As if Steel City fans don't have enough to gloat about, what with the NFL-champion Steelers and the World Series-winning Pirates, the University of Pittsburgh seems set to give the City of Champions yet another reason to celebrate. In addition to defensive standout Hugh Green, the Panthers have a wealth of experience and are coming off an 11-1 season. But it is a sophomore who holds the key. Last season, in his first game, Dan Marino replaced the injured three-year starter, Rick Trocano, at quarterback and completed 22 of 30 passes against Navy. Marino's stats for six full games—which included a 59.59 completion percentage—put him 10th in the NCAA efficiency standings. And his best game was also his biggest. Against Penn State he went 17 for 32 in a 29-14 victory.
In that game Fullback Randy McMillan picked up 114 yards on the ground and 93 on pass plays, for three touchdowns. He returns as the McStrength of the backfield, while Tight End Benjie Pryor is tops in Marino's receiving corps. Pryor made All-East in '79, catching 45 passes for 588 yards.
The linemen protecting Marino are, man for man, larger than the Steelers who keep the heat off Terry Bradshaw, and have logged almost as much time playing together. They include an Outland Trophy candidate, Tackle Mark May (6'6", 282 pounds), who didn't let his man touch either Trocano or Marino once all last season.
On defense, Green is but one of nine seniors returning to a group ranked fourth in the nation in total defense, allowing only 184.3 yards a game. That defense, according to Coach Jackie Sherrill, only began to jell as a unit in the 26-14 victory over Washington. It peaked against Penn State, forcing 12 punts.
On Oct. 25, Pitt will get a chance to show Johnny Majors, Sherrill's predecessor as Panther head coach, just what kind of a house Jackie has built in four years. Says Sherrill, "It's a nice challenge any time you get a chance to play your employer of eight years." It's even nicer when you get to play him on the way to a national championship.
2. OHIO STATE
Columbus is riding high on the Buckeyes and with good reason, considering the flourish with which Ohio State closed out last season: five straight victories by the lopsided total score of 226-20, an 18-15 defeat of archrival Michigan and then a Rose Bowl game that was lost to mighty USC by a single point. To be sure, Ohio State didn't exactly overwhelm Northwestern, the Big Ten's flyweight, and two other victories, over Minnesota and UCLA, were squeakers. What's more, Coach of the Year Earle Bruce, who proved to be something of a genius in molding last year's supposedly so-so team into a contender, and the man who brought the word respectability into currency at Iowa State, has yet to demonstrate what he can do with a team that is expected to win. Which is what Ohio State is expected to do every year.
But just about every Buckeye who mattered is back again, most significantly UPI's Big Ten Player of the Year Art Schlichter. A two-year starter at quarterback, Schlichter already is Ohio State's alltime leading passer, although he is now entering his junior year. He can be electrifying. Against UCLA, with State trailing 13-10 and time running out, Schlichter hit six consecutive passes in an 80-yard drive that produced the game-winning touchdown. Schlichter also seems to have eliminated the one flaw in his repertoire. As a freshman he was intercepted 21 times, but after a year's experience at spotting camouflaged defenses, he had only six passes picked off last season.
Gliding under those passes once again will be Doug (White Lightning) Donley, who, after hauling in 37 for 800 yards in 1979, is a good bet to become the alltime leading Buckeye receiver, and Gary Williams, whose 25 catches included a 67-yarder for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl. Back, too, is Tailback Calvin Murray, the leading rusher, and Tim Spencer, an undersized (6'1", 204 pounds) but very quick fullback. Bruce can also call on Vaughn Broadnax, a freshman fullback from Xenia, Ohio and the state schoolboy heavyweight wrestling champion. Another freshman figures to press Tight End Brad Dwelle for game time, namely Judd Groza, whose dad is The Toe.
On defense, eight starters return to a unit that was the most difficult to score on in the Big Ten, allowing only 9.9 points per game. Linebacker Alvin Washington was the team's leading tackier last season, and he and Tackle Jerome Foster are the linchpins of a redoubtable defense. The secondary is all veteran and all hard-hitting, most notably Cornerback Todd Bell. If the Buckeyes have weaknesses, they could be at the offensive middle, where there are new faces at guard, center and both tackles, but Guard Joe Lukens looks like a good one.
"A year ago we had no confidence," says Donley. "Even when we were rolling, no one seemed too secure. But this year we know what we can do." Which, presumably, means win the whole thing.
Poker players whose hole cards are hiding a full house try not to jump up and down, but sometimes it's difficult not to. So when Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne says, "We could be a good team," something must be up. Something is. Tom Osborne has a heckuva hand.
Although four of five starters in each interior line and All-America Tight End Junior Miller have moved on, Osborne has reason to be confident. Miller, who was drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Falcons, was pushed all last season by Jeff Finn and Steve Davies, both of whom are now seniors with two letters apiece. There was so much depth at the position, Osborne often used a two-tight-end offense. He will again.
As for the offensive line, the Cornhuskers annually rebuild that, because being a senior is practically a prerequisite for starting in Lincoln. The surprise first-teamer this season is Tackle Randy Theiss, only the fourth sophomore lineman in 10 years to start for the Cornhuskers. And though Defensive End Derrie Nelson may be the only returning starter on the line that ranked second in the nation in rushing defense (93.1 yards per game), he is, in Osborne's words, "as good a defensive end as we've ever had." Says Nelson modestly, "In our system the linebackers control a lot of things and we're strong there." Strong means seniors Brent Williams and Kim Baker, who had 172 tackles between them, backed up by sophomores Steve McWhirter and Steve Damkroger. The fact is, the Cornhuskers are loaded. "This is the fastest and strongest team we've ever had," Osborne concedes, an admission that should chill Nebraska opponents.
Although Tailback Jarvis Redwine rushed for 1,100 yards, averaged 6.7 yards a carry and scored nine touchdowns despite a late-season ankle injury, he is considered even with, not ahead of, Craig Johnson, who has bulked up from 185 to 197 pounds. Also on hand is sophomore Roger Craig, who led all the Cornhusker ballcarriers in the spring game with 79 yards rushing. "We have such good backs that this year I shouldn't have to run much," says Quarterback Jeff Quinn. A part-time starter last year, Quinn had been criticized for running too much, starting with the opener, a 35-14 defeat of Utah State, in which he gained 112 yards on 19 carries. All told, Quinn ran 77 times for 245 yards in his four starts, while completing 57 of 110 passes for 702 more.
