1. NEBRASKA (11-0)
2. OKLAHOMA (9-1)
3. MICHIGAN (11-0)
While Nebraska and Oklahoma played the latest Game of the Decade (page 22), Michigan rested until New Year's Day and Stanford. The only other issue at stake in the Midwest was second place in the Missouri Valley Conference, and Tulsa, Louisville and North Texas State finished in a tie behind Memphis State. Tulsa gained its share of the runner-up spot by beating Wichita State 31-13. State had taken a 7-0 lead, but the Golden Hurricane blew past the Shockers when Sam Henry kicked a 27-yard field goal and Quarterback Todd Starks heaved a 61-yard touchdown pass to James Shaw.
Louisville, playing at home, wanted a win over Cincinnati for Coach Lee Corso, who was rumored to be leaving to take over at Maryland. But the Bearcats' Mel Riggins plunged for a TD from the one with 1:43 remaining and Defensive Back Jim Henderson stopped the Cardinals with an interception a few seconds later to preserve a 19-16 victory for Cincinnati.
1. ALABAMA (11-0)
2. AUBURN (9-1)
3. GEORGIA (10-1)
Alabama smothered Auburn in the biggest game in the South (page 25), but there was one upset, two close calls and at least one unusual incident in other regional games. "Everything went wrong for me this week," said Clemson Coach Hootie Ingram. That was his way of saying that South Carolina was in for trouble—and indeed it was as Clemson upset the Gamecocks 17-7 for its first victory over South Carolina since 1967.
Georgia and Tennessee were hard pressed to claim their respective state titles. Just about the time that most Americans were trying to digest too much turkey, Georgia Tech appeared to have chewed up the Bulldogs in a 24-21 upset. Even Georgia's sophomore Quarterback Andy Johnson thought his team was beaten when Tech scored its go-ahead touchdown and then stopped Georgia at the nine with only three minutes remaining. But starting from the Tech 35, with 1:29 left, Johnson passed the Bulldogs to the one-yard line and Jimmy Poulos plunged for a TD with 14 seconds left to win 28-24. " Johnson can pass, in case anybody still wants to know," said Coach Vince Dooley afterward. A writer responded, "We knew that. It's good Vince finally figured it out."
Tennessee trailed Vanderbilt 7-0 after three quarters. But Vol Quarterback Jim Maxwell escaped Vanderbilt's defensive end, George Abernathy, long enough to complete a six-yard touchdown pass to Sonny Leach to tie the game, and George Hunt booted a 39-yard field goal with 3:47 remaining for a 10-7 lead. Tennessee added another touchdown and a safety for a 19-7 triumph.
Florida, LSU and Mississippi had little trouble winning, but John Reaves of the Gators needed some hanky-panky from his teammates to surpass Jim Plunkett's career total-yardage record. Florida beat Miami 45-16, but the Gator defense—responding to Orange Bowl chants of "Let 'em score"—actually dropped to the artificial turf with 1:10 to play and allowed the Hurricanes an uncontested touchdown so Reaves could get one more chance to reach his ultimate 7,549-yard total, five better than Plunkett's. Florida Coach Doug Dickey later had words with a Miami assistant, but said the defense did the swan dive on its own. "I would rather not have had to do it that way, but certain records are worth going after, I guess," Dickey said. "It was the worst thing I have ever seen in football," said Miami Coach Fran Curci. "A disgrace. A pure lack of class. I was watching Dickey the whole time and saw him send the boy in with the call. I've lost all respect for Dickey as a coach and as a man." Reaves later did a dive of his own—into a fountain when his teammates dunked him. Mississippi humiliated Mississippi State 48-0, and LSU, with Andy Hamilton making six catches and two touchdowns, defeated Tulane 36-7. Hamilton broke two Tiger records held by Ken Kavanaugh Sr. Said Ken Kavanaugh Jr., Hamilton's teammate, "Shucks, that's great."