THE BIG TEN

September 23, 1956

HERMAN HICKMAN SAYS:

The intercollegiate Conference—that is, the Western Conference or, in popular parlance, the Big Ten, but by any name the oldest formal organization of collegiate athletics in the country—is not suffering from decadence. Many feel that year in and year out from top to bottom this is the strongest football group in the nation. This season will be no exception. Throughout the conference, stars are legion and a solid soundness prevails in every squad.

At this early September date, before injuries, upsets and surprises rear their heads, I rate them in three categories: potential champions, contenders and underdogs.

The potential champions, and ranked close to the top nationally, are Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan. In the contender or dark-horse class come Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Purdue. It's a good bet that the Big Ten Rose Bowl representative will come from this group—Michigan State and Ohio State being ineligible to participate this coming January, leaving Michigan the only eligible entry from the top three.

With the Spartans ineligible to return to Pasadena because of the "no repeat" rule, the Buckeyes on probation and UCLA, USC and Washington precluded as the Pacific Coast standard bearers, a "Frustration Bowl" has been suggested for these teams.

Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State, bolstered by what may be the best backfield in the country and a better line than the squad which missed an undefeated season by seven points in 1955, cannot be left out of any championship conjecture.

Ohio State, although beaten by outsiders Stanford and Duke last season, has a 13-game conference winning streak on the line and is shooting for a history-making third consecutive title. Despite the loss of the great Howard Cassady, the Buckeyes seem destined to destroy the opposition again with a devastating ground attack.

Expect Michigan's multiple offense to be more "souped up" than in 1955. Add to this their usual stubborn defensive play and you have the ingredients of a champion.

All three of these teams have been selected on my Eleven Elevens and are discussed in detail, so let's get to the rest of the conference.

Illinois may be the team most likely to surprise everybody. Last year they had sensational halfbacks, and they have added some young and outstanding talent from the freshman team. Unpredictable but dangerous.

Minnesota, under the helm of the transplanted Tennessean, Murray Warmath, may burst into full bloom this fall. Purdue's new coach, Jack Mollenkopf, inherits one of the nation's leading passers in Len Dawson; the inside word from Iowa is that they are doing a lot of experimenting and may come up with something new to go with their already unique style of offense.

Northwestern is especially ready to enter a new era of football under young, enthusiastic Coach Ara Parseghian, fresh from an undefeated season at Miami, Ohio.

PURDUE
LAFAYETTE, IND.

COLORS: Old gold and blue.

BASIC OFFENSE: T.

1955 RECORD: Won 5, lost 3, tied 1.

LETTERMEN RETURNING: 15 of 31.

WATCH FOR: Len Dawson, B; Lamar Lundy, E; Bob Khoenle, E; Bob Clasey, G.

THE DOPE: The Boilermakers have the makings of the most exciting aerial act in the country. New Coach Jack Mollenkopf inherited Len Dawson, rated one of the Big Ten's alltime great passers, and a pair of ends who must be among the best targets in college football in towering Lamar Lundy and Bob Khoenle. Should Purdue get adequate protection for the passer, which has been lacking, it can peg its whole attack on the air game. The loss of the entire tackle contingent makes defense a problem. The return of All-Conference Fred Prezioso from service could help there, assuming he becomes civilianized in a hurry, but his last college season was 1952. The Purdue running game depends largely upon how Tom Barnett, the sophomore left halfback, works out and whether Fullbacks Bill Jenning and Tom Crowl recover from between-season knee operations. As insurance there is George Hahn, another service returnee who made All-Air Force in Japan last year. A definite Big Ten contender.

1956 SCHEDULE (1955 score):

Sept. 29—Missouri (no game)
Oct. 6—at Minnesota (7-6)
Oct. 13—at Notre Dame (7-22)
Oct. 20—at Wisconsin (0-9)
Oct. 27—Iowa (20-20)
Nov. 3—Illinois (13-0)
Nov. 10—at Michigan State (0-27)
Nov. 17—at Northwestern (46-8)
Nov. 24—Indiana (6-4)

ILLINOIS
CHAMPAIGN, ILL.

COLORS: Orange and blue.

BASIC OFFENSE: T with flankers.

1955 RECORD: Won 5, lost 3, tied 1.

LETTERMEN RETURNING: 16 of 28.

WATCH FOR: Bob Mitchell, B; Harry Jefferson, B; Rod Hanson, E; Jim Minor, C; Percy Oliver, G; Ray Nitschke, B.

