This game is monstrous. This game is huge. This game calls for a surefire, extra-cool, computer-generated system of analysis that will guarantee you not only the winner but also the exact score.
Unfortunately, that system was way too expensive.
So we're going with our own Addemup System, which happens to be cheap—not to mention easy enough for goobers like us to operate. The score of the Increda Bowl, the Ultimate College Football Game, the De Facto National Championship Final to be played this Saturday at historic Notre Dame Stadium, will be Florida State 25, Notre Dame 19.
Zow. Both teams are 9-0. Both teams are on 16-game winning streaks. Both teams are coached by lovable homespun legends. Florida State is ranked No. 1, Notre Dame No. 2. The winner will beat the gizzards out of Nebraska or go to the wall against Miami in some bowl on Jan. 1 and haul home the national championship.
But Notre Dame has already won eight national titles. The Seminoles have won zero, even though they've been on the case like a coat of Benjamin Moore. They've finished 2-3-3-4-4-2 the last six years, but never No. 1.
Notre Dame wants it. The Seminoles need it. Florida State, two points.
Regis Philbin is hosting Notre Dame's. A booster named Charlie Barnes is hosting Florida State's. No way Charlie Barnes brings Kathie Lee Gifford to Tallahassee to hand out the plaques. Notre Dame, one point.
The Seminoles are just lip-quivering awesome. They have the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation. They have the stingiest defense in the nation. They have the deadlock, can't-miss, engrave-it-already Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Charlie Ward. They have a shoo-in for the Butkus Award in linebacker Derrick Brooks. They have a defensive end, Derrick Alexander, who's as ornery as a rattler with a migraine.
They've won their games by an average of 37.9 points, and six of their opponents were undefeated (O.K., two of them were 0-0). The Seminole defense has scored almost as many touchdowns (six) as its opponents' offenses (eight). Stick that in your earhole.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, has nobody you ever heard of and dang near lost to Northwestern. It has no Rick Mirer. No Tim Brown. No Rocket Ismail. Its featured running back, a guy named Lee Becton, runs the 40 in 4.5, which is less like the Rocket than like, say, the Plymouth Duster. Florida State, 10 points.
PROF. SMITHERS, COULD YOU SHUT OFF THE JACUZZI FOR A SECOND?
In a recent ranking of fun schools, Florida State was No. 1 out of 300. Notre Dame was 98th. Fun is a distraction. Notre Dame, one point.
ONES VERSUS TWOS
Ain't it grand? This is the 28th meeting in history between a one and a two. Ones have won most of the time, so you're thinking Florida State. But twos have won seven of the last 10, so you're thinking Notre Dame. Then again, home teams have lost eight of 12 (15 were at neutral sites), so you're thinking Florida State again. Plus, Notre Dame has never won as a two in such a game, losing 37-22 to Purdue in 1968 and 48-0 to Army in 1945 and tying Army 0-0 in 1946, so you're definitely thinking Florida State. Does Sports-Center give you this kind of stuff? Unfortunately, yes. Florida State, one point.
WHAT THE COMPUTERS THINK
Using Bill Walsh College Football, the Sega Genesis video game, interns in Florida State's Sports Information Department played a game between teams called South Bend and Tallahassee. The South Bends wore blue and gold, and the Tallahassees were led by a quarterback wearing number 17. The South Bends won the simulation 21-7. The interns tried the game three other times. The South Bends won every time. The South Bends, three points.
THE TORO FACTOR
To slow down the Seminoles, Notre Dame will leave the stadium grass so long that you could lose a toddler in it. Notre Dame, two points.
WHAT OTHER COACHES THINK
The NCAA should just ship the championship rings to Tallahassee right now—that's what other coaches think. When asked how Notre Dame could beat Florida State, coach Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee said, "Play 12 or 13 people on defense." Ray Goff of Georgia suggested that the Irish sneak the Dallas Cowboys into their uniforms. The coach at Auburn said, "Kidnap Charlie Ward. Or sneak into [Seminole coach] Bobby Bowden's house and steal the game plans. Both of those things I could do." The Auburn coach is Terry Bowden. Bobby's son.
Until Maryland woke up last Saturday thinking it was the 1963 Green Bay Packers and held Florida State to a mere 49-20 victory, North Carolina was the only team that had been so much as a speed bump for FSU. Carolina ran reverses, a counter play, an option pass, stuff that took advantage of the Seminoles' overpursuit. The Tar Heels played deep, gave up dink stuff and waited for mistakes. It worked for a half. Then the Seminoles won 33-7.
"Let's put it this way," says North Carolina offensive coordinator Darrell Moody. "I'd hate to play the dang team that beats 'em." Florida State, one point.
C'MON, NOW, THERE'S GOT TO BE SOMEBODY....
Southern Cal coach John Robinson likes Notre Dame. "Last year Alabama had the personality of the Irish, and it wound up the national champion," Robinson says. "I think Notre Dame can win. Notre Dame seems to be able to inflict its will on the opponent." Robinson has been out in the sun too long without a hat. Florida State, one point.
