top teams

1. Michigan -- The nation's perennial attendance leader now has what most experts agree is the country's most awesome team. Michigan won its first season-ending game ever under Bo Schembechler last January, beating Washington handily in the Rose Bowl. That breakthrough added a championship sheen to a squad that remains largely intact.

2. Oklahoma -- Probably the only team that can fumble a thousand times, pass about once a semester, and still win regularly. The Sooners just have too many superior athletes for most folks.

3. Notre Dame -- Always plenty of muscle here, and now there's some of that old Rockne-style emotion, too. Rah-rah high school coach Gerry Faust has arrived to snap the Irish out of the doldrums (translation: 9-2-1 last year).

4. Penn State -- Coach Joe Paterno has speed galore, a luxury he has won without in the past. Just how he uses it will be important as State tackles its toughest schedule ever, with dates against Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Pitt.

5. Texas -- A flood of injuries caused the bottom to drop out after last season's fast start. With everybody fit, the burnt orange jerseys could once again be the scourge of the Southwest Conference.

6. Southern California -- Perhaps no team replenishes itself with quality players faster than USC, a pipeline to the props. Even an inexperienced QB shouldn't prevent the Trojans from moving up and down the field behind the thrusts of tailback Marcus Allen, the nation's second-leading rusher last fall.

7. Alabama -- You don't have to look at the roster to write this outfit into the Top 10. They traditionally play with tremendous heart and pride. And, of course, nine victories is all Coach Bear Bryant needs to achieve an alltime record of 314 wins.

8. Nebraska -- The Cornhuskers still haven't found a way to beat Big Eight archrival Oklahoma, winner of nine of their last 10 meetings. Even so, they usually win most of their games, and that shouldn't change.

9. UCLA -- In a word, DEFENSE. The Bruins have the manpower to make scoring against them quite difficult. The offense is nothing spectacular, but doesn't need to be.

10. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels feel they belong with the big boys after knocking off Michigan and Texas in their last two bowl appearances.

11. Ohio State -- Once again QB Art Schlichter carries the weight of great expectations on his shoulder pads. The Buckeyes lost Big Ten rushing leader Cal Murray, but at least Schlichter has some glue-fingered receivers.

12. Pittsburgh -- Time to rebuild, but, oh, what raw material.Now that the Panthers are recruiting many of the best players in their area, they will remain in the national picture.

13. Georgia -- The presence of Herschel Walker alone makes the defending national champions more than respectable. The schedule's none too tough, a real plus when you're replacing 13 starters.

14. Washington -- Take a bow, Don James, you've made people realize there's more to the Pac-10 than those California schools. James isn't likely to coach the Huskies back to the Rose Bowl, but a rugged defense will keep them in the chase.

15. Houston -- The Cougars, a team known to blow hot and cold, sense the temperature rising. No big names here, but that's never stopped Bill Yeoman-coached teams in the past.

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