At 2-0, Paterno fears 'delusion,' USC Penn State coach: 'We're not that good'

September 14, 1991

Penn State coach Joe Paterno is peering down nervously from the Nittany Lions' No. 5 spot in the national rankings.

For Southern Cal's Larry Smith, whose Trojans have dropped out of the rankings for the first time since 1987, there's nowhere to look but up.

The Nittany Lions have produced two impressive wins, a 34-22 victory over Georgia Tech and an 81-0 romp over Cincinnati.

The Trojans, meanwhile, lost 24-10 to 17-point underdog Memphis State in their only game.

"I just hope we're realistic enough to understand what happened our last two games; we're not that good," Paterno said before tonight's 9 o'clock meeting with Southern Cal at the Los Angeles Coliseum (Channels 13, 7).

"In both those games, we had everything go our way. We may be deluding ourselves as to what it will take to beat Southern Cal."

* NOTRE DAME: When the No. 3 Wolverines play No. 7 Notre Dame, the floor of Michigan Stadium will be covered with natural grass for the first time since 1968.

The Wolverines compiled a 120-17-3 record on their artificial carpets. But they've lost their past four games against Notre Dame, including two on turf.

"I don't know if this is going to change our luck or not," Michigan coach Gary Moeller said. "Notre Dame has always played on grass in South Bend, so they're used to it more than our guys are."

* FLORIDA STATE: Coach Bobby Bowden doesn't like surprises on the field, but he thinks his top-ranked team might find a few against Western Michigan.

"Western Michigan is one of those games where nobody knows anybody," Bowden said. "The biggest thing is hoping that your boys are up for the ballgame and taking them as seriously as I think we've taken our last two opponents."

Florida State's offense has averaged 552 yards and 41 points in wins against Brigham Young and Tulane. Western Michigan is also 2-0, with wins over Kent State and Akron.

Western Michigan coach Al Molde was philosophical about the matchup. "We'll be the only team in the country this week with a chance to play the nation's top team," he said.

* OKLAHOMA: The ninth-ranked Sooners would seem to have the ideal season opener. It's at home against North Texas, a Division I-AA team that figures to be outmanned from top to bottom.

"Being very candid, there's a wide gap in talent," said Dennis Parker, the Eagles' first-year coach.

"Why would North Texas play this game? It's for the money," he said. "Anybody tells you anything different, they're lying. But there are some positive benefits to it."

He compared playing the Sooners to a golfer playing Jack Nicklaus or a tennis player going against John McEnroe.

"It's not realistic to beat John McEnroe, but you get to see how you stack up," Parker said. "It's a great experience to play in front of 75,000. I just want them to play as hard as they can for 60 minutes. If we do that, we can look ourselves in the mirror and won't have to apologize."

* TENNESSEE: UCLA quarterback Tommy Maddox is 6 feet 4 and looks like he'd make a great basketball player. He was.

Maddox averaged 36 points, nearly 11 rebounds and eight assists a game as a senior in high school.

"They run the option play with him, which is very strange when you see a guy that height coming down the line of scrimmage at you," said Tennessee defensive coordinator Larry Lacewell said.

No. 11 Tennessee and No. 21 UCLA, both 1-0, meet for the 10th time. The Vols downed Louisville, 28-11, and UCLA beat Brigham Young, 27-23, to start their seasons.

* LOUISVILLE: When quarterback Jeff Brohm went down with a broken leg late in the Cardinals' last game, a lot of the team's hopes could have gone up like smoke from coach Howard Schnellenberger's pipe.

Unless you listen to Schnellenberger, who will start 6-5 senior Erik Watts when Louisville takes on 19th-ranked Ohio State before more than 90,000 fans at Ohio Stadium.

"He's the man in charge. I expect he'll distinguish himself quite well," he said. "Our offense won't change."

What worries Schnellenberger more than his offense is what Ohio State might do with its attack.

"I expect them to take the ball and try to stick it in our ear."

Ohio State rolled up 325 yards rushing in a 38-14 victory over Arizona, scoring the final 21 points.

* ALABAMA: Steve Spurrier feels fortunate to be 1-0 as a coach against the Crimson Tide. He says sixth-ranked Florida will have to be better to improve to 2-0.

"We probably got more breaks in that game than in any other one last year," the Gators coach said, recalling his team's 17-13 victory in Tuscaloosa last September.

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