Pete Muldoon of Holy Cross hit 58.8% of his passes last year to lead the Crusaders to their best record—8-3—in 30 years. Coach Rick Carter, in the third year of a five-year contract, considered the job at N.C. State, but the Rev. John E. Brooks, president of Holy Cross, made it clear to Carter that a contract was a contract. The Crusaders' running game should improve with the addition of sophomore Tailback Gill Fenerty, a speedster who transferred from LSU.
With Jackson State, winner of the Southwestern conference the past three years, and Grambling both rebuilding, don't be surprised if Mississippi Valley State wins the title. Located in Itta Bena (Choctaw for "home in the woods"), it's a young school (founded in 1950) and a young team, almost unchanged from a year ago. The coach is Archie Cooley, a.k.a. Gunslinger because he wears a cowboy hat on the sidelines and loves the pass. Sophomore Quarterback Willie Totten came from a high school team that used the archaic Notre Dame box, a run-oriented formation, but he stepped into Mississippi Valley's four-receiver offense and threw for 1,890 yards. Junior Receiver Jerry Rice, who does a 4.4 40, caught 66 passes—17 in one game—and should be a first-round draft pick two years hence.
Florida A&M Split End Ray Alexander is a likely first-rounder for 1984. Nowadays he's known as Alexander the Great, but as a sophomore he made a habit of sleeping through his morning classes and also skipping practices. After Coach Rudy Hubbard kicked him off the team in spring practice, Alexander saw the light—and heard the alarm clock—in time to catch 41 passes for 10 TDs and a 22.9-yard average. He's 6'5" and doesn't mind jumping in a crowd. "We tried to zone him with two people," says Delaware State Coach Joe Purzycki, "but he plucks it down from the sky. Next year we're going to call our coverage 'Ozone.' " The Rattlers are armed on defense with senior Noseguard R.C. Eason, whose 17 sacks helped A&M to its No. 2 ranking in the division in total defense.
No. 1 in that category was South Carolina State, which has beaten Florida A&M for the Mid-Eastern title the past three years by scores of 21-19, 16-15 and 21-19. But forget the Bulldogs in '83: They lost their quarterback and top three rushers.
Louisiana Tech went 10-3, won the Southland Conference and ended up No. 2 in the nation a year ago. Tech would be a good pick to win the Southland again, except that it lost its top two quarterbacks, its leading rusher, receiver, scorer and tackler, and also its coach, Billy Brewer, who went to Ole Miss. Thirty miles east on 1-20 is Northeast Louisiana, but the school is better known for its water ski team, which has won the national championship three years in a row, than its football squad. Ranked No. 12 in the final poll, the Indians have 24 redshirts as well as junior Quarterback Rodney Horn. He'll throw to wide receivers Tag Rome and Bobby Craighead, who had 79 catches between them in '82.
Coach Dick Sheridan's success at Furman, which has finished atop the Southern Conference the past three years and wound up No. 6 in the nation in '82, is largely due to perseverance. "We laugh when we read about I-A schools' 'brisk, 1½-hour workouts,' " says a Furman official. The Paladins routinely practice for three hours. Moreover, of 140 scholarship players who have completed their eligibility since 1973, 138 have graduated. Senior Tailback Stanford Jennings has run for 1,000 yards two straight seasons. "All this has been somewhat of a surprise to me," says Jennings, a political science major. "I came here largely for the academics." Jennings should lift Fur-man to another Southern title.
Eastern Illinois runs a unique defense, an eight-man front that produces results: six sacks per game in '82. The Panthers, 11-1-1 and No. 5 in the final poll, lost Quarterback Jeff Christensen (2,270 yards and 21 TDs) and Coach Darrell Mudra, who moved on to Northern Iowa. With most of last year's team back, Eastern Illinois will win the Mid-Continent Conference easily, but regaining a spot in the Top 10 will be more difficult.
In the Ivy League, Penn, 1-9 two years ago, last season went 7-3 and unexpectedly won a share of the championship (with Dartmouth and Harvard) for the first time since 1959. As usual, Harvard, Dartmouth and Yale look strong, but the title may go to—surprise of all surprises—Cornell. After six years, Coach Bob Blackman has been replaced by former All-Pro Linebacker Maxie Baughan. He takes over a team that's on the right track. Following a 0-6 start in '82, the Big Red won its last four games, thanks largely to Tailback Derrick Harmon's recovering from a hip pointer and gaining at least 100 yards in each of those games.
The best player in the Ivies is Columbia Quarterback John Witkowski, who last year threw 45.3 passes a game. He completed an average of 25 per game for 3,050 yards and 29 TDs. But the Lions finished with a 1-9 record, and things don't look much better for '83: They must play seven games on the road plus three at local sites because 55-year-old Baker Field is being renovated.
In the biggest mismatch of the season, the Bruins of Brown will be thrown to the Nittany Lions of Penn State at State College, Pa. on Nov. 5.
Brown's Bruins will be thrown to the Lions on Nov. 5.
7. HOLY CROSS
8. MISS. VALLEY STATE
9. FLORIDA A&M