UCLA VS. OHIO STATE
JAN. 1, 1976 4:45 P.M. EST NBC
On paper, there is no way Ohio State can lose the Rose Bowl to UCLA or the national championship to anybody. The Buckeyes lead the nation in points scored and rank second in points allowed. Archie Heisman gained 1,357 yards, Pete Johnson scored 25 touchdowns, Cornelius Greene completed 59% of his passes, Craig Cassady intercepted eight passes, Tom Skladany averaged 47 yards a punt, the line blocked as well as ever and the overall defense was the best in years. When the Buckeyes played the Bruins on Oct. 4 they won 41-20. Coach Dick Vermeil insists, "We're a better team now," but so what?
Oh, something shocking could happen. The Buckeyes have proved allergic to roses in the past. Even Woody Hayes was impressed by the running and passing of UCLA's All-America John Sciarra, who engineered more points against the Buckeyes than anyone else this year. And Wendell Tyler is the Bruins' alltime single-season leading rusher with 1,216 yards. And Nose Guard Cliff Frazier can come up with the big play....
In the Bruins' last Rose Bowl appearance 10 years ago, a UCLA team with two losses and a tie played another unbeaten No. 1 team that had defeated it earlier (Michigan State), and pulled a 14-12 upset. Incidentally, the No. 2 team also lost its bowl that year and the national championship fell to Alabama, which had lost only its first game. Everybody in Tuscaloosa remembers.
OKLAHOMA VS. MICHIGAN
JAN. 1, 1976 7:45 P.M. EST NBC
Now that Michigan has won its freedom from the Big Ten's Rose Bowl-only policy and Oklahoma is off NCAA probation, both are fit for introduction to postseason society. Each team has lost only three regular-season games in the last five years, guaranteeing a proper climax to the holiday schedule.
Despite their different offenses—Michigan uses the power I, Oklahoma the wishbone—the teams share several characteristics. Neither passes very often or very well; both prefer to run. The Wolverines offer 1,000-yard-rushers Gordon Bell and Rob Lytle, while the Sooners feature the balance of Quarterback Steve Davis and Halfback Joe Washington, among others. Both teams punt poorly, but their field-goal kickers, Bob Wood of the Wolverines and Tony DiRienzo of the Sooners, are outstanding.
The defenses yield ground grudgingly, especially against the run. Their secondaries are vulnerable to the pass, but Quarterbacks Davis and Rick Leach may be unable to exploit it. The other defenders are among the best anywhere, especially Leroy and Dewey Selmon of Oklahoma. Michigan's top stopper is Rover Don Dufek.
Oklahoma has a better record (10-1 to 8-1-2) against a tougher schedule (five bowl teams to one). As former Michigan star Gerald Ford said, "It looks like my Wolverines are going to have their hands full."
ARIZONA STATE VS. NEBRASKA
DEC. 26, 1975 3 P.M. EST CBS
In only its fifth year, the Fiesta Bowl has the trappings of a national championship game, even though the winner may be lucky to squeeze into the top five. But who can slight the credentials of unbeaten Arizona State, seventh-ranked champion of the Western Athletic Conference, and once-beaten Nebraska, sixth-ranked co-champion of the Big Eight? Adding to the luster, the Sun Devils are after their fifth straight bowl victory and the Cornhuskers seek a national record—seven in a row.
Although this is the first meeting ever between the two, Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne did spend a fortuitous week in Tempe last spring studying ASU's offense. If he knows how to stop it, he will be miles ahead of the Sun Devils' regular-season opponents, who surrendered 30 points and 421 yards a game. Fred Williams rushed for 1,316 yards and Quarterbacks Dennis Sproul and Fred Mortensen combined to make Arizona State the 11th best passing team in the country.
The Cornhuskers' offensive statistics are only slightly less impressive than Arizona State's and, despite their showing against Oklahoma, they are much less prone to errors. However, Running Backs Monte Anthony and Tony Davis lack outside speed and Quarterback Vince Ferragamo must be wary of Arizona State Cornerbacks Mike Haynes and Mike Martinez. Nebraska may wind up wishing it had stayed at home.
SUGAR (NEW ORLEANS)
ALABAMA VS. PENN STATE
DEC. 31, 1975 7:30 P.M. EST ABC
Bear Bryant could not have picked a better place to end his postseason slump if he had tried. (Pause for laughter.) It was in the 1967 Sugar Bowl that Bryant enjoyed his last holiday victory and it was also in New Orleans that Penn State suffered its only defeat in seven bowl appearances under Joe Paterno.
So much for history. The Tide should win because it has better personnel. This is not the same Alabama team that embarrassed itself in a 20-7 loss to Missouri. Since then it has out-scored 10 opponents 354 to 46. Alabama's backs attack in waves, with Fullback Johnny Davis the leading rusher and Quarterback Richard Todd a satisfactory wishbone passer. End Leroy Cook and Tackle Bob Baumhower head a defense that was second in the country overall and led the SEC in pass interceptions.
