For a team banking everything on an unproved JC-transfer quarterback to lead it back from a disastrous 3-7 season, UCLA has been making surprisingly optimistic noises. Perhaps that old bridge master, Tommy Prothro, figures he's going to sneak up on some overconfident opponents. His key man is Dennis Dummit, who threw for 30 touchdowns in two JC seasons and will operate the Bruins' new triple-option offense. UCLA major assets are Linebacker Mike Ballou, a good group of runners headed by Tailback Greg Jones and a delightful first-half schedule: once by this week's opener against Oregon State the Bruins meet four teams that won a total of five games in '68.
Oregon State might do some sneaking up, too, because Dee Andros has a pumpkin patch full of redshirts, plus Defensive Tackle Jess Lewis, who skipped last season to wrestle in the Olympics. The only returning starter from the offensive backfield is Billy Main, a top-notch kickoff returner.
California had its first real winner in 10 years in '68 and will be tough again, especially with a strong defense led by End Irby Augustine, one of seven Texans on the squad, and Safety Ken Wiedemann. The question mark is at quarterback, where handsome Randy Humphries had a bad spring. Up in Seattle, Washington's Jim Owens has discarded his athletic director's hat and will concentrate on bringing the Huskies back, aided by a stout defense and Scatback Harvey Blanks. Oregon's Ducks have some nice schedule advantages—no USC, for one—but they need everything they can get. So does Washington State.
The interesting thing about the Western Athletic Conference is that its teams play football while much of the country is asleep. When Arizona takes on Arizona State on a Saturday night in Tempe, it isn't until Monday afternoon that the East finds out who won. Night games are popular in the conference—there are 25 of them—and so is offense. Hold an opponent to 30 points and you're a cinch to win.
Wyoming's Cowboys will be gunning for their fourth straight title, but they must play their main challenger, Arizona State, away. Many members of last year's 7-3 team are back. Utah just might have something to say about the conference race. The Redskins have the league's top quarterback in Ray Groth, who accumulated more than half the team's offensive yardage last year. Utah has good speed in both its offensive and defensive backfields.
Arizona has lost 12 starters from its Sun Bowl team, but Ron Gardin is back (having switched from flanker to halfback) and so is Tackle Rex Macklin. But, with a new coach, Bob Weber, and a dismal defense, Wildcat fans who want to see another bowl game will have to watch last year's films. Colorado State lost nine defensive starters, but the two who remain—Backs Earlie Thomas and Jerry Shearer—are good ones. A flood of junior college transfers will try to fill the gap. Brigham Young is groaning over the loss of its quarterback, split end and placekicker, all injured. UTEP is rebuilding, while New Mexico will try to recover from a season in which it gave up 40 points a game.
After Texas, Arkansas and SMU, what's left in the Southwest Conference? Well, there's Texas A&M, but not much is left of the Aggie team that was picked to do so well last year and failed so miserably. Coach Gene Stallings has versatile Dave Elmendorf, who played five positions in 1968 and who is being tempted by offers to play pro baseball, and Larry Stegent, who has made some glittering runs during the last two years.
Texas Tech, which finished fourth in the conference, has two good quarterbacks, Tom Sawyer and his backup Joe Matulich. Tech's running game should shine, especially if sophomore Danny Hardaway does as expected. Count on Tech to pull at least one upset this year on the order of last season's 31-22 surprise of Texas.
Pity TCU. Try playing Purdue, Ohio State and Arkansas for openers. But the Horned Frogs have a swift backfield and a scrambling quarterback in Steve Judy, so they may score a lot of points on somebody.
The new head coach at Baylor, Bill Beall, hopes to bolster a defense that gave up point totals of—duck—48, 47, 47, 40 and 35, to name a few. Beall was a defensive coach for seven years at LSU, which rarely gave up 47 points in a season. He has 19 starters returning, but needs to find a fullback to replace Pinkie Palmer, the Bears' leading scorer.
