It has been a season that stayed amazingly true to form. Of the original "Eleven Best Elevens" selected by Herman Hickman before the season started, only five failed to retain this rating at the end. Army, lacking an experienced quarterback and sufficient reserve strength, approached the all-important game with Navy as something of a disappointment. Duke had its ups and downs, depending largely on the availability of its brilliant quarterback, Sonny Jurgenson. Ohio State was great on the ground, but its three losses, two of them in the final two weeks against Iowa and Michigan, brought home the basic truth that a championship team must have at least some passing. Only a hairline separated Minnesota and Michigan, hut the former had to be considered the better on the basis of its Big Ten record. Notre Dame was simply too young and inexperienced to handle the kind of schedule that the Irish face year in and year out. Among the new names on the Eleven Best, Pittsburgh had been rated by Hickman as "the best in the East and a threat for the national title," but he had felt their rugged schedule would be too much for even such a strong squad as the Panthers were ready to field. Syracuse was a cinch to be good, if only because of its splendid halfback, Jim Brown. The fact that they jelled into an eleven-man instead of just a one-man team has made them the current favorite for the Lambert Trophy, symbol of eastern football supremacy. Tennessee had seemed to be a young team with plenty of potential but perhaps a year away from greatness. Thanks largely to Mr. Johnny Majors, Tennessee played the finest football in the South. The real surprise, however, was Iowa. As the Big Ten champion and its delegate to the Rose Bowl, Iowa serves as the exception, proving a very old rule: form will tell.
When the boys get to spinning tales about eastern football, they will no longer have to start their yarns with "Once upon a time...." The area so long dependent on dimming memories of a glorious past wound up the 1956 season with three of the top teams in the nation and a good chance of representation in a major bowl. The renaissance was conducted, fittingly, by Yale, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, three of the very teams responsible for yesterday's memories.
Yale closed out the season Saturday with a crushing 42-14 win over Harvard in "The Game." It was the highest score in the old rivalry since 1884, when Yale beat Harvard 48-0. The win gave the Blue an 8-1 season record and undisputed possession of the first official Ivy League crown. Pittsburgh dueled age-old rival Penn state to a 7-7 standoff before 51,123 at Pitt Stadium. The tie may have hurt Panther chances for a bowl bid, but it certainly put Syracuse in a better position for a postseason invitation. Though Syracuse suffered its only loss to Pittsburgh, the Orange beat Penn State later in the season.
December 3, 1956
In New England, Boston College warmed up for its annual showdown with Holy Cross this Saturday by roasting neighboring Brandeis 52-0. The point total was the highest a BC team has scored since the 76-0 whaling of Holy Cross in 1946. As originally forecast, the finest football squad in New England was to be found in New Haven, Conn. But whether it was Yale or undefeated New Haven Teachers was a matter of conjecture at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Brandeis had lost a preseason scrimmage to Yale (27-13) and a scheduled game to the Teachers (46-7). It was not entirely the comparative scores which prompted Brandeis Coach Benny Friedman to observe: "The teachers are a big-college team and the best all-round squad we've seen."
Though Yale won the Ivy marbles in a walkaway, it would appear that 1957 will bring tighter competition to this hallowed loop. Both Brown and Dartmouth left their fans cheering as they crowned mediocre seasons with final appearances of unexpected brilliance. Brown blanked Colgate 20-0 on Thanksgiving Day, and Dartmouth almost duplicated against Princeton 19-0 two days later. Columbia retired Coach Lou Little the way he wanted it—with an 18-12 win over Rutgers. Villanova, again on the rise as an eastern power, mauled Iowa State 26-0.
The next-to-last big football Saturday in Dixie found Tennessee and Georgia Tech, the giants of the Southeastern Conference, clearing the way for prospective delegates from various bowls, while three contenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference vied for the Orange Bowl assignment by trying unsuccessfully to run up big scores on the league's lesser opposition.
Of the bowl contenders, Tennessee came closest to disaster. Kentucky led the surprised Vols 7-6 well into the fourth quarter at Knoxville until Tailback Johnny Majors took over personally and scored two touchdowns. Now only this Saturday's traditional game with Vanderbilt stands between the Vols and a perfect season. A bowl (probably Sugar) is already assured.
Georgia Tech had an unexpectedly easy time with underrated Florida, breezing home 28-0 to insure the Engineers a sixth consecutive bowl invitation. Tech must now beat a subnormal Georgia team for a 9-1 season and a date in the Cotton or Gator Bowl. Not only that, but if Tennessee loses to Vanderbilt, Tech can win the SEC.
