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Spurrier's take: At least, one will lose

Florida coach Steve Spurrier squirms a little at the thought of his two most bitter rivals _ Tennessee and Florida State _ playing for the national championship.

Where's the bright side?

"I guess the bad news is one of those two teams is going to be the national champion," Spurrier said. "The good news for Gators is that one of them is going to lose. That's how I look at it."

While Tennessee spent the last half of the season as the nation's top-ranked team, Florida State needed a series of upsets on the final day to climb into the title game.

Sure enough.

On Dec. 5, Kansas State, ranked No. 2 but No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series, lost the Big 12 championship to Texas A&M _ in double overtime, no less. And UCLA (No. 3, No. 2 in the BCS) blew a 17-point lead at Miami in a game postponed from September because of Hurricane Georges.

Florida State catapulted from No. 4 into the championship game, and Spurrier got a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"I guarantee you, we were certainly rooting for UCLA and K-State," said Spurrier, whose losses came on the road to the Volunteers and Seminoles. "It made us feel sick (knowing) that if we had played well in Tallahassee, we'd be there. But we didn't, and we have no one to blame but ourselves."

Since then, insult has been added to injury. Spurrier and defensive coordinator Bob Stoops were asked by media outlets to serve as analysts for the Fiesta Bowl. Both declined.

Stoops, who since has taken the head job at Oklahoma, politely turned down a request from the St. Petersburg Times, adding he did not want to be an expert for a game he did not even want to watch.

Spurrier, at least, plans to watch. He even hinted he will cheer for one of his most bitter rivals, but he won't say which.

"I don't think I should go public with who I'm rooting for in that game," he said. "I think it's going to be a close game. Sometimes championship games get out of hand, but I see a defensive struggle, with either team having a chance to win."

Or lose.

_ JOANNE KORTH

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