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Look for tight races in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC in this last season before the conferences realign

How fitting it is, given the colorful split personality of the Atlantic Coast Conference, that the league's two Top 20 contenders are the Skoal-spittin' Tigers of Clemson and the gentlemen Cavaliers of Virginia. As the two schools have at least one thing in common—their uniforms' hue—1990 will be something of an orange crush for the rest of the conference. Georgia Tech was truly a Rambling Wreck as it opened the 1989 season by losing three straight and lurched to within two defeats of the ACC record of 18 straight conference losses. But the Yellow Jackets became a wrecking crew, winning seven of their last eight games for their first winning season since 1985. As a redshirt freshman, quarterback Shawn Jones threw for 1,748 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he is the first returning starter under center in Bobby Ross's four years in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets will replace tailback Jerry Mays, the conference's leading rusher in 1989, with T.J. Edwards, a rare intraconference transfer from Duke, or William Bell. On defense, NFL scouts will be swarming around All-ACC junior free safety Ken Swilling, the most talented Yellow Jacket in a decade.

"Come back, Shane" may be a familiar refrain at N.C. State, with the departure of quarterback Shane Montgomery, who led the ACC in passing yardage last season. This season, coach Dick Sheridan will go with a ground attack because Montgomery's heir, sophomore Charles Davenport, is an option quarterback. Davenport will pitch to speedy tailbacks Tyrone Jackson, a junior, and Aubrey Shaw, a sophomore, who were two of the Wolfpack's top four rushers from 1989. Safeties Jesse Campbell and Fernandus (Snake) Vinson anchor a formidable defense.

Former Duke assistant head coach Barry Wilson, chosen to replace coach Steve Spurrier at the Blue Devil helm, served part of his Army duty as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At the very least, his new assignment will be livelier, though equally unknown is the identity of the Blue Devils' starting quarterback. Wilson has two fine rèsumès to choose between: Billy Ray opened '89 by leading Duke to a surprising 5-3 record before bowing out with a shoulder injury. Fill-in Dave Brown performed quite nicely in sparking the Devils to a 3-0 season finish, with 11 touchdown passes and an astounding average of 432 yards per game through the air. No matter which one wins the job, junior tailback Randy Cuthbert will be a prime target after catching 50 passes last season while becoming the first Duke ballcarrier in 17 years to rush for 1,000 yards.

You might think that North Carolina coach Mack Brown's two-year record of 2-20 would keep high school recruits away in droves. Nonetheless, Brown's 1990 prep crop was judged to be one of the best in the country. That's the good news. The bad news is that a couple of the Tar Heels' top prospects, quarterback Mike Thomas and tight end Oscar Sturgis, both from state champion Richmond Senior High in Rockingham, couldn't join the 700 Club on the SATs. They were sent packing to Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy this fall to bone up on their academics, and Thomas, who signed a minor league baseball contract with the Orioles, may never climb Chapel Hill. Brown is left with junior Todd Burnett at quarterback, who did not distinguish himself last season. The Tar Heels hope to get meaner on defense and are counting on tackle Roy Barker and linebackers Dwight Hollier, Eric Gash and Tommy Thigpen, who has been perfecting his technique by studying old films of former Heel Lawrence Taylor.

Whoever arranged the 1990 Maryland schedule has an odd sense of humor. The once-proud Terps, who haven't had a winning season since 1985, have nonconference dates at Michigan, Penn State and West Virginia. Coach Joe Krivak has chosen Scott Zolak to quarterback the lackluster Terps. A senior, Zolak has waited four years for this thankless assignment.

Free safety Lamont Scales led Wake Forest in tackles in 1989, a telling indication of the woeful state of the Demon Deacons' defensive front. Things won't improve much on a unit that yielded 435 yards and 29 points per game while registering just 10 sacks. On offense, ACC 110-meter hurdles champ Steve Brown is a deep threat at flanker. But for these Deacons, the hurdles will be too high.

