Notre Dame, No. 2 in the nation and chasing the national football championship, goes up against traditional rival Southern California today (WJLA-TV-7 at 3:30 p.m.).
The Trojans, who had a 28-game unbeaten streak broken three weeks ago and will go without starting tailback Marcus Allen today, have a penchant for running Notre Dame's unbeaten seasons.
Three times in the history of the rivalry -- in 1938, 1964 and 1970 -- the Trojans have been the only team to defeat Notre Dame. Another time, Southern California tied Notre Dame to give the Irish a 9-0-1 season. And USC has a hot streak going against Notre Dame with five straight victories in Los Angeles and a 9-2-2 edge since 1967.
But the Trojans will have to go without Allen this time and that could make a big difference.
Alternating at tailback will be Anthony Gibson and Michael Harper, two of five sophomores who will be getting their first close look at Notre Dame.
If the Irish, playing their final season under Coach Dan Devine, beat/USC today, then a victory over top-ranked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl would almost guarantee them the national championship.
The Irish are ranked fourth in the nation in both total defense and scoring defense, allowing opponents only 213.3 yards and 9.1 points a game.
Third-ranked Florida State is bound to be a little rusty from a four-week layoff. But Coach Bobby Bowden says the Seminoles should have no problem against Florida in the first game of the nationally televised doubleheader at 12:30 p.m.
"Sure, we might be rusty, but the advantages of being on national television and having the opportunity to showcase our football team across the country far outweigh the layoff," said Bowden. "Our team has stayed in great shape and mentally they are prepared . . . Remember our team had gone 13 weeks without a rest. That had taken its toll."
Florida State, 9-1 and bound for an Orange Bowl meeting with Oklahoma, has been idle since Nov. 8 when the Seminoles beat Virginia Tech, 31-7, for their sixth straight triumph since dropping a 10-9 decision to Miami of Florida. Bowden's team was slated for a one-week rest before a scheduled. Nov. 22 meeting with arch rival Florida, but the layoff ballooned to a month when the schools agreed to change the date to accommodate television.
While Florida State is emphasizing its appearance on national television and exposing its program to millions, Florida, which has rebounded from a 0-10-1 disaster a year ago to fashion a 7-3 record, is concentrating on the intense rivalry the schools have developed.
The Tangerine Bowl-bound Gators have lost three in a row to Florida State and reportedly have devoted five minutes a day this week to "hate Florida State."
"We hate them. Everyone hates them. We have to show 'em on the field. Like the good says, 'Do unto others as they do unto you,'" junior fullback Calvin Davis said.