Notre Dame will breathe easier if some of the other undefeated teams take themselves out of the running. Miami's Dec. 7 game with Virginia Tech will dispose of one of the unbeatens. It will also help the Irish if Colorado upsets Oklahoma this weekend. Buffaloes tailback Chris Brown, one of the best runners in the country, is also the best friend and an ex-high school teammate of Glenn Earl. "I'm gonna call him this week," says Earl, "and tell him he needs to go for about 350 [yards] against Oklahoma."
Like Notre Dame the Georgia Bulldogs were nobody's choice for national champion contenders. And for that reason they feel some affinity with the Irish. Before last Saturday's game at Kentucky, most Georgia players were glued to their hotel room TVs watching Notre Dame and Florida State. "Notre Dame is a lot like us, a team with a great defense and an offense that has done just enough to get wins," says junior wideout Terrence Edwards. "The difference is that everyone else gets a lot more press than we do."
Not surprisingly, when the Bulldogs lost three key players-offensive lineman John Stinchcomb (sore left knee), tailback Musa Smith (broken left thumb) and wideout Fred Gibson (broken left thumb)—the week before the Kentucky game, the pundits made them a popular upset choice. "When Miami beat Florida State, the sports radio shows talked about 'the cream rising to the top,' " says defensive end David Pollack, "but when we beat Alabama, they were saying that we 'squeaked by.' "
Strictly speaking, that's true: Georgia has won four of its games by six points or fewer. But led by the improving quarterback tandem of David Greene and D.J. Shockley, the Bulldogs rolled up 529 yards in their 52-24 win over Kentucky. Even so, the Bulldogs' locker room had all the festiveness of an accountants' convention. "There was not a huge celebration, and I think it was because we know what is ahead of us next week against Florida," says coach Mark Richt. "I just told them that we still haven't done anything yet."
The Dawgs cannot be pleased by the fact that despite their thrashing of Kentucky, they were leapfrogged in the AP poll by the Irish. So was Ohio State, which fell to sixth after its lackluster win over Penn State. In the event that the Buckeyes finish 13-0 and still get frozen out of the Fiesta, a pleasant consolation awaits: the Rose Bowl. That would cap a great run for a program that was in disarray just two seasons ago. Second-year coach Jim Tressell has put the pride, and a bit of fun, back into Buckeyes football. A few days before the Penn State game Tressell gave the green light to his defensive assistants to start sophomore flanker Chris Gamble at cornerback. In becoming the Buckeyes' first two-way starter since Paul Warfield in 1963, Gamble didn't just take up space in the secondary. He also turned in the play of the game, a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown that featured a sick cutback at the 15-yard line.
While one star was born, another was temporarily dimmed. Ohio State lost Maurice Clarett, its sensational freshman tailback, on the sixth play of the game. (He suffered a stinger in his left shoulder but was expected back for the Minnesota game on Saturday.) Clarett's injury turned him into a cheerleader—he was among the first to mob Gamble after his pick—and raised the question, How good is Ohio State's offense without Clarett? The answer: not good. As in zero touchdowns on Saturday.
Still, with safeties Donnie Nickles and Mike Doss hand-signaling the coverages to Gamble, the defense shut out the Nittany Lions in the second half. Afterward, defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio talked about the resilience of his group. "When something bad happens," he said, "they don't stay down for very long."
That's a good thing. Even if they win their remaining games, the Buckeyes could be in for that disappointment peculiar to big-time college football, where winning 'em all doesn't mean winning it all.