Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne borrowed a notebook from the man from the wire service and filled out his top 20 choices for the United Press International's final football poll this morning.

True to his word, Osborne never hesitated.

"1. P. State," he wrote. "2. N.U. (Nebraska)."

A few minutes earlier, Osborne had told reporters he would vote Penn State No. 1, mostly because the Nittany Lions had defeated top-ranked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and his own Nebraska team had struggled to defeat Louisiana State, 21-20, in an Orange Bowl that saw the Cornhuskers lose four fumbles and two interceptions.

"If we'd played error-free, I'd vote for Nebraska," Osborne said. "But you could take the top 10 or 12 teams in the country, put a hat over them and they'd all be able to beat each other.

"I think most everyone agrees we should have some kind of playoff, but nobody has come up with a workable plan. You'd have to have 16 teams to have a representative sample, and you'd also have to play four games and readjust everyone's schedule so that we'd all end up at the same time.

"I suppose we've got an argument to be No. 1. We lost one game, by three points at Penn State. It wasn't real decisive. We've won 10 straight, more than any other football team in the country. We also won 13 games this year, more than anyone else.

"It's a little frustrating . . . but I can't say they (Penn State) don't deserve to be national champions. The telling point is that we played head to head; they won. We can't argue."

LSU came into the game a 10 1/2-point underdog. But the Tigers opened a 17-7 lead in the third quarter and were driving to what could have been a go-ahead touchdown late in the game when a delay-of-game penalty on fourth and one at the Nebraska 28 forced Coach Jerry Stovall to make a critical decision.

With 5:05 left in the game, Stovall opted to let Juan Betanzos kick a 49-yard field goal that cut Nebraska's lead to 21-20. Some LSU partisans felt Stovall should have gone for the first down, and several of them let the coach know about it as he spoke to reporters outside the LSU locker room late Saturday night.

"It was not a hard decision," Stovall said today. "We felt we'd get the ball back once or twice more and score . . . Fourth and one, we go. Fourth and six, we kick."

Nebraska thwarted that strategy by consuming the last five minutes.