First-year Notre Dame coach Bob Davie attributes the Irish's turnaround to the return to action of injured players, such as junior inside linebacker Bobbie Howard, who had a team-high 10 tackles, one for a sack, against the Tigers, and senior nose-guard Corey Bennett, who had six tackles. "We've made improvement, and a lot has to do with being healthier on defense," Davie says.
A bigger factor in Notre Dame's resurgence, however, is that Davie has gone back to the power running game used so successfully by his predecessor, Lou Holtz. Early in the season Davie and his staff tried a pass-oriented attack, but the lack of a big-play receiver and the limitations of quarterback Ron Powlus apparently persuaded them to keep the ball mainly on the ground, where talented junior tailback Autry Denson could do damage behind the Irish's mammoth, veteran offensive line. Against LSU, Notre Dame rushed the ball 48 times (tying a season high) for 260 yards (best this year), while attempting a season-low 15 passes, completing seven for 79 yards.
Clemson and Iowa each could wind up losing big as a result of scheduling a Division I-AA opponent. In 1991 the NCAA passed a rule that requires a school to have six victories over Division I-A teams to qualify for a bowl. Though both the Tigers and the Hawkeyes are 6-4, each team counts a regional I-AA opponent among its victims. On Sept. 6 Clemson defeated Appalachian State 23-12 and Iowa thumped Northern Iowa 66-0.
The games against the I-AA opponents had been agreed upon before the rule was passed, and neither school backed out of the commitment. As a result the Hawkeyes must beat Minnesota in Iowa City on Saturday or their season will be over, and the Tigers must handle archrival South Carolina on the Gamecocks' home turf to qualify for a bowl bid.
Attack of the 50-Yard Punter
No college punter has finished a season with an average of 50 yards or better. The closest, Reggie Roby, boomed the ball 49.8 yards per kick as a junior at Iowa in 1981.
Now LSU senior Chad Kessler is on pace to break the 50-yard barrier. He's averaging 50.35, in part because LSU sends in another punter, Jeremy Witten, for those stat-killing pooch kicks. Kessler, who has one game remaining, against Arkansas on Nov. 28, already has the requisite 3.6 punts per game to qualify for the punting championship.
USC, which is 6-4 after a 23-0 shutout of Oregon State, has been in an upset-free zone. The Trojans have beaten six teams that are currently unranked and have lost to four ranked teams—Florida State (No. 2), Washington State (11), Arizona State (12) and Washington (17). That doesn't bode well for Southern Cal's showdown on Saturday against archrival UCLA. The Trojans have lost six straight to the Bruins....