Penn State won nine of 11 games with strong defense and Chris Bahr's kicking. But even in these areas it may be trumped. The Lions' biggest problem is an offense that scored only four touchdowns in its last three games and one TD each in two others. The running backs are average, even when they are not hurt. The receivers are first-rate but Quarterback John Andress, who was benched against Pittsburgh, is an inconsistent passer.
Penn State's best asset is that Paterno usually plays the toughest opponent close, leading to the kind of game that troubles Bryant the most. Especially around New Year's.
ARKANSAS VS. GEORGIA
JAN. 1, 1976 2 P.M. EST CBS
Oink, oink! and arf, arf! the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Georgia Bulldogs are playing in a major postseason game again. The Southwest Conference co-champion and Southeastern Conference runner-up earned their Cotton Bowl invitations with late-season rushes to surprising 9-2 records.
Rush also describes their similar veer offenses, although they sometimes pass effectively, too. If Arkansas runners Ike Forte and Jerry Eckwood have mended, they can gain yards in a hurry. Georgia would like to have Kevin McLee back, but All-America Guard Randy Johnson can make just about any ball-carrier look good. Arkansas has had the more resilient defense, thanks to players like End Dennis Winston, but it was Georgia's feisty bunch that inspired James Brown to record Dooley's Junkyard Dogs.
Although this could easily turn out to be one of the year's most entertaining games, the Cotton Bowl was hoping for a more nationally significant pairing featuring an unbeaten Texas A&M. Notre Dame or USC would have been an inviting guest, but after those two fell by the wayside, a soured Cotton Bowl official reportedly complained about the unattractive teams that remained. Georgia players say that put-down will only make them play better. Against Arkansas, they will need more advantages than that.
TEXAS VS. COLORADO
DEC. 27, 1975 3:30 P.M. EST ABC
According to Darrell Royal, whose judgment must be trusted in these matters, Marty Akins is Texas' best wishbone quarterback ever. With him at the controls the Longhorns are as good as their 9-2 record and Top Ten standing suggest. But without him, they struggled against TCU and stumbled against Texas A&M. Texas' chances against Colorado, another 9-2 Top Ten team that has won the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl twice, rest on the soundness of Akins' fragile right knee.
Even a healthy Akins would not eliminate concern for a Colorado offense that was the most effective in the Big Eight. Buffalo Quarterback Dave Williams led the league in total offense, completing 60% of his passes to Rocky Mountain high receivers like 6'5" Dave Logan and 6'8" Don Hasselbeck. A blocking front that averages 6'5", 260 pounds per man helped Fullbacks Terry Kunz and Jim Kelleher combine for 1,300 yards.
This balance could wear the Longhorn defenders to a frazzle unless the wishbone starts whooshing again. Perhaps it will if reserve Quarterback Ted Constanzo has honed his technique in the month since the A&M game. Otherwise, Colorado's defense, like the Aggies' before it, will gang up on 1,100-yard Fullback Earl Campbell and the Longhorns will not offend anybody.
With four losses in its last five bowl appearances, Texas could use a victory. But without Akins it's not likely.
FLORIDA VS. MARYLAND
DEC. 29, 1975 9 P.M. EST ABC
If the Gator Bowl ends in a tie, both Florida and Maryland can claim cruel and unusual punishment. The two teams have had the same problem lately—an inability to win a big game. One of them deserves a reprieve.
The rap on the Gators is three-fold: they have never won a Southeastern Conference championship, they have dropped both their bowls under Doug Dickey and they lost this season to the only quality teams they played. The Terrapins have had no trouble in the Atlantic Coast Conference, breezing to two straight championships, but they have been mediocre outside the league, losing two bowls and failing to beat an SEC club.
However, Florida and Maryland did something right during respective 9-2 and 8-2-1 campaigns. Five players from the Terrapins' nationally-ranked defense made the All-ACC team. But they face an offense that averaged 5.6 yards a snap and features Fullback Jimmy DuBose, who gained 1,307 yards.
Maryland's offense shuttles four running backs and two quarterbacks. The throwing of Mark Manges and Larry Dick could cause the most damage, since the Gators were last in SEC pass defense. But Sammy (Odd Job) Green, whom Dickey rates with any of his former All-America linebackers, made Florida one of the toughest teams in the country to score against. As the Terrapins may learn.
MIAMI OF OHIO VS. SOUTH CAROLINA
DEC. 20, 1975 2 P.M. EST
By birthing coaches and burying opponents, Miami of Ohio has built an illustrious reputation over the years. But before Dick Crum inevitably graduates into the big time, it wouldn't hurt to win a third consecutive Tangerine Bowl.
