Alabama SI Cover Tournament: Who's Really No. 1? vs. Johnny Musso

Christopher Walsh

This was expected to be an old-school matchup, just not between these two.  

With the Who's Really No. 1 dual-entry pulling off an upset of the John Hannah cover, we have a Bear Bryant-era showdown in the Sweet 16 of Alabama SI Cover Tournament. The 1973/1979 title chases square off against Johnny Musso, and Alabama's 1971 win over Auburn.  

BamaCentral is holding a 48-field single-elimination tournament to determine the best Alabama Sports Illustrated cover.

Vote on Twitter (@BamaCentral) or Facebook (@AlabamaonSI). The voting goes 24 hours for each matchup and the result added to the original post on BamaCentral.

Sweet 16 

All Things Bama Regional

Game 39: Who's Really No. 1? vs. Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn

Alabama Is The Best, For Now/Who's Really No. 1?

Sports Illustrated cover Dec. 3, 1973, Bear Bryant; Alabama is the best, for now

Story headline: Bama Takes Charge

Subhead: The Crimson Tide has moved ahead in the race for the national championship, thanks to the Ohio State-Michigan tie, but one false step and Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Penn State are poised to pounce

Excerpt: When Bear Bryant brought the Crimson Tide to Baton Rouge last week, the mist had not settled on the bayous before he and LSU's Charlie McClendon were bragging on one another again. It is a gracious Southern ritual that has been going on since McClendon, who is not only a fellow traveler from Arkansas but played and coached under Bryant, took over LSU in 1962.

According to the script, Bryant puts on his most venerable face and then will say as he did last week, "Cholly Mac and I are good friends, as everyone knows, and I hope he'll be kind to his old coach." Then, after Bryant's boys waylay McClendon's, as they have done seven times in nine meetings, Cholly Mac will drawl, "Somehow, I don't think Bear taught me all he knows."

There were hints of that last week when Bryant rightly prophesied that "mistakes will decide this game." ABC made the first one when it scheduled the game for prime time only to find that it would be bucking heads with NBC's offering of My Fair Lady. So, pulling strings again, ABC rescheduled the kickoff for the odd hour of 5:35 p.m. "As cute as Bear Bryant is," said one ABC operative, "he can't match Audrey Hepburn."

Sports Illustrated cover, Nov. 12, 1979, Steadman Shealy

Bonus cover: There's a Red Alert

By Douglas S. Looney: In the debate over who's on top—Alabama, Nebraska, USC, Ohio State, Houston or Florida State—one point is clear: No. 1 wears red.

Alabama Challenges Nebraska For No. 1

Johnny Musso cover of Sports Illustrated, Dec. 6, 1971

Story headline: Alabama Poses Another Threat

Subhead: Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn

Excerpt (by Pat Putnam): The pattern of the game was set early, to Bryant's delight and Jordan's dismay, and it never varied. When Auburn had the ball it was harassed badly. When Alabama had it, it kept it. And kept it. And kept it. Auburn had possession just 18 minutes and 11 seconds, lost one fumble and had two of Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan's passes stolen, and managed but 179 yards. Before Alabama, the Tigers thought they were having an off day if they didn't gain more than that in one quarter. "One thing we have to do," Bryant had said, "is control the ball." Control it? Alabama owned it; owned it for a fantastic 41 minutes and 49 seconds, and most of the time it was hurtling through the Auburn defenses in the arms of Johnny Musso (see cover), who was running on a disjointed big left toe that would have put a lot of other running backs on crutches.

Three weeks ago, against LSU, Musso's big toe was wrenched from its socket, and from then until he started against Auburn the best the 196-pound All-America senior halfback could manage was a half-speed limp in tennis shoes. And he couldn't even do that until three days before the game. When Alabama went through its final light workout on Friday, Musso watched from the sidelines in street clothes. In nine games he had scored 14 touchdowns and gained 921 yards. With that toe, he didn't figure to gain 921 inches against Auburn's band.

"Don't worry," said the handsome 21-year-old. "I'll play. I've got this gadget Trainer Jim Goostree rigged up for me." And he held up a red plastic cast that had been molded to fit his foot. "I'll just tape it on and away I'll go. Auburn has this banner out that says: STOP THE WOP. I've got one hanging over my bed." He smiled thinly. "I'm going to be there to give them a chance."


Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn def. Who's Really No. 1? 53.6-46.4 percent 

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Joey Blackwell
Joey Blackwell


These rounds are getting tougher and tougher to pick!