That may not be as easy as Greg Pruitt probably thinks. Joe Paterno's teams have a habit of confounding their bowl opponents, and Penn State always shows up with more quality football players than people outside the East give it credit for. Three comparatively recent Penn State bowl opponents thought they could whip up on the Eastern sissies, and they all lost. One of them was not very good to begin with, Texas last season, but Kansas in 1969 and Missouri in 1970 were national powers, and Paterno stung the Big Eight both times.
Penn State, on the other hand, mustn't get the notion that it knows the solution to the Wishbone just on the basis of last year's Cotton Bowl. That was the worst of Darrell Royal's record nine conference champions, and the most crippled. Oklahoma's Wishbone is quite different.
Oklahoma has speed Penn State has not coped with, and one of the best defenses in the country. Oklahoma also makes mistakes, handling the ball at times as if it were a cactus. Penn State will need these mistakes, but the odds are that the Sooner defense will give the offense the ball enough to win, and if Greg Pruitt and Joe Washington and Joe Wylie and all those guys don't fumble, and if Dave Robertson hits the pass, Joe Paterno, with something less than his best team, could finally get his bowl spanking.
A day later, and before the Rose Bowl on New Year's, there will be a Wishbone clinic in Dallas, where Alabama and Texas go at it. Alabama must be given a slight chance at No. 1, but only if USC and Oklahoma both lose and the Tide wins big and impressively. Most people have a right to expect Alabama to win with some ease, despite the freaky loss to Auburn. Terry Davis has become one of the few Wishbone quarterbacks to rank up there with Oklahoma's Jack Mildren, and James Street and Eddie Phillips of Texas, the only other ones who knew how to run it.
Alabama most likely is better than it was last year. So is Texas. But while the Longhorns will confront Alabama with one of the best defenses the Tide has seen, and certainly with one that knows all about the Wishbone, Texas' offense is severely limited to Alan Lowry and Roosevelt Leaks, a quarterback and fullback. Strangely enough, Bear Bryant has never beaten Darrell Royal in three previous games, although each time he appeared to have the better team. So it seems now. Unless Royal concocts an effective passing game and a few other surprises, the football most often should turn up in the Texas end zone, having been carried or thrown to someone there by Terry Davis.
The last game of the four big bowls, the Orange, already has its own personality, being the one at night and the one with the world's gaudiest and least comprehensible halftime show. Comets soar through the Miami night, queens light up and a fiesta explodes, or something like that. Anyhow, this time it has a lot of pure old football scheduled, which can stand alone any day. It has the Notre Dame glamour against a Heisman Trophy winner and two of the most physical teams outside of the NFL in the Irish and Nebraska.
Nebraska still thinks of itself as a national champion although it lost two and tied one because of fumbles and a young quarterback who cannot run or hit the pass he must hit. But the Corn-huskers should not be deceived by Notre Dame, or think that just because this is Bob Devaney's last game, Johnny Rodgers is going to perform all of his wonders. Notre Dame is a massive and violent team on the scrimmage line; it has rugged runners and a line young passer in Tom Clements. Ara Parseghian will come up with a skillful game plan, and Notre Dame will be there like a crusade.
The world need not be shocked if Nebraska wins comfortably, just as it should not be surprised if the other important bowl games go according to paper. History insists, however, that one or two upsets occur, usually because of emotion and some hidden physical superiority. Notre Dame has both these things along with being, well, Notre Dame. In short, Nebraska had better be ready.
The only other bowl games involving teams of national interest are the Gator, which has Colorado and Auburn, and the Astro-Bluebonnet, which has LSU and Tennessee, a couple of teams that sound like they play each other every other Saturday but who rarely meet. Like the Orange Bowl, these games offer nothing more than sheer fun this time. If Colorado plays as well as it can, and not as deplorably as it sometimes does, Auburn will be vastly out-muscled. At the other one, if LSU's Bert Jones rediscovers his receivers often enough, the Tigers are plenty physical enough elsewhere to win.
In a sense, there is something nice and different about these bowls coming up for the holidays. After the past 10 years there is a certain relief in the absence of another Game of the Decade, Volume II, Chapter III.