Geographically, at least, Arkansas has always been odd man out in the All Texas Plus One Southwest Conference. Soon Arkansas will simply be out—gone to the Southeastern Conference, beginning in 1992. That conference doesn't make any more sense geographically, but it made a lot of financial sense to the Hog hierarchy, which couldn't resist the extra TV dollars. This season the SWC might as well pretend that Arkansas, a solid Top 20 contender, has already left. That will make the battle for the title of conference runner-up more exciting. Although the Razorbacks have won the crown two years running (and almost never passing), Texas A&M has not been far behind. Last year, a one-point loss to the Hogs separated A&M from a New Year's Day date in Dallas. This season the Aggies have an enforcer at outside linebacker named Tyronne (the first n is silent) Malone, a transfer from LSU. If halfback Darren Lewis can regain the spirit of the 1,692 yards he rushed for in 1988, the Aggies could ruin the Hogs' farewell.

Quarterback Andre Ware and his coach, Jack Pardee, have both left the University of Houston for the major leagues, but that doesn't mean that the Cougars' run-and-shoot offense will be hobbled. David (Slinger) Klingler passed for eight touchdowns and 865 yards as Ware's understudy in '89, career marks for some SWC starters. Klingler will be throwing to wideout Manny Hazard, who had more receptions (142) last year than anyone in Division I-A history, and handing off to Chuck Weatherspoon, who gained a remarkable 9.6 yards per carry in '89.

No doubt the Bears of Baylor spent much of the off-season enjoying films of their '89 season-ending 50-7 Texas Massacre, which was shot on location in Austin. That's the kind of momentum that can carry a team right into a new season—right up to Saturday, Sept. 1, when the Bears visit Nebraska. There, the momentum will cease. Those nonconference crunchers (Arizona State is on tap for the Bears the following week) will be misleading, though, because with a break here and there, Baylor could find itself in the thick of the SWC race. Coach Grant Teaff is returning to the I formation veer that he used in his first season, 18 years ago. The benefactor will be redshirt freshman fullback Robert Strait, a converted tailback who gained 8,404 yards and scored 127 TDs in four years at Cuero (Texas) High School. End Santana Dotson anchors a defense that was tops in the conference last year, and the Baylor secondary is airtight.

Spike Dykes's Texas Tech Red Raiders were the surprise of the conference last autumn, when they stormed to a 9-3 record. A visit to Ohio State and a rendezvous with Miami at Jones Stadium augur a more modest showing this fall, as does the loss of I-back James Gray, the SWC's leading rusher. Dykes welcomes back Butkus Award nominee Charles Rowe at linebacker, and the league's passers and receivers welcome back the entire Tech secondary, which ranked 100th in Division I-A in '89.

The eyes of Texas are firmly upon fourth-year coach David McWilliams, and they aren't smiling. McWilliams has presided over the Longhorns' first back-to-back losing seasons since 1937-38, and he could add a third, with Penn State, Colorado and Oklahoma on the nonconference schedule. Adding to McWilliams's woes was an off-season gambling scandal that surfaced right around the time that high school prospects sign their letters of intent. Nevertheless, the Longhorns have had three fine recruiting years, at a time when many Texas high school prospects are fleeing the state, but if some of those prospects don't pan out, McWilliams could find himself at the mercy of an angry mob of Texas alums.

TCU will rely on an offensive line with two sophomore starters to make the Triple Shoot offense work. Leon Clay is the quarterback hoping that these Frogs mature in a hurry. Donald Hollas of Rice was the SWC's top defensive newcomer in 1988 at safety. Last year, he was the Owls' quarterback. He will take snaps again this fall and will look for Eric Henley (81 catches in '89) often. SMU's two victories in '89 after two years of banishment apparently erased all memory of why the Mustangs were given the Death Penalty in the first place. Coach and athletic director Forrest Gregg has already said that the university should build the team a new stadium in order to help lure recruits to the struggling program, and in May, the school transferred Cynthia Patterson, the sole liaison between the athletic department and the admissions office, to other duties. Patterson was seen as a bulwark in the fight to maintain strict academic standards for athletes at SMU. It's no wonder Arkansas took a powder.

Not since Jake and Elwood Blues drove their Bluesmobile to Chicago has a man in dark glasses and white socks caused such a stir in the Midwest as Penn State coach Joe Paterno. When the Nittany Lions announced in December that they would abandon the ranks of the independents, the Big Ten was transformed into the Bigger 11 and tremors were felt from Columbus to Ann Arbor to Pasadena. Fortunately for the conference's Fab Four-Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois—Penn State won't be on the itinerary for a few years yet, and their spots in the Top 20 are secure, at least for now.

