With Texas favored to win an unprecedented fourth straight title and Arkansas and Texas Tech expected to finish second and third again, the five stragglers in the Southwest Conference could be excused if they asked for mercy killings and let it go at that. But there's life in them bones yet. In addition to some good quarterbacks, defenses and tight ends, there are two new coaches. They, at least, don't know how to lose to the Big Three.
One of them, Jim Pittman of TCU, was an assistant to Texas Coach Darrell Royal for 12 seasons. He will need more than accrued knowledge of his old boss to beat Texas, even though Quarterback Steve Judy is within roping distance of Sammy Baugh's school passing records. The offensive line is weak and Linebacker James Helwig quit school to become a pro boxer (and promptly bloodied Joe Frazier's nose). The other new head man, Bill Peterson of Rice, is known as a "thriller-type" coach, but he is most pleased with something more tangible: 32 lettermen, including Gary Butler, a classical (6'4", 234) tight end.
Baylor's defense surprised Texas, and 14 defensive lettermen, led by Linebacker Roger Goree, will have to try a little harder to do it again. Matthew Williams scored all the team's running touchdowns. SMU's Gary Hammond was the league's leading receiver as a sophomore end and fourth-leading rusher (and leading receiver again) as a junior tailback. Now he's at quarterback and the word is they're trying to find a position he can't play. A&M Quarterback Lex James is back after missing spring practice with hepatitis, and there are returning starters at 19 other positions. "Of course," says one observer, "no one knows if they can play football."
With the exception of Ohio State, Michigan and Northwestern, no Big Ten school broke even in 1970 and the shock was greatest at Purdue, where a 4-6 finish under former Assistant Coach Bob DeMoss hardly matched four previous 8-2 seasons. So severe was the plunge to obscurity that AP and UPI overlooked sophomore Otis Armstrong (1,009 yards rushing) on their all-conference teams. DeMoss' problems began when he picked the wrong quarterback and his offense never recovered. This fall he will go with junior Gary Danielson. In contrast, winning football returned to Northwestern for the first time since 1963, when Ara left. Quarterback Maurie Daigneau and the Big Ten's premier defense should keep the wins coming.
Wisconsin's spring brochure called the 1970 season "the best since 1863." Misprints notwithstanding, the Badgers have won only 15 games in seven years. Backs Rufus (Roadrunner) Ferguson and Alan (A-Train) Thompson should foster continued improvement. Another poor season reportedly would cost Duffy Daugherty his job at Michigan State, but his squad seems prepared to rescue him. Safety Brad VanPelt, who made 80 tackles and intercepted six passes, highlights a more Spartanlike team.
Coach Bob Blackman, ex-Dartmouth, may miss the Ivy League. His initiation at Illinois includes five of the nation's Top 20. Next door at Iowa is former Toledo Coach Frank Lauterbur, whose personal 23-game win streak won't grow much longer. Minnesota has passer Craig Curry and high hopes, while Indiana is convalescing nicely.
Georgia's Stone Mountain has just one carving on its surface, the Confederate Memorial Monument, and that includes a likeness of Robert E. Lee. But there is plenty of room for other Southern heroes. Quarterback John Reaves of Florida, for instance, Heisman Trophy in hand. Bear Bryant certainly has a case for Johnny Musso, already Alabama's alltime rushing leader. In nearby Athens, Georgia's Vince Dooley might interest sculptors in the left foot of Kim Braswell, kicker of a school-record 13 field goals.
In any event, Florida, Alabama and Georgia are most likely to push LSU, Tennessee and Auburn for postseason spoils. Reaves, the nation's career total offense and passing yardage leader, completed exactly half of 376 passes for 13 touchdowns. He was intercepted 19 times, but an improved line and runners Tommy Durrance and Mike Rich could give him the split-second more he needs. Carlos Alvarez, who had calcium deposits removed from his right knee in December, appears ready to return to his sophomore form. Musso and receiver David Bailey are solid for Alabama, but Bryant must find a passer capable of reaching Bailey or the defenses will hound Musso. Georgia's defense, with Chip Wisdom at linebacker and Chuck Heard and Dennis Watson up front, is the kind General Lee needed. Royce Smith, an offensive guard, could make All-America. Kentucky has some thoroughbred sophs who may need a year to mature. The passing attacks at both Mississippi State and Ole Miss require mending, although Mississippi State can take solace in the fact that its entire defensive unit returns. Without Archie Manning, Ole Miss will be somewhat humbler behind Shug Chumbler. Vanderbilt must have Quarterback Watson Brown healthy again to score all the points it will need to stay above water.
