Sanders looms as Heisman winner; a vote for Holtz as Coach of the Year

When the envelope with the name of the Heisman Trophy winner is opened Saturday, the recipient may not be there to collect the award. Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders, the favorite, will be in Tokyo, preparing to take the field against Texas Tech in the last regular-season game for each team. This presents an interesting wrinkle for CBS, which likes to have the leading candidates at New York's Downtown Athletic Club for the nationally televised presentation (5:30-6 Eastern time). CBS is bringing in USC's Rodney Peete and UCLA's Troy Aikman, and has arranged for a remote interview with Sanders from Tokyo Sunday morning, Japanese time. Ironically, Sanders has not appeared on network TV this year, and on ESPN cable only once. The last game in his record-breaking season will have limited viewership, too, since it will be shown only in Japan.

Sanders's position as the Heisman favorite despite such limited visibility is a testament to his statistical feats, which have been unignorable. The spectacular junior tailback leads the nation in rushing with 2,296 yards, which comes out to an average of 229.6 a game and a 7.65 per carry. To get an idea how incredible the latter figure is, consider that Sanders could rush 95 times against Tech without gaining a yard and still set a new standard in this category. Until now, the best average among runners with at least 300 carries was Marcus Allen's 5.81 yards in 1981.

If Sanders does win the Heisman, he will be the first non-senior to do so since the award's only double winner, Ohio State's Archie Griffin, won as a junior in 1974. Briefly speaking

Several facts from last Saturday's ``game of the year'' can't pass without mention: (1)Notre Dame's 27-10 victory was its sixth straight in the series, which is surprising, given some mediocre-to-poor Notre Dame teams during this period; (2)when the Irish were called for being offside in the third quarter, it marked their first ``false start'' all season, an amazing record; and (3)coach Lou Holtz disciplined two of his best players by sending them back to South Bend before the game, proving he could make decisions that are as bold off the field as his aggressive blitzing defensive strategy was on it. This, plus the team's 11-0 record, make Holtz my choice for Coach of the Year.

Many obvious factors contribute to making the Army-Navy game a great rivalry. Parity is certainly one of these. And it's based on more than just a feeling; the academies have battled to a virtual standoff over the years. Heading into Saturday's 89th edition of this classic, Navy holds a 41-40-7 advantage. Sun Bowl-bound Army is favored to turn the series into a dead heat against a 3-7 Navy squad.

Houston, a team that plays its home games indoors in the Astrodome, had to beat Texas Tech in frigid, snow-sprinkled Lubbock to clinch a trip to the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu. Thoughts of spending Christmas under tropical blue Hawaiian skies provided the Cougars with just the incentive needed to pull out a 30-29 victory.

After starting off 0-6, Tennessee finished in a blaze of glory, winning its last five games. Granted, the stretch drive was loaded with beatable opponents - Memphis State, Boston College, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt - but even so, a slump is no easy thing to break out of. What may have helped is the Volunteers' recent history of late-season success; they haven't lost a game in November since 1984. Of course, for the university to seriously consider increasing the capacity of Neyland Stadium from 91,249 to about 110,000, which appears a possibility, the Vols will need to play in September and October the way they do in November.

How much longer will coach Jimmy Johnson remain at the University of Miami? Given his success with the Hurricanes, he is probably a prime candidate for a National Football League job. He coaches a pro-style offense, and his team is in contention for a national title for a fourth straight year. Among other rumors that have circulated is one that has Johnson replacing Buddy Ryan with the Philadelphia Eagles. But Johnson has denied having any interest in jumping to the NFL. And though some doubt that he will stay put, he seems perfectly happy at Miami. Some highly successful coaches, like Notre Dame's Holtz, Penn State's Joe Paterno, and Michigan's Bo Schembechler, just prefer the college scene, and perhaps Johnson is among them.

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