Should their teams continue undefeated—and each is but a game away from a perfect 10-0 season—both the University of Arkansas and the University of Nebraska might normally claim the distinction of being No. 1, the best college football team in the U.S. In one respect this is a happy situation, since the two will settle which is better in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day. But this has never been a normal season, and two other undefeated teams have even stronger claims to No. 1: Notre Dame and Alabama. Each has played a more demanding schedule than Arkansas or Nebraska and each has won in more convincing fashion. Unhappily, however, they will not meet. Alabama will play Texas, last year's champion but now a once-beaten (14-13 by Arkansas) team, in the Orange Bowl. Notre Dame will go nowhere but home for Christmas.
In the absence of a true championship game, the opinions of the few who have seen both Notre Dame and Alabama—as well as Arkansas, Nebraska and Texas—carry extra weight. Our football staff has seen them all—and without hesitation we like Notre Dame.
For eight weeks the surprise team of 1964 has played like a champion, averaging 30 points a game, giving up less than a touchdown, awakening the echoes that seldom slumber deeply in South Bend. Ara Parseghian's explosive offense, led by Quarterback John Huarte and End Jack Snow, has gained more than 400 yards a Saturday—the nation's second best—and in rushing defense the Irish rank ahead of all other college teams. Last Saturday, in what was supposed to be their severest test, they crushed a strong Michigan State 34-7.
We have been impressed by Alabama, too, just as we are always impressed by Paul Bryant's teams, and last week's victory over Georgia Tech (next page) was brilliant in its spirit and execution. Alabama is light but aggressive, and three times the Tide has proved its character by coming from behind to win. This is an awfully good team, perhaps a great team, but it would not beat Notre Dame.
The fighting Irish deserve their ranking as No. 1.