Now that William (The Refrigerator) Perry is gone, does Clemson go bad? Also missing are three secondary starters, quarterback Mike Eppley and five of six offensive linemen. Still, Danny Ford's coaching is like his tobacco spittin'—he never misses badly. Ford has several solid runners led by tailback Kenny Flowers. Could be that just when people think Clemson is in for an off year, Ford has a better idea.
Last year (Wild) Bill Curry boldly predicted that Georgia Tech would win the ACC. His Wreck didn't win it, natch, but with all the hot air nobody noticed that Tech went 6-4-1 playing the eighth-toughest schedule in the country. "This program has gone from less than pathetic to pathetic to, I guess you could say, reasonably competitive to average," says Curry. "Now we want to be good." Curry might just get there. With 33 of 1984's best 44 players back, including quarterback John Dewberry, who completed 61% of his 206 throws last fall, the Wreck could get high Tech. The key is keeping the Ramblin' Runts—5'7" tailback Cory Collier and 5'9" fullback Malcolm King—from winding up on the bottom of somebody's shoe.
North Carolina coach Dick Crum has switched from a 5-2 defense to a four-man front to help the perennially Crummy pass D. The other Heels Achilles are quarterback and running back; tailback Ethan Horton will be powerfully missed. Last fall Wake Forest had its moments, winning the Big Four championship (3-0 vs. other North Carolina teams) and putting together its second winning season in 13 years. The Deacons have the ACC's top returning rusher, Michael Ramseur, who gained 961 yards in '84, and all-ACC defensive end Gary Baldinger, brother of Dallas Cowboy Brian and Kansas City Chief Rich.
North Carolina State's Joe Milinichik is 6'5", 302 pounds and can dunk a basketball. Unfortunately, Milinichik doesn't play for Jim Valvano. He plays tackle for football coach Tom Reed, who can't get by on Milinichik alone. Reed doesn't have a quarterback, a defense or anybody who can score points. Perhaps Lorenzo Charles is available.
Duke went 2-9 last year and figures to be bluer in '85. Blue Devil defenders gave up 437 yards per game in '83 and 392 in '84, proving there's no D in Duke.
Some NCAA doghouses are roomier than others, and Kansas is quite happy with the one it's in, thank you. The second year of the Jayhawks' two-year probation lets them appear on TV and in a bowl. Under pass-happy coach Mike Gottfried, they just might find themselves in a postseason game. The Jay-hawk to watch is linebacker Willie Pless, who led the Big Eight in tackles in each of the last two seasons.
New at Missouri are the uniforms, the offense, the coach and even the field. The last of the Big Eight's naturalists goes artificial for '85. But tradition didn't lose out entirely at Mizzou. Rookie coach Woody Widenhofer, a Tiger scrub under Dan Devine and a former Pittsburgh Steeler assistant, dumped the atrocious uniforms introduced in 1983—"We looked like Christmas trees," he says—in favor of the solid black and gold. In those togs Widenhofer's offensive line, which includes John Clay (6'5", 270 pounds), Dave Kniptash (6'5", 273) and Phil Pettey (6'4", 270), will look like the Steelers'. Pettey is a former Marine sergeant, but Widenhofer had better be looking for more than just a few good men if Missouri is to finish in the upper half of the Big Eight class.
Give Iowa State coach Jim Criner credit for scruples. He kicked his best player, honorable mention All-America flanker Tracy Henderson, off the team for general mischief. The Cyclones went 2-7-2 last year with Henderson. Only the defense, anchored by linebacker Jeff Braswell, can save the Cycs from cloning that mess.
Maybe everybody's too busy breathing the rarefied air in Boulder to notice that Bill McCartney is 7-25-1 at Colorado after three years. The fourth season won't represent a Rocky Mountain high either, what with McCartney changing offenses. Last fall it was pro-style passing. This year it's—Ta Da!—the wishbone. At Kansas State, Jim Dickey is going to a pass-oriented attack, even though the Wildcats finished 104th in the country last season in passing and have as many good receivers as the state has expert ski slopes. See you at the bottom.
Last year was Bo Schembechler's worst in Ann Arbor, and 1985 doesn't portend much better. The Wolverines have multiple holes to fill on defense. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh is back after breaking his arm against Michigan State. But with no runners to support him, Harbaugh will have to do it with mirrors.
Third-year coach George Perles has things looking up at Michigan State after beating Michigan and Iowa and landing the Spartans in the Cherry Bowl, their first postseason appearance since 1966. Perles will depend on running back Lorenzo White. What do you do for an encore after beating Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan in the same year? If you're Purdue, you hope your opponents forget and your star quarterback remembers. That would be senior Jim Everett, who led the conference in passing yards (3,003) and completed 58% of his 389 throws. Everett has his three best wide receivers going for him, too, including 1,000-yard gainer Steve Griffin.
