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Dan Jenkins
December 20, 1971
In the Orange Bowl on New Year's night, Nebraska's victorious legions face a final challenger—Bear Bryant's Alabama
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December 20, 1971

King Cornhusker Goes Bear Hunting

In the Orange Bowl on New Year's night, Nebraska's victorious legions face a final challenger—Bear Bryant's Alabama

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The Rose Bowl no longer causes the excitement it once did, even though one of the teams, Michigan, is undefeated. This in itself speaks for the sophistication of the modern college fan. Did anyone ever think he would see the day when a Big Ten team could go undefeated and untied, as Michigan did, and wind up No. 4 in the national polls?

It was to the credit of the voters, of course, that they recognized the fact that the Big Ten looked again like a Medium Two. As good as Michigan might have been at times during the regular season, the Wolverines never had a chance to prove it against the endless lineup of lightweights they faced. Even so, they were fortunate to win their last two games—over Purdue, which only lost seven times, and a "down-year" Ohio State team.

None of this has made Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler happy. He forbore from chewing up sideline markers, as Woody Hayes did, but he did turn on the writers once, which was a larger mistake. Bo somehow worked it out in his head that the writers were to blame for Michigan's unlofty rating. If they were, they must have been playing for the mediocre Purdue team that held Michigan to a narrow victory in the last 43 seconds. After which Schembechler had the audacity to say, "We are the best."

Meanwhile, leaving the Big Ten to its dreams of yesteryear—to those days before it began to get outrecruited and outcoached by the Big Eight—there is the mystery of Michigan's Pasadena opponent, Stanford.

Last season Stanford had Jim Plunkett and as good a team as anybody on most days. But while it could get high for the big ones—USC, Arkansas, Ohio State—it had a tendency to dismiss contests which didn't seem to matter in the Pacific Eight race. Stanford was caught snoozing three times in 1970—against Purdue, Air Force and California. This time Coach John Ralston's team did it again, only worse.

The Indians had Don Bunce instead of Plunkett, granted, but Bunce did a pretty good Plunkett imitation, finishing second in the nation in total offense. Moreover, Stanford had a better defense than a year ago. So what happened? Well, Stanford lost to Duke, Washington State and San Jose State, three teams which normally couldn't be expected to beat anyone except perhaps each other. And this was a Stanford team that beat USC a little worse than Oklahoma did.

What all of this means is that the Rose Bowl will be decided by what kind of mood Stanford is in, or how much support Bo Schembechler gets from the men of literature. Ah, but heck. Michigan and Stanford inaugurated bowls way back in 1902, right there in Pasadena. Let there be nostalgia at least. But let's get it over with so we can get down to the game that matters, the one in lucky old Miami.

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