Nebraska's schedule is in its favor. Non-conference opponents are rebuilding, and the Huskers' toughest Big Eight games are at home, including the last of the season—the showdown with Oklahoma Nov. 22. By then Osborne's cards should all be on the table, and a No. 1 ranking could be on the line.
From tight end to split end, Alabama's entire national championship offensive line is gone. So, too, are the quarterback and fullback. Thus the Tide attack in next week's opener against Georgia Tech will boast a grand total of two seasoned starters. The defense, at least as it looked in spring practice, left Coach Bear Bryant none too thrilled, either. "Some people on defense have high opinions of themselves," growled Bryant. "That makes for large heads and small hearts."
But don't dial 911, or begin to imagine that the likes of Georgia will dominate the Southeastern Conference. Alabama has lost a player or two before, and of Bryant's last seven teams, five won 11 games and one won 12. The have-nots over that stretch, those underachievers of 1976, won only nine.
That it may take some time for the offense to coalesce doesn't mean much if opponents can't score. Sixteen starters and reserves return from the 1979 defensive unit that allowed just 58 points all season and flat shut out five opponents. That grudging group includes all-conference honorees E.J. Junior, Byron Braggs, Thomas Boyd, Jim Bob Harris and Tommy Wilcox.
Don Jacobs, 6'2" senior, makes his debut as starting quarterback. He's the guy who came off the bench to get the Tide a rousing come-from-behind 27-17 victory over Tennessee last October. Jacobs averaged 6.1 yards a carry in 73 tries and threw for two touchdowns, though he attempted only 23 passes. He has four potential targets: James Mallard, Jesse Bendross, Joey Jones and Keith Marks; Marks' main claim to fame is that his first college catch became a 48-yard TD.
Major Oglivie, the Sugar Bowl MVP, and Billy Jackson, runner-up to Oglivie by half a vote, provide experience and quality at halfback, while Mark Nix (five yards a carry), James Haney (4.9) and Mitch Ferguson (4.2), among others, supply additional running power. Up front is a lot of youth, but it isn't all that callow, five linemen having played enough to win letters.
Cornerback Boyd likens this year's offense to last year's defense. "We were young and matched up with a great veteran offense last spring and they made us look lousy," he says, "...until we got into a game and faced somebody else. Then the trouble was gone." Says Line Coach Dee Powell: "We lack experience but not guts or pride. I'll be surprised if we're not right where we want to be after a few games."
Incentive runs high. Alabama is shooting for an unprecedented third straight national title, and Bryant has one more personal goal, to surpass Amos Alonzo Stagg's record of 314 victories and become college football's winningest coach ever. Bear, with 296, can't do it this year, but every win brings him closer.
There was a time when Houston was scorned as "Cougar High," but Coach Bill Yeoman's teams have played in the Cotton Bowl three of the last four years, and around the SWC the game is now being called "The Cougar Invitational." Most of the credit goes to master innovator Yeoman, who each year wins, despite signing fewer blue chip prospects than any other SWC contender. Before last season, the Dallas Cowboys' personnel chief, Gil Brandt, correctly predicted that Houston would win the SWC. When skeptics pointed out that the Cougars had lost quite a few starters, Brandt replied, "Yeah, but Bill Yeoman's back."
And so he is once again, filling the gaps (seven of them left on the defense this fall) in his usual Yeoman fashion. Two nongaps are defensive tackles Hosea Taylor and Leonard Mitchell, who will be clogging up the middle, as is their wont. Taylor is 6'5", 265 pounds; Mitchell is 6'7", 270 pounds. Taylor made headlines when, with four seconds remaining at Arkansas, he blocked a field-goal try that would have given the Razorbacks a 13-13 tie. Instead the Cougars won the game, and the conference title. Mitchell is agile enough to play on Houston's basketball team, where he scored 62 points and had 64 rebounds in 1978-79. And if the Cougars ever field a gourmand squad, they're both in. At a Dallas steak house recently, each consumed two 24-ounce sirloins. Cornerback Donnie Love, who had five interceptions in his sophomore year, is the top returnee to the secondary that ranked 10th in the nation in '79.
Running from Yeoman's veer will be 5'9", 196-pound Terald Clark and 5'11", 205-pound John Newhouse (a cousin of the Cowboys' Robert Newhouse), who together accounted for over 1,700 yards last season. Quarterback Terry Elston, a backup to Delrick Brown last year, came off the bench four times to engineer come-from-behind, fourth-quarter wins. He produced the winning touchdown in the Cotton Bowl in the final 12 seconds on a six-yard pass to Flanker Eric Herring, his top target this season.
The missing ingredient in Houston's offense is a backup quarterback of Elston's '79 caliber. If he's injured—a real possibility considering how often quarterbacks run off the veer—the Cougars will be in big trouble. None of his replacements has even a minute of playing experience. And, of course, Elston will be under a great deal more pressure as a starter than he was as a reliever. Says Yeoman, "In my first year at West Point, when I knew I wasn't going to start, I worried more about my postgame date than the game itself. But in our opener at UCLA last fall, Brown became ill and Elston had to replace him. Now Terry's learning what Brown went through. There are no more laughs for Terry because of the pressure. He realizes the job he has to do. We expect him to come through...and he'd better."
Because of problems beyond the control of Coach John Robinson, the next episode of The Trojans Invade Pasadena has been postponed by the Pac-10. Certainly not by USC itself, despite the fact that long-running star Charles White and 10 members of the cast that finished No. 2 in the nation last year in both AP and UPI polls are now in the NFL. You will recall the closing scene of last season's show, White vaulting over the Ohio State line for a 17-16 victory in the Rose Bowl. This year look for similar performances from his replacement, 6'2", 202-pound Marcus Allen. A former fullback, he rushed for 649 yards in '79 when he was not blocking for White, and Robinson says Allen "is going to be one of the great backs in the nation." Succeeding Quarterback Paul McDonald, who has moved on to the Cleveland Browns with White, is a fifth-year senior, Gordon Adams. He wasn't recruited; Adams simply walked in and allowed that he'd like to be a quarterback. Although he hasn't started a game since high school or thrown a pass at USC, he won the assignment in spring practice. Already he can match McDonald in one area. Adams has a 3.70-grade-point average in business administration (McDonald graduated with a 3.25 in the same field).
