Fiesta Bowl

January 02, 1996|By Don Markus

No. 1 Nebraska (11-0) vs. No. 2 Florida (12-0)

Tempe, Ariz.

Time: 8:30 tonight

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Line: Nebraska by 3 1/2

Players to watch:

Tommie Frazier, Nebraska: The Heisman Trophy runner-up, he threw for career highs in yards (1,362) and touchdowns (17) and ran for 604 yards. He is 32-3 as a starting quarterback at Nebraska.

Danny Wuerffel, Florida: He flourished in coach Steve Spurrier's wide-open offense, completing 210 of 325 passes (64.6 percent) for 3,266 yards and 35 touchdowns and an NCAA record for pass efficiency of 178.4.

Best win:

Nebraska 44, Colorado 21: The Cornhuskers easily disposed of their biggest conference threat, racing to a 31-14 halftime lead. Frazier completed a career-best 14 of 23 passes for a career-high 241 yards.

Florida 62, Tennessee 37: The Gators' chance at a championship season almost slipped away in the third game. Trailing 28-10 at halftime, Florida rallied with a 52-point second half. Wuerffel finished 29-for-39 for 381 yards and six touchdowns.

Nebraska's offense vs. Florida's defense:

The Cornhuskers have the second-best rushing game in the country (399.8 yards a game), with the best option quarterback in the country in Frazier, quality running backs in Phillips and freshman Ahman Green and a strong line. The Gators' defense has been the unsung hero of Florida's season, with forced turnovers leading to 99 points. It allowed Florida State only 322 yards and 24 points, but the Cornhuskers have a more powerful line and better running backs. Also, Frazier is experienced in these types of games. Edge: Nebraska

Florida's offense vs. Nebraska's defense:

Wuerffel is as tough as they come, and the pressure the Cornhuskers put on the junior quarterback with their six- and seven-man fronts shouldn't shake him up. But if Nebraska's defensive backs can stay with wideouts Chris Doering and Ike Hilliard, it might not matter what kind of time or intestinal fortitude Wuerffel has. The only way for the Gators to win is to throw, especially when you look at Nebraska's No. 2-ranked rushing defense (78.4 yards a game). Edge: Nebraska.

Intangibles:

Nebraska's unfamiliarity playing on grass fields might be a factor, but experience in big games should be an even bigger one. This is old helmet to the Cornhuskers, and a much larger stage than the Gators are accustomed to playing. Very few first-timers win this kind of game, but Spurrier's cockiness has certainly rubbed off at least a little on his players. One long touchdown drive by Nebraska to start off the game could be enough to make Florida start doubting itself. One early score for the Gators could make it an interesting night. Edge: Nebraska.

Prediction:

( Nebraska 35, Florida 21.

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