Wisconsin had a mild brush with glory in '84, but forget '85. Eleven Badgers were selected in the NFL draft, three of them in the first round. So if Wisconsin faithful don't find Saturdays all that pleasurable this year, there will always be Sundays. Last fall Minnesota finished second to Ohio State in the conference in rushing (2,281 yards). Four of the Gophers' top ground-gainers return, including sophomore quarterback Rickey Foggie, who led the team with 647 yards. Trouble is, Minnesota's defense could be as sorry as it was last year, when it finished last in the Big Ten in total D.
Sandy Schwab and Mike Greenfield will fight for the quarterback job at Northwestern. But considering that Mildcat signal callers were sacked for more than 300 yards last season, perhaps they should draw straws. Winner gets to keep the chart on the sidelines.
The longest sustained streak of indigestible football belongs to Indiana, Loosiers of 16 straight. That Indiana averaged 79.6 yards per game rushing last year lends a clue why. Coach Bill Mallory brought in Damon Sweazy, a transfer from Fullerton J.C., to provide some zip. How bad have the Loosiers been? Folks are saying Sweazy could be the next Mike Harkrader. That's how bad.
The long and short of it is that Bowling Green will win the Mid-American behind 6'7" quarterback Brian McClure, who may become the leading passer in NCAA history, and 5'9" tailback Bernard White. Last season White became the third player in Division I-A history to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 50 passes. McClure will start his senior year with 7,606 yards, about 500 more than Doug Flutie had at this stage of his career.
Defending champ Toledo will have good defense—eight starters are back from the league's best unit in '84—but not much offense. Central Michigan needs quarterback Ron Fillmore to regain the form he displayed during a great sophomore year two seasons ago. He has the conference's second-best arm.
Northern Illinois is one of three MAC teams with a new coach. Jerry Pettibone comes to DeKalb from Texas A & M. The Huskies' best player is defensive tackle Scott Kellar, who had 20 stops for losses in '84. Cleve Bryant, a quarterback at Ohio University in 1967-69, takes over at his alma mater, while Paul Schudel, who coached the offensive line at Michigan the last 10 years, is Ball State's new coach.
Tim Rose is on the wrong track at Miami of Ohio. Not since 1941-42 had Miami suffered two losing seasons in a row, but Rose's last two teams were 4-7. That's not exactly tracing the footsteps of Hayes, Parseghian, Schembechler and Crum.
Led by linebacker John Offerdahl, who had 16.5 tackles per game last fall, Western Michigan will rely on defense. Never mind about Kent State or Eastern Michigan—at least this year. Kent State will have 20 redshirt freshmen. Eastern Michigan coach Jim Harkema is making progress but has a long way to go.
This is the year to stock up on Missouri Valley memorabilia, because after this season the conference goes the way of the World Football League and Billy Beer. All the teams become independents. Tulsa should win its sixth title in a row, even with a new coach. Don Morton arrived from North Dakota State, where he won the Division II title in '83. The top dog on offense is Ronnie Kelley, who averaged 25 yards per catch in '84. Linebacker Xavier Warren led the team in tackles with 132.
Wichita State has 16 starters back, including Eric Denson, the school's alltime leading rusher. That's good, because the defense will again be an embarrassment. Indiana State wound up No. 5 in Division I-AA last season. The leading holdover is quarterback Jeff Miller, who was the MVC's Offensive Player of the Year. After winning the Division I-AA title in '83, Southern Illinois had a long fall in '84 under new coach Ray Dorr. "Things last year never settled down," says fullback Bruce Phibbs. "The players never knew what the coaches wanted. This year will be much different."
If a quarterback doesn't show up soon, there will be a weekly Drake wake in Des Moines. Illinois State should finish last or close to it, with only eight starters returning. Everyone, however, could be low-balled by West Texas State, where coach Bill Kelly, late of Eastern New Mexico, inherits a team that has gone 6-26-1 over the last three years. Kelly will try to make hay by throwing 45 times a game.
The best backfield in the Pac-10 belongs to Washington State. Kerry Porter led the conference in rushing two seasons ago; Rueben Mayes is a Heisman candidate who led it last year, when he also broke the NCAA single-game rushing record of 357 yards against Oregon; and Mark Rypien was rated No. 1 among Pac-10 passers for '84. Together they give the Cougars the damndest option offense on the globe. Unfortunately, the defense is even younger than last year, when it gave up 319 points, two more than the offense scored.