If the backfield is loaded with former understudies, they at least share the field with established performers. Strong-side Tackle Keith Van Home and Guard Roy Foster were All-Pac-10, and Weak-side Tackle Don Mosebar was a standout throughout his freshman year. Adams also will have Flanker Kevin (Bug) Williams back to catch passes. Last year Williams pulled in 25 for a 19.6 average gain and eight touchdowns.
At tight end, Robinson is considering three players. Hoby Brenner is the best receiver and James Hunter (6'4", 235 pounds) the best blocker, while Vic Rakhshani will probably line up at flanker. Defense should be this team's strength. Of seven returning starters, three are All-America candidates: Riki Gray, who will start at inside linebacker for the third season, and safeties Ronnie Lott and Dennis Smith; Robinson says he wouldn't trade Lott or Smith for any in the nation.
Several times last season the Trojan pass rush broke down. During one of those lapses, Stanford's Turk Schonert put 21 points on the board in the second half and gave USC the only blemish on its record—a tie. Four players will be used at the three inside line positions: Nose-guard George Achica, tackles Ty Sperling and Dennis Edwards and Charles Ussery, a 6'4", 240-pound pass-rush specialist.
While the Trojans' schedule isn't as taxing as in past years, they do play Cal, Stanford and Washington on successive weeks: a heavy burden to bear with no hope for roses at season's end.
Coach Lou Holtz is doing his poor-little-ol'-me routine again. Last year he said he didn't have any football players—then produced a Sugar Bowl team. What does Holtz say the Razorbacks can't possibly do this year? Well, win the Southwest Conference, for one thing. "In any other conference we would be the team they'd all have to beat," he moans. "In the SWC we're a contender, and there are only eight others."
Most people think Holtz' best bit of sleight of hand was winning 10 of 12 games last year despite so many injuries that only Free Safety Kevin Evans started all 12. All told, 41 different people started at the 22 positions. Still, Arkansas would have been undefeated in the regular season if 5'7" Ish Ordonez hadn't had a field-goal attempt blocked on the last play of the Houston game. "Ish can't get down about things like that," says Holtz. "He's too short."
Taking into account the many lineup changes, Holtz estimates he has 10 "starters" back on defense. "Of course," he says, "they weren't all that good last year. It's kinda like measles. You're not sure you want 'em again." There goes ol' poor-mouth again. Holtz admits, "I'm very pleased with our secondary, our linebackers and our defensive ends, and I'm no longer concerned about our interior defensive linemen." What has made that concern vanish is sophomore Billy Ray Smith, the son and namesake of the former Baltimore Colt lineman who played at Arkansas in the mid-'50s. "This spring we couldn't keep him out of our plays," marvels Arkansas' best offensive lineman, Right Guard George Stewart. "I pity the offensive linemen who will be told to block him the next three years."
Holtz has sold thousands of copies of his manual on the veer T offense Arkansas has used the past three years, but this spring the Razorbacks ran every play out of the I. The reason is that the Hogs have had trouble scoring from in close to the goal on the veer T and have had to call on Ordonez too often. More important, Arkansas lacks experience at quarterback, and, as Holtz points out, "In the veer the quarterback is the focal point of everything. In the I we can control what our quarterback has to do." The successor to all-SWC signal-caller Kevin Scanlon is Tom Jones, younger brother of the Colts' Bert.
Whichever formation the Razorbacks use, Arkansas has plenty of running backs. The best is versatile Gary Anderson, who led the team last year as a freshman with 1,240 yards running, catching and returning kicks. "This spring we used Gary at wide receiver, wingback and tailback in the I and as a running back in the veer," says Holtz, "and we still haven't found anything he can't do." The other starting running back should be another sophomore, Darryl Bowles, who spent the summer in the county workhouse for rustling a cow. Holtz is complaining that his fullback won't be ready for the Sept. 1 opener with Texas. Beware. Holtz may be hustling Longhorns.
In the '70s Oklahoma won 102 of 118 games—87.7%, tops in the country. In the final polls the Sooners placed No. 1 twice, No. 2 twice and No. 3 three times. Not once were they shut out. On top of that, Sooner players won a Lombardi Trophy (Lee Roy Selmon), two Outland Trophies (Selmon and Greg Roberts) and a Heisman (Billy Sims). As a new decade begins, Oklahoma's still O.K., but not quite as formidable. "We have less talent now than at any time since the '60s," says Coach Barry Switzer. "I see a lot of cliff-hangers."
Last year Oklahoma was 11-1 but was given fits by its three top-quality opponents: the Sooners edged Missouri by two points, Nebraska by three and flat lost to Texas. Without Sims Oklahoma might well have dropped all three games, and Sims has departed. "We just don't have a great back," Switzer says. "And great backs have been our edge against the best teams on our schedule."
To the less-than-best opponents, that is small consolation, because once again Oklahoma has the biggest, most belligerent linemen around. On offense, such formidable blockers as guards Terry Crouch (6'1", 275), Don Key (6'2", 250) and Steve Williams (6'2", 268), as well as tackles Louis Oubre (6'4", 262), Elbert Graham (6'3", 275), Lyndle Byford (6'5", 280) and Ed Culver (6'3", 275) will simply blow away most of the men they face. No wonder Oklahoma led the nation in rushing in 1978 and was second last fall. At 6', 230 pounds, Tight End Forrest Valora is dwarfed by the biggies, but he's Oklahoma's strongest player and probably its toughest. Valora was knocked unconscious in a sideline collision with a TV camera minutes before the Texas game. But he played all four quarters anyway, with a dozen fresh stitches sewn in his forehead.
Behind these blockers are three dependable backs, including Quarterback J.C. Watts, who knows how to win. Fullback Stanley Wilson started last year as a freshman and averaged 6.5 yards a carry, a mere fifth of a yard less than Sims himself. Senior David Overstreet has yet to live up to his billing, but this year he might. And who knows what to expect of freshman George (Buster) Rhymes, who refers to himself as "Buster, the Man with Luster."
