MIAMI, DEC. 29 -- After spending four hours along the sidelines coaching -- and winning -- the inaugural Blockbuster Bowl Friday night, Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden tried to assess the impact of the game on the national rankings.

"I hope we end up in the top three {in the nation}," Bowden said after the sixth-ranked Seminoles defeated No. 7 Penn State, 24-17, before a capacity crowd of 74,021 at Joe Robbie Stadium.

"If the right people lost," he said, "this might be one of those years where no one deserves to win it. If nobody deserves to win it, then we don't deserve to win it as much as anyone else. So since we're as bad as anyone else, it might as well be us."

After waiting through countless television timeouts and a halftime show as tacky as it was long, Bowden can be excused for his roundabout analysis, but he just might be right. Florida State wasn't spectacular, but it was good enough to move to a 17-7 halftime lead, then withstand a fourth-quarter rally led by Nittany Lions backup quarterback Tom Bill.

By beating Penn State, the Seminoles finished the season with six consecutive victories after losses to Miami and Auburn. Florida State dominated the team that upset then-No.1 Notre Dame last month and once again is playing as well as almost any team in the nation at season's end.

The Seminoles jumped to a 10-0 lead and never were seriously threatened, although Bill threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Terry Smith with 6:27 left to bring the Nittany Lions within seven. Penn State had two more possessions, but never got closer to the end zone than the Florida State 29.

Coach Joe Paterno went to Bill after Tony Sacca failed to move the team. Sacca completed just 12 of 25 passes for 194 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

The Seminoles were led by quarterback Casey Weldon, who completed 22 of 36 passes for 248 yards and ran for one touchdown. Running back Amp Lee, selected the game's most valuable player, gained 86 yards and scored the game's first two touchdowns.

Much was made of the bowl's coaching matchup. This was the first time two coaches with 200 victories apiece had met in a game since Alabama, coached by Bear Bryant, played Ohio State, led by Woody Hayes, in the 1978 Sugar Bowl.

"I have never enjoyed a bowl as much as this one, with my association with Joe Paterno," Bowden said. "My team finally won {after six losses to Penn State when Bowden coached West Virginia}. Sixty-one years it took. I feel like when you have beaten Joe you have accomplished something."

Paterno watched his team drop passes, throw interceptions and fumble enough to lose any game. The Nittany Lions, winners of nine in a row after two season-opening losses, squandered any chance they had to win the national title.

"We had some opportunities and we didn't take advantage of them and never got close enough that we could play our football game," Paterno said. "We started off poorly, dropped a couple passes early and then they got ahead, 10-0, and things got a little out of whack."