With the exception of Arkansas and Texas, slated to finish one and two, the Southwest will be a conference in transition. Four new coaches out of eight promises uneven performance and unpredictable form charts. Of the four (Emory Bellard at Texas A&M, Billy Tohill at TCU, Al Conover at Rice and Grant Teaff at Baylor), only Bellard is likely to make waves. The Aggies, 5-6 last year, seldom played anywhere near their potential. This year's squad boasts the best seniors in the league, all of whom remember how easy it was to beat Arkansas. The freshmen-eligible rule could make a big difference here, providing speed, which is all Bellard is missing. "It scares me to death to think what Emory might do with all that talent," says Texas Tech Coach Jim Carlen as he ponders his problem at quarterback. He must decide between rugged Joe Barnes and slender Jim Carmichael in time for early season matchups with Texas and Texas A&M. Two losses would put the Raiders out of contention. Their main competition for the No. 4 slot is likely to come from SMU, blessed with an easy starting schedule and a strong group of rushers. Tops among them is Alvin Maxson Jr., who led the conference last year with 1,012 yards. TCU, Rice and Baylor will probably fill the bottom berths. TCU finished third last year, largely on the strengths of graduated Quarterback Steve Judy. They badly need replacement. Rice will be depending on a big year from its Quarterback, Bruce Gadd. Baylor is perhaps the most improved team in the conference. Unfortunately for the Bears, they needed the most improving.
Sigmund Freud might have diagnosed Purdue's inability to succeed for the past two years as an overacute fear of failure, a neurosis that has made the team no better than average despite an army of talent. The Boilermakers will go to the Wishbone this fall in an attempt to conquer their fears and opponents, and operating it will be some of the finest players in the conference. Halfback Otis Armstrong, Tackle Dave Butz and at least half a dozen other good pro prospects have demonstrated their worth during two seasons of 7-13 football. Third-year Coach Bob DeMoss may never have a better opportunity to exhibit his.
Illinois Coach Bob Blackman won five closing games with players he openly said were not intelligent enough to run his Dartmouthian system. He retains 19 of those starters, but the Illini's present schedule bears a shocking resemblance to the monster that cost Blackman six opening losses a year ago. He'll counter with 6'5" Quarterback Mike Wells, violent Defensive End Tab Bennett and keep on recruiting. Michigan State's route is just as hazardous, especially without Eric Allen's 1,500 yards rushing. However, the Spartans have good underclassmen to run with Tight End Billy Joe Dupree and Roving Safety Brad VanPelt.
Indiana will be competitive, which is an improvement. Quarterback Ted McNulty and sophomore Flanker Mike Flanagan will evoke memories of Harry Gonso to Jade Butcher and the mighty Quinn Buckner will do whatever any self-respecting freshman football-basketball prodigy should do. Minnesota lost most of its offense and won't get to .500, something which has also escaped Wisconsin Coach John Jardine thus far despite lavish publicity. If the Badgers make it this year, it's Halfback Rufus (Road-runner) Ferguson who will deserve the clippings. Iowa, as usual, is talking about "100% improvement." Northwestern's losses were as severe as Mayor Daley's.
When Auburn Coach Shug Jordan stated "There is no doubt that this is the toughest schedule an Auburn team has ever faced" he may have heard an amen from Florida's Doug Dickey. Both coaches have the unenviable task of facing seven schools that competed in bowl games last year and are expected to have that same brand of talent around in 1972. Coming off one of the finest seasons in the college's history, Auburn no longer has the passing combination of Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan and All-America Terry Beasley. Junior Ted Smith is the only veteran with any varsity quarterbacking experience. However, Auburn does have eight returning defensive starters just in case the offense takes awhile to get in high gear. Florida has 29 lettermen but lack of depth at virtually every position and an inconsistent passing attack are reasons for anxiety. The Gators will need aid from some unheralded players if they are to improve on last year's 4-7 record. Vanderbilt has what Coach Bill Pace considers "threats at every position in the backfield" and an experienced offensive line to spring them loose. However, a manpower shortage poses threats to Vandy. Figure the Commodores for seventh or eighth in the conference. Kentucky may unharness a colt or two to race with thoroughbreds Mike Fanuzzi and Doug Kotar. Coach John Ray admits to looking for help in the backfield from incoming freshmen. James (Dinky) McKay, an All-America Junior College quarterback, operating behind a line that averages 6'4", 237 for the interior five, may make things ugly for the opposition. Senior Halfback Frank Dowsing, a first-team All-SEC choice, will be on the Mississippi State roster along with not much help. With mainly a sophomore-sprinkled defense and three more sophs vying for the No. 1 quarterback spot, it looks like a repeat of performance No. 10 from the Bulldogs.