At Iowa, junior quarterback Matt Rodgers returns after an up-and-down 1989 season, but at least he fared better than his father, Jimmy, who was fired in May by the Boston Celtics. In leading the Hawkeyes to a 4-3 start, Rodgers completed 62% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and only six interceptions. In the team's 1-3 late-season swoon, he connected on 49% with seven interceptions and only two touchdowns. Hayden Fry, now the dean of Big Ten coaches after the retirement of Michigan's Bo Schembechler, insists he will stay with Rodgers this fall, but Jim Hartlieb is waiting in the wings. Fry's defense, which gave up 44 points to Oregon in the season opener and 43 to Minnesota in the grim finale, should be much improved, with senior tackles Jim Johnson and Matt Ruhland among the league's best.

At Indiana, the battle cry is "AT, phone home." The departure of tailback Anthony Thompson, the Heisman bridesmaid and the best player in Hoosier history, leaves coach Bill Mallory without a proven dot in his I formation. And speaking of unproven, the Indiana quarterback will be redshirt freshman walk-on Chris Dyer, who won the job in spring practice. The gaping hole at tailback will be filled by junior college transfer Vaughn Dunbar and Steve Goodrich. If they fail to fill AT's cleats, freshman Brett Law, who set a national scholastic record with 141 career touchdowns and 952 career points at Sheridan High in Tipton, Ind., will be pressed into service. Thompson's little brother Ernie, a junior, will get a look at fullback. On the other side of the ball, all-conference senior defensive back Mike Dumas moves from cornerback to free safety in order to defuse the bomb; the porous Indiana defense gave up six scoring plays of 60 yards or more last season.

Purdue has a quarterback who is being compared with Randall Cunningham and running backs who are being compared with Richie Cunningham. With no significant addition to a rushing corps that averaged a mere 57.9 yards per game and 1.9 yards per carry last season, expect to see either the ball or flashy sophomore signal caller Eric Hunter's feet in the air quite a bit. Senior middle linebacker Darrin Trieb has led the conference in solo tackles the past two seasons.

Minnesota coach John Gutekunst had a worse '89 season than his TV sitcom counterpart at Minnesota State, Hayden Fox—and that was before Gutekunst lost his Thompson, Darrell, who finished his career as the school's alltime leading rusher. Last year, the Gopher secondary worked on a pass-fail system: Whenever the other team passed, they failed to stop it, allowing more than 220 yards a game through the air.

In January, former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Barry Alvarez replaced Don Morton as the coach at Wisconsin and immediately succeeded in convincing one wayfaring Badger to return to the fold. Quarterback Tony Lowery was wooed from the T-shirt booth outside Camp Randall Stadium, where he had taken to hawking souvenir garb after a falling-out with Morton. Lowery will be back under center in 1990 after a fine spring, but for the first time in four years, Alvarez can count on spending New Year's Day in front of the TV instead of on it. Northwestern has a superb receiver in Richard Buchanan (94 catches in '89), a lovely campus on the shore of Lake Michigan and, after giving up 497 points and going 0-11 last season, no earthly reason for continuing to subject its student-athletes to the rigors of football in the Big Ten.

While Auburn, Tennessee and Alabama remain entrenched in the upper echelon of the Southeastern Conference, disappointing seasons for Georgia and LSU in '89 created doubts about the future of those traditional powers—and perhaps opened the way for Kentucky to have a breakthrough season under new coach Bill Curry. When he was at Alabama, Curry got so fed up with the infighting and backbiting that he chucked it all to take a job that has become a virtual graveyard for coaches. However, the Kentucky program is definitely on the rebound, and Curry could be the right man at the right time. The legacy left by Jerry Claiborne includes quarterback Freddie Maggard, split end Phil Logan and linebacker Randy Halleran. What's more, Mississippi and Mississippi State replace Alabama and Auburn on the Wildcats' SEC schedule for two years.

In Steve Spurrier, the Florida Gators got an alumnus coach who is still revered for winning the 1966 Heisman Trophy, a Mr. Clean who figures to keep the program out of the trouble that dogged it through the 1980s, and a proven winner—20-12-1 in three seasons at Duke—who can get the most out of the team's considerable talent. Spurrier plans on throwing the ball more than 40 times a game, which is wise, considering that the Gators can no longer depend on the 100 or so yards that tailback Emmitt Smith, who left for the pros, always seemed to get. Quarterback Kyle Morris, suspended last year for gambling, will battle Shane Matthews for the starting job, and the winner will do much of his throwing to tight end Kirk Kirkpatrick. The Gators' formidable defense is led by end Huey Richardson and strong safety/outside linebacker Godfrey Myles.

