Notre Dame is 3-0, having completed its mini-sweep of the Big Ten, and is beginning to remind folks of the last big turnaround, when Ara Parseghian rescued the program in the 1960s. Is Notre Dame really back? Did Lou (Win One for the Quipper) Holtz bring them there?
Parseghian, who himself nursed a once-sick program back to health when he came on after Joe Kuharich, answers yes and yes.
"The guy's a good coach," the former Irish leader said. "Look at what he did at North Carolina State and at Minnesota. He's won, in a relatively short time. He's always won."
Holtz indeed worked immediate wonders at North Carolina State, which had three straight three-victory seasons up to his arrival. He coached Arkansas to six straight bowl appearances, and it only took two years under him for Minnesota to become a bowl team. Now, after his initial 5-6 season in South Bend, Ind., he apparently has Notre Dame, a top 10 team again, back on track.
Parseghian, who was never much of a fan of Gerry Faust during Faust's middlingly successful five-year stay at Notre Dame, said there's no luck to Holtz's Irish. "I remind people that I'd had 14 years' coaching experience before I took the Notre Dame job," he said. "That's all there is to it. Gerry Faust had zero. He came out of high school coaching. Now, Lou, he knows what he's doing. . . . "
Don't you just hate Earle Bruce? The Ohio State coach, who was never thought to have any personality, is making a run at Woody Hayes' legend with his petulance and, worse, his 1940s game plans. That's a nice hat, Earle, but it's not covering anything we want to be familiar with.
Here's what Bruce did at LSU last week, when the undefeated and seventh-ranked Buckeyes had a chance to move into college football's forefront with a victory, but probably not a tie.
First, he didn't let his team run onto the football field for introductions because the fans were about to begin a stadium cheer. The game was delayed 10 minutes because of his refusal.
"All they had to do was say no cheer, or else let the home team come out first," he sniffed.
LSU Coach Mike Archer, too young at 34 to know better, finally allowed a simultaneous start out of the tunnels so the game could begin.
Earle, on away games, sometimes you'll find that the hometown crowd erupts in an odd cheer or two. Be prepared for this if it ever happens again.
Then, with the score tied, 13-13, with more than six minutes left in the game, Bruce had his Buckeyes grinding it out, Woody-style, on the final three possessions.
LSU, meanwhile, once on the Ohio State eight-yard line and once pinned on its own one-yard line, was passing, passing (intercepted, intercepted). "We will always play to win," said Archer, again, too young to know any better.
Bruce, explaining why the Buckeyes didn't try anything more adventurous than a field goal--it was blocked in the final seconds--said, "Why not punt them in trouble. We don't want to lose. Let them make the mistake, let them make the decision."
Bruce got the tie he deserved. Archer deserved better.
What's a coach to do? Barry Switzer is routinely criticized for running up the score, particularly against such overmatched opponents as dot his Big Eight schedule. Last week, his Oklahoma team whipped Tulsa, 65-0, and Switzer braced for the blasts.
"When the score gets out of hand, we've got to substitute and play all our players," he said. "They have a right to play. The problem is, they don't fall off that much."
He lamented: "Every time we come out there and run an option play, we're liable to score."
It doesn't seem to matter who runs it either. Starting triggerman Jamelle Holieway was taken out of the game after the first half, but backup Charles Thompson scored three touchdowns.
Switzer has an idea.
"The best thing we could do is probably start throwing the ball," he said. "Then we wouldn't score."
That's worked for some teams in the past.
Some schools across the country--LSU, Tennessee and Alabama among others--have been sounded out about moving their games to Sunday, so the networks would have some football to televise during the National Football League strike.
Don't look for USC or UCLA to break from tradition, however. The Pac-10 TV contract is with ABC, which has no Sunday NFL football to replace.
Ah, youth: LSU running back Harvey Williams, who had been averaging 100 yards a game in limited duty until the Ohio State game--he got just 55 rushing in that one--was asked what he was thinking about on a recent 60-yard touchdown run.
"Sex," Williams said.
Even though he is just a sophomore, the talented Williams already has a history of saying just about anything. Before the 1987 Sugar Bowl game against Nebraska, when some Cornhuskers got in a little Bourbon Street trouble, Williams said, "It'll be fun playing out there with a bunch of convicts."