In the struggle for the Orange Bowl, neither Clemson, South Carolina nor Duke looked particularly impressive in their final conference outings. South Carolina used runs of 14 yards by Mackie Prickett and 29 yards by Alex Hawkins to dump Wake Forest, the cellar team, 13-0 and clinch third place in the league with a 5-2 record and a season mark of 7-3. Duke marched 83, 69 and 37 yards to whop so-so North Carolina 21-6 and take over second place, with 4-1 in the conference and 5-4-1 overall, clemson looked dullest of all, stuttering to a 7-0 victory over weak Virginia on a 53-yard, first-quarter drive, but it was enough to clinch the league championship with a 4-0-1 record. With little Furman still to play, the Tigers have the inside track to the Orange Bowl, though Duke has a chance; 12 years ago, another four-time-beaten Duke team went to the Sugar Bowl and beat Alabama.
In other major action, unbeaten Miami rolled impressively over West Virginia, intercepting four passes and shutting out the Mountaineers for the first time in 55 games 18-0. Auburn squeezed past rugged Florida state 13-7 on a 67-yard pass-run play in the third quarter. Mississippi Southern, historically a menace to Alabama, tied the Crimson Tide 13-13, while Maryland salvaged something from its worst season in years by whipping North Carolina State 25-14, to wind up with a 2-7-1 record. Virginia Tech blanked VMI 45-0 and assured itself of second place in the Southern Conference.
With businesslike efficiency Iowa defeated Notre Dame 48-8 Saturday and then sat back to enjoy the good news from Columbus, Ohio. Michigan had downed Ohio state 19-0, and, as a result, Coach Forest Evashevski's Hawkeyes had hit the jackpot: the Rose Bowl bid (Iowa's first) and the college's first Big Ten championship since 1922.
Iowa, rated an also-ran at the start of the season, completely dominated Notre Dame with a flashy, breakaway offense to finish the season with an 8-1 record. Michigan, meanwhile, was bottling up OSU's rugged ground game, springing Halfback Terry Barr for two touchdowns and sophomore Fullback John Herrnstein for one. Having lost to both Minnesota and Michigan State, Michigan ended the Big Ten season in third place, with an over-all 7-2 record. By losing to Iowa and Michigan on the last two Saturdays of the season, Ohio State blew its chance to win its third Big Ten title in a row, wound up instead in a tie for fourth with Michigan State. The latter closed with a meaningless 38-17 victory over hapless Kansas State, despite a dozen fumbles.
In one of the major surprises of a topsyturvy Big Ten season, Wisconsin tied second-place Minnesota 13-13. Wisconsin, whose only victory of the season was in an opener against winless Marquette, outplayed Minnesota all the way.
Improving Northwestern finished its best season since 1950 by edging Illinois 14-13 to grab sixth place in the conference with an over-all record of four wins, four defeats and a tie. Purdue got some satisfaction out of the season by trouncing Indiana 39-20 for its first Big Ten victory.
In the Big Seven Oklahoma crunched over Nebraska for 656 net yards, its most overpowering performance in three overpowering years, for a 54-6 victory. Orange Bowl-bound Colorado, warming up for the Atlantic Coast Conference's candidate, slaughtered Arizona 38-7.
Missouri Valley Champion Houston, with ambitions for something big like the Sugar Bowl or Gator Bowl—beat Texas Tech 20-7 for a 6-2-1 record. Tulsa beat Wichita 14-6. Detroit ended its season against Dayton Sunday, losing 27-13, while Oklahoma A&M winds up against Oklahoma, Dec. 1.
Texas Christian, befuddled and behind for more than two quarters Saturday, rushed back during the second half to overhaul Rice 20-17, and clinch at least a tie for second place in the Southwest Conference and a berth in the Cotton Bowl. Baylor, the only team which might tie TCU for second place, was defeated by the Horned Frogs earlier in the season. TCU's Cotton opponent will come from a list that includes Tennessee, Navy, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Pitt.
Baylor, openly hoping for a Sugar Bowl bid, bounced Southern Methodist 26-0. SMU drove past midfield only once, a fact that caused Mustang Coach Woody Woodward to comment: "It was defense that really won the game."
LSU Fullback Jim Taylor scored twice as the Bayou Bengals throttled Arkansas' Gator Bowl hopes 21-7.
Border Conference Champion Texas Western (9-1), en route to the Sun Bowl, embarrassed Trinity 54-0 and gained some satisfaction for its only defeat. Trinity had tied North Texas State, which had tagged Western for its Only loss. Arizona State defeated College of Pacific 19-6 and Hardin-Simmons Outscored New Mexico A&M 38-19 in a battle for the Border Conference cellar.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
In the area's top game, Brigham Young of the Skyline Conference punched across 20 points in a big third quarter to rip apart the Air Force Academy 34-21 in Denver. The loss gave the Cadets some idea of what to expect next year. Most of the 1957 Falcon schedule will be contested against Skyline Conference opponents. At Albuquerque, New Mexico topped San Diego state 34-21, as Quarterback Joe Gale passed the victors to two touchdowns of 54 and 23 yards and scored a third on a one-yard plunge. Utah's Redskins exploded with a 23-point second half to beat Utah state 29-7 and thereby gain second place in the Skyline behind unbeaten Wyoming. Halfback Jack Hill scored the Utes' lone touchdown, plunging over from the two. He finished the season with 105 points, losing the national scoring title to Syracuse's Jim Brown by a single point.