Last season at Georgia, rookie coach Ray Goff's Bulldogs went 6-3, then lost their last three games, to Auburn, Georgia Tech and Syracuse in the Peach Bowl. This spring tailback Rodney Hampton, the school's No. 3 alltime rusher, decided to give up his senior year to enter the NFL draft. Unless freshman tailback Garrison Hearst develops faster than expected, Goff will have to depend more on the passing of quarterbacks Greg Talley and Preston Jones. Their leading targets will be split end Sean Hummings and flanker Arthur Marshall.

LSU, expected to contend for the conference championship in '89, lost four games by six points or less and slipped to 4-7, bringing the bittersweet Tommy Hodson era to an unhappy end. It was the Bayou Bengals' worst season since 1983. Without quarterback Hodson and record-setting placekicker David Brown-dyke, LSU's most dangerous offensive threat will probably be senior tailback Harvey Williams, though he has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent performance throughout his career. On defense, the Tigers will get a good deal of help from redshirt freshman Roovelroe Swan at outside linebacker. LSU's best hope for improvement may be an easier schedule that includes neither Auburn nor Tennessee.

To better last season's 8-4 record, Mississippi must not become discouraged in September when it meets Auburn and Arkansas back-to-back. Coach Billy Brewer is excited by tailback Randy Baldwin, who averaged six yards a carry last season, and he thinks quarterback Russ Shows might be just the man to replace John Darnell. The Ole Miss defense will be bolstered considerably if free safety Todd Sandroni, who had seven interceptions two years ago, is fully recovered from off-season surgery to his left knee. As usual, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt will have to fight to stay out of the cellar. After a 4-2 start last season, the Bulldogs faded to 5-6. It's unlikely that they will be much better this season, even with Tay Galloway, Tony James and Kenny Roberts trying to outdo one another at tailback. Vanderbilt, which ran up a 1-10 record—its seventh consecutive losing season—faces its toughest schedule in years with its usual dearth of talent. At least free safety Chris Donnelly, last year's Freshman of the Year in the SEC, will again get plenty of work. Last season he broke up 14 passes, a school record, and made 70 tackles.

In the Pac-10 they spell parity P-A-R-O-D-Y. Southern Cal and Washington (both in this season's Top 20 forecast) and UCLA haven't been very sporting over the past two decades, winning 17 of the last 18 league titles. This season, Oregon has the best chance of breaking the Big Three's Rose Bowl monopoly. The Ducks are coming off an 8-4 year in which they beat Tulsa 27-24 in the Independence Bowl, and three of the Ducks' four losses were by a total of 11 points. This fall, Oregon will enjoy an easier schedule, with seven home games and no USC. The Ducks' fortunes are in the capable hands of senior quarterback Bill Musgrave, who stayed healthy last season for the first time in his career. In his first two seasons, the Ducks were 10-3 with Musgrave under center; with him on the disabled list, they were 2-8. Coach Rich Brooks must find adequate replacements for departed running backs Derek Loville and Latin Berry.

Noting that Arizona quarterbacks threw for only 898 yards last season, coach Dick Tomey, a master of understatement, said, "We hope to be a better passing team this year." Tomey then generously excused one quarterback and two of his receivers from spring practice so that they could compete on the baseball and track teams. The Wildcats' strength will be a defensive back-field that boasts cornerback Darryl Lewis and safety Jeff Hammerschmidt. But Arizona will be hard-pressed to match its '89 record of 8-4; this season the Wildcats face Southern Cal, UCLA and Washington on the road.

UCLA will be out to prove that last season's 3-7-1 performance—the Bruins' worst record since 1971—was an aberration, but coach Terry Donahue cautions that '90 is a rebuilding year in Westwood. Offensive coordinator Homer Smith, who spent the past three years with the Kansas City Chiefs and Alabama, returns to guide a unit that is loaded in the backfield but thin along the line. Quarterback Bret Johnson, who took much of the blame for the '89 travesty, quit school last week after getting angry about being replaced by junior Jim Bonds, a stronger thrower. On defense, free safety Eric Turner follows Kenny Easley, Don Rogers and James Washington as the only Bruin to start at that position since 1977.

