Danny Ford took the reins as head football coach at Clemson just three weeks ago. He will make his debut Friday night when the Tigers meet Ohio State in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

Ford moved up from Tiger assistant coach when Charley Pell left the seventh-ranked team for a similar slot at Florida. Pell, who led the Tigers to a 10-1 record and the Atlantic Coast Conference title, recommended Ford as his successor.

Ford said his players had gotten over the coaching change and were serious about beating Ohio State (7-3-1).

The Tigers will try to make up for last year's performance in the Gator Bowl, where they were trounced by Pittsburgh,343.

Top Ranked Penn State, the nation's only unbeaten major college, will arrive today in New Orleans for its New Year's Day Sugar Bowl showdowm with No. 2 Alabama for the national championship.

The teams will be meeting for the third time. The lions took a 13-6 victory in the inaugural Liberty Bowl in 1959. The Crimson Tide won by the same score in the 1975 Sugar Bowl.

"If Penn State beats Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Penn State deserves to be No. 1. But if they lose, then a legitimate case can be made for several teams to be considered."

Those were the sentiments of Southern Cal Coach John Robinson. who has more than a casual interest in the proceedings in New Orleans.

Robinson's third-ranked team is one of those teams, having beeten the Ride in Birmingham, 24-14, en route to a 10-1 season and a spot in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

The Trojans will meet fifth-ranked Michigan and its All-America quarter-back. Rick Leach, the NCAA's all-time leader in touchdowns produced (81, including 34 rushing). Both Leach and Trojan quarterback Paul Mcdonald are southpaws.

Nebraska, which blew a chance to meet Penn State for the national title by dropping its finale to Missouri, fell from second to sixth place in the rankings. The Cornhuskers will face revenge-minded Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day. The Cornhuskers (9-2) handed the Sooners their only loss, 17-14, during the season.