Since Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado and Iowa State have the Big Eight prairie pretty much to themselves, the league could be divided into the Big Four and the Little Four. Favored for the Little Four title is Kansas State, whose Dennis Morrison is the best quarterback in either league. Morrison was the country's ninth most successful passer in 1971, even though K-State was primarily a running team for the first half of the season. "I feel positive about this team simply because of Morrison," says Coach Vince Gibson. The return of Tight End Henry Childs, who caught 25 Morrison passes in the last five games, invites further optimism.
Kansas is installing a pro-type offense, which will be interesting since Quarterback David Jaynes says he is so slow he has to be timed by a calendar. Missouri is installing the Wishbone T, which can't hurt. The Tigers gained 251 yards fewer on the ground than Oklahoma's Greg Pruitt last year. Oklahoma State is installing 18,000 new seats, heady optimism for a team that can't fill the old ones. "Overall," says rookie Coach Dave Smith, "I think we're pretty short of skilled people."
After a 2-7-1 season that "didn't keep me awake at night," UCLA's Pepper Rodgers is doing a gridiron imitation of Busby Berkeley, complete with a flashy new routine—the Wishbone—and a bright, young star the whole company seems willing to take a chance on. His previous claim to fame has been that Rick Nelson is his brother-in-law and Tom Harmon his father, but 1972 might be the year that puts Mark Harmon's name in lights for good. That, of course, is what Rodgers thought when the Peirce Junior College transfer completed 10 of 13 passes for 250 yards during the Bruins' spring intrasquad scrimmage. Another headliner is highly touted Running Back James McAlister, who is starting a year late because of his NCAA suspension. Punter Bruce Barnes, a two-time Pacific Eight champ, and Placekicker Efren Herrera, who led Bruin scoring last season with 46 points, return. The defense welcomes two-year letter winners Alan Lemmerman and Allan Ellis, and a host of redshirts. The bad news is that UCLA opens against Nebraska and shortly thereafter meets Michigan.
Cal's new head man, Mike White, brings not only his offensive coaching experience from Stanford but half his staff, too. The Bears are hoping Craig Morton's opinion of sophomore Quarterback Steve Bartkowski ("He can be better than I ever was") is correct. Already Bartkowski has broken all of Morton's freshman passing records and with help from all-conference Wide Receiver Steve Sweeney, Cal might see a new day. More likely the Bears will go 6-5-0 again as they take on Colorado, Ohio State and USC early in the season. With an easier schedule and a fine, experienced signal-caller in Dan Fouts, who has amassed 3,891 yards total offense in two years, Oregon stands a good chance to at least break even. Minus conference rushing leader Bobby Moore, however, Fouts simply has no one to throw to. And six big holes in the defense won't help.
Oregon State, with offensive line problems, will use junior Ray Taroli, who broke the NCAA kickoff return yardage record last year, at quarterback. All-conference Linebacker Steve Brown (22 tackles and three interceptions against Stanford) also returns. Speaking of questionable offensive lines, Washington State has one of them also, and the Cougars' only bright spots are option-T expert Ty Paine at quarterback and a strong but small veteran defense.
The Mid-American Puzzle is almost impossible to assemble, now that Toledo's great string of three conference titles, three Back of the Year awards, three Tangerine Bowl victories and 35-game winning streak will be broken. Without the Rockets on top to serve as a reference point, it is difficult to say how good any other team is.