Rice failed to win a game last year, finishing 0-9-1. Improvement, if there is hope for any, must come from the sophomores, led by two quarterbacks, Stahle Vincent and Phillip Wood, and Offensive Tackle Ron Waedemon.
Life is rough for coaches in the Missouri Valley. Rod Rust of North Texas State has two years on the job and that makes him the senior citizen. Four of the six teams in the conference—Wichita State, Cincinnati, Tulsa and Louisville—have new headmen. All of them will be out to match Billy Murphy of Memphis State, who last year coached his team to a 4-0 conference record and the title. If names carry any weight, the team should repeat. Quarterbacks Danny Pierce and Rick Thurow can keep the Tigers on target. All-MVC Fullback Ray Jamieson and Tailback Jay McCoy, the team's leading scorer in '68, are back.
North Texas State should be Memphis State's only rival for the title. The Eagles have good depth. All-MVC (for two years) Quarterback Steve Ramsey returns and he should be all the more effective now that his favorite receiver, Ronnie Shanklin, has regained his eligibility. Perhaps the Eagles' biggest need is a punter. Cincinnati, which lost the nation's top passer in Greg Cook and No. 2 receiver in Tom Rossley, held on to No. 2 Punter Benny Rhoads (42.5 average) and its national scoring leader, Jim O'Brien, a split end and placekicker. But even with all four they couldn't win the title.
Tulsa, with new Coach Vince Carillot, has two questionable lines but some good running in both backfields. Wichita State and Louisville have little to offer their new coaches. The Shockers have no blockers, but an improved defense. They also have seven sophomores in the starting lineup. The Cardinals have two quick backfields and front lines that call for them.
In 1967, Colorado Coach Eddie Crowder was consoled by a Denver sportswriter: "Eddie, one of your toughest problems figures to be replacing Bernie McCall at quarterback. I know you never felt McCall measured up to what you expected but, after all, he did produce more than 3,000 yards career-total offense."
Crowder, who rarely loses his temper, snorted, "Nuts, if Bobby Anderson handles the ball as much as Bernie McCall, he'll gain 5,000 yards." That prophecy may well become fact this season. In two seasons the Buffs' quarterback has accumulated 3,643 yards, and he has an excellent chance of becoming the first man in Big Eight history to break the 5,000-yard barrier. Not that Anderson is the only gun in the Colorado armory. There is balance to the rest of the offense. Ward Walsh and Steve Engel proved to be strong runners last season. Crowder recruited with defense in mind to prevent the Buffs from being as generous to opponents (24 points a game) as they were last year.
Nebraska, with an experienced defensive unit, may be another spoiler. The offense isn't bad, either, what with Joe Orduna carrying the football. How good the Huskers become depends on sophomore Quarterback Jerry Tagge.
The feud between Kansas State's Vince Gibson and Kansas' Pepper Rodgers still rages. For the first time in three years Gibson has a chance to win a round when his Wildcats confront the Jayhawks in Lawrence. Oklahoma State and Iowa State will furnish lighthearted moments for the rest of the conference.
It was 1966, and Ray Nagel had just taken over the head coaching job at Iowa, inheriting a helpless team that had won only one game the year before. He was meeting with his players for the first time, telling them where most football games are won or lost, like on the line, when he looked up and saw a tackle snoozing away. "Hey, Jones," Nagel shouted. The boy stirred. "Where are most football games lost?"
Jones didn't even have to think about that one. "Why, right here at Iowa, coach."
This year was to have changed all that, and Nagel, a normally ebullient man, was saying, yes, maybe we can go to the Rose Bowl. But, when 16 of the team's 20 blacks (including five defensive starters) boycotted spring practice and were ultimately suspended, Nagel was no longer talking roses.
Duffy Daugherty may be losing sleep over his Spartans, a team that should be better than last year's 5-5 club, but one which may have trouble improving that record. The reason: a masochist's schedule, which includes every Big Ten title contender plus Notre Dame and SMU.
Minnesota, normally big and bestial and defensive, will depend this year on offense. A full backfield returns, including Jim Carter and Barry Mayer. Michigan, which got its new coach, Bo Schembechler, from that cradle of coaches, Miami (Ohio), may have to wait a few years for results.
