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There were no secrets when USC and Oregon State got ready to play each other in Los Angeles for the Pacific Eight title and a place in the Rose Bowl. Oregon State's Dee Andros acknowledged that O.J. Simpson could hurt an opponent running inside, outside or up the side of the Memorial Coliseum. "He's the greatest runner in America," said Andros simply. USC's John McKay knew all about OSU Quarterback Steve Preece's wizardry at running the option and Fullback Bill Enyart's thundering blasts up the middle. "Take away their option," said McKay, "and that Enyart will murder you inside." The big question was whether either team could stop the other—and at the half they both had. It was scoreless. Then, in the third quarter, OSU took a 7-0 lead on Enyart's one-yard plunge. McKay had adjusted his offensive formation, moving Flanker Bob Chandler inside the split end to strengthen the blocking, and Simpson, who had been running mostly inside the tackles, began going outside. Carrying on almost every play, O.J. got the ball to the OSU 22, Quarterback Steve Sogge threw a neat pass to Terry DeKraai and the score was tied. A little later Ron Ayala's 27-yard field goal put the Trojans ahead 10-7, and with 1:20 to go Simpson turned the corner and ran 40 yards for a touchdown and it was 17-7. But Oregon State wasn't finished. Preece hit Billy Main with a 74-yard pass to cut the lead to 17-13. OSU went for two points but missed, and then came the inevitable onside kick that just failed. O.J. carried 47 times for 238 yards, and USC made the Rose Bowl for the third straight year. "We like to go there," said McKay. "It's kinda like our bowl."
The other Pacific Eight teams, meanwhile, were playing out the string. California, bolstering its best record in years, ran over Oregon 38-6, while Washington handed UCLA its sixth loss 6-0, Stanford beat Pacific 24-0 and Washington State clobbered San Jose State 46-0.
Arizona had to rally to edge Utah 16-15 on Steve Hurley's 27-yard field goal with three seconds to go, and Arizona State rolled over Brigham Young 47-12. Air Force defeated Tulsa 28-8.
1. GEORGIA (7-0-2)
The taste of success was there. The reports were that Georgia already had a Sugar Bowl bid, and the only team standing in its path to the SEC title and another bid was surprising Auburn. Tickets to the game commanded $100 a pair. Showing little worry under pressure of the big game, the Bulldogs eased past the Tigers 17-3, scoring all their points in the second quarter. Guard Steve Greer recovered Auburn fumbles at the Tiger 26 and 47 to set up a field goal and a Mike Cavan-to-Kent Lawrence touchdown pass, and later Cavan sneaked over himself from the one.
Tennessee intercepted a record seven passes because two Vol linebackers, Steve Kiner and Jack Reynolds, saw a flaw in Ole Miss Quarterback Archie Manning's passing. "He looks where he's throwing," said Kiner. Volunteer quarterbacks were apparently slier. Bubba Wyche found Gary Kreis and Les McClain open for two 37-yard touchdown passes, and Bobby Scott hit McClain for another score on the way to a 31-0 victory and a trip to the Cotton Bowl.
Luckless, winless Mississippi State, after outplaying highly favored LSU, lost a down and a football game 20-16. Behind by only 14-13 in the last minute of the third quarter, State had first and 10 on the LSU 12. A pass gained almost 10, but a fumble then lost two yards. State called time. When play resumed the Bulldogs noticed that the sideline marker showed fourth down. Officials insisted that was correct and, after an argument, State settled for a field goal.
"I guess defense is an old-fashioned way to win a football game," Alabama's Bear Bryant apologized smugly. Neither the Miami nor the 'Bama offense had generated any earthquake noticeable on the Richter measuring scale, and it had been a slightly-soggy 14-6 Crimson tidal wave, but a win is a win. At one point in the third quarter Miami had exactly 51 times as much rushing yardage as Alabama—51 yards to one—but interceptions nullified every Hurricane threat until the last three minutes.
Needing a win against South Carolina next week to take his third straight ACC title, Clemson Coach Frank Howard kept injured Tailback Buddy Gore in civvies against North Carolina. So sophomore Ray Yauger, playing in his place, gained 201 yards in 35 carries to beat Gore's best mark. On his last carry Yauger broke his left forearm. "He was on the verge of a record," Howard said. "I told him to carry on every play. If I hadn't I'd never be able to live with it." Almost incidentally, Clemson beat the Tar Heels 24-14 as Yauger led two touchdown marches within 2½ minutes in the second half to put it away.