In a league bursting with fine running backs, Bowling Green has the most accomplished in Paul Miles and rates as a slight conference favorite because of its devastating offense. Miles, a junior tailback, rushed for 1,185 yards last fall and finished 10th in the nation. Wingback Tony Bell should be just as dangerous, having gained an astonishing 651 yards on only 37 carries. The Falcons' weakness is defense and it must be strong enough to bring home at least two victories from consecutive away games at Miami of Ohio, Western Michigan and Toledo, following a road opener at powerful Purdue.
Conversely, Miami opens with three home games, has a solid defense and will be quickly at Bowling Green's throat, assuming Steve Williams proves to be at least a capable quarterback. Tailback Bob Hitchens bulled his way to 13 touchdowns and 1,157 yards as a sophomore and should do even better with Center Mike Poff and Guard Paul Mollmann operating in front of him again.
Coach Bill Hess has so much talent at Ohio University that he has switched Quarterback Dave Juenger back to tight end, where he caught 46 passes as a sophomore, and has installed sophomore Rich Bevly in his position. Bevly is a strong runner, and his high school target, Cleveland Moutry, will start at wide receiver. If injured Running Back Bill Gary is as healthy as he was through 1,064 yards as a sophomore and in a 200-yard game against Kentucky last year, the Bobcats will be in the midst of a three-team race.
Toledo will be much better than the average also-ran, but the Rockets are minus 16 starters, and Joe Schwartz, who ran for 1,079 yards last season, has been moved into Chuck Ealey's spot at quarterback. George Keim, who kicked 43 of 46 extra points and six field goals, returns but won't get to try so many conversions.
Western Michigan will be thin but exciting, topped by Halfback Larry Cates, who scored 13 touchdowns and ground out 819 yards. Kent State, where improvement was needed, has become the land of transfers. Memphis State transfer Gerald Tinker, a member of the U.S. 400-meter relay team in Munich, should be exciting to watch at slotback.
Once again, the Missouri Valley Conference boasts a new face—improved teams and the third new headquarters in four years. Tulsa this time. Louisville ranks as the preseason favorite, counting among its stars All-Conference Quarterback John Madeya and Running Back Howard Stevens. Stevens, one of the very few 5'5" backs ever to be considered a pro prospect, last season ran for 1,429 yards to rank fourth in the nation and become the conference MVP. Memphis State, last year's champion, may have more talent but faces a tough schedule. The Tigers must meet Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina before their matchup with Louisville on Nov. 18—at Louisville. On the plus side is a new coaching staff headed by Fred Pancoast, two pass receivers named Stan Davis and James Thompson and a sophomore quarterback, David Fowler, who may be the best the Tigers have ever had. At Tulsa, there is so much talent that Todd Starks, who engineered last season's win over Arkansas, is challenged for a starter's job. New Mexico State Quarterback Joe Pisarcik may give Madeya competition for the best in the conference. Solano Joe (Las Cruces version of Broadway Joe) completed 152 of 333 for 1,983 yards as a sophomore. North Texas State, West Texas State, Wichita State and Drake do not figure in the contest. North Texas State has cut back its football scholarships to a maximum of 80, not enough to remain competitive. West Texas State is making an effort to rebuild, but will not threaten anyone for years. Drake and Wichita State are also rebuilding. Drake returns to major-college football after an absence of 21 years, and Wichita State fields a team whose juniors were freshmen the year of the disastrous air crash.
San Diego State hopes to prove by this, its last season in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, that it belongs in the Pacific Eight. Judging by its 1971 record (6-5 overall, 2-3 in the conference), State will be hard-pressed to prove it belongs in the PCAA. "We've got to change our attitude," says a school spokesman. "Every team in the league is pointing for us." The 1971 passing attack, among the best in the nation, is gone. The running attack is uncertain. An offensive line averaging some 280 pounds and featuring a 325-pounder in Tuffy Avii and a good defense are useful, but what happens when SDS gets the ball? The quarterback, returnee Bill Donckers or redshirt Jesse Freitas, who left Stanford, will throw to Isaac Curtis, a running back at Cal before he left after the 1.6 scandal, but he was only so-so in the spring. In fact, all the running backs are so-what. Conference favorite Long Beach State returns its starting backfield, led by Tailback Terry Metcalf, who gained 1,673 yards and scored an NCAA record 29 times last year. Center Steve Hammitt (6'5", 250) and Wide Receiver Ken Matthews, who has caught 54 passes in two seasons, are other strengths, but LBS needs another receiver and good transfers to bolster a defense that gave up 3,855 yards. San Jose State lost its offensive (Dave Ellis) and defensive (Dave Chancy) quarterbacks. Defensive Back Dwayne Crump, who engineered Fresno State's upset of San Diego State, will have to try harder against a stiff schedule. Pacific could be a factor if it is not overwhelmed by Sonny Sixkiller and two other top quarterbacks in its three preconference games. Everyone will overwhelm Los Angeles State.
