The arguments have started and standing room already is sold out for the Georgia-Clemson game. The second-largest crowd ever is expected at Death Valley, and the cars are beginning to line up on I-20, where the tradition is for Bulldogs and Tigers fans to shoot at each other with cap guns en route to the game.
Big as it always is, the game is even more important this season because it pits the No. 8 Tigers against one of the few teams that conceivably can halt them, the No. 18 Bulldogs. If Clemson can get through this one, it might have an open road to an undefeated season with a schedule that offers up only North Carolina and Maryland as serious threats.
Also, the game throws the No. 1 defensive team in the country in Clemson against the No. 2 all-around offensive team in Georgia.
"That's a good way to have a Saturday afternoon game," Clemson Coach Danny Ford said.
This is the third time in six years it will be on national TV (WUSA-TV-9, WBAL-TV-11, 2:30 p.m.). The Tigers are expecting a crowd of about 82,000, and even the lawns behind the end zones will be full.
Regionalism is always at the heart of the rivalry, and never more than this year. Clemson and Georgia regularly fight recruiting battles, and one Clemson athlete in particular is a source of irritation to Georgia this season.
John Johnson, a freshman from La Grange, Ga., who will start at roverback for the Tigers, was badly wanted by the Bulldogs. When Clemson coaxed him away, the Athens, Ga., newspapers ran streamer headlines, and sports information director Claude Felton sent this note to Clemson publicist Bob Bradley:
An interesting Clemson family tie will be represented at the game. Senior defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry, younger brother of alum and Chicago Bears lineman William Perry, can break his sibling's school record for sacks. With 22 1/2, Perry is 2 1/2 short of his brother.Heisman Hype
UCLA tailback Gaston Green gets the nod for the flashiest Heisman Trophy campaign. The 13th-ranked Bruins have spent roughly $3,000 getting him preseason exposure, with gimmicks from bus slogans to weekly post cards with yardage updates mailed to writers.
UCLA's efforts got Green rated among the top three candidates in preseason -- he was photographed by Inside Sports sitting behind a Heisman, and UCLA acquired the picture for its publicity post cards. But Green suffered a setback in UCLA's 42-33 loss to second-ranked Nebraska. He was held to 46 yards on 19 carries, although he scored three touchdowns.
"Yes, we will be mailing the post cards this week, anyway," UCLA sports information director Marc Dellins said.
Green's campaign includes billboards showing the running back under the words "Rush Hour at the Rose Bowl." If you board a bus in the Los Angeles area, it may have the slogan "Blue Plus Gold Equals Green."
But Dellins said UCLA will see how Green's season progresses before spending any more money on a campaign, and will avoid the tackier aspects of an all-out publicity blitz.
"We're not going with key chains and coffee mugs with his face on them," Dellins said. "We won't dress him up with dancing girls. We don't want to sell him as a product. These things are informational. He's a human being, not a product." The Southern Cal Shuffle
Unranked Southern Cal had a badly needed week off after a sloppy 27-13 loss at No. 17 Michigan State last Monday, and the result might be a reshuffled backfield when the Trojans host No. 19 Boston College.
The Trojans, once the surest rushing team in the nation, can't seem to come up with a combination that is both healthy and effective, and have moved senior tailback Ryan Knight in a search for something that works. They spent the week using blue-chip freshmen Ricky Ervins and Scott Lockwood at tailback, instead.
"We've made some changes and experimented, trying to bulk things up," first-year coach Larry Smith said.
Knight has been the leading rusher for Southern Cal the last two seasons (732 yards in '85 and 536 yards in '86), but he lacks the elusive sort of speed past Trojans backs have had. He was held to 53 yards on 19 carries by the Spartans, and no other Trojans running back gained more than 21 yards. Southern Cal penetrated the Michigan State 40-yard line nine times but scored only field goals.
Junior Steven Webster had emerged as the starting tailback last spring, but has played in only one of Southern Cal's last 22 games because of ankle sprains. He has practiced with the team, and could finally get some use against the Eagles.
Smith's debut was a difficult one and his second game is not promising, either. Boston College is on a 10-game winning streak dating back to last season, the second-longest in the country. But Smith could take consolation that he was the fifth straight Trojans coach to lose his first game.
The others were, in order of appearance: Don Clark, John McKay, John Robinson and Ted Tollner. Robinson's debut was particularly disheartening, losing by 46-25 to Missouri in 1976. But his team went on to win 11 straight games, including the Rose Bowl over Michigan.Dunn Sidelined
Alabama reserve quarterback Jeff Dunn was hospitalized for two days this week with an abdominal virus, and will not be available for the No. 11 Crimson Tide's Southeast Conference opener against Florida.
The redshirt freshman, who backs up starter Dave Smith and is a projected starter for the Crimson Tide someday, was hospitalized Monday night with severe abdominal pains and was thought to have appendicitis, but tests have been inconclusive, Coach Bill Curry said. Dunn, North Carolina's high school player of the year two years ago out of Page in Greensboro, rejoined the team Wednesday but did not practice.