Notre Dame has Rudy, the inspirational, sort-of-true tale of a runt with a dream to get in on one play as a Notre Dame football player. Florida State has The Longest Yard, a comedy starring 1954 Florida State letterman Burt Reynolds as a convict who leads a team of dirty players into a big game. Sounds like the Miami highlight film. Notre Dame, one point.
WHAT WILLARD SCOTT THINKS
Florida State players are worrying paths in their dorm room carpets about the cold. These are guys who go years without putting away their flip-flops. Sixty-one of them are from the state of Florida, where the thermometers start at 45°. Only two are from north of the Mason-Dixon line. What's more, the Seminoles have played only two games north of the Mason-Dixon in the last five seasons. Of course, one of those games was in August and the other was in September.
Still, it can get nasty in South Bend. Get this: Last Nov. 13 at Notre Dame the high was 36°, the low was 29°, there was one inch of snow, and it was as windy as Rush Limbaugh. As of Sunday the coldest day this fall in Tallahassee had a high of 52°. First time a Seminole sees his breath, he'll think his spleen has frozen. Notre Dame, three points.
Notre Dame has the Gipper, Frank Leahy, Lindsey Nelson's old Sunday morning highlight show, 75 consensus All-Americas, seven Heismans, Four Horsemen, one Touchdown Jesus and Rockne's famous pregame speech.
Florida State has no Gipper, no national highlight show, no Heismans (unless you count Ward), almost no history before Bowden, nine consensus All-Americas and a former coach (Darrell Mudra) who coached from the press box. Another former coach, Bill Peterson, was once asked to give an inspiring pregame prayer to lead his players into battle. He thought for a long time and then said, "Now I lay me down to sleep...." Notre Dame, two points.
BRIEF INTERLUDE NO. 1
Psssssst. The following is brought to you without the expressed written consent of the NCAA or its members: Florida State has covered every game this season except for Maryland.
X'S AND O'S
Notre Dame has been picked on with the pass, but it has two possible first-rounders in the secondary (Bobby Taylor and Jeff Burris), so how bad can the pass defense be? What the Irish have to do is stop Florida State's running game, which is sneaky mean. The Seminoles have a sadistic passing attack yet have run for almost as much yardage as Notre Dame has. Yikes.
The Irish also have got to figure out a way to stop Ward and his fast-break offense. Since the Seminoles went to the fast break late last season, Ward has thrown eight times as many touchdown passes as interceptions. "He's the best I've ever seen, coached or played against," says North Carolina coach Mack Brown.
Still, the Irish run seemingly at will, and if they never give the ball back, Ward will never get it. Notre Dame rarely loses big games. Notre Dame, one point.
Notre Dame has some players who seem to have come from good homes but aren't quite right in the head, and that makes for a loose team. Take, for instance, linebacker Pete Bercich, who once showed up for a TV head shot in nothing but a jockstrap and a helmet, who has worn a cardboard mask of Holtz to a team meeting and who says he enjoys making his own bullets for his two .44-caliber handguns. Holtz once said to Bercich, "Son, you're gonna make me take recruiting more seriously." Notre Dame, one point.
Notre Dame's kicking game is horrible. Holtz is using a flanker as a punter and a refugee from the soccer team as the place kicker. The only saving grace for the Irish is that they go for it on fourth down a lot and make it more often than they don't.
Florida State's kicking is average. Bowden has freshman celebrity Scott Bentley, one of the most heavily recruited high schoolers in the country last season. The Irish thought Bentley was 15 minutes from signing with them when he signed with the Seminoles instead, causing some very bad blood. Perhaps because of this, Bentley has been erratic, missing eight PATs but making 10 of 13 field goal attempts. Call it even.
LOVABLE HOMESPUN LEGENDS
Whom do you like in a game as big as this, as big as college football itself?
Do you like Holtz, the lisping, referee-crisping, 160-pound wisping genius of the Golden Dome, the man who is at his best in big games, the man who is 6-1 at Notre Dame with two weeks to prepare for a game (which he has had for this one)?
Or do you like Bowden, the dirt-kicking, defense-tricking, world-licking country boy from Alabama, the man who became the first coach in history to have six 10-win seasons in a row, the man who hasn't lost a bowl game in his last 11?
Holtz. Notre Dame, one point.
Florida State opens with Reynolds. Notre Dame counters with Norm from Cheers (George Wendt), plus Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. Florida State comes back with Richard Simmons. Notre Dame throws in Phil Donahue. Florida State offers Miss Jane Hathaway from The Beverly Hillbillies (Nancy Culp), not to mention Bob Urich. Not enough. Notre Dame, one point.
Florida State has kicked booty so often this season that Ward has barely played in a fourth quarter. In fact, to quote the clichè, most of the Seminoles' games have been over before the tuba player danced. At the half Florida State led Kansas 21-0, 21st-ranked Clemson 23-0, Duke 29-0, 13th-ranked North Carolina 10-7, Georgia Tech 16-0, third-ranked Miami 21-7, 15th-ranked Virginia 30-0, Wake Forest 34-0 and Maryland 21-13.