Illinois, Wisconsin and Northwestern should again fill in the bottom of the Big Ten, though Wisconsin may have a find in sophomore Halfback Greg (Grape Juice) Johnson.
Ohio University has won the conference title for the past two years, and there are good reasons to believe that this year will make it three. Among the best are Quarterback Cleve Bryant (who holds all of the school's passing and total offense records after only two years) and Split End Todd Snyder, whose father coaches the basketball team. Folks around OU insist that if Bryant and Snyder had gone to that other Ohio school—the one in Columbus—they'd both be All-Americas by now. Last year OU was 10-0 but, with Penn State and Minnesota on the schedule this fall, it will have a hard time duplicating that. If the Bryant-to-Snyder combination is covered, OU can turn to the running of Fullback John Roush and Tailback Dave LeVeck. Ohio's weakness is its defense, which yielded an average of 18 points a game last year.
The main challenge will come from Miami (Ohio), 7-3 last year, which has a new coach, Bill Mallory, and a top pro prospect in Tight End Gary Arthur, a 6'5", 230-pound senior. Miami's defense, which last year was one of the most effective anywhere, promises to be strong again.
Behind these two teams come Bowling Green, with a defense that may be as good as Miami's, and Toledo, which has the NCAA placekicking record holder in Ken Crots, a senior who has made 64 straight extra points during his career. Kent State is hanging its hopes on players who were injured last year and versatile Jim Corrigall's switch from tackle to linebacker. Western Michigan, the one out-of-state team, is out of luck as well.
All winter Kentucky's new coach, John Ray, stumped the Bluegrass, spreading his message of confidence and faith. Not only will Kentucky win this season, promises Ray, the builder of Parseghian's defenses at Notre Dame, but the day is coming when the Wildcats will appear in the Top 10 and be invited to their first bowl since 1952. This may seem like so much rhetoric considering that Kentucky has won only eight games the last three seasons, but Ray has some of the league's best talent in Quarterback Stanley Forston, End Phil Thompson and defensive aces Dick Palmer and David Roller.
Another perennial doormat, Vanderbilt, also is on the way up, thanks to young Head Coach Bill Pace. Last year the Commodores were 5-4-1, their first winning season since 1960, and what's more, their frosh were perhaps best in the league.
Louisiana State, with one of the South's strongest defenses, will rest its hopes for another bowl bid on unpredictable Quarterback Mike Hillman, passing star of last season's Peach Bowl, and senior Fullback Eddie Ray. Auburn, likewise strong defensively, must play four monster games—Tennessee, LSU, Georgia and Alabama—on the road. Quarterback Pat Sullivan and End Terry Beasley, both sophs, could give the Tigers their classiest offense since the Orange Bowl days of Jimmy Sidle and Tucker Fredrickson.
Mississippi State still has the SEC's leader in passing and total offense, Tommy Pharr, but Tommy probably can't take the Bulldogs pharr enough. Florida, coming back from a disappointing year, will have to rely on sophomores.
While rich in tidewater-state lore, interesting alumni and other collegiate colorfulnesses (the second-oldest college, teams named the Spiders and the Paladins, and a team that still clings to the single wing), the Southern Conference does not really concentrate on football. "We have no solid, first-rate football teams," says one expert. A bit harsh, that judgment, since Richmond—which was the exception last year, beating Ohio U. in the Tangerine Bowl—returns 27 lettermen. The Spiders lack Quarterback Buster O'Brien, 10th alltime major-college passer, yet replacement Charlie Richards may surprise pessimists.
