Representatives from every major bowl game have descended on this football-mad city for Saturday's showdown between Southern California and Notre Dame. Both teams need a victory to stay in the running for the national championship, but it is the Irish that face the must-win situation as far as a major bowl bid goes.
USC, a member of the Pacific-Eight Conference, will probably get to the Rose Bowl no matter what happens here, while Notre Dame, an independent, is not assured of anything.
Each team has lost one game and each has gone through a number of charges since last season. Notre Dame has tied to open things up and the Trojans, believe it or not, have tried to do something with the football other than give it to the tailback and let him run wherever he feels like.
Each team has lost one game and each has gone through a number of charges since last season. Notre Dame has tied to open things up and the Trojans, believe it or not, have tried to do something with the football other than give it to the tailback and let him run wherever he feels like. John Robinson,who was 11-1last year in his first season as USC head coach, admits that if he still had Ricky Bell that philosophy might still be operative. But the new man in Bell's position is sophomore Charles White.
At first glance, White - 5 foot-10, 185 pounds - doesn't look like a worthy successor to the likes of Bell, O.J. Simpson, Mike Garrett and the rest of the famed Trojan tailbacks.
White doesn't look too sturdy and doesn't care to run inside that much. But this is a year USC doesn't need one man to carry the ball 50 times a game. And White fits in very nicely with that Robinson wants done.
"Un the past, if you stopped Bell or O.J. or whoever their tailback was, ypu stopped S.C," said Notre Dame linebacker Bob Golic. "That isn't so this year. They use three tailbacks and they'll throw the ball on you anytime they feel like it. White is still the man I think they want with the ball.
Quarterback Rob Hurtel is perhaps the best passer the Trojans have had in five years. He has complied 66 of 116 for 1,031 yards and eight touchdowns for the 5-1 Trojans. HIs favorite receiver is speedy Randy Simmrin, who has averaged 23 yards on 23 catchesthis season.
Despite Hurtel's accuracy, the Trojans bread-and-butter plays still involve the tailback. They simply decided to replace Bell with three people instead of one.
White was Bell's backup last year and gained 885 yards as a freshman. He already has 699 this year on 144 carries. The other two tailbacks, Dwight Ford and Lynn Cain, have gained 331 and 237 yards, respectively.
"Last year, we used Rickey Bell exclusively because we just used what we had. This year, we just happened to have three and we feel all of them have done well," said Robinson. "We'dlike to continue eith this three-back approach. White and Ford are more explosive and Kane is bigger and stroner, so it's a good balance."
Kane, in addition to playing tailback is also the backup fullback to Mosi Tatupu.
White came to USC as a wishbone fullback and in 2 1/2 weeks was switched to tailback. "He's still learning how to ru from there and by the time he's finished he may have passed a lot of people you don't expect him to," said Robinson.
As always, USC has a big strong offensive line. Defensively, it isn't as fast as it has been
Robinson considers Notre Dame, "the toughest team in the country to run against" and says he knows the Trojans will have to throw the ball in order to win.
In other important games Saturday, Colorado and Nebraska will clash in the Big Eight, while in the Big 10. No. 1 ranked Michigan takes on Minnesota and Ohio State goes against Northwestern as the Wolverines and Buckeyes prep for their regular season-end showdown.
Elsewhere, No. 2 Texas should have little difficulty in handling SMU, Penn State should rule over West Virginia and Arkansas should get back on the winning track against Houston. In the west the loser of UCLA vs. California will be knocked out of the Rose Bowl race.