Before they start playing each other, all the Southeastern Conference teams look great. Take Mississippi, picked for seventh place in the SEC standings. The Rebels were decided underdogs against nationally ranked Missouri, but they won 10-0. Quarterback Kenny Lyons scored the game's only touchdown, slipping in from the one to cap a 70-yard drive in the third quarter. Missouri's deepest penetration was to the Ole Miss 39. Superior defense and the punting of Greg Breland, who averaged 44 yards on seven tries, kept the Tigers caged all night. It was a big win for Ken Cooper, whose debut as head coach had been postponed a week when Hurricane Carmen canceled the Tulane game. That one has been rescheduled for Nov. 30.
Other Southeastern Conference teams also succeeded outside the league. Florida took California 21-17, Auburn toppled Louisville 16-3, Kentucky bombed Virginia Tech 38-7 and Vanderbilt defeated Chattanooga 28-6.
Florida State, suffering through an 11-game losing streak, figured to be easy pickings for Pittsburgh. The Seminoles lost all right, 9-6, but they displayed a defense as dazzling as the pregame show that featured four skydivers, a hot-air balloon and a rock band. Panther star Tony Dorsett was held to 81 yards in 25 carries, and in one series Seminole Cornerback Lee Nelson nailed the quarterback for losses three times.
Georgia Tech, beaten 31-7 by Notre Dame on Monday night, had only four days to prepare for a South Carolina team that Paul Dietzel called his best since the LSU national champions of 1958. Four days, it turned out, were more than enough; the Yellow Jackets set a school rushing record of 487 yards and crushed the Gamecocks 35-20. Four of the touchdowns followed drives of 80 yards or more. "Our coaches read South Carolina like a book," said Quarterback Danny Myers. "And they were soft at the end." Jubilant at the end was Tech's Pepper Rodgers, who was spied in his office afterward doing backflips.
Other victorious Southern independents were Tulane, surprisingly only 17-16 over Southwest Louisiana, and Tampa, 47-13 over Toledo.
North Carolina State waltzed past Duke 35-21 for its second straight win. The only team to succeed outside the league was North Carolina, which got 235 yards and four touchdowns from Tailbacks James (Boom Boom) Betterson and Mike Voight in beating Ohio University 42-7.
1. Alabama (1-0)
2. LSU (1-0)
3. N.C. State (2-0)
"The defense should be the outstanding part of our team," Coach Jack Christiansen declared before Stanford's game with Penn State. Er, not quite. Jack. State pulled out a 24-20 victory by methodically marching to a touchdown after Stanford had nudged ahead 20-17 with 5:10 remaining. The eight-play 80-yard drive was helped along by a pass-interference call that put the Lions on the Cardinal one. Reserve Tailback Woody Petchel scored from there on his first crack.
Part of Stanford's defensive trouble was its failure to adjust to the new look in State's offense. The Lions introduced a double wing with a man in motion and ran some series from an unbalanced line. "We changed because we wanted more diversification and because we don't have that big, powerful tailback," said Joe Paterno. Penn State did have Fullback Tom Donchez, who gained 119 yards, and Flanker Jim Eaise, who rushed, received and returned for 158. There was nothing new about Stanford's offense. Sophomore Quarterback Mike Cordova overcame early uncertainty to complete 23 passes in 51 attempts for 301 yards and two touchdowns.