The Fiesta Bowl, normally a Christmas Day treat with two top teams, could turn into a Christmas Day rout when Pittsburgh (10-1) and Arizona (6-4-1) meet today at 3:30 p.m. (WRC-TV-4)
The 10th-ranked Panthers have steadily improved all season and with 16 of 22 starters returning next year they are looking at this game as a stepping-stone to early national recognition next season. Arizona is in this game for one reason: the Fiesta Bowl committee took a gamble and lost.
Hoping to set up a game which could have been more attractive than some of the New Year's Day bowls Fiesta officials invited only one team -- Pittsburgh -- the day bowl bids went out. They held off on a second team hoping that Southern California, Alabama or Brigham Young -- each undefeated at the time -- would lose their final games, thus losing out on automatic bids elsewhere as a conference champion.
But all three won and all three went elsewhere. The Fiesta was left empty-handed and finally turned to Arizona because of its proximity to Tempe, Ariz., site of the game.
The Wildcats have a chance to make the Fiesta committee look good by pulling off an upset. But it doesn't seem likely. Since freshman Dan Marino took over as Panthers quarterback four games ago they have plaed superbly, including an easy 29-14 win over arch rival Penn State at Penn State.
If the Fiesta turns into a rout early one can always switch over to WDVM-TV-9 any time after 3 p.m. to catch the Blue-Gray game.
Two local figures will be involved in this one: Virginia defensive end Steve Potter, playing, and Sonny Jurgensen doing the color. Rain is expected in Montgomery, Ala. The Blue is co-coached by Joe Restic of Harvard and Jim Dickey of Kansas State. The Gray is coached by Doug Barfield of Auburn and Bill Dooley of Virginia Tech.
The other two bowl games this week are on the weekend. Friday night Michigan (8-3) takes on North Carolina (7-3-1) in a Big Ten-Acc gAtor Bowl matchup. Don't look for a lot of passing in this one. Carolina Coach Dick Crum and Wolverine counterpart Bo Schembechler believe in running left, running right and, for variety, running up the middle.
Saturday the Hall of Fame Classic will match Missouri (6-5) and South Carolina (8-3), an example of why there are too many bowl games.