People in the WAC talk of it as "The Kush of Death," those dreadful games against Frank Kush and his Arizona State Sun Devils who have won the title three straight years. And this season will be an instant replay of the others. For the also-rans there will be, as UTEP's Bobby Dobbs puts it, "a scrambling to see who finishes second." Arizona stands the best chance, what with all but two conference games at home and 34 returning veterans, including 15 starters. Among them is QB Bill Demory, who passed for 1,384 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, and a defensive backfield of all-conference Bob White and Jackie Wallace, who snared 18 interceptions between them.
The Cougars of Brigham Young have a den full of veterans (28 in all), but they have an untested coach in LaVell Edwards. Golden (Boy) Richards was expected to work more miracles in the Cougar backfield but couldn't in the classroom. Orrin Olson, the youngest of the Brothers Olson (Merlin and Phil), will start at linebacker.
Up the road at Utah, the Redskins, who had a disastrous 3-8 record last season, hope to recover. If Coach Bill Meek, serving his fifth season, can find a quarterback who can find Ends Lance Robbins and Leo Gibby open, Utah could do some damage.
New Mexico, the second-place finisher last year, is still to be reckoned with. The Lobos lost four all-conference stars including Quarterback Rocky Long, but 244-pound Tackle John Urban and Halfback Fred Henry (who rushed for 1,129 yards last year) should keep them close.
UTEP is somewhat of a mystery, except for Quarterback Gary Keithley and Linebacker Tony Perea. There are more than 30 junior-college transfers enrolling, among whom is JC All-America Wide Receiver Lonnie Crittenden from Hutchinson Junior College. If he can click with Keithley the Miners might make a show of it. Wyoming is rebuilding but could spoil a few dreams, namely those of Utah and BYU. And the posters at Colorado State University tell this tale of woe: "Help Wanted: Quarterbacks, running backs, defensive ends. If you are ready to play for a major collegiate team in the Western Athletic Conference please call Colorado State Head Coach Jerry Wampfler for an appointment today."
To borrow from Bob Dylan: you don't need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows. It will be a typical cold front that swoops down from Hanover, N.H. and chills the league. In short, Dartmouth may not have as much trouble as it did last year when Ed Marinaro and Cornell gained a share of the Ivy title.
The Indian offense will bank on junior Halfback Rick Klupchak, who averaged six yards a carry and totaled 638, the most for any sophomore in Dartmouth history, including Coach Jake Crouthamel. Quarterback Steve Stetson had a .583 completion rate in the league and if he slips below .500 he might lose his position to Tom Snickenberger, a 6'5" sophomore. Again the Dartmouth defense is loaded with seniors, headed by Fred Radke, an end.
The most likely challengers are Columbia, if Quarterback Don Jackson remains healthy, and Harvard, with a backfield of Eric Crone (having a quarterback who has twice beaten Yale is never having to say you're sorry) and Halfbacks Ted DeMars and Rich Gatto. Jackson, who has had operations on both knees in the last two seasons, has all-Ivy Receiver Jesse Parks as a target and Linebacker Paul Kaliades to harass the opposition. Kaliades attended high school in New Jersey with Rich Glover, the middle guard who matriculated at Nebraska. Both know how to depress a ballcarrier.
Either Penn or Yale could develop in direct relation to the maturity of their sophomores. Adolph Bellizeare was the top rusher and scorer on a 4-1 Penn freshman squad and he could relieve Don Chine, one of the nation's better receivers, of some of the offensive burden. The Yale frosh were unbeaten in six games and could help Coach Carmen Cozza rebuild the offensive line for Halfback Dick Jauron.
