University of Miami coach Jimmy Johnson has switched from the issue of who has the best team to who has the oldest team, and he nominated Saturday's opponent, the Brigham Young Cougars.

"They are without question the oldest, most veteran team we'll ever play," Johnson said Tuesday.At his weekly news conference, the Miami coach tempered his recent campaign directed at poll voters who will decide the national champion. Instead, Johnson talked about the NCAA rule that gives students who perform mission work seven years to complete their athletic eligibility, rather than five.

Six starters on Brigham Young's offense are 24 or older, Johnson noted.

"This gives them an advantage in maturity," he said. "With a lot of teams that they play, I know this has been a complaint for years."

When asked his opinion of the NCAA rule, Johnson said, "I don't really have any feeling about it one way or another."

Second-ranked Miami, 9-1, is a 22-point favorite against the Cougars, 8-3.

Johnson renewed his argument that Miami will deserve the national title if it wins its final two games while No. 1 Notre Dame loses to No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. But he was more guarded in his language than earlier.

"If those things do happen, we want people to know that we've had an extremely difficult schedule," Johnson said.

Coach Don Nehlen of unbeaten West Virginia on Monday dismissed Johnson's contention.

"C'mon, Jimmy. I love you, but nobody can be that dumb," Nehlen told The Miami Herald. "I don't even see where there's a point of discussion, if anybody has any brains."

Johnson's response:

"Don and I are good friends. I can understand what he's saying, and I think he probably understands what I'm saying."