When Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, those two English astronomers, laid their line along the South in 1763 they drew it for the ages. The Mason and Dixon Line still exists today, and there's no better way to describe the football world below it than as solid. My own survey stretched from College Park in Maryland to Arizona, and in it you will encounter some of the solidest football ever. To sample some of it, I'm down in Memphis where I have just finished watching a double-header—Tennessee beating Mississippi State 19-7 and the University of Mississippi humbling Kentucky 28-9. Four teams—and they were fast and fancy, and that's what you can expect of the South in Fifty-four.
THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE
Georgia Tech. Tech is talent-loaded with 25 returning lettermen and a good crop of sophomores. Outstanding returnees are All-American Center Larry Morris, Guard Franklin Delano Brooks and Halfback Bill Teas. Sophomores to remember are Halfback Paul Rotenberry, Fullback Dickie Mattison, Quarterback Wade Mitchell and Tackle Carl Vereen. Tech opened the season with a smashing 28-0 victory over Tulane, and they still look good despite Florida's 13-12 upset victory.
Alabama. The Crimson Tide was defeated by Mississippi Southern, but as far as the S.E.C. is concerned I would rate them with Georgia Tech as one of the two top teams, though neither will win the title. Last week the Tide beat L.S.U. 12-0. Corky Tharp was voted the best running back in the conference last season and might be the outstanding S.E.C. backfield candidate for All-American. Others to watch are Fullback Bill Stone; Bart Starr, whose passing ranks him along with Harry Gilmer; Bobby Luna, and Sid Youngelman, 'Bama's rough man in the line.
Mississippi. The Rebels will win the S.E.C. championship and perhaps go unbeaten this season—and not just because their schedule leaves out some of the top teams. Coach John Vaught has done wonders since 1947. Outstanding returnees are Fullback Bobby McCool; Tackle Rex Reed Boggan; Halfback Earl Blair, a 9.8 sprinter; and Ends Dickerson, Adams and Harris.
Auburn. Head Coach Ralph Jordan told me: "Auburn will field as good a football team as last year, if not a better one." Actually, Auburn should have one of the best teams in its history. End Jim Pyburn is one of the big reasons, and Quarterback Bobby Freeman is another. The Tigers use the two-team system playing in intervals of eight minutes. Remember what I said three weeks ago about the two-platoon system being used this season?
Tennessee. This year's squad of my old teammate, Coach Harvey Robinson, could be a year away from maturity. The Volunteers will be greener and larger than ever before. Jimmy Wade and Pat Oleksiak give Tennessee strength at the vital tailback position. Captain Darris McCord, tackle, and Tom Tracy, fullback, are bulwarks.
L.S.U. The Bengal Tigers remain a threat. Whenever tackles are mentioned, 225-pound Sid Fournet is one of them. Al Doggett, quarterback, and 205-pound sophomore Fullback Tommy Davis are men to watch.
Kentucky. Blanton Collier collided with Mighty Maryland and Mississippi in the first two games, and that's tough for a new coach. The Maryland game was much closer than the 20-0 score indicated, and Kentucky moved the ball almost at will. Ole Miss was just too much for them. Bob Hardy is a competent T quarterback. Duke Curnutte is a tackle of ability.
Mississippi State. Gone are Jackie Parker, one of the really great split T quarterbacks, and Head Coach Murray Warmath. Left are Harold Easterwood, a top-ranking center; Bobby Collins, who did well at quarterback when Parker was hurt last season; and two fine halfbacks in George Suda and Charles Evans. The rising sophomores are better than usual, but the Maroons lost their first conference test last Saturday to Tennessee.
Florida. Back in the 'Gators' fold are 23 lettermen. Outstanding are Fullbacks Mal Hammack and Joe Brodsky, Center Steve DeLaTorre and Halfback Jackie Simpson. Florida lost to the Cotton Bowl champions, Rice, in the opener but really surprised Georgia Tech, champions of the Sugar Bowl, last Saturday. The sophomore crop is good.
Georgia. Wally Butts, one of the finest coaches in the country, has fallen on some lean years. Prospects are improved but not enough. Captain Joe O'Malley, end, is worth watching if his injured ankle doesn't act up. Roy Wilkins, at end, and Harold Cook, center, are leading sophomores.
Tulane. The Greenies, including a new coaching staff, are too green to make a title bid. They may surprise by winning one or two; the spirt is there. End Eddie Bravo and Guard Tony Sardisco are the best of the returnees. Sophomores to see are Tackle Don Boudreaux and Halfback Tom Warner.
