Jim Plunkett won the Heisman, all right, and he is certainly one of the finest dropback passers to come along, as he proved against such esteemed opposition as Arkansas, USC, UCLA and Washington. But both Plunkett and Stanford had some desultory days that resulted in sloppy losses to Purdue, Air Force and California.
It seems safe to assume that neither team will be exactly casual about the Rose Bowl. Stanford hasn't been there in 19 years, for one thing, and Woody Hayes' teams have never lost out there. What Pasadena has going is a game very much on the order of Texas-Notre Dame: a splendid passing team, Stanford, which can run, against a ball-control outfit, Ohio State, which can pass.
We all know about the Buckeye defense—about Jack Tatum and Jim Still-wagon. But they have spent their college days looking mostly at quarterbacks who were lucky to complete a hand-off, the exception being Mike Phipps on a cold, dreary day a year ago. Plunkett will give them a look at something else, the smart, any-distance, artistic passer armed with beautiful receivers.
Plunkett is going to get some points. Enough? Most likely not, for the burden then falls on Stanford's defense, a unit that has had its moments but hasn't really stopped anyone. It merely slowed them down long enough for Plunkett to hit Randy Vataha or Bob Moore again.
Chances are Plunkett won't have the ball enough to win, because Rex Kern will be keeping it or giving it to John Brockington—or to Woody.
The Orange Bowl would become the most vital of the day if Joe Theismann and Jim Plunkett were to win their games. Then, at nighttime, the growling Nebraska Cornhuskers would find themselves playing for No. 1 against LSU and all of those Tigers who are either called Tommy Casanova or some name you can't remember.
Unlike the big games earlier in the day, the Orange Bowl will not be endowed with major personalities. The coaches, Nebraska's Bob Devaney and LSU's Charlie McClendon, fall short of the colorful images of the Royals, Hayeses and Parseghians, and the players lack the stature of the Plunketts, Theismanns, Worsters and Tatums.
Both teams are relatively young. Their best performers will be returning next season, notably LSU's handsome all-round star, Casanova. He can do it all on offense or defense. Either as a runner or a defensive back, depending on the urgency of the moment, Casanova is exceptional, as evidenced by the job he did on Notre Dame's Tom Gatewood and by the two punts he returned for long touchdowns against Ole Miss.
The pride of LSU is its defense and not just Casanova. The Tigers have a strong front four, led by Ronnie Estay, and a vicious linebacker named Mike Anderson. LSU's defense might well be its best offense, for that's where most of the athletes are.
Nebraska has a more polished, dazzling attack, with breakaway runners Joe Orduna and Johnny Rodgers and the dual quarterbacks Jerry Tagge and Van Brownson. Nebraska plunges, reverses and throws, and only Texas outscored Nebraska on the season. But Devaney also has a tough defense, featuring Tackle Dave Walline. Among his claims to fame is that he put Missouri's Joe Moore out for the season. Nebraska has as much muscle and more imagination than LSU, probably enough to win, unless the Cornhuskers get careless around Tommy Casanova.