Switzer's chief worry is on defense, where both linebackers and both ends are new, and the secondary will miss Co-captain Darrol Ray. But Tackles Keith Gary and Richard Turner will again fill in the middle. In 1979 Turner was the team's No. 1 tackier, and Gary, the Big Eight newcomer of the year, led the conference in tackles for losses. Another plus materialized in spring drills when lightly regarded Steve Haworth beat out Darrell Songy for the free-safety spot. Now Songy is a strong safety and cornerback.
Those potential cliff-hangers of Switzer's include games with Texas, Nebraska and Missouri, plus Gator Bowl champ North Carolina and, possibly, Stanford. Too many, it seems, for Oklahoma to dominate the first year of the '80s.
The head coach is new. So are six of his assistants. The star of the team hasn't played in 21 months. The defense gave up 239 points in 11 games last year and was on the field so much of the time all the offensive players should get another year of eligibility. But still, Stanford is in the thick of the Rose Bowl race, such as it is, with the Pac-10 Conference in a shambles and half of it—five teams, including USC—ineligible for bowl play.
Eligible and worthy, the Cardinals have a platoon of gifted ballcarriers and a passing game that can score from San Francisco. Stanford may yield a ton of points, but it can score even more, especially since the return of Halfback Darrin Nelson, who missed all of last season after snapping a hamstring long-jumping at a track meet. In 1977, as a freshman, Nelson became the only collegian ever to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 50 passes in a single season. In 1978 he did it again.
With Nelson sidelined last year, Flanker Ken Margerum stepped forward to snare 41 passes for 733 yards, 10 TDs (a Pac-10 high) and All-America honors. Margerum has already surpassed Dallas Cowboy Tony Hill as Stanford's all-time leader in touchdown receptions with 19. Yet the real surprise of the year was Split End Andre Tyler, a part-timer the previous season, who hauled in 45 passes, tops on the team.
The last three NCAA passing champions—Guy Benjamin (in 1977), Steve Dils ('78) and Turk Schonert (79)—all came from Stanford. Now sophomore John Elway has the ball. As a sub last fall, he completed 50 of 96 passes (52%) for 544 yards and had six touchdowns, breaking the school record for freshmen previously held by Benjamin. He'll get time to pass, too, because the interior line has four returning 1979 starters, including 6'7", 270-pound Tackle Brian Holloway.
A year ago the defense showed its potential when it blanked USC in the second half to preserve a 21-21 tie. And the expertise that the defenders gained in practicing against two of the nation's best throwing quarterbacks was evident in the way they shut down most passing games. But on the ground, Stanford was burned for 4.3 yards a play. An improvement is likely now that 1978 Blue-bonnet Bowl standout Tom Hall has returned at linebacker after sitting out 1979 with an injured Achilles tendon. And Linebacker Milt McColl has recovered from a sore shoulder that hampered him last fall. Stanford's entire kicking game is the responsibility of Ken Naber, the country's No. 11 returning punter (42.4-yard average). As for Naber's field-goal ability, his 56-yarder with no time left on the clock beat the Bruins 27-24.
The new coach is Stanford alumnus Paul Wiggin, a 15-year veteran of NFL coaching and a defensive whiz. A Stanford team that is actually concerned about defense is one of the novelties of the season.
10. BRIGHAM YOUNG
What can BYU do for an encore? In 1979 it went 11-0, winning the WAC championship in a nationally televised 63-14 romp over San Diego State. In that game the Cougars scored their 63 points in 66 plays. All in all, BYU led the nation in total offense, scoring on passes, and in kickoff returns. The Cougars gained an average of seven yards every time they snapped the ball. With 14 starters and 19 second-teamers returning, the encore may well be more of the same.
All-America Quarterback Marc Wilson has been succeeded by Jim McMahon, who had beaten Wilson out of the job in 1978 and in that year was All-WAC. McMahon sat out 1979 following knee surgery. Now he will have Wilson's top seven receivers to throw to, a group that caught no fewer than 228 passes, 23 of them for touchdowns. Most dangerous among them is Lloyd Jones, who averaged 22.3 yards on 33 catches.
Though not celebrated for its ground game, BYU does have a pair of tailbacks who each gained more than 500 yards rushing. One, Eric Lane, scored five touchdowns against Utah State, an NCAA high for the season, and averaged 6.3 yards a carry. The other tailback, Homer Jones, is so versatile that in national rankings he placed fifth in kickoff returns, seventh in all-purpose running and 11th in receiving.
If BYU has a weakness, it is its offensive line, which, supposedly, is rebuilding. But then, Tackle Nick Eyre was All-WAC last season, as was Tight End Clay Brown, who doubles as a punter and last year led the country with a 45.3-yard average. Moreover, among the newcomers, Guard Calvin Close started two years ago and Tackle Ray Linford was a projected starter for 1979 until he underwent an appendectomy in September. When Texas A&M All-America Jacob Green played nose-to-nose against Eyre last September he made exactly zero tackles all game.
Six of BYU's top eight linemen return to a defense that was the stingiest in the WAC (yielding 11 points a game). Most notable are End Glen Titensor, the team leader in what is called "quarterback hurries," and Tackle Pulusila Filiaga, whom everybody calls "Junior." Linebacker Glen Redd is going to be heard from, too.
LaVell Edwards became the Cougar coach in 1972, taking over a 5-6 team at a school that had never gone to a bowl game. That year BYU finished 7-4. Since then Edwards' teams have won or shared four WAC titles, received four bowl bids and popped in and out of the Top 20. Edwards has been blessed with marvelous quarterbacks: Gary Sheide, Nielsen, Wilson, and now McMahon. "The way for us to compete," he says, "is to play sound defense, then try to pass the other team dizzy."
Let us now pay homage to Purdue quarterbacks, and in particular the incumbent. As he begins his senior year, Mark Herrmann has already surpassed the career records of Len Dawson, Bob Griese and Mike Phipps. If his name isn't familiar, well, Purdue didn't appear on network TV once last year though it had a 10-2 record and defeated Tennessee in the Bluebonnet Bowl. The oversight will be remedied on Sept. 6, when the Boilermakers meet Notre Dame and get national exposure. A good showing could serve as a springboard for Herrmann's Heisman hopes and Purdue's bid for a third straight bowl game.