Texas. Although beaten 21 to 0 by Notre Dame last Saturday, Texas is still my pick to win the conference title. There are two complete teams of veterans available. Most heralded are Tackles Buck Lansford and Herbert Gray, Halfback Delano Womack, Fullback Billy Quinn, Guard Kirby Miller, Quarterback Charles Brewer, End Menan Schriewer—and I could go on from there. There's only one thing: the favorite seldom wins in the S.W.C.
Rice. Gone from Rice are the Herculean linemen of last season practically to a man. The returning backs, however, would make your mouth water. Dicky Moegle was sensational last year. Other fine runners are Halfbacks Mac Taylor and Morris Stone. Guard Kenny Paul and End Marshall Crawford are the best of the returning linemen. The Owls came from behind in their opener to trounce Florida.
Baylor. Baylor proved in its opener against Houston that the fine first team of last year has been supplemented by many competent sophomores, and Saturday they helped pile up a 25-19 decision over Vanderbilt. In the Houston game Bobby Jones, an unheralded soph, threw three TD passes, ran for two and passed to set up two more. L. G. Dupre is also a dangerous running back. Coach George Sauer told me: "I honestly feel that James Ray Smith—a 6-foot 3-inch 225-pounder—is the best all-around tackle in the country." With just a little luck Baylor could be undefeated.
Southern Methodist. Coach Chalmer Woodard should have a much stronger first team than last year. In Frank Eidom, Don McIlhenny and Hal O'Brien he has three backs who could spell trouble for any team. On the dark side: the Mustangs open with Georgia Tech Saturday and close with Notre Dame.
Texas Christian. Good speed, fair passing, fair manpower. Outstanding returnees are Quarterback Ronald Clink-scale, Tackle Ray Hill, Fullback Henry Crowsey, Center Hugh Pitts and End John Crouch. The Horned Frogs threw a real scare into Oklahoma last week before losing 16-21.
Arkansas. Coach Bowden Wyatt lost his two conference choices of last season, Tailback Lamar McHan and End Floyd Sagely. Outstanding men returning are Guard Bud Brooks and Tackles Jim Roth and Eddie Bradford. Summation: Green but eager, and they'll be well coached.
Texas A. & M. An old cliché best describes A. & M.: "This is a rebuilding year." About the only well-fortified position at this early date is fullback, with both Don Kachtik and Bob Easley on hand. Leading sophomore candidates are Halfbacks Don Watson and Bob Keith.
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
Maryland. The Terps had a week off after defeating an offensive-minded Kentucky, 20-0. Their opener might have been disappointing to some, but not to me. Offensively, they sputtered at times, but defensively they played heads-up ball. Charley Boxold, the split T quarterback, and Ronnie Waller, a speedy halfback, ran well. Frank Tamburello, a sophomore signal caller, was superb on pass defense. Maryland's All-American candidates, John Irvine at center and Dick Bielski at fullback, showed up well, despite the fact that Dick was handicapped by an ankle injury. The game with U.C.L.A. Friday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum will go a long way toward establishing their real stature. If the Terps win it, they'll go undefeated.
Duke. The Blue Devils showed their expected strength by crushing Pennsylvania in their opener 52 to 0. They are odds-on favorites to win the co-championship of the A.C.C. along with Maryland, whom they don't meet. The one-two punch of Jerry Barger and Worth Lutz both playing in the same backfield should make for an interesting offense. Barger and Lutz have been alternating at quarterback for three years; Lutz is now expected to play at fullback. Nineteen lettermen give soundness, and sophomores like Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and Halfbacks Buddy Bass and Bunny Blaney add lustre.
South Carolina. The Gamecocks, victorious over Army 34 to 20 last Saturday, must be classed as the third-best team in the A.C.C. South Carolina should have a strong running attack and an adequate defense. Passing may be below par because of the loss of Johnny Gramling. Center Leon Cunningham and Guard Frank Mincevich, both all-conference, are bidding for national recognition.
North Carolina. George Barclay, starting his second year as the Tarheels' head coach, says: "Our team should definitely be improved. Several sophomores should help. Jack Maultsby at tackle should strengthen the line greatly. Much depends on what kind of quarterbacking we will get. Albert Long and Marshall Newman are leading candidates for the job." Evaluation: North Carolina should have more speed, better passing and a stronger line. The Tarheels opened conference play by defeating North Carolina State 20 to 6.
Clemson. Twenty-two lettermen bolster a Clemson squad that may be much underrated despite their 7-14 loss to Georgia. They have depth and experience, the only things lacking last year. Don King at quarterback sparks the team. Leading sophomores are Jim Coleman, halfback, and Dick DeSimone at guard.
Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons were expected to make a comeback after many costly injuries last season, but Virginia Tech beat them 32-0. Nevertheless Wake Forest has an excellent line led by Tackle Bob Bartholomew and Guard Gerald Huth, who will be working in front of a fair backfield.
