THE TEAMS ARE FAST AND TOUGH
From Pittsburgh to Boulder, Colo. the panorama of Midwest football unrolls next week, disclosing some of the nation's most powerful teams in their first encounters. Within the scope of the survey which follows are five of the eleven top-ranking elevens I picked last week. There is Notre Dame, independent and always in the highest bracket; there is Oklahoma, which dominates the Big Seven; and, from the ranks of the Big Ten, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Less known but no less scrappy are those inhabitants of a 50-mile circuit in Ohio that includes Cincinnati, Miami, Dayton and Xavier. And in the Missouri Valley Conference, there are Oklahoma A & M and Houston. Marquette will bear watching—last year they gave up a total of only nine points to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana.
The Saturday of September 25 will go a long way toward clarifying the situation in the Big Ten. Iowa meets Michigan State in a game which should show whether Iowa will live up to its late-season splurge of 1953, and whether the Spartans have been able to survive the ravages of graduation and the loss of Biggie Munn and practically his entire staff.
More important than the championship in the Big Seven this year may be the runner-up spot. Oklahoma is not eligible to play twice in succession in the Orange Bowl, so if the Sooners win the second-place team will take the trip. The competition will be heated, and it will be no less so in the Missouri Valley Conference and among the independents.
THE BIG TEN
Illinois. The Illini have the best chance of winning the Big Ten title and going to the Rose Bowl. The team of J. C. Caroline and Mickey Bates, sensational in 1953, may turn into a 1-2-3 punch this season with the addition of sophomore speedster Abe Woodson. The line led by Captain Jan Smid and Don Tate at guards should be formidable.
Iowa. Time and Michigan State will tell. Calvin Jones, at guard, and End Frank Gilliam form the backbone of a line that led the Big Ten in rushing defense last year. Captain George Broeder was the top Big Ten punter in 1953 and led all the Hawkeye ground gainers with a 4.2 yards average per try. Coach Forest Evashevski's varied offense is very tough to outguess, but even more important is the renaissance of Iowa spirit.
Wisconsin. Ivy Williamson, with 21 wins, 7 losses, and 4 ties, has recently been the "winningest" coach in Big Ten play. He has a severe schedule this season, but fine sophomores, good varsity holdovers including Quarterback Jim Miller and last, but not least, Alan "The Horse" Ameche again make Wisconsin a title threat.
Michigan State. Over the past three seasons Spartan teams have lost but one of 27 games. They could go on for the title although they've lost 15 players, eight of them regulars, and three coaches. On the other hand, 20 lettermen have returned including such names as Halfback Leroy Bolden, Tackle Randy Schrecengost, Guard Hank Bullough and End Carl Diener. Leading sophomore candidates are: Backs Lou Costanzo and Rudy Gaddini, End Lacey Bernard, Tackle Ron Latronica and Center Don Berger. Last year's Rose Bowl champions will be younger and thinner, especially in the backfield, than Michigan State teams have been in the past four years.
Ohio State. As usual, they're optimistic at Columbus; as usual, their supporters have their fingers crossed. Twenty-five lettermen are back. Quarterback John Borton, injured last year, should regain his 1952 form. The backfield is capable and deep. Howard Cassady and Bob Watkins are veteran backs with speed. They are being pushed by Jerry Harkrader and Jimmy Roseboro. Last year's fullback problem will be solved by two promising sophomores, Don Vicic and Hubert Bobo, battling for the starting position. The line, led by Ends Dick Brubaker and Dean Dugger, has plenty of size but may lack over-all speed. First test is improved Indiana on September 25th.
Minnesota. Peerless Paul Giel is pitching for the baseball Giants and not Minnesota this year. Despite this, I'm picking my old Tennessee teammate, Murray Warmath, Minnesota's new head coach, to have the surprise squad in the Western Conference this season. He's got 22 lettermen as a squad nucleus. The backfield speed is good. The McNamara brothers lead a competent group of halfbacks. Any Warmath-coached line will be rugged. On the pessimistic side the sophomores are sparse, and Co-Captain Jerry Helgeson was knocked out of his post at center by injury last week. For the first time in 54 years Minnesota will not have any single-wing plays. The Split T has been installed. I repeat: MY Sleeper.