The Redskins have won all but two of their last 34 games and have beaten South Carolina the last two times they met. First-year Coach Jim Carlen has given Carolina a new outlook, however, by duplicating the success he previously enjoyed at West Virginia and Texas Tech. The team's turnaround from 4-7 to 7-4 came about because a 432-yard-per-game offense offset a 414-yard-a-game defense—if defense is the right word. Jeff Grantz may be the best option quarterback in the country; he accounted for 28 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards. Kevin Long and Clarence Williams are 1,000-yard rushers.
All three must be at their best, since Miami ranks second in the country against the rush. The surest way to move against the Redskins is by passing against a young secondary that has allowed 11 of the 18 touchdowns scored by opponents.
But Miami will probably gain all the yards it needs on the ground. Tailback Rob Carpenter, Quarterback Sherman Smith and Fullback Randy Walker are well suited to Crum's ball-control attack. This strategy beat Florida and Georgia in previous Tangerine Bowls, putting South Carolina in good company.
TEXAS A&M VS. USC
DEC. 22, 1975 9 P.M. EST ABC
The Liberty Bowl is not what Southern California and Texas A&M had in mind when they were dominating the Pacific Eight and Southwest Conference races. But four straight losses for the Trojans and a season-ending defeat for the Aggies cancelled their Rose and Cotton Bowl plans and sent them Memphis-bound. It may be a marriage made in publicity heaven for the Liberty Bowl, but for John McKay, coaching his last college game, and Emory Bellard of A&M it must seem a useless exercise. Both expected so much more.
Spectators, at least, can enjoy watching USC's Ricky Bell, the national rushing champion, challenge the country's best rushing defense. The Aggies' top offensive threats are Halfback Bubba Bean and Fullback George Woodard. Neither team throws well; the lack of a complementary passing game, in fact, is probably the main reason neither is playing on New Year's Day.
Linebackers Ed and Simonini Garth Ten Napel give A&M the better defenders, but Trojan Tackle Gary Jeter is excellent, too. The Aggie field goal kicker, Tony Franklin, and the USC punt returner, Danny Reecc, may also appear in decisive roles.
The injury-wracked Trojans have been playing out the schedule since McKay's resignation announcement, and the Aggies fell apart against Arkansas. Since USC seems to have forgotten how to win, it probably won't.
SUN (EL PASO)
KANSAS VS. PITTSBURGH
DEC. 26, 1975 NOON EST CBS
Forget for a moment, as the sponsors of the Sun Bowl have, that the presence of Pittsburgh and Kansas makes this the postseason pairing with the fewest wins (14) and the most losses (eight). These, after all, are the teams which mortalized Notre Dame and Oklahoma. With Tony Dorsett of the Panthers and Nolan Cromwell of the Jayhawks, no record is safe and no opponent sacred.
Both teams have been frustratingly inconsistent this year. Pittsburgh broke away to a 5-1 record but then alternated wins and losses the rest of the way. After Kansas opened with a defeat against Washington State, first-year Coach Bud Moore sighed, "We may not win a game all season." He was wrong, but no one else was expecting the Jayhawks to do very well, either.
Kansas became bowl-worthy when Cromwell, a free safety, became the quarterback. He made the Jayhawk wishbone the best running attack in the Big Eight and was the league's individual rushing leader with 1,124 yards. Laverne Smith, with 6.9 yards a carry, helped out, but stop those two and you stop Kansas because Cromwell threw only 49 passes, completing 20.
Dorsett veered to 1,544 yards and teammate Elliott Walker had 780. Matt Cavanaugh makes Pitt the more dependable passing team, and the Panthers also have the better field goal kicker in Carson Long. This versatility should be enough to win.
N.C. STATE VS. WEST VIRGINIA
DEC. 31, 1975 3 P.M. EST MIZLOU
If N.C. State and West Virginia follow their normal patterns, the Peach Bowl may resemble the NBA Game of the Week. The two teams like to run up and down the field for three quarters before deciding the game at the final buzzer.
This is especially true of the Wolfpack, which defeated three bowl invitees in a 7-3-1 season. N.C. State used two-point conversions to nip Florida and North Carolina by one point and to tie Duke. A late touchdown beat South Carolina by seven and the Wolfpack sweated out a missed field goal before getting a third one-point win over Penn State. West Virginia also played beat-the-clock during its 8-3 season, but with less satisfactory results. The Mountaineers edged Pittsburgh on Bill McKenzie's field goal but lost to Tulane on a field goal and fell to Syracuse when a two-point running attempt was stopped short of the goal line.
Closing rushes did not decide the teams' 1972 Peach Bowl meeting. N.C. State won 49-13 on the quarterbacking of Dave Buckey. Buckey is now a senior and his bombs to twin brother Don and Tight End Pat Hovance, along with Ted Brown's running, make the Wolfpack formidable. The Mountaineers are fumble-prone but Artie Owens runs well and Dan Kendra can pass. The offenses will dominate, so figure N.C. State on a two-point basket, er, conversion, as the clock runs out.