The Orange Bowl selection committee plans to trim its list of possible invitees to five after this weekend. But that won't help organizers with their difficulty in fashioning a national championship game.
Most bowl games will informally settle on their choices by next weekend, even though the invitation date isn't until Nov. 21, when No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Nebraska play for the Big Eight title. But Orange Bowl organizers probably will have to wait until the last moment to select an opponent to play the winner, and even then the decision is bound to invite argument, because the apparent choice between unbeatens Syracuse (No. 8, 8-0) and Miami (No. 3, 8-0) is becoming an argument over home and away, money and glamor, risk and sure thing.
Syracuse appears likely to go 11-0 by Nov. 21; Miami has two games remaining after the signing date against ranked teams in Notre Dame and South Carolina. But Coach Jimmy Johnson recently delivered an ultimatum that the Orange Bowl choose the Hurricanes unconditionally. Pete Williams, head of the selection committee, posed the question of the two teams in a meeting this Monday. It was much-debated with no consensus, so he decided to stop the argument and pose it again next week.
"I'm kind of confused by the 'what-if' game right now," he said. "I don't want to make a decision like that immediately, and both are earning the right to a major bowl."
Most observers seem to think the Orange Bowl will take the Hurricanes in hopes of matching No. 1 vs. No. 2, since it is unlikely Syracuse will break into the top three. There is also the possibility the Orangemen will resolve the question by losing to Navy, Boston College or West Virginia in their remaining games. But perhaps not, and Johnson did not help his case with the ultimatum.
"There's a possibility he'd be the logical choice," Williams said. "Some might see that as us giving in, but it's not the case. We're not on a collision course over this. We're acting as if the comment hadn't been made."
Enough has been said about what the Orange Bowl might do. What it should do is take Syracuse, if unbeaten, in a guaranteed meeting of undefeateds. A Miami loss after Nov. 21 could cost the Orange Bowl a national title claim, as it did in 1982 when Louisiana State lost to Tulane after being chosen.
The Orange Bowl still has not ruled out other possibilities. Williams said the current list also includes, not necessarily in order, Auburn, Florida State, Notre Dame and Clemson. But No. 6 Auburn or No. 4 Florida State will be eliminated after their game Saturday, and the list will be reduced to five. Texas' Bumper Crop
Recruiters might want to take a look at the College Football Association's Sidelines magazine. The publication broke down geographical origins of the 6,044 players in the country, and found that Texas produces the largest number: 866.
Two states did not produce any current players, North Dakota and Maine. New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont turned out only one each.
Florida was the second-most prolific with 613 players, followed by California with 375. Maryland was not hurting, with 90 players, and Virginia was among the strongest states, with 214.
Schools that have trouble recruiting might want to think about looking internationally because 26 players were raised outside of the United States, 12 of them in Canada. One is from New Zealand . . .
The predominance of Texas talent in college football raises the question of why the Southwest Conference appears to be so strangely lacking this season. League teams are 1-8 against top 20 opponents, and the University of Texas, a struggling 4-3 team overall, is leading the Cotton Bowl race with a 3-0 record.
The answer might lie in a recent tendency of home-grown talent to defect. Players appear to be leaving the state in droves, scared away perhaps by the spate of NCAA investigations and probations in the Southwest in the last five years.
Oklahoma has regularly been plundering the state, with 37 Texas players currently on its roster. Some of the more famous ones who have defected are the Sooners' Jamelle Holieway, Oklahoma State running back Thurman Thomas, Louisiana State tailback Harvey Williams and Notre Dame's Heisman candidate Tim Brown.Wilkinson's Record to Fall
Bud Wilkinson's Big Eight coaching record of 145 victories at Oklahoma in the 1950s could be simultaneously broken by two coaches Saturday, Oklahoma's Barry Switzer and Nebraska's Tom Osborne.
Switzer and Osborne both tied the mark last week, and will in all probability reach 146 when No. 1 Oklahoma plays No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Nebraska hosts Iowa State. Neither coach has made much of the landmark. Switzer said he will think about it when he retires in another 15 years or so.
"Right now we have no plans to quit," Switzer said. "The train's going to keep moving."
"Longevity will get you a lot of things," Osborne shrugged . . .
Penn State's 29-1 record over Maryland is not as lopsided as it sounds. In the last four games, the total margin of victory for the Nittany Lions is but 13 points.
In 1982, the Nittany Lions won by just 39-31 before going on to the national championship. They did not play in 1983, but in 1984 they won by just 25-24, in 1985 by 20-18, and in '86 by 17-15 before going on to another national championship.
Maryland is not alone: The Nittany Lions are 52-4 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams . . .
Surest hustle in the ACC: bet somebody who is North Carolina's leading scorer? Probably no one will answer strong safety Norris Davis, the senior from Reston who has scored five touchdowns -- all on turnovers -- to tie flanker Eric Lewis for the lead.