December 30, 1998
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Tennessee is looking forward to proving its critics
wrong – and winning the national championship, too.
The Volunteers may have a perfect record and No. 1 ranking entering Monday
night’s Fiesta Bowl against No. 2 Florida State, but it’s the Seminoles who are
Since the bowl pairings were announced on Dec. 6, the Vols have gone from 3-
to 5 1/2-point underdogs. And not everyone is happy about it.
“That has made us a little upset,” Tennessee wide receiver Jermaine
Copeland said. “We’re the ones undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Everybody is doubting, which has pumped us up. We have a lot to prove.”
All-American linebacker Al Wilson agrees.
“We’ve been underdogs all year,” Wilson said. “That’s kind of the motto
going around this team: Tennessee doesn’t get the job done, they’re not a good
football team. It’s just one more challenge for us to prove to everybody that
we can be one of the elite teams in college football.”
There are several reasons oddsmakers are favoring the once-beaten Seminoles.
– Coach Bobby Bowden’s 14-1-1 record in Florida State’s last 16 bowl games.
– The Seminoles have title-game experience to go along with the nation’s
– Tennessee may have had too many close calls to earn the favorite’s role,
including narrow escapes against Syracuse, Florida and Arkansas and a 24-14
victory over Mississippi State in the SEC title game.
The Vols were an even pick in the season-opener at Syracuse, 3-point
underdogs at home against Florida and 2 1/2-point underdogs at Georgia. They beat
Syracuse 34-33, the Gators 20-17 in overtime and the Bulldogs 22-3.
Florida State, meanwhile, has been favored in all its games the past three
years except one – the rematch with Florida in the ’97 Sugar Bowl (Florida won
NOSEGUARD OUT OF FIESTA: Florida State’s top-ranked defense will be without
noseguard Larry Smith for Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl against No. 1 Tennessee.
Smith, a 6-foot-5, 288-pound junior, sprained his right knee on Tuesday
during the Seminoles’ first workout in Phoenix.
Billy Rhodes, a 6-1, 265-pound senior, will replace Smith. The second-ranked
Seminoles rotate linemen, so Rhodes with share time with All-American Corey
Simon and Jerry Johnson.
“There’s no way you can lose a player of that quality, just like when
Weinke went down, and it won’t affect you,” defensive coordinator Mickey
Andrews said, referring to quarterback Chris Weinke’s neck injury that
sidelined him late in the season. “We have three starters on the defensive
line, we lost one and we have two. The guy that takes his place is not as
physically talented as Larry, so he’s got to be a guy that somehow will play
hard enough that it will make a difference.”
Also, wide receiver Marvin Minnis damaged a ligament in his right thumb and
will wear a cast Monday night to protect the injury.
SUN DEVIL STADIUM SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED: Damage to the turf at Sun Devil
Stadium, the result of fans celebrating the Arizona Cardinals’
playoff-clinching win over San Diego on Sunday, wasn’t as bad as feared.
The stadium, the site of Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl between No. 1 Tennessee
and No. 2 Florida State, will need repairs totaling $30,000 – $5,000 to replace
about 1,000 square feet of ripped up turf and $25,000 for a replacement goal
“It wasn’t as bad as I expected,” athletic facilities supervisor Tom
Sadler said. “By midweek everything will be ready. Our guys will just have to
burn the midnight oil. It’s not a problem for us to resod.”
John Junker, Fiesta Bowl executive director, wasn’t worried, either.
“We knew they’d be retouching it. We know we’ll have an excellent field,”
The first Fiesta Bowl-related event is set for Thursday, when the teams show
up for media day.
GUEST LIST: Among those who attended Florida State’s practice on Tuesday
were Terry Bowden, former Auburn coach and son of Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden,
and Charlie Ward, the Seminoles’ 1993 Heisman Trophy winner.
Terry Bowden, wearing a gray Auburn sweatsuit, talked about possibly working
as a college football TV analyst next season and even raised the possibility of
teaching a class at Auburn if he decided not to return to coaching.
Ward, who plays for the New York Knicks, arrived in town on Monday, and said
he was still hopeful an NBA season can be salvaged.