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FSU can join elite with repeat

In 63 years, only nine teams have successfully defended national title.

Maybe it was tougher because everyone was gunning for them.

Or maybe it was easier because they'd been there before.

Take your choice. All you really need to know is that if Florida State defeats Oklahoma in Wednesday night's Orange Bowl, it will join some pretty heady company in the pantheon of college football _ teams that successfully defended their national championship.

"I tell my players, "Look, we've had eight or nine dynasties in college football,' " Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said, " "but we're the only one that's active, we're the only one that's alive, we're the only live dynasty. Let's keep it going. Let's keep it going.' That's the way we approach it."

The national champion has successfully defended its title only nine times in the 63 years since the Associated Press began conducting its poll and bestowing a crown. Alabama, Nebraska and Oklahoma each did it twice, Notre Dame, Army and Minnesota once apiece.

"Probably the biggest difficulty I see in winning it the second time is to remain motivated and hungry. I think there's a little bit of a tendency in all of us, once you have some success, to not be quite as intense the next time around," said Tom Osborne, Cornhuskers coach from 1973-97, now starting a new career in politics at age 63 after winning Nebraska's 3rd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He said the '95 team was the best he ever coached, that the players had "great drive, great focus, exceptional unity. You have to have a lot of talent.

"A lot of times people as well as teams are cyclical. They'll build toward one great year, then they lose key players," Osborne said. "When you win it once you're not going to come back the next year with the same team. So you have to have pretty good depth."

And having gone through it once, familiarity makes it easier the second time around, Osborne said. "You can get overwhelmed. You very quickly find that you're really out of the normal routine, always going from one thing to another. It's very easy for players to get distracted, get worn down. So having been there the year before was helpful to us."

Jesse Kosch was the punter on the 1994-95 teams (and on the '97 team that split the national championship with Michigan) and son of Bill Kosch, a defensive back on Nebraska's 1970 and '71 champions.

"After '94, when we won them all (including the Orange Bowl when Nebraska rallied from a 10-0 deficit to beat Miami 24-17), we had all our main players back for '95, especially (quarterback) Tommie Frazier," said Jesse, an insurance executive in Des Moines. "I think the (opposition) kind of realized we were the same team we'd had last year. It seemed most every game we'd get up 10-0, 14-0 in the first quarter and the game was over. When they came to Lincoln and got behind, which was often, there wasn't a close game." True. The average final score was 54-14.

Keeping the players together and motivated is part of the equation. So is keeping the coaching staff intact, said former Bucs linebacker Dewey Selmon. His bother, Lee Roy, was a Hall of Fame defensive end with the Bucs and both played for coach Barry Switzer on Oklahoma's 1974 and '75 national championship teams. "Back when we did it, teams didn't raid each other's staffs as much as they do now," Dewey said. "If you've won a championship or even come close, your coaches become targets for other schools."

Ray Perkins, retiring Jan. 31 as a Cleveland Browns assistant coach, was a wide receiver at Alabama under Bear Bryant from 1964-66, the first two winning national championships. "After '64, going through the off-season, through spring practice and two-a-days leading to the beginning of the '65 season, there was just an air about our football team that we expected to win it again," he said.

"I don't know that we talked much about (repeating). I think deep down everybody knew we were going to do it again; everybody expected it. And Coach Bryant did a great job of keeping our heads where they were supposed to be. We never felt pressure from within ourselves that we had to win it again," added Perkins, who coached Alabama from 1983-86 and the Bucs from 1987-90.

Bill Kosch, a district assistant fuels manager with Nebraska Public Power, said the biggest challenge the '71 Cornhuskers offense and defense faced was each other. "That was really the competition through the year _ practice. The games were relatively easy except for Oklahoma my senior year," a 35-31 victory. "I remember we struggled for three quarters and had to come from behind to win that game."

Not many fathers and sons have each played on successive national champions, although one of the other pairs was Joe and Chad Blahak. Joe was Bill Kosch's teammate, Chad was Jesse's. "The thing about this fathers-and-sons-on-national-champions business," Bill Kosch said, laughing, "is that first you've got to win a national championship, then do it again. Then you've got to get married and have a son, then have him go to the school you went to. Then he'a got to win a national championship, then do it again. That's all there is to it."

Back-to-back national championship were won eight times in 39 seasons ending with Alabama's 1978-79 teams.

Since then it has been done once.

"A number of years ago I could see how it could be done a little more easily than today," Perkins said. "It seems like we have so many more great teams now, and a lot of them are going to be in a position year after year to compete for the championship.

"And although more players are leaving early (to try to join the NFL), I'm not so sure players leaving has enough of an impact to make a difference in who wins the national championship," Perkins added. "Bobby Bowden might not agree. Had a couple of guys come out instead of staying this year, he might not be where he is today."

_ Staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.

Repeat champs

Since the advent in 1936 of the Associated Press college football poll, the national champion has successfully defended its championship nine times:

Team Seasons

Minnesota 1940-41

Army 1944-45

Notre Dame 1946-47

Oklahoma 1955-56

Alabama 1964-65

Nebraska 1970-71

Oklahoma 1974-75

Alabama 1978-79

Nebraska 1994-95