True to its name and history, The Citadel will depend on a small but high-spirited defense. Linebacker John Small, 255 pounds, is the cornerstone, but Middle Guard Roger Meyer and Halfback Billy Watson are sturdy, too. Quarterback Tony Passander throws well to disciplined receivers, but he is also counted on for too much of the running attack in the Veer (option) offense. Single wing East Carolina has a passing fullback. Butch Colson completed 66% last year, scored 48 points and totaled 1,135 yards in 1967. Tailback Billy Wightman, quick but fragile, accounted for 925 last fall, yet sophomores Bill Wallace and Jack Patterson can push both. William and Mary still has a case of the greens—even the coach is new—but people like Center Bob Herb add some seasoning. Indian fans can also savor Linebackers Wes Meeteer and Dave Holland, Quarterback Jimmye Laycock and Safety Tom Duffey. VMI, Davidson and Furman are still league members—very still.
Sixteen years divorced from the old Southern Conference, the ACC—now to some extent a league of dogwoody schools slowly seceding from the South—is gradually abandoning the big-time football scene, too. Significantly, South Carolina, one of the schools most successfully resisting northernization, has this season's best outfit. Paul Dietzel gets Fullback Tommy Simmons, Tailback Billy Ray Rice and Wide Receiver Jimmy Mitchell from another undefeated freshman squad. The Gamecocks don't need that much help. Quarterback Tommy Suggs rewrote SC records as a sophomore, Fullback Warren Muir is a mean inside runner who gained 805 as a soph and End Fred Zeigler has caught 94 passes. Halfback Rudy Holloman rushed 530 yards last year.
North Carolina State redshirted its entire 1967 freshman team, so 60 sophomores are available if needed. Tackle Ron Carpenter (6'5", 250 pounds) and Safeties Jack Whitley and Gary Yount type a strong defense. Erratic Duke set 34 school and conference records in 1968, yet finished 4-6. Quarterback Leo Hart (2,340 total yards) set 12 of those. Aside from Linebacker Dick Biddle, who seems to be in on all the tackles, and sophomore Rich Searl, who makes defensive half a glamour position, the defense is bad. Clemson should finish in the first division, helped by the defensive prowess of End Ivan Southerland. North Carolina's offense, its only chance, leans heavily on Halfback Don McCauley. Virginia has excellent architecture. Maryland and Wake Forest have no depth, no passer, no defense, no hope.
In the Christmas-card colonial village of Hancock, N.H. stands a splendid Revolutionary-era inn, authentic to the last candle sconce. But last fall one miniature TV in the peg-beamed barroom kept Yankees on their feet, cheering play, replay and rerun of The Last 42 Seconds, the berserk 42 seconds in which undefeated Harvard scored 16 points to tie undefeated Yale 29-29. Harvard could go seatless and defeatless again if Coach John Yovicsin can rebuild the defense and if Back Richie Szaro heals. End Pete Varney, Tackle Fritz Reed, Halfbacks Ray Hornblower and Steve Harrison (a sophomore), Quarterback Frank Champi and defensemen John Cramer and Rick Frisbie put brimstone in Puritan Power.
Yale, losing its entire backfield and all its stars, will surrender its 17-game unbeaten streak and fall into the second division. Princeton is playing it close to the vest, but the word is that the Tigers may be giving up the single wing so that Scott MacBean and Brian McCullough can be in the back-field at the same time. If Princeton does go to the T formation, sophomore Rod Plummer could become Princeton's first black quarterback. Penn is the other serious contender. Quarterback Bernie Zbrzeznj (say Zebrez'-nee), Center George Joseph and Fullback Bill Sudhaus talon a hawkish offense. Dartmouth, with Quarterbacks Bill Koenig and Jim Chasey, cannot be discounted. Split End Rick Furbush and defensemen Keith Cummins and Theo Jacobs provide the Cornell guns, and Brown will be more respectable. Columbia, as customary, will be a riot to watch.
Independents, according to Webster, date back to Cromwellian England. They were a political grouping that led to Congregationalists, Baptists and Friends, organized to achieve congregational autonomy. But on the campuses of University Park, South Bend, Houston and Tallahassee the students have quite a different definition. Independent means freedom from conference play, sectional rivalries and, in August and September, at least, freedom to dream of becoming the national champion. There are several other schools with football teams capable of breaking into the Top 20 before the season ends. Although less talented than Penn State, Notre Dame, Houston and Florida State, they should also enjoy themselves this fall.
