For those with a sense of football history, perhaps the best way to watch the Orange Bowl on New Year's night would be to focus on just two players -- runner Billy Sims of Oklahoma and nose guard Ron Simmons of Florida State.
In simplest terms, Sims and Simmons -- the halfback and the hulk -- may well be the best creator and the best distroyer in college football today.
What happens when they collide, or don't collide, depending on which has his way, will be the brilliant gamewithin-a-game here.
Sims is the man who will almost certainly be picked first in the NFL draft. In the past two seasons, he has finished first and second in the Heisman Trophy voting while gaining 3,268 yards and scoring 42 touchdowns.
If the 210-pound blazer with the seven-yards-a-carry a average doesn't reach the NFL status of Brown, Simpson, Campbell, Payton and a few others, then college pedigree and performance mean nothing.
If Sims is so good that his Oklahoma coach, Barry Switzer, can call him "the greatest football player in the world," then Simmons, like his unbeaten, untied and unknown FSU team, may be the best semifamous player in the world.
If a half-dozen running-back comparisons come to mind for Sims, then it is possible that only one defensive monster has played his college career with a greater sense of anticipation awaiting him in the NFL than Simmons. That creature would be Dick Butkus.
The pros spotted the hulk, who is only a junior, while he was still years away.
Sized, speed and strength are the fundamental football elements -- the earth, fire and water of football. They are quantified with a statistical passion as coaches search for the perfect balancing of the three appropriate to each position.
Therefore, Simmons should not exist. football is unfamiliar with specimens who are 6-foot-1 and 236 pounds, run the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds and can bench-press 530 pounds. It's possible to be bigger, faster and even stronger. But not in the same body. Not by a longshot.
Simmons is Mr. Impact. He has mass, motion, muscle and mean all lined up on his side. He doesn't really play a position. He lines up over the ball, then attacks the whole team, reveling in seeing how many men he can batter, smash, cast aside, chase and tackle.
Statistics measure the elusive Sims perfectly. He is a missle that can be tracked.
Numbers can't touch Simmons. He is a bomb that can explode at any time.
A nose guard's value is in the chaos he causes, the blocking assignments he ruins, the sense of fear and uncertainty that he can inspire from end to end and almost form sideline to sideline.
"I didn't believe that one athlete could control an entire game until I saw Simmons," said Vince Gibson, Louisville head coach.
Simmons understands that his job isn't so much to make tackles as to cause trouble. "My goal is to make the other team triple-team me on every play," he said. "I don't think I have ever been quadruple-teamed, but sometimes it's felt like it."
"If you were allowed to have one defensive superman to place at any position against a wishbone team like Oklahoma, I guess it would be at middle guard," said Jack Stanton, FSU defensive coordinator.
"So, we're lucky to have Simmons at just the right position. Everything starts in the middle. ron can go to both sides, whichever way they run the option."
FSU prays that Simmons will not Only be able to plug the fullback dive and occasionally smash an optioning quarterback, but even arrive in time to greet pitchman Sims on his frequent cutbacks.
The seminoles know that Simmons must be near the ball because he is their fumble-maker.
"If Oklahoma doesn't drop the ball (fumble), then they can't be stopped," said Stanton.
"It's been blown up like I'm the only guy who will be tackling Sims," said the dignified, well-spoken Simmons, who is a Jim Brown lookalike. "If Oklahoma's as quick as they look on their game films, I think I'll have to grow another leg to get out there fast enough to catch Sims."
Then Simmons smilled, "But they say a man can run as fast as he has to."
For Oklahoma's Sims, like the rest of the Sooners, this Orange Bowl (Sims' fourth) is just part of the powerhouse gravy train.
"I guess it's about time for my career at Oklahoma to end," said Sims today. "I don't think I can do anything more." Missouri and Nebraska would agree. In his last two games, a healthy Sims ran for 282 and 247 yards against those bowl-bound teams -- the greatest two-game rushing explosion in NCAA history.
Sims, the MVP in the Orange Bowl last year, has only one enemy almost as big as Simmons -- the blahs.
"It didn't bother me that I finished second in the Heisman voting," said Sims. "I feel like I won it again this year because of the season I had (1,506 yards and 22 touchdowns). I do have one at home, so there's not much difference."
By contrast, Simmons' whole athletic life seems to have pointed toward this game. "The only thought my mind," he said, "is that we alreadydy are the national champions and we have a chance now to prove it, no matter what the final polls say. You could say this game is very important to me."
Simmons has lived an inspriational, sad and singleminded life. His mother died when he was 9 and his father deserted the seven children. Simmons was the oldest -- a surrogate father to six brothers and sisters.
As the family grew up with a grandmother (who died when he was 13), then with an aunt and later an uncle, Simmons became a true man-child.
"My father just drifted off after my mother died and I haven't seen him since," said Simmons. "He couldn't take the pressure, I guess. Maybe that's why pressure has never bothered me. I've had the weight on me as long as I can remember.
"We were close growing up, but things were terrible. No electricity, no anything. Any problems a person could dream of, I had them. I saw a body-building ad in a comic when I was a kid. I thought, 'If I looked like that , it would help.' So I sent away for the seven lessons."
Simmons is content to let his hulking self speak for him. "I respect Oklahoma," he said. "But there's only one person I've ever seen that I respected more," he said. "I met Arnold Schwarzenegger (Mr. Universe) this summer. When I saw him, my first thought was to go back and put my jacket on."