Princeton may have defensive troubles and Cornell must revamp its offense now that Marinaro is gone, although Quarterback Mark Allen returns as does its best linebacker, Bob Lally. Brown, which never has much, has even less since Gary Bonner, who needed only 261 yards more to become the leading rusher in the school's history, left school. That's the way the wind blows.
As it turned out, it was an unusually fine spring in Richmond. The dogwoods bloomed as planned and, unexpectedly, so did freshman Billy Mock, who intercepted three passes and returned one 75 yards for a touchdown. That performance cemented the opinion that the Spiders would repeat as Southern Conference champs. Actually, the return of all-conference Fullback Barty Smith, Linebacker Pat Kelly and Defensive End John Nugent was enough to ensure success.
The title probably will not be decided until Nov. 18, however, when in the last game of the season William & Mary travels to Richmond. Last year the Indians were known for their collapsible defense—observable in too many fourth quarters. This year Coach Jim Root thinks he has the best team to come out of Lake Matoaka in many a year, assuming he can settle on a quarterback. John Gargano, Rip Scherer and Bill Deery are the candidates. Also back are Dave Knight, last year's 15th-ranked receiver, plus seven of 11 defensive starters.
The Citadel poses a threat with Quarterback Harry Lynch, the conference leader in total offense last year (2,092 yards), and Jon Hall, ranked 16th in the nation in rushing yardage. But Brian Baima (second in the nation in receptions) is gone and it is doubtful that there is anyone who can follow in his deceptive footsteps.
With 14 starters among 24 returning veterans, Appalachian State should be highly regarded. But it plays only four regular conference games and chose to have the results of the South Carolina game counted in the standings—so bye-bye title dreams. East Carolina has a good backfield in Carl Summerell, Les Strayhorn and Carlester Crumpler. Add Flanker Tim Dameron, but that's all. Furman is moaning the loss of Quarterback John DeLeo and Running Back Steve Crislip and will do more of it before it's all over. Davidson's Scotty Shipp, who passed for 1,135 yards last year, is back, but so are 20 other veterans who led the Wildcats to a 1-9 season. And "Mean" Gene Williams will have to be plenty if VMI is to avoid the cellar.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is caught up in the nostalgia boom, everyone recalling the talents of graduated players. No exception is the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels, who are missing eight of 11 defensive starters and Quarterback Paul Miller. Nor is the rest of the offensive backfield set. This may sound like a little too much nostalgia for a repeat as champions, but Coach Bill Dooley is unconcerned. His freshmen rolled over everyone last year with such scores as 61-0, 45-6 and 41-16 and the varsity starters who are back can play. Three All-ACC offensive linemen—Ron Rusnak, Jerry Sain and Bob Thornton—return. The brightest spot is Tailback Ike Oglesby, handicapped by a leg injury last year.
Clemson, like almost everyone else, is looking for a quarterback. Offensive Tackle Force Chamberlain and Eddie Seigler, who holds most of the Tiger field goal records, will help, but Clemson's big losses are at tight end and linebacker, vacated by two all-conference players.
Maryland has an exciting entry in Quarterback Al Neville, who led the conference in passing a year ago, and Split End Dan Bungori, the ACC record-holder for touchdown catches. Add to them a nearly veteran offensive line and the main obstacle en route to a Terrapin sweep is a young, shaky defense.
Duke has all-conference Defensive Back Bill Hanenberg and ground-gaining Tailback Steve Jones, but it also has Alabama, Washington and Stanford for its first three games. Virginia could be a surprise with speedy Tailback Kent Merritt, a veteran interior offensive line and two fine defensive ends in Billy Williams and Stan Land. But the Cavaliers need improvement at quarterback and must rely on a small, inexperienced defense.
Wake Forest has the nation's third leading punter, Chuck Ramsey, who may get more practice than he wants. The Deacons are minus most of their defensive backfield, their quarterback and the ACC's leading rusher, Larry Hopkins. At North Carolina State two talented running backs, Willie Burden and Charley Young, probably won't get a chance to show their true stuff.