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'BAMA TAKES CHARGE
Ray Kennedy
December 03, 1973
The Crimson Tide has moved ahead in the race for the national championship, thanks to the Ohio State-Michigan tie, but one false step and Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Penn State are poised to pounce
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December 03, 1973

'bama Takes Charge

The Crimson Tide has moved ahead in the race for the national championship, thanks to the Ohio State-Michigan tie, but one false step and Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Penn State are poised to pounce

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Somewhere between the bloodletting in South Bend and the hysteria in Los Angeles last week, a Michigan alumnus returning to Ann Arbor for his big football weekend sat in the jam-packed bar at a Holiday Inn, passing the time as any diehard fan might. Long in the tooth and red of eye, he was watching yet another key college game on a portable Sony TV precariously balanced on his knees. Suddenly he complained of something akin to double vision.

"I think," he said, peering blearily from beneath an outrageously, floppy blue-and-gold cap bearing the banner SAVE FUEL, BURN WOODY, "I just saw Chris Schenkel score on an end around."

So it might have appeared to most anyone who tried to digest the entire menu of college football served up over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Nine of the nation's top 10 college teams met in matchups arranged by that Great Mover and Shaker of Schedules—ABC-TV. All told, six undefeated records were put on the line. Four conference titles were at stake. Both Rose Bowl berths were decided. And, as usual, when all was computed and disputed, the answer to the ultimate question of Who is No. 1? satisfied practically nobody.

Certainly not Notre Dame. The Irish, ranked No. 5, dismantled the Air Force 48-15 in the only real turkey of a game but, given a schedule that was something less than formidable this year, Notre Dame's lopsided win did little to detract from its reputation as a bunch of bullies beating up defenseless tykes.

The same cannot be said of Barry Switzer's first Oklahoma team. No matter that the Sooners, banned from playing in bowl games this season because of recruiting violations committed while Switzer was an assistant, have image problems of their own. After No. 3 Oklahoma thumped No. 10 Nebraska 27-0, Switzer declared his team numero uno because the Sooners play a tougher schedule than any other claimant to the crown.

"I'm sure there is prejudice against us," he said, "but if we're not the best team, I don't know who is."

No. 8 UCLA and No. 9 USC were not out to claim anything except the rights to the Pacific Eight title and the fringe benefits derived therefrom. The Trojans won that typically rowdy encounter (page 90) and will be in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

But when it comes to gritty rivalries, none of last week's games were so crucial or promised so much mayhem as the confrontations between No. 2 Alabama (see cover) and No. 7 LSU, and No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan. Each was a classic reunion of teacher and pupil and each in its own way taught the same lesson: respect your elders.

When Bear Bryant brought the Crimson Tide to Baton Rouge last week, the mist had not settled on the bayous before he and LSU's Charlie McClendon were bragging on one another again. It is a gracious Southern ritual that has been going on since McClendon, who is not only a fellow traveler from Arkansas but played and coached under Bryant, took over LSU in 1962.

According to the script, Bryant puts on his most venerable face and then will say as he did last week, "Cholly Mac and I are good friends, as everyone knows, and I hope he'll be kind to his old coach." Then, after Bryant's boys waylay McClendon's, as they have done seven times in nine meetings, Cholly Mac will drawl, "Somehow, I don't think Bear taught me all he knows."

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