Minnesota's Fred Orgas (90) goes heels over head attempting to block a kick by Tom Nichol of Iowa. But talk about topsy-turvy, first Michigan was ranked No. 1, but it lost to Wisconsin. Then No. 1 Notre Dame was beaten by Michigan, after which No. 1 USC was surprised by Arizona, No. 1 Texas was stunned by Arkansas, No. 1 Penn state was shocked by Miami and No. 1 Pitt was astonished by Penn State. At last, the first had to be unbeaten Clemson, but the ACC is so lightly regarded in football circles that the Tigers came into the Orange Bowl as underdogs to the Big Eight's Nebraska. However, Clemson—led on its odyssey by a quarterback named Homer (Jordan) and coached by some kid in a silly baseball cap (Danny Ford)—defeated the Cornhuskers 22-15 to claim its first national championship. In the Big Ten, Iowa earned its first Rose Bowl trip since 1959 but lost to Washington 28-0. Texas startled Alabama 14-12 in the Cotton Bowl, Pitt scuttled Georgia 24-20 in the Sugar and Penn State beat USC 26-10 in the Fiesta.
The collegiate ranks never had a better passer than Jim McMahon (near right). The latest in a long line of outstanding quarterbacks at Brigham Young, McMahon completed his college career with 55 passing or total offense records and tied another. He set career marks for passing yardage (9,536, or approximately 5½ miles), touchdown passes (84) and passing efficiency (653 completions in 1,060 attempts with only 34 interceptions). Not bad for a guy who has only one good eye.
Above at the far right, Washington State Fullback Mike Martin (23) soars against Washington, but his fellow Cougars came to earth as the Huskies rallied to win 23-10 and earn a second straight Rose Bowl trip. Below at the far right, Auburn's George Peoples (22) performs a sleight-of-hand maneuver against Alabama.
Across the top, left to right, UCLA Free Safety Tom Sullivan (32) could not stomach this catch by Southern Cal Wide Receiver Timmy White; Pitt Halfback Bryan Thomas found himself trapped by West Virginia Mountaineers; and Georgia Tailback Herschel Walker added to his legend with 1,891 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. And the Top Dawg still has two more years to go. Below, Texas Receiver Herkie Walls made the Tide blush crimson with this dash with a pass in the cotton Bowl.
Wide Receiver Rocky Belk helped Miami (Florida) finish at 9-2, but the Hurricanes had to grin and bear their NCAA probation.
The numbers to remember about 1981 were 315 and 2,000. The 315 stood for the number of victories Alabama Coach Paul (Bear) Bryant (near right, top) needed to exceed the win total of the immortal Amos Alonzo Stagg—not that the Bear wasn't already immortal. That figure inspired all sorts of songs and souvenirs, and on Nov. 28 the number was Bryant's as the Tide defeated archrival Auburn 28-17.
The 2,000 was the milestone that USC's Marcus Allen (far right, top) ran past on Nov. 14 against Washington. On that day the senior tailback became the first collegian to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season. All told, Allen rushed for a grand total of 2,342 yards, surpassing the record of 1,948 set by Tony Dorsett of Pitt.
There was also the number 1, and that belonged to Clemson, which gained national attention by beating North Carolina 10-8 and getting its paws all over Kelvin Bryant (far right, bottom). Pitt Safety Tom Flynn (top center) stutter-steps on a punt return. Notre Dame Split End Joe Howard (near right, bottom) reflects the frustration of the Irish, who suffered their first losing season since 1963.
At the right, Penn State split End Kevin Baugh (11) jukes a couple of Miami defenders, although the Nittany Lions, then ranked No. 1, couldn't dodge a 17-14 loss to the Hurricanes. Below, southern Mississippi Fullback Neal Alexander (38) joins Guard Dale Fife (74) and Center Bill Mann (52) in a scramble for a pass deflected by the Louisville defense. At the far right, Stanford Safety Vaughn Williams (45) tries to pounce on San Jose State Tailback Gerald Willhite.