In trying to remain in the top half of the conference, the Sun Devils of Arizona State will rely on the aerial tandem of tight end Ryan McReynolds and Paul Justin, the league's top passer (259 yards per game), who could quietly turn out to be an even better quarterback than that Robo fellow at USC. Stanford will be lucky to survive a grueling early schedule. The Cardinal will open the season on a Thursday evening at Colorado and travel to Notre Dame one month later. But Stanford should get a boost from 300-pound sophomore tackle Bob Whitfield (page 90) and a backfield that is accustomed to college football's rarefied heights: Tailback Glyn Milburn is a transfer from Oklahoma and fullback Ellery Roberts spent one season with Miami.

With prep phenom running back Russell White having done his Proposition 48 penance, California is counting on having an exciting ground game, if not much else. Defensive tackle Joel Dickson will also make a comeback. In 1988, Dickson was regarded as one of the country's top linemen, but he was injured in a shooting accident four games into the season. Last year, he injured an ankle on the first series of the Bears' opening game and decided to redshirt. Cal has 15 of 22 starters back but will struggle to get out of the cellar. By mid-October last season, Washington State was 6-1 and thinking Rose Bowl. That bubble burst with four losses in five weeks. The Cougars lost a dozen players to the pros and will need to patch up a secondary that allowed a league-high 296 yards per game passing.

Oregon State hasn't had a winning football team in 20 years, but the easygoing folks in Corvallis take it all in stride. In January, when coach Dave Kragthorpe decided not to leave for Utah, he was roundly applauded by the crowd at a Beaver basketball game. Last year's 4-7-1 record wasn't bad for a school that has a tough time competing for the most talented recruits, though nosetackle Esera Tuaolo and scrambling quarterback Matt Booher would make any Pac-10 roster.

In its own way, the Big Eight is as cliquish as a suburban high school. You've got all the basic groups: jocks (Nebraska and Colorado), thugs (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State), punks (Iowa State and Missouri) and nerds (Kansas and Kansas State). To be sure, the groups occasionally overlap, but when the bell rings this season, look for Nebraska and Colorado to be in a class by themselves. Of course, the thugs will be detained in the principal's office for a while.

Oklahoma and its second-year coach Gary Gibbs can almost see the light at the end of the probation tunnel. The Sooners won't be allowed to play in a bowl game for the second straight year, but will be back on the air this fall after serving a one-year TV ban. It will be a new show in Norman, as Gibbs promises to throw the ball more. Quarterback Steve Collins and tight end Adrian Cooper should be able to put up some un-Sooner-like numbers while protected tackle to tackle by veterans.

No one but Nebraska, Colorado or Oklahoma has won the conference title since 1976, so the more intriguing battle in the Big Eight is the annual B Division championship, or the battle for fourth place. Iowa State is hoping that senior tailback Blaise Bryant (page 76), the nation's leading returning rusher (1,516 yards) can do for the Cyclones what Barry Sanders did for Oklahoma State in 1988: win the Heisman and carry his team into a bowl game. The Cyclones are the only team in the Big Eight's bottom five that finished with a winning record in 1989, and it was their first since 1986.

Oklahoma State, on the other hand, experienced its first losing season (4-7) in seven years. The Cowboys' NCAA probation sentence—no TV this year, no bowl games this year or next-may have had something to do with their down year, but the loss of Sanders and receiver Hart Lee Dykes to the NFL were the major reasons. This fall, coach Pat Jones's offense should be more in keeping with the Cowboys' tradition of run-oriented offenses. Tailback Gerald Hudson, who rushed for 910 yards in only 7½ games before being injured, will look for holes opened up by four returning offensive line starters. Mike Gundy, the Big Eight's alltime leading passer, is gone, and either Earl Wheeler or Chris Smith will try to replace him. If the defense, led by nose-guard Ruben Oliver and tackle Stacey Satterwhite, lives up to expectations, Oklahoma State could climb back closer to its customary position just behind the big boys.

A similar ascent does not seem possible for Missouri. The once-proud Tigers have not had a winning record or finished better than fifth in the conference since 1983. How far away is Mizzou? In games against the Big 3 in '89, the Tigers were out-scored 151-24. One cause for optimism in Columbia, however, is the return of quarterback Kent Kiefer, who led the conference in passing yardage in '89, and receiver Linzy Collins.