When Darryl Rogers bolted to the Detroit Lions last February, Arizona State got a winner in John Cooper, who had won the last five MVC titles at Tulsa. Cooper was pleased to make the acquaintance of halfback Darryl Clack, who clicked off 1,052 yards last year on the ground and caught 32 passes for 385 yards. The bad news for Arizona is that it lost most of a defense that was ranked third nationally against the rush in '84. The good news is a sweet schedule that doesn't mention USC or Washington and brings UCLA and Washington State to Tucson. The Wildcats must fill holes on the offensive and defensive lines, and at linebacker and punter.
The Quack Attack is back at Oregon, where a full house returns in the back-field, including tailback Tony Cherry, who averaged 6.5 yards per carry in '84. Who knows? The routinely ugly Ducklings could finish in the upper division. Jack Elway is recruiting madly at Stanford, but he's still two years away from contending. His biggest headaches will be the offensive and defensive lines. If he at least finds an offensive front, quarterback John Paye could cash in.
Cal hasn't had anybody to take the ball outside since Chuck Muncie, and coach Joe Kapp won't this year either. Only freshman Marc Hicks keeps the Berserkeleys hoping. He was rated the second best schoolboy back in the country behind USC's Aaron Emanuel. When new coach Dave Kragthorpe, late of the AD's chair at Utah State, surveyed the dearth of talent at Oregon State, he proclaimed, "Thou Shalt Pass." The trouble with the BYU Syndrome is that not everybody has a Robbie Bosco to make it work, least of all Oregon State.
A good bar bet: Lay 10-to-1 odds that Nevada-Las Vegas will win at least half a dozen more games this season than it did in '84, when the Rebels finished first in the PCAA and won the California Bowl. Count the cash fast while you explain that Vegas had to forfeit all 11 of its victories after using 11 ineligible players. Those players have left, making Vegas a little less awesome but still the favorite to win the conference. The Rebels will be led by running back Kirk Jones, a first-team PCAAer in '84.
One man who thought Vegas got off light was Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney, who said that the Rebels' violations represented "the most brazen plot since Frank and Jesse James." Sweeney thought Vegas deserved to be barred from the California Bowl for a year or two. The Bulldogs' coach hasn't much room to talk, though, considering the way he takes care of his star quarterback. That would be son Kevin, who still lives at home. "Where can he get a better room-and-board deal?" Dad asks. Kevin contributed to home morale last year by throwing for 3,259 yards and 20 TDs.
Long Beach State will get off the ground early and often. Quarterback Doug Gaynor, who finished third nationally in total offense, is back. So is his favorite target, Charles (Got It) Lockett, who caught 75 passes last year for 1,112 yards. Lafo Malauulu may be hard to spell, but it's a name San Jose State fans might want to memorize. Malauulu was an All-America wide receiver at Palomar (Calif.) College and led the jucos with 76 catches last season. If quarterback Jon Carlson can come back from an illness that forced him to redshirt in '84, Spartan fans might just have a Lafo minute.
Pacific has so little talent it is resorting to the wishbone, a curiosity in the pass-crazy PCAA. The Tigers hope nobody will remember how to defend against the run. Fullerton won the title last year after the Vegas forfeits, but the Titans won't come close this time. Quarterback Damon Allen is gone, as are many other integral players.
The good news at New Mexico State is that its top scorer, placekicker Andy Weiler, is back. The bad news is that Weiler led the Ags with just 43 points, converting 22 of 22 extra-point attempts and seven of 12 field-goal tries. In the interest of staying employed, Utah State coach Chris Pella signed a bundle of juco transfers. But that won't be enough. These Ags will fight the other Ags for the cellar.
Senior quarterback Tony Robinson is half the reason Tennessee may pop up in the polls. Robinson could end up as the Vols' alltime top passer and total-offense leader in only two full seasons. The other half of the reason is split end Tim McGee, who had 54 catches for 809 yards in '84.
No wonder Georgia coach Vince Dooley pondered a saner line of work in the U.S. Senate. For starters, tight end Tyrone Sorrells transferred to Georgia Tech. Then the Bulldogs were hit with a one-year probation and the loss of seven scholarships in each of the next two years for recruiting violations. Next the Dawgs' leading rusher, Pulpwood Smith, was bowled over by the books. Finally, guard Jimmy Holton got the boot for disciplinary reasons, and linemate Mack Burroughs suffered a knee injury in spring drills.
Kentucky might be a dark horse in the SEC if flash sophomore Mark Higgs has two good wheels after off-season knee surgery. Regardless, the Wildcats have most of the team that beat Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl. Nobody spent a lonelier summer than Alabama coach Ray Perkins, who didn't get the shadow of the Bear off his back. Tailback Kerry Goode, who missed last season with a knee injury, will give the offense a lift. 'Bama's solid defense is led by All-America linebacker Cornelius Bennett.