THE DOPE: The Fighting Illini are definitely dangerous. Blessed with one of the finest running halfback squads in the country, Coach Ray Eliot's team will be a breakaway threat every Saturday. The starting halfbacks are Bob Mitchell and Harry Jefferson, while Joe Gorman is only a pace behind the first team. Eliot's offense, strong on the ground inside and outside end, will be built to free these extraordinarily fast backs, but lack of a really proven quarterback will help opponents' defense against the running. Hiles Stout, a two-year veteran, is back, but he has never been more than adequate. The large Illini line is led by Percy Oliver, a strong All-Conference candidate. Illinois finished with a rush in 1955, winning three and tying one game down the stretch; this year, with the stronger line, the same fleet backs a year older and a distant view of the Rose Bowl, the team may catch fire. Question: is Stout stout enough at quarterback?

1956 SCHEDULE (1955 score):

Sept. 29—California (20-13)
Oct. 6—at Washington (no game)
Oct. 13—Ohio State (12-27)
Oct. 20—at Minnesota (21-13)
Oct. 27—Michigan State (7-21)
Nov. 3—at Purdue (0-13)
Nov. 10—at Michigan (25-6)
Nov. 17—Wisconsin (17-14)
Nov. 24—at Northwestern (7-7)

WISCONSIN
MADISON, WIS.

COLORS: Cardinal and white.

BASIC OFFENSE: T.

1955 RECORD: Won 4, lost 5.

LETTERMEN RETURNING: 14 of 24.

WATCH FOR: Dave Howard, E; Pat Levenhagen, B; Bill Lowe, B.

THE DOPE: The Badgers, starting their first season under Coach Milt Bruhn, suffer from a dearth of tackles and quarterbacks. Bruhn, former line coach, had no one to replace Jim Haluska and Jim Miller, who monopolized the signal calling last year. However, this year's Wisconsin quarterback has only the straight T to learn, Bruhn having discarded the multiple offense patterns of last season. The Badgers have plenty of experienced ends, strong center play and a solid cadre of backs—other than at quarter. Defensively their linebacking is rugged, as it must be to compensate for the lack of experience at tackle and guard, where the loss of three-letter winner Paul Shwaiko to military service has hurt severely. Bruhn hopes he has the answer: "We'll have to forget about using 11 men and perhaps rely on 20, or even 22, boys to keep a hustling attitude going on the field."

1956 SCHEDULE (1955 score):

Sept. 29—Marquette (28-14)
Oct. 6—USC (21-33)
Oct. 13—at Iowa (37-14)
Oct. 20—Purdue (9-0)
Oct. 27—at Ohio State (16-26)
Nov. 3—at Michigan State (0-27)
Nov. 10—Northwestern (41-14)
Nov. 17—at Illinois (14-17)
Nov. 24—Minnesota (6-21)

IOWA
IOWA CITY, IOWA

COLORS: Purple and gold.

BASIC OFFENSE: Single wing.

1955 RECORD: Won 3, lost 5, tied 1.

LETTERMEN RETURNING: 16 of 30.

WATCH FOR: Kenneth Ploen, B; Don Suchy, C; Don Dobrino, B.

THE DOPE: The Hawkeyes probably graduated more topnotch football players last June than any other team in the conference. The entire starting backfield plus three key players in the line are gone, and Coach Forest Evashevski cannot expect to replace the likes of Quarterback Jerry Reichow and All-America Guard Calvin Jones just overnight. Nevertheless, Iowa will have a strong defensive line, good first-string ends and some lively passing. The rest depends on the development of untried talent, and the schedule (with the exception of an early Oregon State date) is tailor-made for that. Says Evashevski: "Iowa in early season will be handicapped by relative inexperience, and some of the younger players must develop fast if they are to help in October games. Our first team will be solid but lack of reserves is a problem and we can afford no injuries to key personnel." The Hawkeyes will have to be lucky with so many ifs.

1956 SCHEDULE (1955 score):

Sept. 29—at Indiana (20-6)
Oct. 6—Oregon State (no game)
Oct. 13—Wisconsin (14-37)
Oct. 20—at Hawaii (no game)
Oct. 27—at Purdue (20-20)
Nov. 3—Michigan (21-33)
Nov. 10—at Minnesota (26-0)
Nov. 17—Ohio State (10-20)
Nov. 24—Notre Dame (14-17)

MINNESOTA
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN.

COLORS: Maroon and gold.

BASIC OFFENSE: Split-T.

1955 RECORD: Won 3, lost 6.

LETTERMEN RETURNING: 22 of 30.

WATCH FOR: Bobby Cox, B; Bob Hobert, T; Dick Larson, B; Dick McNamara, B.

THE DOPE: The Gophers, by virtue of acquiring a couple of good quarterbacks on transfers—Bobby Cox from Washington and Jim Reese from Fordham—have eliminated football's greatest shortage. Coach Murray Warmath is Still not too Optimistic. The Minnesota line is not fast, and the team as a whole wants a sparkplug on the order of Paul Giel or Bob McNamara of recent vintage. The 1955 team was heavy with sophomores and, if these youngsters have learned as much as they should have, the 1956 club may be considered a strong dark horse. The backfield is deep in talent and the line is shored up by a genuine All-America candidate in 245-pound senior Tackle Bob Hobert. The attack is designed mainly for straight-ahead power with quick openers for Fullbacks Rich Borstad (195) and Rhody Tuszka, who can grind out the short yardage in a way reminiscent of the old Minnesota powerhouses of former Coach Bernie Bierman's day. The coaching staff rates the 1956 Gophers as a better team than the 1955 eleven and hopes to improve on the eighth-place finish of that team.

