At their final Orange Bowl news conferences Friday, Florida State's Bobby Bowden and Nebraska's Tom Osborne stood next to a crystal national championship trophy. Both want to take it home.
The winner of tonight's game between the top-ranked Seminoles and No. 2 Cornhuskers is virtually guaranteed at least a share of the title."When you get this close, you don't want to blow it," Bowden said.
"I want to win the game very much and I hope we can have that trophy," Osborne said.
Bowden and Osborne are two of the most successful coaches in college football, but neither has won a national championship. That should change Sunday morning, when the final Associated Press and USA Today-CNN polls are released.
If Nebraska (11-0) wins, it will probably capture both titles. If Florida State (11-1) wins, the Seminoles might share the championship with West Virginia (11-0) if the Mountaineers beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
Bowden said he would settle for a piece of the title.
"You'd like to be so good that you could win it all," he said. "But if it didn't happen, I'm sure I could survive by winning one of them."
Both coaches joked with reporters and appeared relaxed, although Bowden was bothered by a cold.
"The closer to the game I get, the looser I get," he said.
Despite the high stakes, Osborne said he doesn't consider the game a defining moment in his career.
"If you're doing something for 31 years, you hope it doesn't come down to one game to define what you did or didn't do," he said.
"I'm not obsessed with this game," he added. "My main obsession is to have the team play the best it can play."
Florida State is favored by 17 points, a betting line that disturbs both coaches.
"If the gamblers know what they're talking about, it's an uncomfortable feeling," Osborne said.
"When you're favored like we are, you're not supposed to worry. But I worry more," Bowden said. "You're always afraid that the kids and the coaches might underestimate the opponent."
To guard against complacency, Bowden has been more involved than usual in pregame practices.
"I wanted them to feel like this was more important," he said.
Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward missed most of Thursday's practice because of a sore throat and slight fever. But the Heisman Trophy winner felt well enough to attend an NBA game on Thursday night and is expected to be fine by kickoff.
"I guess he got the proper rest," Bowden said.
Florida State will try to extend its eight-game bowl winning streak, while Nebraska will attempt to end its six-game slide in postseason games.
"We've lost six straight, so we're going to try to make sure it isn't seven," Osborne said.
Neither coach has had much success in the Orange Bowl. Osborne is 1-6 in the New Year's game and Bowden is 1-2, with the only victory coming last year against Nebraska. Bowden also is 3-6 against Miami in regular-season games at the same stadium.