Has anybody checked the calendar? Is this really the middle of October, or has nature played a trick and dropped April 1st into the middle of fall? College football fans are beginning to wonder. It hardly seems possible that this week's most anticipated Big Ten match-up is Indiana vs. Minnesota in a game with Rose Bowl overtones. Or that Oregon is in serious contention for Pacific-10 honors. Or that Wake Forest is 5-0, and undefeated Syracuse is bidding to win the Lambert Trophy as the East's best team.
All this and more is true, however, which is making for some wonderfully refreshing story lines amid the game's predictable developments.
The Big Ten race is really just starting, but after two weeks of conference play, Indiana, Minnesota, and Michigan State are all tied for the league lead with 2-0 marks. And perhaps just as significant is the fact that traditional powers Ohio State and Michigan, plus auxiliary contender Iowa, already own a loss apiece.
Ohio State, which has dipped to 17th in the latest Associated Press poll, is the Big Ten's highest-ranked team - and maybe most embarrassed, too. Playing at home, the Buckeyes lost to Indiana, 31-10, in probably the biggest shocker among last Saturday's results, which also saw Michigan fall to Michigan State and Memphis State upset Alabama.
Indiana has made great strides under coach Bill Mallory, who, in 1984, his first season, had the distressing fortune to guide the Hoosiers to an 0-11 record during IU's varsity football centennial. Last year Indiana made it to the All-American Bowl, but still nobody expected that the program had matured to such an extent that a victory over Ohio State, in Columbus, was possible.
Ohio State had not lost to Indiana since 1951, when Woody Hayes was the Buckeyes' first-year coach. This time the teams were tied 10-10 at the half, but the Hoosiers dominated thereafter, limiting Ohio State to just 10 rushing yards in what coach Earl Bruce called ``the darkest hour'' of his nine years at the school.
As thrilled as the Hoosiers must be, they'll need their feet on the ground against Minnesota (5-0) in Minneapolis tomorrow night. (The game has been moved up a day to avoid a Metrodome scheduling conflict with the first game of the World Series.) The last time these two squared off in such an important game was 1967, when the Golden Gophers broke Indiana's 8-game winning streak, 33-7, but couldn't prevent IU from securing its lone Rose Bowl berth with a victory over Purdue a week later. Briefly speaking
With its 44-9 victory over Texas last Saturday, Oklahoma's average margin of victory after five games is now a hefty 47.2 points. The Sooners have given up only two touchdowns so far, both to North Texas State, which became the lone opponent to reach double digits in a 69-14 opening-game loss. Oklahoma would probably welcome some real competition, but Nebraska, in the season's final game, may be the only team capable of providing any before a bowl date.
Ohio State quarterback Tom Tupa didn't let Ohio State's upset loss to Indiana affect his punting, which is among the best in the country. He averaged 47 yards on seven punts, a dandy effort, but about normal for him. If he can sustain his current pace, he will be a contender for the national punting championship, something no T-formation quarterback has won since Georgia's Zeke Bratkowski did it in 1953.
For the first time since 1971, when the Big Eight had the nation's top three teams, three conference schools have begun the season with 5-0 records. In '71, it was Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado. This time Oklahoma State replaces Colorado. At least one of the perfect records will go by the boards Saturday, however, when Nebraska travels to Stillwater to meet OSU.
Baylor coach Grant Teaff on his team's tightly controlled, casino-less trip to play the University of Nevada-Las Vegas earlier this season: ``We have guys on this team from places like Axtel and Hondo [Texas]. There are more light bulbs in the sign at the Dunes Hotel than there are in those two towns combined.''
The last time Notre Dame traveled to Pittsburgh was five years ago, when Foge Fazio was the head coach of the top-ranked Panthers. He returned last Saturday as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator and found himself on the wrong side of the field again. In 1982, Pitt lost to the Irish in what was the first step of a gradual slide that eventually led to Fazio's departure. This year, Foge arrived with an undefeated Notre Dame squad that was looking good. The Panthers, however, bolted to a 27-0 halftime lead, then held on for a 30-22 upset of the fourth-ranked Irish.
There is nothing subtle about UCLA's Heisman Trophy campaign for tailback Gaston Green. Each week the school mails out hundreds of color post cards of Green posing with the trophy that UCLA quarterback Gary Beban won in 1967. The words ``Gaston Green, Heisman Trophy Candidate'' accompany the picture, with his latest game and season statistics handwritten on the back.
College football's top 20
The top 20 teams in the weekly Associated Press college football poll, with first-place votes and records in parentheses (total points based on 20 points for first place, 19 for second, etc.). 1. Oklahoma |(47) | (5-0-0)^1,184^ 2. Nebraska |(7)| (5-0-0)^1,122^ 3. Miami| (6)| (4-0-0)^1,111^ 4. Florida State ||(5-1-0)^935^ 5. Auburn||(4-0-1)^934^ 6. Louisiana State|| (5-0-1)^901^ 7. Clemson| | (5-0-0)^880^ 8. Tennessee|| (4-0-1)^752^ 9. UCLA | | (4-1-0)^713^ 10. Penn State ||(5-1-0)^606^ 11. Notre Dame ||(3-1-0)^544^ 12. Oklahoma St.||(5-0-0)^439^ 13. Syracuse|| (5-0-0)^439^ 14. Florida | | (4-2-0)^398^ 15. Arkansas||(4-1-0)^285^ 16. Oregon||(4-1-0)^229^ 17. Ohio State | | (3-1-1)^211^ 18. Georgia||(4-2-0)^ 209^ 19. Michigan State || (3-2-0)^133^ 20. Indiana ||(4-1-0)^114^