The reward that Kansas got for winning four games last year, its biggest victory total since 1985, was the removal of two of its W's from this fall's schedule. Replacing gentle Kent State and Montana State on the Jayhawks' slate are Miami (not of Ohio) and Virginia. Kansas does have a spark plug in Tony Sands, its 5'6", 180-pound tailback, who gained 1,109 yards last year. At Kansas State, the Wildcats are 4-50-1 over the past five years and haven't won a Big Eight game since 1986. Still, with nonleague games against Western Illinois, Northern Illinois, New Mexico and New Mexico State, the Wildcats might even win three for the first time since '84.

This fall, Fresno State should be the first team from the Big West, nè Pacific Coast Athletic Association, to finish the season in the Top 20. Indeed, the Bulldogs might not lose a game, which says as much about the Big West as it does about Fresno. Four new coaches join the conference this fall, the most unlikely being 72-year-old George Allen at Long Beach State. "I took this job because I'm a teacher, and I want to save a struggling program," says Allen, who last coached in 1984 when he was the head man with the Arizona Wranglers of the USFL. It will take far more than Allen's inspirational speeches to revive the sagging 49ers, who surrendered 33.9 points a game in 1989.

Two of the coaching newcomers, both former offensive coordinators, should help their teams vie for second place behind Fresno State. Terry Shea takes over at San Jose State for Claude Gilbert, who was banished to a desk job in alumni relations after a report commissioned by the athletic department revealed substance abuse by some players. (Gilbert is appealing his demotion before the California State University system.) Shea should rise above the controversy with the help of 5'8", 193-pound tailback Sheldon Canley (1,201 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns in '89) and 13 other returning starters. At UNLV, rookie coach Jim Strong, an ex-Notre Dame assistant, will have only 60 players on scholarship, but the offensive line is back nearly intact, and Strong has two good quarterbacks in Derek Stott and Hernandez (Hunkie) Cooper, a transfer from national juco champ Navarro College.

Cal State-Fullerton lost 96% of its 1,793 rushing yards with the departure of running back Mike Pringle, but sophomore kicker Phil Nevin, a late cut from the U.S. national baseball team at third base, is back for scoring punch. Utah State, which won four of its last seven games in '89, welcomes back nine defensive starters and has a lofty aerial act in 6'5" quarterback Kirk Johnson and 6'7" tight end Ryan Duve. Kyron Johnson, arriving from Ventura College, will anchor Pacific's secondary, and Gari Calhoun, from Clemson via Orange Coast College, could emerge as the heaviest hitter in the Tigers' rugged linebacking corps. "We have a much improved class of recruits," says a cautious Pacific coach Walt Harris, whose team was 2-10 last season. "They look like football players."

Jim Hess received three sympathy cards when he left his job as athletic director at Stephen F. Austin to become coach at New Mexico State. "There are 106 schools in Division I-A and if this isn't No. 106, it's awfully close," Hess admits. The Aggies have had only one winning season since 1967 and have lost 17 straight. How desperate is Hess? He says he's considering passing on every play in one game. "At least that way we would get some recognition besides losing," Hess says.

Eight times in the past 11 years, Brigham Young has had the leading passer in the WAC, and in each of those years the Cougars won the conference title. This fall, with Heisman candidate Ty Detmer at the helm of a Top 20 team, BYU will again set the pace in the WAC. The Cougars' stiffest challenge could come from Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors are coming off their second straight nine-win season under coach Bob Wagner and their first NCAA-sanctioned postseason appearance, the Aloha Bowl—played at home—in which they lost 33-13 to Michigan State. Last season, Hawaii ranked fifth in the country in scoring, averaging 38.1 points per game, largely because of a strong running attack led by halfback Jamal Farmer, who set an NCAA record for most rushing touchdowns by a freshman, with 18.

The largest hole in Air Force's arsenal is the one left by the departure of quarterback Dee Dowis, who seldom threw the ball but set five national quarterback rushing records. The likely candidate to fill Dowis's cleats is junior Ron Gray, who doesn't have much of a track record as a passer but was second in the country, to Notre Dame's Raghib Ismail, in kickoff-return average last season. The Falcons have been the WAC's top rushing team every season since 1982 and will look to fullback Rodney Lewis and senior halfback Chris Howard for leadership in '90. Howard, who spent the summer in Washington, D.C., working with the House Armed Services Committee and who aspires to be a U.S. senator some day, is comfortable in that role.