The best of the group is Miami. Charlie Tate has 15 starters returning from last year's team, which was breezing along until the Hurricanes died in their final three games. Now more experienced, Miami should escape late-season doldrums. "Our defense is rough as hogs," Tate says. The blue ribbon winners are Safety Tony Stawarz and End Tony Cline. Stawarz has accounted for 99 tackles in his two seasons working the secondary, and Tate considers Cline as talented as Ted Hendricks, consensus All-America last season. As usual, the Hurricanes will be able to run, as they return their two leading ground-gainers, Vince Opalsky and Bobby Best. Tate's two problems are his offensive line and his quarterback. The line was so small last year that the team did not have adequate pass protection. Tate now has established a standard of 6'3" in recruiting offensive linemen. Quarterback Lew Pytel had little game time as a sophomore and is being challenged for his job by Kurt Schottenheimer, a junior college transfer. Miami plays a difficult schedule, including Alabama, Houston, Florida State and LSU. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, the latter two will be played on Friday nights in the Orange Bowl. They have won 12 of 14 Friday night games at home over the past three years.
Friday night is less exciting in Blacksburg, Va. The choice of entertainment is limited to beer at the Golden Gobbler or a few racks of pool in the Sports Center. The show picks up on Saturdays when Virginia Tech plays in Lane Stadium. President T. Marshall Hahn leads the cheers during the games and then offers locker room congratulations, a practice that has become ritual since the Gobblers very rarely lose at home. This fall's team is the best in Coach Jerry Claiborne's nine years. Although the Gobblers have lost seven starters, three from the two back-fields, they should make it back to the Liberty Bowl on the strength of an excellent batch of sophomores.
"If a player feels like taking a girl to a movie, then I know he's in shape," Coach Jim Carlen of West Virginia says. Carlen's athletes spend most of their time in their dorm, which is as good a place as any, considering that Carlen is a tough disciplinarian and Morgantown, the site of the university, doesn't have a level street to walk on. There was a time when the city spent the fall waiting to watch Jerry West play basketball, but Carlen has recently been promoting football: AstroTurf in Mountaineer Field, an invitation to the public to attend all practices and the Mountaineers themselves—his best advertisement. All-America Carl Creenel anchors the defensive line at middle guard, and the secondary, which ranked seventh in pass defense last year, returns intact. The passing combination of Mike Sherwood to Oscar Patrick, which broke 14 school records last season, provides the offensive excitement; so does Halfback Eddie Silverio, who concluded his junior season rushing 195 yards against Syracuse.
Ben Schwartzwalder's Syracuse Orangemen were a disappointment in '68—their six victories were the fewest in as many years. "We worked so hard on our passing game that the bread and butter—the rushing—broke down," Schwartzwalder explained. But this year he'll unveil another sophomore running back in the tradition of Brown, Davis, Little and Csonka—Tailback Marty Januszkiewicz, who rushed for nearly 800 yards for the unbeaten freshmen. An easy schedule—Penn State and Kansas offer the main competition—guarantees Schwartzwalder his 20th straight winning season.
Although Mercury Morris is no longer at West Texas State, and neither are six other offensive starters, the Buffaloes could improve on last year's 8-2 record. Rocky Thompson, Mercury's replacement, is even faster and was a junior college All-America—and he's not even the star of the team. That honor belongs to Fullback Duane Thomas, who averaged 6.2 yards a carry as a junior. Coach Joe Kerbel prefers to run the ball—and with those backs who can blame him—but Quarterback Clarence Redic makes a more significant contribution than just handing it off and waving Thompson and Thomas goodby. Last year he kicked 11 field goals, including a 52-yarder.