Kansas presents new Coach Don Fambrough with a four-game losing streak and the role of conference darkhorse. The Jayhawks will field 15 of last year's 22 starters, but beyond that there is nothing at Lawrence but acres of wheatfields. "We can't get anyone hurt," says Fambrough. "That's a law." Here are some questions: David Jaynes, the most highly regarded of three quarterbacks, missed most of spring practice with a shoulder separation. Is it healed? Gery Palmer goes from defensive end to tackle. Can he adjust? Linebacker Ken Page, hampered by a leg injury last year, has been operated on. Will he be the tiger he was as a sophomore? If enough of the answers are yes, Kansas, with the help of a reasonably amiable out-of-conference schedule, could turn in a winning season.
Kansas State must make do without Lynn Dickey, the talented quarterback who led the team to a 6-5 record, not eye-popping but better than anything else at Manhattan in 16 years. Dennis Morrison, a lefthander, takes over as State shifts to a running offensive led by Bill Butler. To emphasize this point, Coach Vince Gibson is reinstating the position of tight end, something the Wildcats did away with when Dickey was around.
Al Onofrio replaces Dan Devine at Missouri and inherits only a fragment of a team that wasn't all that good anyway. Two experienced quarterbacks, Mike Farmer and Chuck Roper, may ease the pain. Iowa State needs a running attack, Oklahoma State needs a defensive line and all of the above teams need something of a miracle if they are to have a prayer of catching Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado.
When Stanford was preparing for the Rose Bowl last December, Don Bunce, a redshirt working on the taxi squad, did such a good impersonation of Ohio State Quarterback Rex Kern that when the bowl game was over the victorious Indians voted Bunce better than the real thing. This fall Bunce will get to do an imitation of Jim Plunkett. If he fails, sophomore Mike Boryla, who like Bunce can run the option, will get his turn. Should John Winesberry and Bill Scott work out well as replacements for receivers Randy Vataha and Bob Moore, Stanford could win again.
Oregon's prospects for improving on its 6-4-1 record would be brighter if the Ducks didn't have to play three of the last four national champions (Nebraska, Texas and USC) early in the season. Coach Jerry Frei has a lot of talent and experience in Tailback Bobby Moore and Middle Linebacker Tom Graham, but as he says, "We must have a good team even to survive our schedule."
California has more good running backs than it needs but no quarterback. Reed Chastang played only four minutes last year, sophomore George Fraser was ineligible for either frosh ball or spring practice, and the other two candidates are JC transfers. Oregon State, with 40 lettermen returning, 17 of them starters last fall, is the team most likely to improve, especially with an easy schedule, but again, quarterback is the question. Steve Endicott broke his wrist in the third game of 1970 and it still hasn't healed entirely. But even if he is well, he may have trouble beating out Jim Kilmartin, who is No. 1 for now. UCLA has an army of good young players, but with Jim McAllister ruled ineligible for the season, the Bruins are a year away. Washington State's inexperience led to a 1-10 record last season. This year, with 24 seniors, things can only get better.
Once again, the MAC will be wholly Toledo. The Rockets enter the season with a 23-game winning streak, longest in the United States and Texas. Frank Lauterbur, their Wernher von Braun, has moved to Iowa, but Jack Murphy inherits Quarterback Chuck Ealey, who will be in quest of the conference Back of the Year award for the third straight time. Split End Don Fair returns, too, and Tackle Mel Long anchors a sturdy defense. Defense also will make Western Michigan a contender since Coach Bill Doolittle has most of a unit that allowed just 13 touchdowns. Offensively, Quarterback Ted Grignon adds to his school-record yardage mark and sophomore runner Larry Cates seeks to duplicate his impressive freshman statistics of 6.2 yards per carry and 29.6 yards per punt return.
