1. TENNESSEE (8-1)
2. LSU (7-2)
3. MISSISSIPPI (7-1)
Midway through the second period Kentucky still had a good hold on Tennessee, which is a bit surprising since the Vols ultimately won 45-0. Then up popped Safety Tim Priest to intercept a pass and set up a touchdown, and from then on the Vols didn't stop intercepting or scoring. They stole three more passes, and though Coach Bill Battle finally put in the women and children, Tennessee scored twice more.
Having lost to Ole Miss, Auburn and LSU, Coach John Ray has become a connoisseur of class. "Tennessee," he said, "is the best we have played. Their defense beats you, especially the secondary."
North Carolina, which managed to knock itself out of the Atlantic Coast title race with losses to South Carolina and Wake Forest, had a big say in the final outcome by clobbering Duke 59-34, thereby giving Wake Forest sole possession of the conference crown. It was the first ACC title for the Deacons, and all the sweeter in that they had been picked by regional experts to finish last. The Tar Heels won behind the sensational running of Don McCauley, who gained 279 yards in 47 carries, scored five touchdowns and broke O.J. Simpson's season rushing record by 11 yards with a grand total of 1,720.
At Tallahassee, Florida State's Bill Peterson met his former aide, Kansas State Coach Vince Gibson, and gave him nothing but grief as the Seminoles stole away with a 33-7 victory and six Lynn Dickey passes. Sophomore Cornerback James Thomas picked off three in the first half. For the offense, Tommy Warren completed 17 of 33 attempts for 286 yards and three touchdowns.
Admitted a chastened Gibson at the game's end, "Bill Peterson is one of the finest football coaches in America, and nobody operates the passing game like Florida State does. They just about wrote the book." Gives Gibson something to read this winter, anyway.
Vanderbilt's Steve Burger ran for three touchdowns and passed for another as the Commodores, a major college with a 3-6 record, upset Tampa, the small college's top-ranked team, 36-28. Tampa led at halftime 21-20 but was at a slight disadvantage with two defensive starters unable to play.
Tulane scored its first shutout in a dozen games, 31-0, over North Carolina State.