December 30, 1998 - by
sports_m-footbl_spec-rel_123098aab



Bobby Bowden and FSU are
favored to win the big game.


No. 1 Tennessee Still an Underdog


The Seminoles are favored for legitimate reason.

December 29, 1998


By RICHARD ROSENBLATT


AP Football Writer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Even with a perfect record and No. 1 ranking,
Tennessee still hasn’t received the national championship seal of approval from
the betting public.

The Volunteers have gone from 3 1/2- to 5 1/2-point underdogs against No. 2
Florida State in Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl, and the players are using the
skepticism to motivate them even more.

“We’ve been underdogs all year,” Vols All-American linebacker Al 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.

First, there’s coach Bobby Bowden’s 14-1-1 record in Florida State’s last 16
bowl games.

Then there’s the Seminoles’ title-game atmosphere experience to go along
with the team’s top-ranked defense.

And the Vols may have had too many close calls to earn the favorite’s role,
including tough wins over Syracuse, Florida and Arkansas and a tough 24-14
victory over Mississippi State in the SEC title game.

“We’ve been underdogs in all our big games this year, so it really doesn’t
surprise me,” wide receiver Peerless Price said. “It’s just another hurdle we
have to jump.”

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
52-20).

“We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t care,” Bowden said.

Tennessee does.

“That has made us a little upset,” Vols 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.”

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