Injuries have prevented Miami from finding out which of its quarterbacks is the most effective. Without an established passer, the Redskins, who gave Toledo a 14-13 scare last year, may have trouble gaining their 29th straight non-losing season. Ohio University was also looking for a quarterback until coach Bill Hess discovered that Dave Juenger, who last year caught enough passes to rank 16th in the nation, could also throw the ball—and well. Sophomore Paul Miles of Bowling Green looked so promising that Julius Livas, the team's leading rusher, was shifted to defense. Don James, the new coach at Kent State, begins rebuilding a team that has lost 21 of its last 30.
Last year the battle in the WAC was for the No. 2 spot; who would be Avis to Arizona State's Hertz? This year it's probably going to be a fight to see who will be No. 3—something Madison Avenue hasn't coped with yet. Arizona State, the defending champion, seems a shoo-in for the conference title. "New Mexico, with 37 lettermen from last season's surprising second-place team, seems likely to do it again without surprise. For the first time in years Coach Rudy Feldman has the depth to back up his starters. He is sure to rely on his rushing game, which was ranked second in the nation in 1970, and two-time MVP Quarterback Rocky Long. Which takes care of No. 1 and No. 2. Utah will have problems on offense. The Redskins have to replace a total of 15 lettermen, no less than nine from the offensive unit. But they still have Punter Marv Bateman, who last year established an NCAA record average of 45.6 yards, and Coach Bill Meek appreciates the kind of field position that can provide.
Arizona has switched to a Veer alignment and will be relying on junior Quarterback Bill Demory to make it go. Elsewhere, Colorado State is rebuilding its offensive line, planning to clear the way for Laurence (The Clutch) McCutcheon, who gained 1,008 yards last year. UTEP is hoping a strong offensive line will counteract a tough schedule and BYU is counting on half a dozen transfers and a bunch of sophomores. That's about it except for Wyoming, which is welcoming Fritz Shurmur, its new coach. Welcome, Fritz.
Dartmouth has often brutalized the Ivy League, but never so much as in 1970 when it finished 9-0 and ranked 14th in the nation. Everything is different now. Dartmouth is barely favored over Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Cornell. Strong offenses, weak defenses and perhaps the best running back in the country could further confuse the picture with a mélange of high-scoring games.
The back is Cornell's Ed Marinaro, who has led the nation in rushing average for the last two years. If he and the quarterback (either junior Barrett Rosser or sophomore Mark Allen) click, the Big Red could be Big Trouble. Unfortunately, the line and defense, habitually weak, are vulnerable. New coaches have their problems, too. Jake Crouthamel, Dartmouth's replacement for Bob Blackman, has lost his best backs, but runners like Brendan O'Neill, Chuck Thomas and Alex Turner should help cool his baptism of fire. Yale's Carmen Cozza told new Harvard Coach Joe Restic to expect one problem. "You have to decide which of the best quarterbacks in the Ivy League [Rod Foster and Eric Crone] to start." Harvard's real problem is in its defensive secondary. Harry Gamble of Penn will have to do without Pancho Micir, the Ivy League's total-offense leader.
Yale has good offensive linemen and ends and an excellent tailback in Dick Jauron. Princeton's Doug Blake and Hank Bjorklund, first 1,000-yard rusher in school history, will supply more offense. Columbia has its usual pass-catch combo (Don Jackson to Jesse Parks). Brown faces another season of despair.
You can't tell the players in the Atlantic Coast Conference without a score-card, but then you can't tell the coaches, either. There are three new ones this year and a fourth, Paul Dietzel of South Carolina, packed his bags and took his whole team with him. New faces at Duke (Mike McGee), North Carolina State (Al Michaels) and Virginia (Don Lawrence) leave the entire coaching fraternity with only nine years of ACC experience.
All would do well to match the early success of Cal Stoll, who in two seasons at Wake Forest improved from 3-7 his first season to 6-5 and the conference title the next. Fourteen starters return, including eight on offense, but even more encouraging is a schedule that has replaced Nebraska, Tennessee and Houston with Davidson, Tulsa and William & Mary. With all-league Quarterback Larry Russell handing off to Fullback Larry Hopkins, who gained 984 yards last season, the Deacons look like winners.
