Oklahoma's Barry Switzer and Florida State's Bobby Bowden participated in an old coaching tradition on the eve of the Orange Bowl: nose-to-nose, bare-faced lying.

For half an hour, these two country slickers who could pick your pocket while patting your back, sat next to each other and told a succession of whoppers, tall tales and gaudy lies.

Since the Orange Bowl is at 8 p.m., OU and FSU players have little to do most of New Year's Day, except read newspapers. So, Switzer and Bowden laid down their final poor-mouth smoke-screens as they plotted to whomp the bejabbers out of each other.

"I don't know which of our two quarterbacks will start," said Bowden of undefeated FSU. "I haven't had the time to look at any Oklahoma game films yet. It's been too hectic. The game is tomorrow, isn't it?"

Switzer couldn't take that lying down. You don't build a 72-7-2 record at Oklahoma by telling the truth.

"I'm worried," said Switzer, who would ask for points if he had King Kong at home in the jungle against Bambi. "We lead the world in fumbles (36 lost in '79). We had a 13-day Christmas layoff and our wishbone is the easiest kind of offense to get rusty."

"That's right," said Bowden on the uptake. "If they don't lay the ball down (fumble), we can't stop 'em. We've never played a team so good or so fast."

"I almost feel like apologizing for being here," said Switzer, eyes narrowing as he hunkered down to the task of serious, major college fibbing.

"We've been to the Orange Bowl four times in five years. This time, we had to give 3,000 of the 12,000 tickets in our allotment to FSU 'cause we couldn't sell 'em. They'll have 70,000 fans to our 9,000."

Bowden blinked, shook his head, but got back up off his stool for another round. After all, in four years the 50-year-old has turned a program that was 4-29 into one that has won 32 of 37.

"I sure wish we had Billy Sims," said Bowden of Oklahoma's 22-touchdown man. "You know, our longest run from scrimmage this year was 26 yards. For Sims, that pulls down his average, 'Boys, you played that defense just perfect. Sims just happened to go 60 yards'."

Switzer dug in, ready for a goalline stand. "We can't control their (All America nose guard) Ron Simmons. We just hope that when he goes one way, we're running the other."

It was a bad slip. Bowden pounced. "Yes, that's right," he said as Switzer choked on his coffee. "The wishbone neutralizes the nose guard as good as any formation. Simmons will have to tackle the darn fullback every play. He might not touch Sims all day.

"Here, lemme show you what I mean," said Bowden, grabbing a reporter's note pad and diagramming how Simmons would be so preoccupied with the first wishbone option that he would never get outside.

Coincidentially, Bowden's defensive coordinator gave a speech on the same subject the day before, pointing out the exact opposite -- that the wishbone maximized Simmons' potential for destruction and disruption.

It isn't every day that a coach tells a whopper, then draws you a diagram of it.

Switzer, at a disadvantage in his role as a full touchdown topdog, retorted with a flurry of fibs and fulminations. "We're so dull that when we call a pass play we always give it away 'cause our flanker comes out of the huddle doing cartwheels.

"We just plug away with those 15-play drives where one mistake can stop you," said Switzer, whose Sooners only scored 382 points, gained 4, 698 yards and scored 38 or more points in seven of 11 games. "When Florida State gets it, they can throw deep and score on one play."

Temporarily, Bowden seemed stunned.He couldn't deny that his Seminoles, winners of 15 in a row, passed 340 times this year and scored 66 points in one game with nine different guys scoring touchdowns.

"We throw more than anybody they've seen, that's a fact," said Bowden, stalling until his head cleared. "But, on the other hand, we've only played against one wishbone team in three years.Neither team is prepared for the other's offense. We've both done plenty of head scratching and adjusting this week."

"Is that why all your practices have been closed?" teased Switzer, whose workouts have been open to the press.

"Y'all have been in the Orange Bowl so often," said Bowden, "that I figured it was only proper for me to go over to your practices to make sure we were doing it right."

'Was that you in the sunglasses?" gasped Switzer. "Well then, you know we've worked out a defense for that high school play that Nebraska used to score against us with the guard picking up a (deliberate) fumble and running. I've seen that play on TV replay so often that I'm sick of it."

"You're gonna see that play again," Bowden said, "'cept we're running it as a reverse. One guard's gonna give it to the other one comin' back around." a

Normally, both men might have collapsed from exhaustion, their forked tongues hanging out.

But this is a big game. Florida State is 11-0 and ranked fourth, while Oklahoma, 10-1, is No. 5. FSU feels itself on the verge of moving into the category of prestige football factory, an occurrence it devoutly wishes. Oklahomas, who break out in hives if the Sooners lose more than one game in a year, fear a repeat of the '78 Orange Bowl fiasco when a blase Sooner team lost to Arkansas, 31-6.

So, both coaches reached deep into their reserves for their third-and-long-yardage lies.

"It'll probably end up being our interceptions against their fumbles," said Bowden, as though the Sooners and Seminoles were bumblers instead of teams that had outscored their opponents, 382-124 and 312-136, respectively. o

"I'm afraid that my players are overprepared and overanxious," Bowden said. "We shoulda played yesterday."

"We didn't have curfews our first three nights here," said Switzer, whose players have been bragging about keeping the Flagler Dog Track and Miami Jai-Alai Fronton in business. "You can't be as deadly serious for a bowl game as a coach would like. It has to be a reward, or else then you really have an attitude problem."

So, there we have it. Oklahoma is bleary-eyed, rusty, fumble-fingered, bereft of fans and unimaginative. Florida State is overprepared, uptight, slow, inexperienced and generally out of its league.

One of these motley assortments -- the less atrocious on New Year's night -- will probably end up ranked third, or perhaps even second, in the nation.

And that, as Switzer and Bowden know, is no lie.