Among the other top independents are two service academies, Air Force and Army. The Falcons are likely to have their best team to date. Last season was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but the young team compiled a 7-3 record. Virtually everyone returns to Colorado Springs this fall. Ben Martin has a combination coaches daydream about: speed in the backfield (provided by Curtis Martin and Ernie Jennings), an excellent receiver (Charlie Longnecker), a quarterback who can throw to him (Gary Baxter), an interior line that averages 219 and depth at every position. And there is more. Dennis Leuthauser is the reigning NCAA field-goal record holder with a 57-yard kick against Wyoming.
Army's Tom Cahill is less fortunate. Graduation cost him Steve Lindell, a gifted quarterback, and most of his defense, too. Luckily, he still has Fullback Lynn Moore and Halfback Hank Andrzejczak, but they won't be enough when the Cadets travel down the Hudson to play Notre Dame in New York's Yankee Stadium. However, Army should do well enough against teams like New Mexico, Texas A&M, Utah State and, yes, poor Navy, to provide another winning season for Cahill.
After winning two consecutive small college championships and narrowly missing a third, San Diego State was elevated to the status of a major college. The Aztecs are now trying to build up a big-time schedule, begging teams like Ohio State (without success) for a game. While waiting to be noticed, they are spending the fall in the brand-new Pacific Coast Athletic Association (PCAA) along with another former small college, University of the Pacific, previous independent San Jose State and four other schools. Only five starters return to the Aztecs, but the holes will be filled by some of the 17 junior college transfers Coach Don Coryell has recruited. Leading the newcomers through an easy schedule is Quarterback Dennis Shaw, who passed for 2,370 yards and 21 touchdowns last season and set school records for one game with 524 yards and seven touchdowns.
There were two Olsen brothers working toward degrees from Utah State last spring. Merlin, class of '62 and a member of the Rams' Fearsome Foursome, was preparing his master's thesis, while Phil completed his junior year. The younger Olsen is the best member of the Aggies' experienced defense, and he is a probable All-America selection at his brother's tackle spot.
Boston College is the best of the remaining independents in the East. Red Harris completed 37 passes against Army last season, tying the most single game completions by any quarterback in the nation. "Harris is super, just super," says Coach Joe Yukica. The Eagles have a strong running game again this season with Fred Willis and Ed Ride-out, joined by big, fast sophomore Bill Thomas, whom Yukica considers to be one of the East's best backs. Although the Eagles ranked third nationally in total offense last year, the defense gave up 22 points per game. No improvement is foreseen.
Rutgers is looking forward to a big day in its tiny stadium when the Scarlet Knights celebrate the centennial anniversary of that first football game against Princeton. The game will be regionally televised by ABC, and President Nixon has tentatively accepted an invitation to join 30,000 in the stands. Nixon will no doubt be impressed by Rich Policastro, the quarterback who entered the lineup for the final six games of the season and threw 15 of his 68 completions over the goal. Bruce Van Ness will give Policastro's arm a rest with his running. He has been moved to tailback, and pro scouts are anxious to see what he can do there.
Villanova, minus an experienced quarterback for the third straight season, has slight prospects, while the presence of four new head coaches at other Eastern independents makes their prospects uncertain. Bob Deming brought a quartet of assistants to Buffalo while Bill Whitton will try to build a winner at Holy Cross. Carl DePasqua at Pitt has Middle Linebacker Ralph Cindrich and Tackle Howard Broadhead—if healthy—and End Paul Naponic—if he wants to play—for an excellent defensive line. The offensive power is restricted to the foot of Punter Joe Spicko, who kicked 63 times last year and will likely have as many opportunities this fall. At Navy, Rick Forzano is the Middies' 30th coach, and he is as optimistic as possible considering the scheduling: Penn State, Texas, Notre Dame, Miami, Syracuse and Army.
There is a new Bear down South, P. W. (Bear) Underwood at Southern Mississippi. Bear Bryant, not just out of kinship, has expressed concern about Alabama's meeting with the Southerners. His reasons are Tailback Larry Moulton and Guard Rex Barnes. Tulane will start 13 sophomores—the best is Defensive Tackle Bob Waldron. Georgia Tech's Bud Carson was given one more chance as head coach after only two seasons (8-12). Carson must win this season or lose his job. Bye, Bud.