So steamed up are Purdue fans that they have been permitting themselves thoughts of breaking the 12-year-old Michigan-Ohio State hold on the Rose Bowl. Even Boilermaker Pete, the school's paper-hatted mascot, has been given a tougher look, which may match that of the team.
Big question: Can Herrmann compensate for a defense that's being rebuilt? Purdue plays what it calls a "junk defense," a shifting five-man front composed of three interior linemen and two outside linebackers. Three of last year's five starters on that front moved on to the NFL. Still on hand is Tackle Calvin Clark, a quick, 6'5", 260-pounder referred to by Coach Jim Young as "the key." The other holdover is an outside linebacker, Tom (Kamikaze) Kingsbury. He earned his nickname by leading the team in tackles and as captain of the specialty squads.
The Boilermakers hope to force opponents to the air this year because they boast one of the best secondaries in school history. Safety Bill Kay tied for the Big Ten lead last year with seven interceptions.
So much for defense. That's not what's selling out Ross-Ade Stadium. Herrmann is. During spring drills he wore a flak jacket similar to the one Dan Pastorini used after he injured his ribs at Houston, and he often throws from a shotgun formation, the better to keep unfriendly paws off him. "The more I throw the ball, the more accurate I get," says Herrmann. "It's a rhythm thing." In 1979 he completed 203 of 348 for 56.6%.
Herrmann may not have to pass all that much this year. Purdue can run some, too. But his targets may prove too tempting for him to hand off with any regularity. They include Tight End Dave Young, a 6'6", 242-pounder who led the team last year with 55 catches for 584 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Split End Bart Burrell, Herrmann's high school teammate from Carmel (Ind.) High. Yet another skillful receiver is Steven Bryant, a transfer from Los Angeles Southwest Community College and the fastest footballer at Purdue since Larry Burton, who also ran the 200-meters in the '72 Olympics.
Herrmann goes into the season with 530 completions in 941 attempts for 6,734 yards and 48 touchdowns—all Big Ten records. What is his 1980 goal? "We still haven't gone to the Rose Bowl," he says. "That's my No. 1 goal."
12. NORTH CAROLINA
He enters his senior year as the NCAA's leading active rusher, with 3,273 yards. In spite of limping through about one-third of every campaign, he has had 1,000-yard seasons in each of his first three years, the only man other than Tony Dorsett to have done so. He has a chance to become the fourth man, after Archie Griffin, Dorsett and Charles White, to pass the 5,000-yard mark. His name? Amos Lawrence. You've never heard of him? Well, around Chapel Hill, Famous Amos is almost as famous for his injuries as his yardage. In the 17 games in which Lawrence was O.K. over the past three years, the Tar Heels were 15-1-1. On Lawrence's gimpy days last year, the team was 1-3-1, which explains why it finished fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. When Lawrence was going full speed, Carolina was 6-0, and that explains why it played in the Gator Bowl. There the Heels upset Michigan 17-15 as Lawrence rushed for 118 yards.
That occasion marked Carolina's seventh bowl trip of the '70s, not bad for a basketball school. Now the Tar Heels seem bowl-bound again. They are particularly strong in the offensive line, where four of five starters are back to block for Lawrence. Coach Dick Crum calls 6'4", 260-pound Guard Ron Wooten "possibly the best offensive lineman in college football." Another outstanding blocker up front is Tight End Shelton Robinson, who is so effective on running plays that he starts ahead of Mike Chatham, who was All-ACC at the position last year. Chatham, who plays mostly on passing downs, set a Tar Heel record and tied the ACC mark for touchdown catches with eight. At quarterback, Rod Elkins, a sophomore with a strong arm, gained the starting spot when Chuck Sharpe tore the ligaments in his left knee in practice in late August. Soccer-style Kicker Jeff Hayes booted a 53-yard field goal in the spring game, the longest in the 53-year history of Kenan Stadium. Last year Punter Steve Streater averaged 41.2 yards and, as a free safety, tied for the team lead with five interceptions. (His brother Jimmy is the former Tennessee quarterback.)
Overall, the secondary could stand improvement. In the line, North Carolina is tough against the run, particularly on the wide side of the field, which is patrolled by Outside Linebacker Lawrence Taylor. At 237 pounds, Taylor is light on his feet, and Crum claims he ranks with Pittsburgh's Hugh Green. At defensive tackle, 6'5", 270-pound Donnell Thompson sometimes loses interest against weak teams, but in big games—like the '79 victories over South Carolina, Pitt and Michigan—he's a terror. Thompson had seven tackles, including a sack, against the Gamecocks, six solos against the Panthers and eight altogether against the Wolverines. All told, he sacked the opposing quarterback five times last season.
During the Sun Bowl festivities in El Paso two years ago, two Texas players, Safety Ricky Churchman and Guard Joe Shearin, contributed to the entertainment at a luncheon with a two-man imitation of the late Elvis Presley doing Heartbreak Hotel. The scene is worth remembering at the start of the new season if only because Coach Fred Akers must feel as though he's taking a walk down Lonely Street when he thinks of Churchman and the seven other defensive starters he will have to replace.
"On defense, we're starting over," says Akers. Gone are the top four defensive ends and top two tackles. Gone from the secondary, along with Churchman, are his All-Southwest Conference mates Derrick Hatchett and Johnnie Johnson. And gone is the unit that held its opponents to 8.2 points and 184.3 yards per game.
But one defensive unit, at least, is set and strong: at linebacker will be junior Bruce Scholtz and returning starters Robin Sendlein and Doug Shankle, who led the team in tackles with 138. Akers says, "They are as good as anyone in the country, and I don't care how young the rest of the unit is; we're always going to compete." Coming from anyone other than Akers, this would seem a case of whistling past the graveyard. But in his three years at Texas, Akers has confounded prophets of doom and guided the Longhorns to a 29-7 record and three bowl berths.
Nonetheless, Akers is going to have to rely on his offense if he is to keep on winning big. Fortunately, the offense is experienced and has recovered from numerous injuries. Eight first-stringers are back, three of whom were hurt last season or in spring practice. Among them are running backs A.J. (Jam) Jones and Rodney Tate, who together accounted for 1,148 yards in 242 carries last season.
