 catches for 1,000 yards. Defensive ends Reinard Wilson and Peter Boulware have been nearly unstoppable. MLB Daryl Bush is team's top tackler and S Devin Smith anchors the secondary as the Seminoles allowed just 11.1 points per game. Both Wilson and Boulware are All-Americans. Florida: QB Danny Wuerffel is the second-rated passer in the nation (176.0) with 39 TD passes and 3,625 yards. WR Reidel Anthony has 72 catches for 1,293 yards and is an All-American. WR Ike Hilliard has 47 receptions. TB Elijah Williams and TB Fred Taylor are averaging 6 yards per carry. S Lawrence Wright (76 tackles) and CB Anthone Lott (three interceptions) lead a secondary that hits hard and makes big plays. LB James Bates anchors an athletic and quick front seven with 135 tackles.

Keys to Victory-Florida State: The Seminoles will not change much from the first game. They will look to put as much pressure as possible on Wuerffel and keep from allowing the big play. Last time, Florida concentrated all its attention on Wilson and Boulware and the Seminoles tackles were all over Wuerffel. Florida: The Gators have to slow down Dunn, who carried the Florida State offense in the first meeting. Look for Florida to play Wright close to the line. Busby was just adequate in the first meeting and the Gators will want to see if he can beat them in the biggest game of his life.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 2, 1997
Words:1018
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