Denver's hot and cold Pioneers were sizzling against Colorado A&M, and they won 39-13. Montana, of the Skyline, lost the "Little Brown Stein" Thanksgiving Day game to Idaho 14-0.
THE FAR WEST
Pacific coast football, if nothing else, was at least democratic in 1956. The equality theme was never more evident than on Thanksgiving Day at Corvallis, when Oregon, tied for third in the conference, held mighty Oregon state, the conference champ and Rose Bowl host apparent, to a 14-14 tie. There is, of course, the obvious conclusion that recruiting scandals and subsequent reprisals taken by conference fathers against the perennial league leaders dragged everyone down to the same level of mediocrity. This theory might stand up were it not for the fact that PCC teams fared amazingly well against topflight intersectional competition. Stanford, which finished a sad sixth, came very close to beating Michigan State and Ohio State on successive weekends earlier this fall. California, another PCC also-ran, beat Pittsburgh.
Saturday's results were further proof of the even distribution of talent. California edged Stanford 20-18, use beat UCLA 10-7 and there was the Oregon State tie on Thursday. Only in the Washington-Washington state game—won by Washington 40-26—was there anything like a walkaway.
If UCLA had beaten USC Saturday, the Bruins would have ended the season with a better won-loss record (6-1) than the official conference champion, Oregon State (6-1-1). As it turned out, the USC victory brought them a second-place tie with UCLA (5-2), leaving OSC alone at the top. Oregon (3-3-2) and Washington (4-4) were tied for fourth place, Stanford was sixth, Washington State (2-5-1) seventh, California (2-5) eighth, and Idaho, as usual, was in the basement with no conference wins.
The bowl season opens Dec. 1, with Florida A&M and Tennessee A&I, both undefeated, meeting in the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami. Other bowl opponents: Mississippi Southern (7-1-1) vs. West Texas State (6-2) in the Tangerine at Orlando, Fla.; George Washington (7-1-1) vs. Texas Western (9-1) in the Sun at Phoenix; Montana State (10-0) vs. St. Joseph's, Ind. (8-1) in the Aluminum at Little Rock.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Harold Stassen, former University of Pennsylvania president, on college football telecasts: "I think the present monopolistic restrictions on college football on television is a dark blot on the college scene."
Sideline coaching will be urged by Buff Donelli, Boston U. coach, at the next meeting of the NCAA rules committee. "A player just under the cut of first class," he explained, "needs help. I say he should get it during the game."
Two old coaches retired last week; full of years and glory: Lou Little from Columbia after 33 years and Lynn (Pappy) Waldorf, California, after 30 years. Don Faurot from Missouri coaches his last game Saturday after 28 years.
For games of Saturday, Dec. 1
•Army vs. Navy. With only one loss and a tie against their record, the Middies could have their best season since 1945 by beating Army in this nationally televised game. Strangely unsung and unconsidered for eastern honors, a win by the team from Crabtown could mean a Cotton Bowl invitation. But to Colonel Blaik's Cadets this game means all. Every plebe at the Point is chanting "Beat Navy" from dawn to dusk. Navy has shown the better defense and superior passing. Army has not played up to their expected potential, but remember last year. Nonetheless, NAVY.
•Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee. If the Vols had not been alerted by Kentucky's stern and stubborn play this past Saturday, the Commodores would have been in an ideal spot to cause trouble, but the unbeaten and untied Tennesseans will be ready for this one. They will have Drum Majors leading the parade. TENNESSEE.
•Florida vs. Miami. Gators going great until Tech game. Despite this loss they cannot be underrated. Prime upset possibility here, but I will have to go all the way with the Hurricanes. MIAMI.
•Georgia vs. Georgia Tech. Butts' Bulldogs will play their best game of the season but just do not have the power and perfection of Dodd's Yellow Jackets. Closer than you'd think. GEORGIA TECH.
•Mississippi vs. Mississippi State. In Paige Cothren the Rebels have one of the best all-round players in the country despite their disappointing season. State is just not up to snuff. MISSISSIPPI.
•Tulane vs. LSU. Both teams in and out. Green Wave has scored fine wins over Navy, Northwestern and Mississippi. Bengal Tigers hit the win trail by dumping Arkansas convincingly. Another one of those intrastate affairs where the cousins aren't kissing. TULANE.
•Missouri vs. Kansas. In a fitting farewell to Don Faurot, MISSOURI.
Auburn over Alabama
Baylor over Rice
Boston College over Holy Cross
Clemson over Furman
Houston over Detroit
New Mexico over Colorado A&M
Oklahoma over Oklahoma A&M
Southern California over Notre Dame
Texas Christian over Southern Methodist
Texas A&M over Texas
Last week's hunches: 18 right, 5 wrong, 2 ties
Record to date: 184-53-13