As to who will be optioning the ball off to them, Akers is shopping around. The heir apparent at quarterback, Donnie Little, who threw for 750 yards and ran for 410 more before injuring the arch of his right foot, will be the starter, but when Akers wants to go to the air, he'll probably look to Rick McIvor, seeking a performance like the one the sophomore put on against Baylor. In that game, McIvor completed 12 of 24 for 270 yards, a school record. "I've seen Rick throw it 80 yards flat-footed," says Wide Receiver Les Koenning. "I know who I'd like to see in there."
Unlike last season, when Texas was the last major team to open its schedule (Sept. 22), this year the Longhorns get an early test—on Labor Day—at home against Arkansas. That game may be even more intense than usual as a result of the emotional aftermath of Texas' 14-17 defeat at the toe of the Razorbacks' Ish Ordonez last October. Barefoot Kicker John Goodson, who ended up in fourth place behind Ordonez in the NCAA rankings, may be the man to keep Akers out of Heartbreak Hotel.
Because Coach Vince Dooley's I-formation is built around the tailback, as he goes, so goes Georgia. Last year, when sophomore Matt Simon went mostly to the doctor because of injuries, Georgia went sour, finishing a disappointing 6-5. So Dooley went shopping, and last Easter he announced the signing of Herschel Walker, perhaps the most heavily recruited running back in the nation. At Johnson County High in Wrightsville, Ga., Walker ran for 45 touchdowns in his senior year, increasing his grand total to 86, both national high school records, and he gained a whopping 3,167 yards. He also won the state high school 100-and 200-yard dashes and at 6'1", 218 pounds was strong enough to win the state shotput title, too. The recruiting of this paragon caused such unreal expectations that Dooley may attempt to ease Walker into the lineup gradually, but that may not be feasible: the Bulldogs open against SEC rival Tennessee, a resurgent team, and face Texas A&M the next week.
Even a Herschel Walker needs an occasional block, and there the Bulldogs may be lacking. Gone are two All-Conference players, Center Ray Donaldson and Tackle Matt Braswell. Offensive Line Coach Wayne McDuffie admits his unit "isn't as physical as it has been in the past."
To take some of the pressure off the tailback, Dooley plans to have junior Quarterback Buck Belue throw the ball more often. Belue has a talented group of receivers, led by Split End Lindsay Scott, a burner who anchors the school's 440-yard relay team. And Belue won't have to move the ball far for Kicker Rex Robinson, who has booted two field goals of more than 50 yards and, with 40 three-pointers, already holds the SEC record for career field goals.
The Georgia defense should be strongest where it has been weak in recent years, in the interior of the line. With the likes of 270-pound Defensive Guard Eddie (Meat Cleaver) Weaver, the Bulldogs will have plenty of inside muscle. They need it: Dooley's defense uses just three defensive backs. The two linebackers often crowd up to give the appearance of an eight-man line. This so-called "perimeter defense" is effective against teams that run wide but has proved vulnerable against opponents such as Auburn, Clemson and South Carolina, which probe inside. "That's the way I'd try to beat our defense," says Guard Tim Morrison, "just keep pounding between the tackles. Under that kind of pressure sooner or later it would crack."
In the Southeastern Conference's system of rotating opponents, Georgia hasn't played Alabama since 1977 and won't face the Crimson Tide again until 1984. In case of a championship tie, the SEC slot in the Sugar Bowl is denied the team that played there more recently. Thus if Georgia can tie Alabama for the title this year, it will be the Bulldogs who spend New Year's Day in New Orleans.
Bookmakers say, "Folks who bet on Missouri don't like money." Indeed, in two seasons under Warren Powers, the Tigers have had more ups and downs than a commuter airline. Two years ago they upset Notre Dame and Nebraska, but couldn't beat Big Eight pushovers Oklahoma State and Colorado. Last fall Missouri crushed strong South Carolina in the Hall of Fame Bowl and came awfully close to upsetting high-ranked Oklahoma (page 70) and higher-ranked Nebraska, losing both games by a total of five points. But the Tigers also lost to Kansas State, a team that won no other conference games.
Fully predictable, however, is what Missouri will do with the football—Quarterback Phil Bradley will keep it, throw it or hand it to Fullback James Wilder. In 522 of 750 downs from scrimmage last season, Wilder or Bradley ended up with the ball. "Some people say we're too basic," admits Assistant Coach Mike Price. "But we say let's hand it off and let the defense try to stop us."
Wilder is probably the Big Eight's best fullback when fit, as evidenced by the fact that last season he had 645 yards rushing and caught 20 passes, despite missing two games with an ankle injury. In short-yardage situations, everyone knows Wilder will get the ball but, as Price says, he's murder to stop. The problem is that in too many not-so-short situations, Wilder also gets the ball, and everyone expects it then, too. What makes him excel, in part, is a formidable line that features Center Brad Edelman and Tackle Howard Richards.
Bradley, twice an All-Conference quarterback, needs to pass and run for 1,171 yards to supplant Lynn Dickey (Kansas State, 1968-70) as the Big Eight's alltime career total yardage leader. He is extremely quick and throws on the run with accuracy. Under his tosses will be junior college transfer Ron Fellows, a flanker, and Tight End Andy Gibler, a midseason find who made 21 of his 23 receptions in Missouri's last six games and, as Curt Gowdy might say, is only a sophomore.
Yet Missouri's greatest asset is defense, especially its secondary and most especially Safety Eric Wright, who recovered three fumbles, intercepted four passes and broke up eight more in '79. One Tiger coach calls him "a competitor, a spiritual leader, a wild man." Up front, Defensive End Wendell Ray is pretty much ditto.
Though Missouri plays both Oklahoma and Nebraska away, it has dropped Texas and doesn't face its usual suicidal schedule. Also, there are 26 seniors, making the Tigers the conference's most experienced team. Says Powers, "The lessons learned from the disappointments of last year should be a strength." So, eight or nine wins and a third consecutive bowl bid are entirely possible.
And though Oklahoma or Nebraska always wins the Big Eight title, Missouri's in the running. In fact, if you don't like money——
16. FLORIDA STATE
Florida State is the home of the Flying High Circus, the only collegiate circus in the U.S. Its performers occasionally come down, but after the Seminoles' 11-0 season, an Orange Bowl appearance and a Top 10 ranking, FSU fans are still way up in the clouds. And the team should be tougher this fall. Trouble is, the schedule is tougher, too.
