Still in the Hunt
The winner of the Florida State- Miami game will emerge as the front-runner for the national title, followed closely by Washington, which no doubt will improve its record to 10-0 by creaming winless Oregon State on Saturday. However, it would be a mistake to leave No. 5 Florida (8-1) out of the championship picture. The Gators still have a chance to be No. 1.
They clinched at least a tie for the SEC crown by whipping Georgia 45-13 in Jacksonville. The win was especially satisfying for Florida because, since '66, the Dawgs had beaten the Gators four times with the conference crown on the line. This year Florida was clearly superior on both sides of the ball. The Gators can wrap up the league championship—and the host spot in the Sugar Bowl—by beating hapless Kentucky on Saturday in Gainesville.
" Florida is awfully good," said Georgia coach Ray Goff after the Gators had rolled up 512 yards in offense while holding the Dawgs to 220. "They've beaten Alabama, they've beaten Auburn, they've beaten Tennessee, and now they've beaten us. They deserve to be champions."
Shane Matthews, Florida's junior quarterback, riddled Georgia, completing 22 of 31 passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns. In 10 of 20 starts for the Gators, Matthews has thrown for at least three touchdowns, and he has passed for 300 or more yards nine times. In addition, his second TD pass to Willie Jackson last Saturday gave him 24 for the year, tying the SEC's single-season record set by the Gators' John Reaves in 1969.
So how can Florida win the national title? Well, it will need a little Gator-aid. Florida will play host to Florida State on Nov. 30 in its final regular-season game. The Gators hope that the Seminoles will still be unbeaten and ranked No. 1. That way, a Florida victory would make the Gators no worse than No. 3, behind Washington and perhaps Michigan, heading into the bowl games.
If the Wolverines, who lost badly to Florida State in Ann Arbor, were to squeak by the Huskies in the Rose Bowl and Florida were to win impressively in the Sugar Bowl, the Gators would have every right to claim the national title. Their only loss, 38-21 on Sept. 21 at Syracuse, now appears to have been a fluke. The Gators dropped behind 14-0 early in that game and never recovered.
The Mighty Have Fallen
Moral victories are for perennial losers, not for proud Southern Cal. Yet that was about all the Trojans could claim after holding Washington to two touchdowns in a 14-3 loss in Los Angeles. The defeat dropped USC to 3-6 and assured the Trojans of their first losing season since 1983, when they finished 4-6-1 while on NCAA probation. Obviously looking to the future, coach Larry Smith started 13 underclassmen against the Huskies. Two true freshmen, quarterback Rob Johnson and guard Clay Hattabaugh, played most of the second half.
Washington coach Don James, who had not beaten Southern Cal in L.A. since 1980, thought the win was just peachy—or rosy, if you will, considering where the 9-0 Huskies will almost certainly be playing on New Year's Day. Though the Washington offense failed to dominate a Trojan defense that had surrendered 52 points to Cal the week before, the Huskies' defense performed as usual, holding USC to zero yards in the fourth quarter.