With the four major bowl games still six days away, college football fanatics can whet their appetites this weekend by watching several of the nation's top 20 teams competing in lesser bowls, beginning with Ohio State against Penn State today in the Fiesta at Tempe, Ariz. (WRC-TV-4 at 3:30 p.m.)
It would be hard to find two more evenly matched teams than the 11th-ranked Big 10 Buckeyes and 10th-ranked Nittany Lions, both of whom finished the regular season with 9-2 records. Ohio State averaged 261 yards rushing and 166 passing, while Penn State averaged 242 rushing yards and 121 by air.
The main thing Nittany Lion Coach Joe Paterno has to worry about is how to contend with Buckeye quarterback Art Schlichter.
"He could be the difference in this game all by himself," Paterno said. "He is a complete quarterback. He can run and throw, is a magnificent ball handler, super-smooth and know's what's going on."
Schlichter will lead an offense that averaged 33 points this season. The other big Buckeye weapon is tailback Calvin Murray, who ran 1,192 yards this year. With Schlichter throwing to flanker Doug Donley and split end Gary Williams, defenses find it almost impossible to key successfully on one or two players.
But Ohio State will face a defense that never allowed more than 21 points, and that figure only once. "This could turn into the type of game we had against Pitt," said Penn State junior linebacker Chet Parlavecchio, who led the team in tackles. "A real tight game with no one moving an inch."
The Lion defense has permitted an average of only 279 yards this season.
The Fiesta should be the best of the weekend games, the other three being played Saturday. Arkansas and Tulane will play the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham (WDCA-TV-20, 8 p.m.); Purdue and Missouri meet in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl (WJLA-TV-7, 2 p.m.), and Mississippi State will play Big Eight runner-up Nebraska in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Tex. (WDVM-TV-9, 1:30 p.m.)