No. 2 Nebraska was poised to stomp visiting Missouri and thereby lure No. 1 Penn State to the Orange Bowl and a one-on-one clash for national supremacy. And the Huskers seemed on their way to achieving that aim, with Rick Berns rumbling 82 yards for a score on the game's first play from scrimmage. Like the pivotal Nebraska victory over Oklahoma in 1971, this contest wound up 35-31. But this time the Huskers were on the short end of the score and will be in the Orange Bowl for a replay with the Sooners instead of in a battle for No. 1 against the Nittany Lions. Missouri went ahead 28-24 late in the third quarter on a four-yard run by James Wilder, but Nebraska reclaimed the lead 31-28 on Tim Hager's four-yard burst. Then back came the Tigers, only to fumble the ball away at the Nebraska four. But again they came, driving 74 yards for the final touchdown on Wilder's seven-yard run with 3:42 left. Berns set Nebraska records with 36 carries and 255 yards rushing. In all, the two teams gained 993 yards in total offense, 517 by Nebraska. The Tigers' victory also gets them to a bowl—the Liberty, in which they will face LSU.
A Cotton Bowl representative had called a press conference to announce that Oklahoma would play in Dallas, but at the last minute the Sooners decided they wanted to try to avenge the previous week's loss to Nebraska by meeting the Huskers in the first-ever all-Big Eight Orange Bowl. Oklahoma amassed 692 yards in total offense while trampling Oklahoma State 62-7 as Billy Sims ran for 209 yards and scored on runs of one, 35, two and nine yards. That gave Sims 20 touchdowns and a Big Eight single-season rushing record of 1,762 yards, 82 more than Terry Miller had for Oklahoma State a year ago.
For the first time since 1963, Iowa State beat Colorado, winning 20-16 at Boulder, where Walter Grant rushed for 78 yards and passed for 159. Kansas State drubbed archrival Kansas 36-20 in Manhattan.
Purdue needed a win or tie at Michigan to all but secure its first Rose Bowl bid in 12 seasons. Coach Jim Young worked hours making individual 8"x10" posters to encourage each of his players. For Mark Herrmann, Young's poster showed a photo of an eye-popping blonde whispering to Clark Gable. "You can have anything you want. Just beat Michigan." The sophomore quarterback lost his chance to find out what anything was 10 minutes into the game when he suffered a neck injury. Without Herrmann, Michigan limited the Boilermakers to 123 yards. Rick Leach of the Wolverines rushed for 131 yards and hit on five of 11 passes, two for touchdowns, as Michigan won 24-6 to knock Purdue out of the Rose Bowl and into the Peach against Georgia Tech. Michigan's triumph set up this week's showdown with Ohio State for the Big Ten title and the trip to Pasadena.
Ohio State had to struggle for a 21-18 win at Indiana. Quick kicks of 52, 76 and 66 yards by Mike Friede kept the Buckeyes bottled up much of the day. So did the work of Hoosier linebackers Joe Norman (he was in on 26 tackles) and Doug Sybert (he was in on 24). After trailing 10-7 at halftime, the Buckeyes went on top 14-10 when Art Schlichter scored from three yards out, dragging two tacklers into the end zone. Ohio State got breathing room when Ricky Johnson, who gained 109 yards, went around end for 46 on a scoring gallop early in the fourth quarter.
In other Big Ten games, Iowa beat Wisconsin 38-24, Michigan State defeated Northwestern 52-3 and Minnesota downed Illinois 24-6 as sophomore Marion Barber rushed for 233 yards and a pair of TDs.
Ball State, which led the country in total defense (yielding only 194.3 yards a game), gave up 387 yards against five-time loser Northern Illinois. Nevertheless the Cardinals were 31-13 victors as they clinched the MidAmerican Conference championship.
1. OKLAHOMA (10-1)
2. NEBRASKA (9-2)
3. MICHIGAN (9-1)