Michigan. Michigan has to rebuild this year. Fourteen lettermen, 11 of them linemen, are missing. But they have the material. Outstanding men returning are Halfback Tony Branoff, Tackle Art Walker and Quarterback Duncan McDonald. Good sophomores are in abundance with End Ron Kramer and Halfback Terry Barr outstanding. The Wolverines will use more T this year. They should be a good passing team, with McDonald as the best passer and Kramer a mighty fine target. But they're still a year away from their usual top ranking.
Purdue. Stu Holcomb contrives at least one upset each year. Last season he broke Michigan State's long winning streak and then finished off his traditional rival Indiana by a 30 to 0 score. With the exception of one halfback, that same starting team is available this fall. Guard Tom Bettis is the outstanding candidate for national honors. Other stalwarts are End John Kerr, Halfback Rex Brock and Tackle Joe Krupa. Leading sophomores are Quarterback Leonard Dawson and Tackle Ed Voytek. As usual Purdue is faced with a difficult schedule but should improve on last season's record.
Indiana. Coach Bernie Crimmins says: "We have more to work with this year than either of my first two years at Indiana. We'll be very inexperienced but bigger, faster and, I feel sure, more successful." The team may move up in the standings. Quarterback Florian Helinski and Tackle Nate Borden are possible All-Big Ten selections. One of the most heralded sophomores in the country is 215-pound Halfback Milt Campbell, Olympic decathlon star, who was a spring practice sensation but has not been tested under game conditions. Ohio State should provide that in the opener on September 25th.
Northwestern. Coach Bob Voigt's 1954 Northwestern team will be much stronger than those of the last few years—but so will most of its opposition. A veteran team built around 24 lettermen will provide experienced players at every position. A better than average freshman squad of last year figures to add much needed replacement strength. Biggest problem is developing a capable T quarterback. Center John Damore and Fullback Bob Lauter, the 1954 co-captains, are outstanding. Fine sophomore prospects are End Jack Stillwell, Quarterback Ed Broeker and Guard John Lohbauer.
THE BIG SEVEN
Oklahoma. Oklahoma, barring a stunning upset, should win its seventh straight Big Seven Championship. Actually, Oklahoma has outgrown the conference. It has more important engagements in the big intersectional battle at Berkeley this Saturday, and the Texas game in Dallas on October 9th. The Sooners have everything: excellent coaching under Bud Wilkerson and the cream of Oklahoma high school players. Ends Max Boydston and Carl Allison, Quarterback Gene Calame, Center Kurt Burris, and Halfback Buddy Leake, who has converted 50 out of a possible 52 extra points in his career, are all on hand. That gives you some idea of the Sooners' scoring potential.
Missouri. Signs point to second place and the Orange Bowl for Missouri. The Tigers, with three lettered quarterbacks returning, should have sound leadership. They have a hard core of senior veterans who got their baptism in 1951 when freshmen were eligible. Charles Bull is the leader of this group at tackle. Bob Bauman at fullback and Terry Roberts at guard were All-Conference last year. Ray Detring, a halfback, and End Pete Corpeny are also outstanding. Don Faurot's seventeenth squad at Old Mizzou may be his best.
Colorado. Coach Dal Ward says: "We have as fine a set of backs as anyone could want with Carroll Hardy, Frank Bernardi and Emerson Wilson." Hardy is unquestionably one of the best tailbacks in the country. Despite injuries he has a three-year record of 6.1 yards average gain. If eight graduating linemen can be replaced Colorado could beat out Missouri and spend New Year's in the sun.
Kansas State. Coach Billy Meek may have the sleeper. He told me: "This is the best-looking physical squad at K-State since 1951. For the first time we have a few 200-pounders on the line. We will be capable of giving any opponent a tough battle." Corky Taylor is a halfback to note and Ron Marciniak at guard is outstanding. Even though eight starters are lost Kansas State will be an improved team.
Nebraska. Biff Glassford hasn't had the kind of material that once made the Cornhuskers the scourge of the West. He has had his troubles during the past year with players and athletic administrators, but temporarily at least he has weathered the storm. He has some fine backs returning in Jon McWilliams and Bob Smith. Speed up front, however, is badly needed.
Kansas. Under Coach Chuck Mather, Kansas is starting a new regime. His best men are Captain Bud Buxler at center, Halfbacks Ralph Moody and Bob Allison, and Fullback Bud Laughlin, back from the service. Coach Mather's comment on the coming season: "We won't know much about our prospects until November 20th. Our season ends on that date."