Notre Dame trailed Navy 24-17 at intermission and trailed Northwestern 12-7 in the third quarter. Please. Florida State, six points.
HEY, GOOBER, NOTRE DAME AIN'T DAMNED RICE, YOU KNOW
This is true. In fact, the last time the Irish were underdogs at home against a No. 1 team, they beat Miami 31-30. Notre Dame's ground game is so hellish that Father Hesburgh could go in at tailback, follow All-America tackle Aaron Taylor and swallow up 100 yards. Against a very tough Southern Cal line this year, the Irish gained 301.
The Irish rarely turn the ball over, are smarter than a Radio Shack store and have the uncanny knack of not losing. "We keep winning," says Taylor. "I don't know how, but we just do. We should be 5-4, some of the games we've played." On mystique alone, Notre Dame, two points.
BRIEF INTERLUDE NO. 2
Four facts about the movie Rudy to collect and swap:
1) Rudy played two plays at defensive end for the Irish. On the first one he missed the Georgia Tech quarterback. On the second he got him.
2) Rudy is not the most famous man on the 1975 Irish scout team. The scout team quarterback that year was a skinny, curly-haired nobody. Joe Montana.
3) Rudy was working as a maintenance man when the movie came out.
4) Rudy's reply when asked if it was true that no player has been carried off the field since he was: "Not consciously."
Tough call here for God. Bowden hits the pulpit at Baptist churches every Sunday he can. Holtz is a devout Catholic. Notre Dame has a few million subway alumni praying hard. The Grotto on the Notre Dame campus will have so many lit candles, it may ignite. Notre Dame, one point.
THE MAN WHO WORRIES ABOUT LOSING ON AN OPEN DATE
Holtz said, "This game is as important as any football game I've coached. Any time you win, your next game takes on more importance. I'm always scared to death early in the week when you have as much on the line as we do."
And that was before playing Pitt.
The Whine-O-Meter trembles at what Holtz has been saying about Florida State. "Golly Ned, they're the best football team I've seen in all my years of coaching, and I've been coaching more than 30 years now. They're capable of beating any team in college football by 40 points. I'll be honest. They have the ability to embarrass us."
Too late, Coach. The players stopped listening in September. Notre Dame, minus one point.
DOES LOU HOLTZ REALLY SAY GOLLY NED?
Yes. Notre Dame, minus another one.
These two schools are the Coke and Pepsi of recruiting. Notre Dame's recruiting class has been ranked No. 1 by SuperPrep magazine four times since 1987 and No. 2 once. Florida State's was No. 1 this year and has been in the top three four times in the last seven years. Three times in the last four years, these two schools have run one and two. Dead even.
Florida State has outscored its opponents 98-13 in the second quarter. Florida State has outscored ranked opponents 158-31. Against Virginia, Florida State played 61 guys in the first half. Wow. Florida State, two points.
BRIEF INTERLUDE NO. 3
There is a real difference between a Florida State player and a Notre Dame player, and Seminole cornerback Clifton Abraham says he knows what it is.
"A Notre Dame player is more of a white-collar, altar-boy type," Abraham says. "A Florida State guy, man, you're going out with your Armani shades on, your shorts, your sandals, your tank top, just relaxing. You're in your '93 500 SL convertible. A Notre Dame guy might be, like, in a Sears suit, driving a '92 Camry. A Florida State guy is sort of like Madonna. A Notre Dame guy is more like, you know, Reba McIntyre."
"That's not true," says Notre Dame receiver Clint Johnson. "I drive an '86 Toyota Celica."
Florida State has Kez McCorvey (Ward's go-to wideout), 'OMar Ellison (who is also a wideout and who really spells his name like that) and Pooh Bear Williams (a fullback). The Irish can chew on those names all afternoon. Notre Dame, one point.
THE MIAMI FACTOR
As big as this game is, it is only the second-biggest game to the Seminoles. Beating Miami was everything. Beating Miami was the door Florida State hadn't gotten through in seven of the last eight seasons. "If we don't win this one," says Florida State's pocket Rocket, tailback Warrick Dunn, "the Miami game doesn't mean a thing."
No way the Seminoles let that happen. Florida State, two points.
If you really want to look behind the refrigerator for stuff, you'll find that Florida State is ranked dead last in the nation in kickoff returns. Of course, nobody ever kicks off against Florida State, so the guys don't get much practice. The Seminoles' All-America kick returner, Tamarick Vanover, has returned one kick all year. Their punting isn't so hot, either, but then again, Florida State doesn't punt much. Then again, the Seminoles haven't been behind in the second half all year, so if they get down, maybe they'll panic.
And maybe Janet Reno will do a swim-suit calendar. Zippo points.
Voilà. All that adds up to Florida State 25, Notre Dame 19, and no civilized being can argue with our analysis. It's brilliant in its simplicity and devastating in its logic. I'm telling you, Beano Cooke is dying over this.
See you at the banquet?
Holtz says Bowden's team is awe-inspiring, but then he says that about every opponent.
To slow the Seminoles, the Irish will leave the grass nice and high.
The Seminoles give themselves a big edge in threads and wheels.
Burt played in more than one game; Rudy didn't.