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Who has the edge?

RUNNING GAME

Even with the loss of star TB Jamal Lewis in the fourth game of the season, Tennessee continued to amass rushing yards and led the SEC (211.3 a game). Working behind a powerful, imposing and fairly experienced OL, sophomore Travis Henry, the former Frostproof High standout, finished with 970 yards and seven TDs, and sophomore Travis Stephens added 477 yards and four TDs. Each started four games, Henry the past four. But neither may be as good as FSU's Travis: sophomore Travis Minor. Although slowed by an ankle sprain for a month, he gained 857 yards and scored seven TDs. Even against Florida, which stacked the box, he netted 127 yards on 30 carries. He also is a dangerous receiver, catching 21 passes for 189 yards, while Henry and Stephens have combined for just six catches for 34 yards.

EDGE TO: Tennessee

PASSING GAME

FSU WR Peter Warrick, a first-team All-American, blended blinding speed and dizzying moves into 61 catches for 1,232 yards and 12 TDs. No team, however, can afford to overlook Laveranues Coles, the fastest Seminole ever (4.19 in the 40), Ron Dugans and Marvin Minnis. The question, however, is whether QB Marcus Outzen, who took over when strong-armed Chris Weinke suffered a season-ending neck injury on Nov. 7, can get them the ball. He's more mobile than Weinke, but he's green. Tennessee's Tee Martin isn't. Emerging from the shadow of Peyton Manning, Martin has proven to be more than just a scrambler. He completed 153 of 267 passes for 2,164 yards with 19 TDs and just six INTs. His favorite target is Peerless Price, who not only made a lot of catches (61), but key ones (the go-ahead TD in the SEC title game).

EDGE TO: Florida State

IN THE TRENCHES

FSU's top-rated defense begins with its fast, aggressive DTs: Corey Simon, a first team All-American, and Jerry Johnson. (Larry Smith's knee injury last week will hurt since FSU used him and Billy Rhodes in a four-man rotation with Simon and Johnson.) DEs Tony Bryant, Roland Seymour, Jamal Reynolds and David Warren haven't racked up sacks like their predecessors, but they are all quick to the ball and have helped limit teams to 79.8 yards rushing. But they are facing the best OL they've seen this year. Tennessee's front five average 6-4, 304 pounds, led by OTs Chad Clifton and Cosey Coleman, both first-team All-SEC. FSU's OL has battled injuries and hasn't overpowered anyone, not even with third-team All-America OG Jason Whitaker. Tennessee's DL is smallish, but like FSU's, quick. It also is boosted by the return of DT Jeff Coleman, who suffered a partially torn MCL in his right knee in the SEC championship game.

EDGE TO: Toss up

SPECIAL TEAMS

Here's all you need to know about FSU's Sebastian Janikowski: Although he won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top PK and was a first-team All-American, his biggest asset might just be on his kickoffs. He boomed nearly 60 percent (47 of 79) of them into the end zone for touchbacks and few of those that were returned were brought out past the 20. No team has been able to consistently drive 80 yards against FSU. Meanwhile, returners Reggie Durden, Coles and Warrick all can break it. Tennessee PK Jeff Hall is the SEC's all-time leading scorer (371 points) and has won games. (See vs. Florida in OT this season.) But Tennessee's return game isn't nearly as dangerous, and P David Leaverton has struggled since midseason and is barely holding onto the job.

EDGE TO: Florida State

COACHING

Bobby Bowden has the nation's best bowl winning percentage (.786) and is 15-3-1 at FSU. It's not by luck. He struck on a practice regimen that he has maintained for 20 years, going hard on the field and then letting his players relax and enjoy the post-season reward. He also is aided by continuity of his staff. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has been with him for the past 15 years, offensive coordinator Mark Richt for the past 13, assistant head coach and linebackers coach Chuck Amato for 17, OL coach Jimmy Heggins for 13 and DE coach Jim Gladden for 24 years. Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer doesn't get much pub, but he has the highest winning percentage of any active coach (.857) and has taken a team that lost a slew of talent to the NFL, including the incomparable Peyton Manning, to the brink of a title. There's no telling how the loss of David Cutcliffe, his offensive coordinator who left to be the head coach at Mississippi, will affect the team.

EDGE TO: Florida State

INTANGIBLES

Each team has one national title, but the Volunteers' came in 1951 and, despite their impressive record of late, they haven't really come close. (They could have done it last season had Michigan lost in the Rose Bowl and Tennessee followed with a win against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, but the Wolverines won and a disheartened Volunteers team was routed by Nebraska.) Meanwhile, the Seminoles seem to contend every season and are familiar with the pressures that come with that one-game, take-all situation. They could have won two straight in 1996 and '97. They were No. 1 when they lost the 1997 Sugar Bowl rematch to Florida and then last season they were undefeated before suffering a last-minute loss at Florida that deprived them of a shot at Nebraska in the Orange. Although this year's team is young, many were around for at least one of those games.

EDGE TO: Florida State

_ BRIAN LANDMAN

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