1956 SCHEDULE (1955 score):

Sept. 29—at Washington (0-30)
Oct. 6—Purdue (6-7)
Oct. 13—Northwestern (18-7)
Oct. 20—Illinois (13-21)
Oct. 27—at Michigan (13-14)
Nov. 3—Pittsburgh (no game)
Nov. 10—Iowa (0-26)
Nov. 17—Michigan State (14-42)
Nov. 24—at Wisconsin (21-6)

INDIANA
BLOOMINGTON, IND.

COLORS: Cream and crimson.

BASIC OFFENSE: Split-T.

1955 RECORD: Won 3, lost 6.

LETTERMEN RETURNING: 15 of 29.

WATCH FOR: Joe Amstutz, C; Brad Bomba, E; Eugene Cichowski, B; Bob Fee, E-B.

THE DOPE: The Hoosiers expect to field a strong first team, but the shock absorbers in relief are scarcely of Big Ten quality. Coach Bernie Crimmins has a fine, veteran passer in Quarterback Eugene Cichowski, who can also run well, so the Indiana offense will develop off Cichowski and the option play—run, pitchout or pass. For the receiving end of the passes there is Brad Bomba, a top end for the last two years, while last year's other end, Bob Fee, has been moved to fullback to beef up the blocking. The Hoosier defense leans heavily on 254-pound Center Joe Amstutz, who backs up the middle of the line with amazing agility for a man of his size. Since the over-all team speed has improved, Coach Crimmins sees breakaway possibilities in his lineup. "We've had to chew out yardage bit by bit in preceding seasons," he reports, "but we have some hopes—fostered by a highly satisfactory spring practice—of coming up with more of a breakaway attack that can get us a long gainer or long touchdown play once in a while. We came close to a lot of good teams last year..."

1956 SCHEDULE (1955 score):

Sept. 29—Iowa (6-20)
Oct. 6—at Notre Dame (0-19)
Oct. 13—at Michigan State (13-20)
Oct. 20—at Nebraska (no game)
Oct. 27—Northwestern (20-14)
Nov. 3—Marquette (no game)
Nov. 10—at Ohio State (13-20)
Nov. 17—at Michigan (0-30)
Nov. 24—at Purdue (4-6)

NORTHWESTERN
EVANSTON, ILL.

COLORS: Purple and white.

BASIC OFFENSE: Split-T.

1955 RECORD: Won 0, lost 7, tied 1.

LETTERMEN RETURNING: 24 of 35.

WATCH FOR: Ted Ringer, C; Dale Pienta, B; Cliff Peart, E.

THE DOPE: The Wildcats, as much as material will allow, should resemble the professional Cleveland Browns (in appearance only) as Coach Ara Parseghian takes over after an outstanding record at little Miami (Ohio). Parseghian is a Paul Brown disciple, and one of the first assistants he hired was Alex Agase, onetime Cleveland guard and linebacker. With no quarterback capable of sharp, accurate passing, Parseghian will have to forego the pros' favorite weapon, so the Wildcats will be scratching out their yardage on the ground. The "belly series," with hand-offs handled by either Dale Pienta or Jack Ellis, is the bread and butter of their offense. The line is strong and deep at center and guard, strong defensively at end, a little thin at tackle. It will be another year or two before the Big Ten must fear the claws of the Wildcats.

1955 SCHEDULE (1955 score):

Sept. 29—Iowa State (no game)
Oct. 6—Tulane (0-21)
Oct. 13—at Minnesota (7-18)
Oct. 20—at Michigan (2-14)
Oct. 27—at Indiana (14-20)
Nov. 3—Ohio State (0-49)
Nov. 10—at Wisconsin (no game)
Nov. 17—Purdue (8-46)
Nov. 24—Illinois (7-7)

ILLUSTRATION PHOTOFOR BOILERMAKERS CAPTAINS ARE LAMAR LUNDY (81), BOB CLASEY (50) AND LEN DAWSON (16) PHOTOBACK PAT LEVENHAGEN LEADS WISCONSIN PHOTOCENTER DON SUCHY BRACES THE IOWA LINE PHOTOBOBBY COX GIVES WINGS TO GOPHERS PHOTOGENE CICHOWSKI IS AIR ARM OF HOOSIERS PHOTOCOACH ARA PARSEGHIAN STARTS A NEW ERA

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)