Oklahoma-Miami could be game of year; LSU's shocking loss

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

If any game deserves a ``don't miss'' label this season, it may be Saturday's Oklahoma-Miami (Fla.) contest. A lot could ride on the outcome, including the national championship and the identity of this year's Heisman Trophy winner (i.e., best player). Without a post-season playoff, major-college football can seldom count on a match-up between the nation's top-ranked teams. But that's what this game offers, and CBS will surely underline the fact during its coverage (3:30 p.m., Eastern time).

No. 1 Oklahoma is the defending national champion, but No. 2 Miami has the distinction of being the only team to beat the Sooners last year.

The subplot will be provided by Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde and OU linebacker Brian Bosworth, a pair of Heisman candidates who will literally play opposite each other. Whoever has the better game, therefore, can take one giant step toward New York's Downtown Athletic Club, where the award is presented.

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For Oklahoma, last season's 27-14 loss to Miami marked the beginning of an important transition. When starting quarterback Troy Aikman was injured, the Sooners brought in freshman Jamelle Holieway and returned to their famous Wishbone option attack. The offense began to match the defense and Oklahoma went on to knock off undefeated Penn State in the Orange Bowl. Miami, meanwhile, blew its chance for the No. 1 ranking by coming apart in a 35-7 Sugar Bowl loss to Tennessee.

This year, both teams have looked impressive in the early going. Miami beat South Carolina 34-14, snapped Florida's 21-game home winning streak 23-15, and crushed Texas Tech 61-11. Oklahoma has dismantled both UCLA (38-3) and Minnesota (63-0).

The game is in Miami, which really shouldn't bother Oklahoma too much. The Sooners, after all, are used to playing in the Orange Bowl, although not exactly under the same circumstances. Miami (of Ohio) has SEC's number

Louisiana State's Tiger Stadium is known as a very difficult place for visiting teams to win. A loud and rabid following usually succeeds in pumping up the Tigers, and sometimes intimidating the opposition. Neither worked last Saturday, though, as Miami of Ohio totally ignored LSU's home-field advantage and scored a stunning 21-12 victory. Considering that Miami wasn't given much of a chance against the nation's eighth-rated team, the upset should rank among the biggest of the year when the season ends. LSU had just come off an impressive win over Texas A&M and was probably already looking ahead to meeting Florida Oct. 4 in its Southeastern Conference opener. History, however, should have made the Tigers wary of the Ohioans.

For while Miami is best known as ``the cradle of coaches,'' it also has a reputation for being a thorn in the SEC's side. Kentucky lost to Miami in 1912, starting a a string of upsets that has given the Redskins an amazing 8-0-1 record against SEC opponents. Briefly speaking

Three cheers for . . . Harvard coach Joe Restic, who exhibited great compassion in keeping the score down in his team's 34-0 victory over outmanned Columbia, which has now lost 22 in a row. After Harvard took a 31-0 halftime lead, Restic had the Crimson keep the ball on the ground the rest of the way. He also cleared the bench, using eight quarterbacks. . . . And hats off to new Pittsburgh coach Mike Gottfried, who wants all expletives deleted. He felt the Panthers used too much bad language, so he has instituted a no-cursing rule, for both players and coaches. ``To me, swearing leads to excuses,'' he says.

To avoid a third straight loss, Ohio State called in former coach Woody Hayes to deliver a midweek pep talk before the Colorado game. His remarks may have helped, but perhaps not as much as a controversial pass interference call that set up a game-winning, 19-yard field goal.

The loss really stung Colorado, since it too was 0-2 entering this major road test. The Buffaloes began the year with high hopes, having finished last season tied with Fresno State as the most improved major-college teams of 1985. Colorado was 1-10 in 1984 and 7-5 a year ago.

Gordie Lockbaum, whose versatility is turning heads at Holy Cross, again was seemingly everywhere in the Crusaders' 38-14 victory over Lafayette. This time he rushed for 93 yards on seven carries, returned a kickoff 38 yards, made a handful of tackles, and got off a 47-yard quick kick.

Though Notre Dame has now lost back-to-back games to Michigan and Michigan State, the Fighting Irish have looked much more formidable under new coach Lou Holtz than they did under Gerry Faust. But that doesn't mean the team's record will improve significantly, if at all. Coming up is Purdue, an old nemesis, and the nation's toughest schedule doesn't get any easier thereafter, with schools such as Alabama, Air Force, Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Southern Cal still ahead.

The printed program for last Saturday's Penn State-Boston College game carried an interesting team picture, not of either competing team, but of 19 well-groomed men in business suits. Team Xerox? No, just the rather large Penn State coaching staff. In addition to head coach Joe Paterno, the contingent includes nine fulltime assistants, seven graduate assistants, a strength coach, and a volunteer coach.

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