Coach Hayden Fry, who wants North Texas State to attain enough status to allow the Mean Green to join the Southwest Conference, plays Texas early in the year. "We'll probably get whipped," he admits, "but you have to join 'em before you can beat 'em." Fry has changed just about everything at North Texas, including the team color, which is now apple green instead of Kelly green. But the status quo is more important; Fry has the top players back from the squad that upset Houston and Tennessee, including Nose Guard Walt Chapman, a 5'10", 245-pounder, and Free Safety J. T. Smith, both All-America candidates. He also has Ken ("Don't call me Kenny") Washington, younger brother of Joe Washington, the former Oklahoma All-America, who is exciting whether running or throwing on the run from Fry's pro-set offense.
San Diego State no longer will be throwing on every down. Quarterback Craig Penrose, the nation's leading passer in 1975, is gone, and the Aztecs have no one of his caliber around. But they do have junior-college transfer David (Deacon) Turner, who rushed for 1,796 yards, or 480 yards more than the Aztecs' team-rushing total. The defense sounds fearsome, with a pair of starting linebackers named Travis Hitt and Whip Walton.
Boston College lost Quarterback Mike Kruczek, the NCAA alltime passing percentage leader; Placekicker Fred Steinfort, BC's alltime leading scorer; Fullback Keith Barnette, a 2,500-yard career rusher; and All-East Center Don Macek. Yet there is hope. The defensive unit, ninth in the nation, returns 18 of 22 players from its two-deep alignment. Glen Capriola, who rushed for 846 yards, and Split End Dave Zumbach, the Eagles' alltime leading pass receiver, are back, too. Rutgers' basketball team finished its regular schedule undefeated, and now there is talk of an undefeated season in football as well. The schedule helps. The only big-name opponents standing in the way are Navy and Tulane, both away. Virginia Tech improved in a year from 4-7 to 8-3 and has its stingy defense back almost intact. Roscoe Coles (1,045 yards) and Paul Adams (768 yards) are two superior wishbone runners.
Southern Mississippi is home again after playing 22 games on the road while its stadium was being renovated. But the Golden Eagles will be hard pressed to find another quarterback as talented as Jeff Bower and will need more than a home-field advantage to match last season's 7-4 record.
September 5, 1976
University of Miami fans have seen some great football—much of it by the opposition. The Hurricanes, 2-8 last season, were called the best losing team in the country after dropping tough games to Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado and Florida, all of which went on to bowls. This year's soft schedule includes such breathers as Colorado, Nebraska, Pitt, Penn State, Notre Dame and Florida. Most of the young 1975 team is back, including Tackle Eddie Edwards, a 250-pounder who runs the 40 in 4.6, but the Hurricanes still need a quarterback. A 6-5 season would be terrific, 7-4 would be sensational.
Quarterback is also the sticking point at South Carolina, which must come up with a replacement for Jeff Grantz if the Gamecocks hope to match their 7-4 record. The heir apparent is Ron Bass, who rushed for 211 yards against North Carolina in 1974 but has undergone four operations since. Kevin Long and Clarence Williams each gained 1,000 yards and 252-pound Guard Steve Courson is All-America material, but as Coach Jim Carlen says, "Quarterback is what it's all about. If we can keep Bass healthy...."
Georgia Tech Coach Pepper Rodgers says, "When people ask who's at quarterback, I say Chaos. I have three or four prospects and no quarterbacks." Halfback David Sims, who set the school rushing record two years ago and broke his leg last season, should help the Yellow Jackets through a tough schedule, on which Pittsburgh and Tennessee have replaced Florida State and the U. of Miami. "That's a good trade for the alumni," says Rodgers, "a poor one for the coach."
Cincinnati's schedule is about its toughest ever, and the Bearcats have lost 26 lettermen. "If we win three games, I should be Coach of the Year," says Tony Mason. Memphis State hopes to upset Mississippi in its opener and later on (Nov. 6) knock off Tennessee for the first time ever. Don't bet on it.
West Virginia will find it difficult to match its 9-3 season, which included a Peach Bowl win, because only eight starters return. A realistic appraisal of the Mountaineers' future may have helped persuade Coach Bobby Bowden to move on to Florida State, but the prospects are not bright there, either. It could be a 3-8 season for the Seminoles. A 3-8 record would mean steady improvement at Marshall, which won once in 1974 and twice in 1975. Nonetheless, the Thundering Herd, whose outstanding wide receiver, John (Fuzzy) Filliez, has caught 128 passes in his three years as a starter, hopes for a winning season.
Tulane has a new coach in Larry Smith, a none-too-tough schedule and a chance to go 8-3. But it could do worse if Quarterback Terry Looney is not fully recovered from knee surgery. Utah State lost Louie Giammona, the nation's leading all-purpose rusher, now playing for the New York Jets.
Syracuse, a lowly 2-9 in 1974, would have ended up the most improved team in the country in 1975 if it had won its season finale against Rutgers. But it failed and finished 6-5, good but still disappointing. Despite Placekicker Dave Jacobs, who booted a 58-yarder among his 14 field goals, the Orange should do no better this fall. Holy Cross is rebuilding again.
Temple, which won its final five games, has a strong running attack (201.8 yards per game). At Villanova, the Owls' Philadelphia rival, Coach Dick Bedesem has installed a new wishbone offense and persuaded a wishbone quarterback named Dick Bedesem Jr. to transfer—from Temple. It will be virtually impossible for Navy to improve its 7-4 record, the Midshipmen's first winning year since 1967 and its best since 1963. Navy graduated 28 of 42 lettermen. Even so, it should beat Air Force and Army (2-8-1 and 2-9 last year) to retain the Commander-in-Chiefs Trophy.