This year Nebraska and Pittsburgh are in the offing, and the Seminoles open away at LSU, which is like starting the New Year with a hangover in a boiler factory. But while another undefeated regular season seems unlikely, so does anything worse than an 8-3 finish and another bowl bid.
With free-slinging quarterbacks Jimmy Jordan and Wally Woodham gone, Florida State can no longer boast the air attack that ripped opponents for an amazing 7,700 yards the past three seasons. But new Quarterback Rick Stock-still isn't bad. Against Memphis State last fall he completed six of seven passes and orchestrated two touchdowns, all in one quarter's work. The next morning, it was announced that he had a lock on the job and any other contenders would have to beat him out. His main target, Hardis Johnson, started in the Orange Bowl as a freshman. And unlike Woodham and Jordan, who were too small to carry the ball much, Stockstill, belying that wonderful name, runs as well as he passes. He is a robust 6'2", 190 pounds. Indeed, this team's capacity to run makes it even more potent than its predecessors. Tailback Homes Johnson, a starter in 1978 who sat out last year for personal reasons, is playing again, and Homes isn't even going to start. Sam Piatt is. He's a former wide receiver who moved to tailback in the spring and broke at least one big run every time the Seminoles scrimmaged. Back to open up holes is three-year starter Ken Lanier, a tackle whom Coach Bobby Bowden plucked out of Columbus, Ohio, from under the nose of Woody Hayes. If you get the idea that Florida State will run more, don't fight it. When it comes to football strategies, "I've always believed in blocking and tackling," Bowden says. "Everything else is irrelevant."
Returning to do the tackling are eight starters and eight second-teamers who were greatly responsible for the nation's 10th-best defense. Linebackers Reggie Herring and Paul Piurowski are both two-year starters, Cornerback Bobby Butler a three-year starter. Butler is conspicuous defending against punts. He has blocked six of them. Then there is Ron Simmons, the All-America noseguard who finished ninth in the 1979 Heisman Trophy vote (page 30).
"Last season we were the No. 1 independent in the nation," Bowden says. "I'm sure Pittsburgh will object to me saying that. But it means that now we've got a lot to live up to." The living-up might not be easy, but the reckoning will be conclusive. The Panthers visit Tallahassee on Oct. 11. That'll be some circus.
Under Coach Doug Barfield, Auburn has reversed itself. In the four years since Barfield succeeded the late Shug Jordan, the Tigers have improved from 3-8 to last year's 8-3. "When Doug came here, the kids hoped to win," says Offensive Coordinator Alex Gibbs. "Then they thought they could win. Now they believe they can win. That overcomes a whole lot of lousy coaching."
Last year a strong Auburn running attack also had to overcome a whole lot of lousy defense. The Tigers gave up 31 points to North Carolina State, 35 to Tennessee, 35 more to Vanderbilt and 42 to Wake Forest, yet still won two of those games. Those efforts spawned nicknames like "The Double-Digit Defense" and "The Swiss Cheese Defense." The Auburn secondary became the laughingstock of the SEC. And problems still exist. Auburn goes into this season with only one linebacker who has ever played the position before.
Nevertheless, the Tigers figure to be strong up the middle, which is patrolled by 6'5", 272-pound Defensive Tackle Frank Warren, a two-time All-Conference player. Barfield also is hoping to get a much-needed pass rush out of the 4-3 defense he installed in place of the SEC's standard 5-2 alignment. But if all else fails, the Tigers will fall back on their running game, which once again should be overpowering.
Auburn set team-total rushing-yardage records in each of the past two seasons, and the best Auburn back of all, James (Bye-Bye) Brooks, is still on hand. Last year he led the SEC with 1,208 yards rushing. In all but two games, Bye-Bye had runs of more than 50 yards.
Brooks was considered too small when he arrived at Auburn as a 5'10", 160-pound speedster, but over the past three years he has added 20 pounds of muscle to his upper body by lifting weights. Now he can run over tacklers as well as around them. In his spare time, Brooks is addicted to TV soap operas. Unfortunately, no one will be able to watch Bye-Bye on TV this fall. Because Auburn is on probation, it can't appear, on the tube. The Tigers fear this lack of exposure may cost their phenom a shot at the Heisman Trophy. Accordingly, Auburn publicist Buddy Davidson carries a videotape of Brooks' spectacular runs everywhere he goes. "That's the only way people can get to see James," he complains.
As he did last year, Gibbs has molded two offensive line units that will alternate to keep fresh troops in the game. To rest Brooks, Auburn would like to pass more, but the new quarterback, junior Charles Thomas, is a better runner than thrower. He attempted just 12 passes last season, completing six. After spring practice, Defensive Coach Buddy Nix observed, "I'd hate to think we had to win a game by throwing. It would be hard to do." Almost as hard as winning playing defense.
Question: What wears maize and blue, wins more regular-season games than any other team in the country and goes belly up in bowl games? Answer: Bo Schembechler's Wolverines. They are 104-12-3 for his 11 seasons and 0 for 7 in postseason festivities. What does it all mean? Well, it might be that regularly scheduled games are more important to Ann Arbor than bowl frivolity. But if that's the case, it's small wonder that last season was Bo's most disappointing ever. Michigan finished 8-4 and a dismal 18th nationally after being picked as high as sixth. One insult added to the injury was that the combined margin of defeat for the four losses was only 10 points. Another was that miscues by the specialty teams directly accounted for three of those four defeats. Over the season, the Wolverines had four punts blocked and hit on only four of 19 field goals. Starting this season, punts will fly from the instep of a freshman, Don Bracken, from Thermopolis, Wyo. (pop. 4,000), who averaged 46.7 yards per kick in his senior year at Hot Springs County High. Because Bracken takes a quick 1½-step approach before letting fly, perhaps more kicks will find their mark. Meanwhile, sophomore Ali Haji-Sheikh, who is of Iranian-American descent, will take over full place-kicking duties after handling kickoffs as a freshman walk-on. He was also successful on four of four extra points.