Ole Miss coach Billy Brewer likes to call his offense "explosive." And with quarterback Kent Austin it might approach that. The problem is the defense, which also has a tendency to blow up. Mississippi State kept its spring practices secret because it plans to unveil a new and improved offense for '85. How improved? Well, coach Emory Bellard predicts his team will win the SEC. If State doesn't at least improve, it might unveil a new and improved coach next fall.
Vanderbilt's only offensive gun is tight end Jim Popp, who averaged 10 yards per catch last year and may be the best in the country this season. The trouble is, how far can you go on 10 yards a Popp?
Houston has the same quarterback, same runners and same sticky receivers who played in the Cotton Bowl. Quarterback Gerald Landry set a team record for total offense (1,887 yards) in '84, and defensive tackle T.J. Turner and tight end Carl Hilton could be first-round NFL picks. The only problem with standing pat in the SWC is that everybody else is better.
Could this be the year Jackie Sherrill has a season worthy of his W-2s at Texas A & M? The Aggies get Texas, SMU, Arkansas and Houston at home. While A & M's skill positions may be hurting for skilled players, the defense will be superb. But get ready for long faces among the Longhorns, especially on Fred Akers, who within the last year had a defensive back plead guilty to robbery (Charles Washington), had a co-captain plead guilty to resisting arrest (linebacker Tony Edwards) and three days before the Oklahoma game found his best players being wooed by agents bearing "whiskey and pizza." More bad news waits on the field. Nobody's sure if Akers's new run-and-shoot offense will work.
TCU coach Jim Wacker has to rebuild an offensive line and break in a quarterback. Worse, this fall the Horned Frogs, especially All-America running back Kenneth Davis (1,611 yards in '84), won't sneak up on anybody. Last year, early road losses to BYU and Oklahoma left Baylor reeling. The same perils lurk this fall, with early ventures to Georgia and Southern Cal followed by trips to Houston, SMU, Arkansas and Texas. Not even two talented quarterbacks—Tom Muecke and Cody Carlson have shared the position the past two seasons—can overcome that itinerary.
Texas Tech will try to mesh the wishbone and the flexbone (creating the fishbone?) after finishing last in total offense in '84. A featured fish will be sophomore quarterback Aaron Keesee, who has started only seven games. That's more than most of his offensive mates. Just three other '84 first-teamers are back on that side of the ball.
Mother told us that if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all. So here is our scouting report on Rice: The coach's shirts are always nicely pressed.
Hawaii coach Dick Tomey walked across hot (2,000° F) coals in the off-season at a positive-thinking seminar. Tomey has nothing to be optimistic about at quarterback, but with the usual minimum of eight games at home, he shouldn't get burned too often this fall.
Q: Who has beaten Notre Dame three years running? A: Air Force, which gets its Irish up every year with the flexbone. Second-year coach Fisher DeBerry will be lucky to make it four in a row. Too many good players from last season are now flying around in F-15s.
Five years ago, Doug Scovil promised that by 1985 San Diego State would be bumping heads with BYU for the league title. The Aztecs didn't do much head bumping last season, but when you consider that they lost to five bowl winners, you see progress. Utah's new coach, Jim Fassel, is bent on proving that BYU isn't the only school in the state religious about passing. That would be fine if the Utes had a quarterback and their best player wasn't Eddie Johnson, who was the nation's No. 1 freshman runner in '84 with 85.1 yards per game.
New Mexico was 4-0 last fall when senior quarterback Buddy Funck was injured. After that, the Lobos went into a blue Funck and lost their next eight games. Expect more calamities. Wyoming has only 11 seniors and no decent quarterback. Now for the bad news: In '84 the defense ranked 103rd out of 105 Division I-A teams.
Colorado State hired longtime Texas aide Leon Fuller three years ago, but the Rams' program continues to flounder. Fuller, however, is nothing if not courageous; he's taking on LSU and Miami. Deuces have been wild at inept Texas-El Paso. The Miners have won two games per for three consecutive seasons. Begin an investigation if UTEP wins two this year, because only eight starters are back.
The major-college reports were written by Rick Reilly
King rambled for an unruntlike seven yards per carry last year as a Tech freshman.
The point is, Pless, the Big Eight's top tackler in '83 and '84, knows how to fill holes.
White (left) runs short, and McClure goes long.
JOHN D. HANLON
Where Mayes comes from, pucks are a great deal more prevalent than pigskins.
Sweeney is looking for Sweeney to pass the Bulldogs into first place.
TCU's Tony Jeffery will help keep the heat off his more heralded running mate.
4. Georgia Tech
5. North Carolina
6. Wake Forest
7. N.C. State
BIG EIGHT PROJECTION
3. Oklahoma State
6. Iowa State
8. Kansas State
BIG TEN PROJECTION
1. Ohio State
5. Michigan State
9. Mississippi State
4. Texas A & M
8. Texas Tech
3. Air Force
4. San Diego State
6. New Mexico
8. Colorado State