Can a team reel off four straight victories and still have something to prove? You betcha, if the team is Indiana, and people remember what happened a year ago. The Hoosiers jumped out to an identical 4-0 start last season, even beating the same teams (Louisville, Navy, Missouri, and Northwestern), before the roof collapsed with a 48-7 loss to Ohio State. Indiana kept right on losing and finished 4-7.
Maybe things won't be different this time, either, but Bill Mallory is convinced that he's coaching a better team. ``We're improved, I know we are,'' he said.
But no matter how improved Indiana may be, there are a lot of doubters who figure reality will set in soon enough -- say, this Saturday, when the Hoosiers host their nemesis, Ohio State.
Indiana hasn't beaten the Buckeyes since 1951, Woody Hayes's first year in Columbus, which surely makes it one of the longest such streaks in the country. Not even an optimistic Mallory hesitates to place the contest in sobering context. ``We'll have to play better than we've played all year to make it competitive.''
Ohio State, which lost to second-ranked Alabama in the Kickoff Classic and then toWashington, has begun to gel with three straight victories over Colorado, Utah, and Illinois.
Now the Buckeyes take a defense that has allowed only one touchdown in the last 12 quarters against an Indiana offense ranked third nationally in total offense with 460 yards a game. Some losers now winners
People are correct in assuming that major college teams are loaded with guys from winning high school programs. Still, there are players who emerge from abject football surroundings to star as collegians. Oklahoma's All-America linebacker Brian Bosworth is one example. His talents were apparent even though MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, had a 2-8 record his senior season.
Tim Goad's story is similar. During three varsity seasons at Virginia's Patrick County High School, Goad's team was 3-37 and winless his last year. Nevertheless, North Carolina recognized his abilities and gave him a scholarship. Now a 6 ft. 4 in., 272-pound junior, he has become one of the top defensive players in the Atlantic Coast Conference. And best of all, he's contributing to a 3-0-1.
Playing for the Tar Heels has been a far cry from his experience in high school, when he was the star of a squad that numbered just 16 his junior year. A two-way lineman, he had a hand in seemingly every play, and as senior made 193 tackles, intercepted three passes, and blocked 14 kicks.
Goad, who learned the fundamentals at football camps, is from Claudville, Va., which he claims is big enough to have a working stoplight. ``We've got one down by the school,'' he says, ``but, in all honesty, it's just used for drivers' education.'' Briefly speaking
Before last Saturday, Notre Dame had always gotten the better of Alabama, beating the Crimson Tide four times by a total of 13 points, usually in games critical to the national rankings. This year, though, Alabama won 28-10 to silence all the talk of a Notre Dame mystique. In the words of Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines, ``Once you kick that thing off, mystique, unless he's the starting left tackle, hasn't got anything to do with it.''
At Texas A&M, the ``Twelfth Man'' kickoff squad is a group of walk-ons that represents the regular student body in games. The idea has merit, and although it hasn't been copied yet, Kansas State coach Stan Parrish arranged open student tryouts the other week with surprising results. About 175 prospects showed up. The idea was to find new reserves for the injury-riddled K-State team, which is 1-4 and idle this week. The coaches have invited about 20 students back.