Bo's next-best hopes ride on the defense. There are seven newcomers on a unit that had been fourth in the nation against the rush (99.3 yards a game). The line will be led by senior Tackle Mike Trgovac (6'2", 235 pounds), who was All-Big Ten at middle guard last year, while sophomore Free Safety Keith Bostic is a blue chipper in the secondary. He and his colleagues will be severely tested in games with California, Purdue and Ohio State, in which Michigan's deep defenders will have to match wits with the nation's top quarterbacks—Rich Campbell, Mark Herrmann and Art Schlichter.
Seven starters return to the offense, including Fullback Lawrence Ricks, Tailback Butch Woolfolk and Wide Receiver Anthony Carter, a 4.4 man in the 40. With all five starters back, the line may be the best that Bo has ever assembled.
However, everyone is still eager to find out who will fill the Rick Leach Chair of Offensive Dynamics, now vacant for a full season. The field of scholars was narrowed by one in the off-season when veteran Quarterback B.J. Dickey (along with five teammates) was suspended for a year because of undisclosed training violations. Rich Hewlett, an untested sophomore, or freshman Steve Smith of Grand Blanc, Mich., will start.
In sum, the Michigan equation of knowns and unknowns promises a season of discovery.
19. PENN STATE
An 8-4 season and a 9-6 victory over Tulane in the Liberty Bowl would be a respectable enough showing for many teams, but not for Penn State, coming as it did after two 11-1 seasons, the latter having brought the Nittany Lions within a goal-line stand of a national title in the Jan. 1, 1979 Sugar Bowl game. Alabama made the stand and won the championship. In retrospect, Coach Joe Paterno believes the Lions' slippage can be traced to that 14-7 loss, a deeply unsettling experience. "I didn't get over it until the middle of the season," he says. "A lot of things happened last year," says Center Bob Jagers, a senior and the offensive team captain, "and it's hard to put your finger on just what caused it. But we're taking it as a lesson." Just as the Lions' attitude in '79 reflected the frustration of the Sugar Bowl, the Liberty Bowl victory has produced a positive mood for '80. Says Middle Guard Greg Jones, the defensive captain, "There's a determination you wouldn't believe to try and turn things around this year. I guess everybody wants to prove a point."
Paterno himself is optimistic. He has a solid defensive unit, including 10 returning starters. One is senior End Larry Kubin (6'1", 222 pounds), who has made 27 quarterback sacks in the past two years. Another is Pete Harris, an All-America safety in 1978, who led the nation in interceptions (10) that season before sitting out last year because of his grades. "We don't have the dominant players," says Paterno, "and we may not have the speed to be a great defensive team. What we have to do is get into a scheme our people can be comfortable with, and maintain an all-out tempo." Given a schedule that includes teams from the Southwest (1), Atlantic Coast (2), and Big Eight (2) conferences as well as independents like Pitt, the Penn State defenders will be hard-pressed to match the record of their immediate predecessors, who held seven teams to a touchdown or less.
With that in mind, Penn State is working for better balance between the pass and run. "Last year we were basically a running team," says Jagers, "but this spring we worked on passing. We'll have more sets—a variety to choose from. We'd been real conservative, but I think that image will be gone this fall." In the backfield will be Booker Moore, who switched from tailback to fullback, and sophomore Tailback Curt Warner. Between them they rushed for 946 yards last season. The quarterback position will be another key. During spring practice, senior Dayle Tate added a broken jaw to his career injury list (a broken hand and a broken collarbone), and hung up his jersey. Since then there has been a spirited competition among sophomores Frank Rocco and Jeff Hostetler and freshman redshirt Todd Blackledge, all three apparently adept at running a diverse offense.
Another reason for a positive outlook is Placekicker Herb Menhardt. He made 14 of 20 field goals in '79, and enters the season with a streak of eight straight. That's the kind of streak the Lions need to keep the Norman Vincent bells pealing.
Coach Lee Corso compares building a football team to preparing a big pot of spaghetti sauce: "Our spaghetti was excellent all last season and by the end of the year it was delicious," he says, citing Indiana's 8-4 record and 38-37 win over Brigham Young in the Holiday Bowl. "I haven't started cooking yet this year. All the ingredients seem to be there, but you have to put 'em in just right, a little dab here, a little dab there."
Corso's ingredients include 16 returning starters, led by senior Tim Clifford, one of the quarterbacks who could help change the conservative image of Big Ten football. Clifford isn't as widely known as Purdue's Mark Herrmann or Ohio State's Art Schlichter, but last year he was named the most valuable player in the Big Ten by the Chicago Tribune. And that was no meatball offense he directed: it set nine alltime Indiana offensive records, averaging nearly 400 yards and more than 26 points a game. Along the way, Clifford completed 160 of 288 passes for 2,078 yards and 13 touchdowns while throwing 10 interceptions.
In Bob Stephenson and Dave Harangody Indiana has two topflight tight ends, and it may go to some double-tight-end formations to get both in the game at the same time. Stephenson, a 6'3" 234-pound junior, made 49 catches last season to lead the team in that category. At wide receiver the depth chart includes Steve Corso, the coach's son. When Clifford wants to throw the bomb, he can look for Nate Lundy, who caught just 12 passes but averaged 26.5 yards a reception. He's a swifty; this spring he set a Big Ten record of 49.82 in the intermediate hurdles.
Late last year Indiana experimented with a quarterback option offense with increasing effectiveness; look for more. Corso says his backfield "is as fine as there ever has been at Indiana, qualitywise and depthwise." Spunky 5'7", 189-pound Mike Harkrader, who sat out spring practice to rest knees that have undergone an operation apiece, needs just 100 more yards to become the Hoosiers' alltime leading rusher.
As Corso might say, pointwise Indiana's defense hasn't been so hot, giving up an average of 21 a game in '79 despite two shutouts. Nine starters from that unit return and the defensive backfield is intact, presumably improved. The standout on defense is junior Cornerback Tim Wilbur, who tied for the Big Ten lead with seven interceptions, which he returned for two touchdowns and a Division I-A-high 165 yards. That made it 14 interceptions for his career so far, already an Indiana record. In the Holiday Bowl he scored the winning touchdown by returning a fourth-quarter punt 62 yards. "I don't have blazing speed," Wilbur says, "but I'm quick enough to get in position. I'd say my biggest strength is reading the quarterback."
Last year, Corso's seventh at Indiana, was his first winning season there. "We've got a fighting chance," he says. "Good spaghetti sauce requires a little aging."