1. PENN STATE (10-0)
2. WEST VIRGINIA (9-1)
3. DARTMOUTH (8-1)
Normally Penn State's Dennis Onkotz doesn't like to watch football on TV because it's "too violent," but the Nittany Lions' linebacker nevertheless brought himself to watch a little of the Arkansas- Texas Tech game on Thanksgiving. He heard the announcers talking about how this Saturday's Texas-Arkansas game would decide who's No. 1 and, as Onkotz said, "It made me mad." So two days later Onkotz went on national television himself and worked off his anger in fine fashion, helping Penn State's powerful defense smother North Carolina State 33-8 in the finale of the Lions' second straight perfect season.
Onkotz wasn't the only one upset by the fact that Penn State has never been ranked higher than No. 2. His coach, Joe Paterno, asked: "When, if ever, did any major college team put together two back-to-back 10-0 seasons, go through 29 games without a loss and not be rated No. 1 in the nation?" Even Pennsylvania's governor, Raymond P. Shafer, took a shot at the polls. "Here's a team with a tremendous record, best in the nation," said Shafer in his best oratory tone. "It's done everything anyone could ask of it, but still can't get No. 1 recognition. It's ridiculous."
Penn State's detractors point out that the Lions could have met the issue head on by accepting the chance to play cither Texas or Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Instead, the team chose the Orange and Missouri, saying it wanted a week in the sun because, after all, isn't the game meant to be fun? Now Paterno is arguing, " Missouri is as fine a football team as any in the country. They've beaten better teams than Texas or Arkansas have."
The man on top right now, Texas' Darrell Royal, believes in the polls; but he learned long ago—as Paterno is now—that poll-watching can be mighty frustrating. "We don't play polls," said Royal. "We figure if we can do a good job the polls will take care of themselves. We worry only about the things we can do something about, such as the next game or the Southwest Conference championship. That other stuff is voted, and we have no control over that. You can play great football and still not win the national championship, but the Southwest Conference championship is decided on the football field and we can do something about that. The only time I worry about the polls is at the end of the season."
Amen, says Frank Broyles of Arkansas, whose Razorbacks will be trying to knock Texas off its perch, but Broyles also goes a step further, criticizing the polls for making "people do things they wouldn't do otherwise. I think they can lead to point-piling." Broyles himself votes in the UPI poll. "Yes, I vote for my own team," he said, "but I won't say in what position."
Nobody knows more about the fickleness of the polls than Ohio State's Woody Hayes, whose team was No. 1 all season until being upset by Michigan, when it was quickly dropped as low as No. 6.
"I must admit I'm a little apprehensive about them," said Woody, "and I became more point-conscious this season in an effort to keep our team No. 1. We didn't have the Rose Bowl incentive, or any other bowl incentive for that matter, so our big goal had to be No. 1. I try to honestly work out my [UPI] ballot every week and I think I know our area real well; but in other cases like Texas and Southern Cal I have to go with what I know, which isn't enough, and their records."
To find out about Penn State, all Woody has to do is call North Carolina State's Earle Edwards, who became a believer last Saturday afternoon in Raleigh after Onkotz and the rest of Penn State's defense held the wolfpack to 49 yards, tossed three quarterbacks for 27 yards in losses and forced three interceptions, two fumbles and 10 punts. "I don't ever remember being shut off like that," said Edwards. "They made us helpless." He was especially impressed with Onkotz, who set up one touchdown by jarring Wolfpack Quarterback Darrell Moody into a fumble, then recovered it himself. Later, Onkotz tossed Moody for 14 yards in losses on two straight plays to halt a drive and set up teammate Mike Reitz' second field goal. "We were perhaps a little more aggressive on defense," said Paterno. "We wanted very badly to win this game."