Before the season began, the feeling persisted that Georgia's Herschel Walker stood helmet and shoulder pads above every other running back in the country. Now people know better.
Walker is exceptional, but he's got company in that category. Marcus Allen, the latest in Southern California's star-studded tailback lineage, has actually been the season's biggest story thus far. Other ball carriers to corner a fair share of attention are North Carolina's Kelvin Bryant, Penn State's Curt Warner, and Iowa State's Dwayne Crutchfield, all 100-yards-a-game players on ranked teams.
Allen, however, has center stage after an incredible, historymaking run of four consecutive 200-yard outings. No back has ever gotten off to a faster start. The sensational senior has already ripped through defenses for 925 yards , and should become the college game's first 2,000-yard rusher, barring unforeseen developments during Southern Cal's seven remaining games.
John Robinson, coach of the top-ranked Trojans, gets upset when observers say USC's massive line makes life easy for Marcus. Obviously, he doesn't want to see Allen's feats underestimated. On the other hand, allen does find some gaping holes to bolt through, a real testament to his blockers.
If people aren't dazzled by Allen, it may be because he's so deceptive. "He makes it look easy," robinson says. "Against Oregon State he came around end to our bench and was knocked out of bounds and I started cursing, thinking it wasn't much of a run.
"But one of my assistants came up and said, 'Coach, he got nine yards. It's second and one. Quit complaining.' Then I realized again that he's terribly deceiving in how many yards he rips off in chunks." A tackle and telecast scrutinized
Based on his performance in Saturday's game against Missouri, Missisisippi State line-backer Johnie Cooks truly rates All-America consideration. He was literally all over the field making authoritative stops in a valiant, but losing , effort against the undefeated tigers.
TV commentator Pepper Rodgers certainly didn't hide his enthusiasm for Cooks's play. Unfortunately, the former Kansas, UCLA, and Georgia Tech coach chose to lavish extra praise on one especially crunching, helmet-in-the numerals tackle. That's the way it should be done, Pepper assured young viewers.
On the contrary, those concerned with making football a safer game have called for an end to this type of tackling. It is dangerous, both to the player being and also the tackler, who risks a serious neck injury. Though many coaches have taught and advocated the head-in-chest technique, one hopes they've realized the folly of their ways. Of course, those handed a microphone have a special responsibility in this regard.
As things developed, the game was aired to a larger audience than originally planned. Viewers who had been watching Pittsburgh-South Carolina suddenly found themselves looking at the Mississipe State-Missouri game. ABC decided to drop its regional coverage of the Pitt game in midstream when the Panthers took a commanding 21-0 lead.
The switch, the first in 16 years of ABC college telecasts, was made after receiving permission in a telephone conversation from Tom Hansen, assistant executive director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
TV game-hopping may become common-place in the next few years under a new two-network contract, which has yet to receive formal approval. The ground rules would allow ABS and CBS to change to another game if one team is leading by 18 or more points at halftime.
Saturday's switchover, then, was something of a dry run -- and a controversial one at that. Pitt fans, irked to see their team taken off the air , besieged the local ABC affiliate with complaints. As it turned out, South Carolina rallied in the second half, though Pittsburgh held on to win, 42-28. Some random observations
* With bowl game victories over Michigan and Texas the last two seasons, North Carolina proved it can play with the big boys. This week the undefeated Tar Heels moved up No. 5 in both wire service polls, a rarefied region where Atlantic coast Conference teams seldom tread. Whether they can stay there without Kelvin Bryant remains to be seen. the junior tailback scored 15 touchdowns in just three games, putting him well on the way to breaking Lydell Mitchell's single-season TD record of 29. Bryant was injured Saturday, though, and will miss the rest of the season.
* Ohio State appears to have come fully cycle from the Woody Hayes grind-it-out era. At least that's the way it looked last Saturday, when quarterback ARt Schlichter passed for a school record 453 yards, with 31 completions in 53 attempts! The statistics were all for nough, however, As Florida State upset the Buckeyes 36-27.
* Around the Ivy League, everyone is still buzzing about Yale's 23-19 victory over Navy. The win was quite a feather in the Ivies' cap, particularly since powerful Michigan struggled to beat the Midshipmen 21-16 only a week earlier. Harvard didn't fare as well against Army, losing, but in respectable 27-13 fashion. Based on these results, maybe the better Ivy League teams can venture out against so-called bigger football programs. But will Brown University really be ready to take on Penn State in 1983 and again in 1985? I doubt it.
Prince has no ambitions, and even replaced Rutgers on its schedule this season, because the Scarlet Knights had been dominating their storied rivalry. Ironically, Rutgers was replaced by Delaware, which beat Princeton 61-8.