MIAMI -- When their teams last met, Bobby Bowden asked Joe
Paterno how much longer he planned to stay in coaching.
Sixteen years later, the legends may have that conversation
Florida State (8-4) and Penn State (10-1) will meet in the FedEx
Orange Bowl at Miami on Jan. 3, a game that'll mark a showdown
between major college football's two winningest coaches. It's the
sixth Bowl Championship Series appearance in eight years for the
Seminoles, the first-ever for Paterno's third-ranked Nittany Lions.
And neither septuagenarian -- Paterno turns 79 later this month,
Bowden is 76 -- wishes to play a starring role in the pregame hype.
"I think we just ought to forget about the Bobby Bowden-Joe
Paterno relationship," Paterno said. "I think we ought to be
looking at two good football teams that are going to go down there
and have a chance to knock each other's brains out."
Penn State shared the Big 10 championship with Ohio State, but
earned the league's automatic BCS spot by beating the Buckeyes
earlier this season. The Seminoles are the lowest-ranked team in
the BCS, finishing 22nd in the final standings and getting into the
mix only by upsetting Virginia Tech on Saturday for the Atlantic
Coast Conference title.
Still, game officials said they're thrilled to have a
"We are extremely proud to have two of the best here. ... Two
marquee coaches in the game, one and two respectively," Orange
Bowl CEO Keith Tribble said.
Bowden has 359 wins, six more than Paterno -- and both steered
their teams to surprising comeback stories in 2005.
Bowden's Florida State team snapped a three-game losing streak
on Saturday when it beat then No. 5-Virginia Tech for the ACC crown
-- the Seminoles' 12th in 14 seasons. Florida State's reward turned
out to be a matchup with another highly touted opponent, a Penn
State team that nearly went unbeaten.
"I feel very fortunate for us," said Bowden, whose team fell
from the national rankings after losing three straight. "I feel
very happy for our boys and our assistant coaches that we were able
to do it. Naturally I feel very lucky about it and sometimes I
can't hardly believe it."
Amid whispers that their longtime coach is too old to compete,
Paterno's Nittany Lions had lost 17 of their last 24 games entering
this season and haven't won a bowl game since the 1999 season. But
only a last-second touchdown by Michigan kept Penn State from
finishing this regular season with a perfect record.
Bowden says he couldn't be happier that his longtime friend has
the Nittany Lions back to national prominence, and can relate to
the criticism that Paterno has endured in recent seasons.
"We've caught a lot of heck this year. I've caught a lot of
heck," Bowden said. "I can look at Joe's program and say, 'Look
there. Just be patient. Look what'll happen.' ... It just
substantiates my feeling that nobody's going to win forever. You
can have a bad year. You can have a bad series of years. You can
have a bad cycle, but that's not the end because you can come
Bowden is 1-6 all-time against Paterno; he lost all six meetings
as West Virginia's coach in the early 1970s, and guided Florida
State to a 24-17 victory over Penn State in the 1990 Blockbuster
Bowl -- also at Miami.
It's probably no surprise that both coaches have sparkling
records in bowl games. Bowden is 19-8-1 all-time in bowls, a
winning percentage of .696 that is the best in Division I-A
history. Paterno is 20-10-1 in bowl games, and is the only coach
to ever win the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange and Cotton bowls.
"Florida State's one heck of a tradition, one heck of a
coaching staff," Paterno said. "Bobby Bowden is a great coach.
They're going to bring a lot of people. We're going to be playing
down in Florida, which is almost like an away game and a home game
for Florida State. You know, we've got our hands full."