Hopkins is just one of several fine running backs in the conference. Steve Jones set a school record at Duke last year with 854 yards despite missing two games. Maryland's Art Seymore topped that with 945 yards and Gary Helman gained 743 at Virginia. The chief offensive threat at Clemson, now that Tailback Ray Yauger has left, is Quarterback Tommy Kendrick, who holds most of the Tigers' passing marks.
The conference headquarters have been changed from Kansas City to Dallas but an even more notable move was Louisville's shift from the bottom to the top of the MVC rankings. The surprising Cardinals recorded an 8-3-1 season and the first conference title in the school's history. No one, though, is more aware of changes than Amos Martin, this year's captain. Last year Martin was an honorable mention All-MVC linebacker, but he will be an offensive guard this season. Says Coach Lee Corso, "I'm sure it's going to be harder for us to repeat as champions. Everybody will be gunning for us. We won't be able to sneak up on anybody."
It will be especially hard to sneak up on Tulsa. Hoot Gibson took a team that had been 1-9 the previous year and welded them into a 6-4 squad. The defense will be impressive but the offense is vulnerable. After a four-year record of 30-8-1 the (not-so) Mean Green of North Texas State plunged to a 3-8 season. "We will have someone to run up the field," says Coach Rod Rust. "They may be guards or tackles right now, but we'll have someone."
West Texas State, entering the conference for the first time, is also looking for backs. Before spring practice there were only five in the entire school, which should give Kicker Matias Garza, who scored 62 points last season, plenty of work. Memphis State, last year's favorite, was a disappointment at 6-4 and this year lacks a proven quarterback, while Drake, returning to the conference, rates as a dark horse. Wichita State, victim of a tragic plane crash, is starting the long road back.
Look out for an Indian uprising. Although William & Mary won the conference title last year, it had an overall 5-7 record, including a loss in the Tangerine Bowl. The team should be stronger, with 27 returning lettermen and good sophomores. Phil Mosser, the conference's outstanding player, who set single game and season rushing records, is the top returnee. His running mate, Todd Bushnell, with whom he totaled over 2,000 yards, is also back. The defense, especially the linebacking, is suspect, but the Tribe offense, with diminutive QB Steve Regan, should compensate.
Furman returns 32 lettermen and the 1970 defensive line is virtually intact. Among the experienced starters will be Running Back Steve Crislip, alltime school rushing leader with 871 yards. For the Richmond Spiders it will be a year of reweaving. East Carolina has three good running backs and three quarterbacks available but no depth in other positions. New Coach (and old pro) Sonny Randle will have to push his Pirates.
Defense of The Citadel is the big problem for Coach Red Parker. His interior linemen are almost totally inexperienced. Davidson, a team that prefers the forward pass, may move more on the ground in its second year under Coach Dave Fagg. Bob Thalman in his first year as head coach of VMI inherits a team that had a 1-10 record and four times gave up 55 or more points in a game. No relief is in sight.
After finishing 11-0 in 1969, San Diego State labeled the new Pacific Coast Athletic Association a hindrance and demanded the right to replace Washington State in the Pacific Eight. The Aztecs were anxious to get at USC and UCLA, a unilateral longing that fell on deaf ears. Then last November Cal State at Long Beach spoiled the protest by winning the PCAA championship and stopping San Diego's undefeated streak at 31 games. Now, with a title apiece, each team will be trying to justify its own superiority complex, a situation that might benefit a third party, the University of Pacific.
The fact that San Diego lost 18 starters is of only medium consequence considering the number of redshirts and JC transfers available, and Coach Don Coryell's 88-13-2 record. Besides, wide receiver Tom Reynolds is healthy after a year's absence and in 1969 he caught an NCAA season-record 18 touchdowns. Long Beach will miss Jim Kirby until at least midseason because of a knee injury. He had eight touchdown runs of 30 yards or more last year.
Pacific Coach Homer Smith beat eventual champ Long Beach and only missed San Diego by a point. He appears to have superior personnel, including Mitchell True, the team's best runner, and two new whippets, Clint McKinney and Toby Whipple. Fresno State must improve enough to overcome a 106-28 deficit at the hands of SDS and Long Beach. San Jose State, winner of four games in two years, is being called a contender by Coach Dewey King. Anything you say, Dewey. Santa Barbara has passer Randy Palomino, while Cal State L.A., 1-9 in 1970, figures to be "vastly improved."