North Carolina State. Earle Edwards, fresh off Biggie Munn's coaching staff at Michigan State, has quite a lot of work to do before State becomes a contender, but all signs show that he's getting the job done. The team will be better than last year's, which lost 9 of 10, but the Wolfpack needs help at center, end and in the backfield.
Virginia. I can't see much improvement for Virginia this year. They did beat Lehigh 27-21, but the going will be rough the rest of the way. The return of Herman Gatling at fullback after a year's absence may bolster the backfield. Rives Bailey at quarterback should be adequate, and a group of sophomores led by Linemen Henry Jordan, a 225-pound tackle, and Jim St. Clair, a 202-pound guard, should give more strength up front.
West Virginia will again be the best team in the Southern Conference, although not quite as strong as the team that lost to Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl last New Year's Day. Outstanding men returning are Gene Lamone, guard; Bruce Bosley, tackle; Freddy Wyant, quarterback, and Joe Marconi, fullback.
William and Mary should finish second, even though Navy sank them 27-0 in a non-conference game last week. Quarterback Charlie Sumner is the best in the conference.
Virginia Tech, led by an excellent tackle, George Preas, showed real power in swamping Wake Forest.
Richmond has been building for several years and last year came up with a 5-3-1 record. Biggest standout is Eric Christensen at end.
George Washington will sorely miss Steve Korcheck, and a quarterback is needed. They can hardly be expected to be as strong as last year.
Furman had their best season in 17 years in 1953 but were drubbed in their second 1954 game by Miami of Florida last Saturday. John Popson and Ted Yakimowicz, halfbacks, are outstanding.
Virginia Military Institute cannot overcome the loss of Johnny Mapp.
Davidson's sophomores may come through to make the Wildcats a definite threat.
The Citadel Coach John McMillan just doesn't have the material for a winning season, but Jim Tyson is an excellent pass-receiving end.
THE BORDER CONFERENCE
Texas Tech has grown into one of the real powerhouses in college football. Coach DeWitt Weaver's 1954 version may be even tougher, though perhaps not as explosive as last year's highest scoring team in the nation (428 points). I wouldn't want a better tackle than 227-pound Jerry Walker. Quarterbacks Jack Kirkpatrick and Jerry Johnson direct one of the most lethal attacks in the country.
Arizona is the best bet to finish second. Paul Hatcher, after three years of Navy honors, is an outstanding lineman in his first year on the squad.
Texas Western beat Mississippi Southern 37-14 last season in the Sun Bowl but may not be as strong this year. Their best backs are Bobby Coleman and Jesse Whittenton.
Hardin-Simmons will be hurt by the loss of six regulars. Arizona State at Tempe could be a "dark horse." Jay Smith and Jim Bilton are fine running backs. West Texas State and New Mexico A. & M. hope for improvement but will not be contenders.
Mississippi Southern. Red Drew, the Alabama coach, said the 1953 upset win by Mississippi Southern would never happen again, but it did—the Southerners took them, 7-2, in their '54 opener. Winning 20 out of their last 22 starts, they have the best record of any independent in the deep South. Stars are legion. Leo Herrmann at guard, Don Owens at tackle, Halfbacks Jackie Howard and Brick Mason, Quarterback Jim Davenport, and Hub Waters at end are some of the best.
Miami of Florida. Andy Gustafson, my old coaching compatriot at West Point, told me: "We expect our team to be better than last year's in every department. We'll have our best attack since 1950." Evaluation: Virtually all of last year's team is back. It is a tough sophomore and junior team, and started to go places last week with a 51-13 win over Furman. Frank McDonald at end, Gordon Malloy at halfback and John Krotec, guard, are outstanding.
Florida State. Although the Seminoles lost their first two games, 0-14 and 0-13, both were closer than the scores indicated. Twenty-two lettermen are making F.S.C.'s bid for "big-time" football a strong one. Tackles Al Mako-wiecki and Bob Barber are rugged, and so are Ends Jimmy Lee Taylor and Tom Feamster.
Prairie View. The Panthers seem destined once again to go undefeated in the Southwestern Conference, and may claim national honors for Negro colleges. Led by returning stars Charles Wright at end, Elijah Childress, a 250-pound tackle, and Quarterback Charlie Brackins, Prairie View should have little trouble handling anything that sticks its head up in its path.
Florida A. & M., playing in the Southern Intercollegiate Conference, is the only team which could challenge Prairie View for national ranking. The Rattlers have most of their lettermen returning and a good crop of new material. Their game with Prairie View on October 23 will be a real contest.
For Herman Hickman's hunches on this week's games, see page 59.