Now that the bowl invitations have gone out, who is playing where and what does it all mean? The discussion begins with the Orange Bowl, where undefeated, untied, and top-ranked Penn State will be trying to secure its second national championship in the last four years. There to provide stiff opposition, though, will be a powerful Oklahoma team which has legitimate No. 1 aspirations of its own. Considering how easily the third-ranked Sooners brushed aside archrival Nebraska in last Saturday's 27-7 victory, there is good reason to believe this team rates with those that wound up No. 1 in the f inal Associated Press polls for the 1974 and '75 seasons.
Still, an Oklahoma victory wouldn't guarantee a coronation. Miami of Florida believes it should vault to the top if it wins the Sugar Bowl, since the Hurricanes actually upset the Sooners in Norman, Okla. earlier this season. That, however, was before superfrosh Jamelle Holieway took the reins of Oklahoma's option offense, a clear turning point for Big Red rooters. Miami also will probably face a lower-ranked Tennessee team, which is expected to secure the Southeastern Conference's automatic berth.M DNM
Not to be overlooked in this discussion is No. 2 Iowa, which is headed for the Rose Bowl and also stands a chance to move up if Penn State loses. Like Miami, though, the Hawkeyes may have a harder time impressing the pollsters playing lower-rated UCLA, which backed into a Rose Bowl berth despite its loss to Southern California last Saturday.
Auburn has accepted a Cotton Bowl invitation to play the Southwest Conference champion, either Texas or Texas A&M. This could be an interesting game, but won't have any No. 1 implications, nor will the Fiesta Bowl, which has landed Michigan and Nebraska.
Recruiting Chuck Long to play quarterback for Iowa was certainly a major factor in the Hawkeyes' recent success, but what may have initially turned the moribund program around was a decision Hayden Fry made shortly after being named head coach in the late 1970s. Realizing the players needed to feel like winners, Fry called Joe Greene, who played at North Texas State, where Fry once coached, and asked the all-pro lineman to air-express him a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform. Iowa basically copied the Stee ler look, associated with Pittsburgh's Super Bowl teams, for its new uniforms. Indiana wins this season's Jekyll and Hyde award. Winless a year ago, the Hoosiers jumped out to a promising 4-0 start, then hit the wall, finishing out their campaign with seven straight losses. The turning point came when Indiana had to play Ohio State on the road. The Buckeyes, who haven't lost to I.U. since 1951, punctured the Hoosiers' budding confidence this time with a 48-7 victory.
Despite Coach Jack Bicknell's forecast that Boston College was capable of being a Top 20 team again, the first year in the post-Doug Flutie era was not a good one. A year after winning the Cotton Bowl and compiling a 10-2 record, the Eagles landed bumpily with a 4-8 mark. Bicknell, of course, had no delusions about the fine line that separates a good campaign from a mediocre to poor one. In fact, he has said that B.C. could easily have been a 6-5 club even during Flutie's Heisman-winni ng senior season.
This has been a banner year for quarterbacks in the Big Ten Conference, with a handful listed among the nation's top passers. Three of the best -- Iowa's Chuck Long, Illinois' Jack Trudeau, and Purdue's Jim Everett -- are ending their collegiate careers, but the cupboard won't exactly be bare next year, with six current starters returning. The biggest names in the group belong to Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Jim Karsatos of Ohio State, who will do what Long did and complete their eligibi lity beyond the normal four-year time frame. Harbaugh will be a fifth year senior, Karsatos a practically unheard-of, but perfectly legal sixth-year senior.
Teams in the Western Athletic Conference still earn respect begrudgingly, but the league is definitely making progress. After all, two WAC schools -- No. 9 Brigham Young and No. 11 Air Force -- are in the latest Top 20, and who would ever have imagined that happening even a few years ago?