San Diego State has the tallest quarterback tandem in the nation in 6'8" starter Dan McGwire, the brother of Oakland A's first baseman Mark McGwire, and his 6'7" backup, Cree Morris. The Aztecs are also solid on defense, with eight starters returning and redshirt freshman cornerback John Louis joining the unit. Wyoming's 5-6 record in '89 was its worst in the three years of the Paul Roach regime. But Roach isn't overly concerned about '90; he has 14 starters back, including Outland Trophy candidate Mitch Donahue (page 102). However, the Cowboys will be pressed to find a replacement for halfback Dabby Dawson, who rushed for 2,124 yards in his Cowboy career. In its first season under coach Earle Bruce, Colorado State improved from 1-10 to 5-5-1, and Bruce has a lot of veteran talent, including running back Tony Alford and defensive tackle Robert Chirico.

Despite finishing last in the WAC in '89, New Mexico had more conference players of the week—four—than any other school. Last year, five of the Lobos' losses were by a total of 18 points, and while New Mexico has had identical 2-10 records the past two seasons, most of a competent defense is back, as is quarterback Jeremy Leach. With quarterback Scott Mitchell having departed prematurely for the Miami Dolphins, Utah will look toward a couple of transfers to fill the quarterback spot: Jason Woods, a former catcher in the New York Mets organization, who chose Utah after Lamar dropped football, or Frank Dolce, who was an All-America at El Camino Junior College. After watching his team languish through a 2-10 season, Texas-El Paso coach David Lee decided that the Miners' greatest weakness was lack of strength, so he brought in world powerlifting champion Scott Warman to give the Miners direction. In UTEP's case, stronger won't necessarily mean better.

The Mid-American Conference has long been considered a cradle of coaches, but last year the cradle became a casket. Coaches at Ohio, Miami and Toledo were canned at the end of the season. Toledo's new coach, Nick Saban, may be walking into a championship. He takes over a team that finished 6-2 in the MAC, tied for second with Eastern Michigan behind league champ Ball State. The Rockets led the MAC in total offense, and with wideout Rick Isaiah leading a group of nine returning offensive starters, the attack should remain explosive. If the Rockets falter, look for one of Michigan's MAC entries, either Eastern, Western or Central Michigan, to finish at the top of the standings.

Eastern Michigan welcomes back a solid core of talent, including three first-team All-MAC selections from a year ago. The Hurons will be difficult to throw against with free safety Bob Navarro—who led the nation with 12 interceptions—roaming the field. The Chippewas of Central Michigan have to reconstruct their offensive front (three line starters are gone) to succeed with their run-heavy attack. At Western Michigan the Broncos believe a simple shift in fortune is all they will need to win the MAC. Al Molde's team finished 3-5 in the league last year but fell just eight points short of a league title, dropping four one-point decisions.

Ball State's talent pool has dried up a bit since its trip to the California Raisin Bowl last December, where the Cardinals lost to Fresno State 27-6. Among the skill-position players, only tailback Bernie Parmalee (672 yards rushing.) returns to the lineup. Bowling Green's ranks are perilously thin as well. The Falcons' vaunted aerial attack, which has led the MAC in passing yardage for five of the last eight years, will be grounded until coach Moe Ankney finds a quarterback to replace four-year starter Rich Dackin (2,679 yards, 18 touchdowns in '89).

As a player at Miami, new Redskins coach Randy Walker lost only one game from 1973 to '75. Walker's club won't compete for the league's upper division yet, because the Skins have little to build on after a 2-8-1 seventh-place finish in '89. Former Miami coach Dick Crum is heading into his third season at Kent State, where his first two seasons have been, well, crummy. For 10 years at North Carolina, Crum had a reputation as a boring coach who won a lot of football games, but last year his Golden Flashes reflected only their coach's personality, yawning their way through an 0-11 season. Other than Kent State, the only team that didn't win a MAC title in the '80s was Ohio. The Bobcats left new coach Tom Lichtenberg eight defensive holes to fill. That's bad news, considering that Ohio's defense allowed more than 31 points per game last fall.






















Scouting Reports by William F. Reed, Jeff Bradley, Tim Crothers, Hank Hersch, Michael Jaffe and John Walters