Iowa State. There is building to be done at Iowa State. Fourteen lettermen are lost from the team that beat Missouri 13-6 last year. Max Burkett, an All-Conference fullback, and Gary Lutz, an excellent halfback, are back. Leading sophomore prospects are John Breckenridge at quarterback and Don Schulze at tackle.
Notre Dame. Much has been written about the big task that faces youthful Terry Brennan in his first year as head coach. Terry has been brought up in the Notre Dame tradition and groomed well for the position. His team has lost more in quality than in numbers. Ralph Guglielmi at quarterback is another coach on the field and has a sensational emergency replacement in sophomore Paul Hornung. Joe Heap should have another great year at halfback. Better linemen than Frank Varrichone and Ray Lemek won't be found. Word comes from Notre Dame that Terry is "putting them through the mill," and there are many minor early season injuries, but if I know Notre Dame they will be healed into toughness for that first great test with Texas on September 25th.
Pittsburgh. Red Dawson will have a better team than last year, but his schedule is even more difficult. Tackles Lou Palatella and Eldred Kraemer will bulwark the line. Halfback Henry Ford is the leading back.
Cincinnati will have another one of its fine teams this year, if all its successful seniors still have the will to win. Halfback Dick Goist is tops. Glen Dilhoff is an end to watch, Mike Murphy is a brilliant quarterback, and don't forget Dave Faulkner at center.
Miami University of Oxford, Ohio is a tough neighbor of Cincinnati and should win the Mid-American Conference, with Ohio University in the second spot. Tom Jones, the National Intercollegiate shot-put champion, is Miami's outstanding tackle.
Marquette has been Big Ten caliber for many years, and this year has more depth than in 1953. Halfback Ron Drzewiecki ranks with the best, and Quarterback Dick Shockey and Fullbacks Bob Girman and Dave Donarski are also outstanding. Tackle Frank Scaffidi is a rock in the line.
Oklahoma A & M, under J. B. Whitworth, should win this far-flung championship, and maybe, someday, upset Oklahoma. Fred Meyers, erstwhile West Point transfer, is expected to do; a great job at quarterback.
Houston. Young and powerful, the Texans should be another fine team this year despite the loss of Quarterback Bobby Clatterbuck. Jimmy Dickey is a hot junior college replacement. The best runner is Kennie Stegall with a 1953 average of 6.9 yards per try.
Detroit. The co-champions of last year with A & M will again be in the running. Outstanding letterman is Bob Burgmeier, last year's high scorer in the conference.
HICKMAN'S HUNCHES for GAMES OF SATURDAY, SEPT. 18
•California vs. Oklahoma. This is the big one. Cal is ready and willing. Oklahoma's only losses in recent years have been early season affairs. I'll have to take OKLAHOMA.
•Baylor vs. Houston. Houston upset Baylor 37-7 last year. Revenge is sweet. BAYLOR.
•Georgia Tech vs. Tulane. Two Southeastern Conference teams meet early. Tech is loaded. Tulane isn't. TECH.
•Kansas vs. T.C.U. Abe Martin is starting his second season as head coach at T.C.U. Chuck Mather is fresh from a fabulous high school record at Massilon, Ohio, but may not be adjusted yet. A trembling vote for T.C.U.
•Kentucky vs. Maryland. The grass is blue around Lexington and so are the fans. Coach Blanton Collier is new, his material is weak. Maryland is still mighty. MARYLAND.
•Rice vs. Florida. Florida has the manpower for an upset, win, but I vote for Dicky Moegle and RICE,
•Texas A & M vs. Texas Tech. A & M is starting anew under the brilliant Paul Bryant. Texas Tech should still be potent even without Bobby Cavazos. I'm out on a limb, but—A & M.
•Wyoming vs. Oklahoma A & M. A favorite son of the Skyline Conference meets the pride of the Missouri Valley Conference. Though they'll be playing at 7,148 feet altitude at Laramie—in a short breath, OKLAHOMA A & M.
•Virginia Tech vs. N. C. State. Earle Edwards is fresh at North Carolina State from Biggie Munn's coaching staff. By this time he's learned that North Carolina State isn't Michigan State. VIRGINIA TECH.
•Texas vs. L.S.U. This is a preview of loaded Texas on the Saturday before Notre Dame. Score last year: Texas 7, Louisiana State 20. Nonetheless—TEXAS.