Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden will know for sure whether his team has a chance to win the national championship by the time the Seminoles play Okalhoma Thursday night in the Orange Bowl.

Bowden will watch a good portion of the Sugar Bowl earlier in the day between Notre Dame and top-ranked Georgia, and will know the final score by kickoff in the Orange. If Notre Dame wins, and second-ranked Florida State prevails, the Seminoles expect to be ranked No. 1.

Bowden, in fact, says he even has his own "Sugar Bowl Scripture" for the Rish. "It's Matthew 7:6," Bowden says. "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs." As in the Georgia Bulldogs.

"The outcome of the Sugar Bowl will make a big difference in the way we play," Seminole tight end Sam "hilders said this monring. "It'll be a big letdown if we know that Georgia has won. I guess it's all in Herschel Walker's hands."

"I never thought I'd be cheering for Notre Dame to win anything," said Seminole senior defensive end Arthur Scott. "It's a peculair situation."

Childers said it's almost like Florida State is playing Georgia, since the Seminole players have had to answer as many questions about the Georgia game as their own. "I'd much rather be playing Georgia, that's for sure," Chilers said. "At least we'd be in control of our own destiny."

The Seminoles (10-1) were in that position last year, but got blown out of Miami, 24-7, by Oklahoma in last year's Orange Bowl, ruining what could have been an undefeated season and and a national championship. "We lost to them so bad last year, that we just have to prove to Floridians that we are a first class team, just like Oklahoma and Notre Dame," Childers said. "It's been constantly on my mind since last New Year's Day."

Bowden, as quick with a quip as any college coach, said, "Everywhere around Tallahassee before that Orange Bowl, I was 'Sweet old Bobby.' Everybody loved me. 'Sweet old Bobby' this and 'Sweet old Bobby' that.Then we lost the game and they just used the initials."

But while Bowden charms the media and thousands of fanatics who have invaded the posh hotels where the teams are staying, he is working his football team harder than ever. Unlike Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer, Bowden has closed his practices to the media and the public.

Bowden wants to make sure there is no repeat of last year's Orange Bowl disaster.

"Practices and team meetings have been more serious than ever before," Childers said. "Especially today and probably tomorrow. It's getting pretty tense. But that's because we all know we have a shot at the national championship."

Said receiver Hardis Johnson: "State has never won a New Year's Day Bowl. It's a very serious matter. A lot more serious than it was last year, or at any time during this season. There's too much riding on this one."

So the Seminoles are not only fighting for the national title but to prove they are a top-caliber team.

It angers some of the State players that they have only one shot to prove to the nation the excellence they demonstrated all season. They beat four bowl teams, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Florida, and lost to another, Miami (here in the Orange Bowl), for what may unofficially be the toughest college football schedule this season.

"We are the No. 1 team in college football, right now," said Scott. "We proved it twice by beating third-ranked teams (Pitt and Nebraska) twice during the season. But apparently that wasn't enough.

"The pollsters just don't feel we're worhty. People aren't used to seeing Florida State's name at the top of the polls. Ever since we've been down here, we've had to make excuses for winning. Almost apologize for it."

Asked to pick a Sugar Bowl score for fun, Scott replied, "Well, Notre Dame's defense is tough, but Herschel Walker is worht at least seven points against anybody.I'll say, Norte Dame 21, Georgia 7."

Asked to pick the Orange, Scott declined. "Last year was the first time we played a team of Oklahoma's caliber. We think the ending will be a little different."

It better be, for national championship hopes.