With USC and UCLA ineligible for the Rose Bowl, California, led by Quarterback Rich Campbell, has an unusual opportunity. Cal surprised most observers last season by winning six games and a trip to the Garden State Bowl, its first bowl game in 21 years. Six wins, that's a big deal? Yes, and here's why: 1979 was a rebuilding year, and in the five losses, including defeats by USC, Washington and Michigan, the combined deficit was only 24 points.
The 6'5", 220-pound Campbell, who ranks second behind Ohio State's Art Schlichter in passing efficiency among Division I-A quarterbacks, just rears back and throws the ball—an average of 30 times a game last season. Because Cal lacked any pretense of a running game, it's remarkable that Campbell has any stats to talk about, but, in fact, he completed 216 of 322 in '79 for 2,859 yards and 13 touchdowns. Only BYU's Marc Wilson threw more times; no one else in Division I-A was even close. And while Schlichter's efficiency ranking is above Campbell's, the Golden Bear has the better completion average (67.0% to 52.5%). In another category—wholesomeness—Campbell might be the top quarterback in the land. He's a religious-studies major, hoping to become a minister. Chews tobacco, though.
In two seasons as a full-time starter, Campbell has amassed 5,148 yards passing and 29 touchdowns, erasing virtually every passing record at Cal, the alma mater of Craig Morton and Steve Bartkowski. And the Golden Bears are even stronger this season in the receiving department. Matt Bouza is the seventh-leading receiver in the country, with 59 catches, and Flanker Michael Buggs had 37. Also on hand are Holden Smith and Floyd Eddings, two speedsters who were injured early last season. They give Cal the deep threat it lacked in '79. Roughly 30% of the time, the Bears will line up in their tricky "Trojan Set" (invented last year just for the USC game): three receivers line up on one side of the field. "That leaves an inside linebacker covering our best pattern receiver [Bouza]," says Campbell, "and there's no way he can do it." With the running of Fullback Dave Palmer and Halfback John Tuggle to keep defenders honest, the formation is a formidable weapon.
Meanwhile, Cal's offensive line is set, led by tackles Harvey Salem and Brian Bailey, who was All-Pac-10, and the defense will be improved, with potential All-Americas Tackle Pat Graham and End Rich Dixon most notable among a group of seven returning starters. The Bears benefit from having six of their eight league games at home, but the finale, the Big Game against Stanford, might be the one for the Roses.
For two years now, despite a deluge of freebie T shirts, posters, bumper stickers, key chains and balloons, as well as discounted tickets, Dallas has been cool to what SMU drum-beaters like to call Mustang Mania. SMU football has been all chills and no fever. Says SMU promotions director Brad Thomas, "This is the year we have to give folks something new—like a real good football team."
Well, the 1980 SMU team might well be better than the good one everyone expected to see last fall. In that season 27 players who started or were slated to start were injured, and the Mustangs straggled home sixth in the Southwest Conference with a 5-6 record.
The big question now is whether Quarterback Mike Ford can come back from a knee injury that ended his season last Sept. 15 in the second game with TCU. In 1978 Ford led the nation in total offense with 268.8 yards a game and passed for 3,007 yards to raise his career total to 5,071 yards, which put him within striking distance of the alltime NCAA Division I career passing mark of 7,818 held by Washington State's Jack Thompson.
With no Ford to pass, the Mustangs, perforce, had to run in '79, and they wound up outrushing their opponents, a feat they've accomplished 10 times since 1949. Four freshmen running backs emerged as the most gifted group in the SWC, but two of them, Charles Wagoner and Eric Dickerson, suffered major injuries, Wagoner a broken neck that ended his career. Dickerson, who had been ranked by Parade magazine as the No. 1 high school running back, suffered a concussion. Fortunately, he is O.K. now.
Defensive Tackle Harvey Armstrong sizes up SMU best: "Two years ago the people we played against had to worry only about Ford's passing. Then, last year, all we could do was run. This year defenses won't know what to do." With Armstrong and a rising star in Tackle Michael Carter—he's the guy who set a high school record of 81'3½" in the shot put and won the 1980 NCAA indoor and outdoor championships—SMU's defense will be at least respectable. And even though conference foes Arkansas, Houston and Texas may be too strong for the frisky young colts. Mustang Mania may be for real, rather than synthetic.
Last year's 8-4 Gamecocks, South Carolina's winningest team ever, averaged only 12.4 passes a game. Coach Jim Carlen would like a bit more diversity this fall. "We threw the ball a lot this spring and I think we'll throw it better this season," he says. "But basically we still plan to be a running team." The fact that his tailback is George Rogers might have something to do with Carlen's continued commitment to a ground game.
All Rogers did last season was rush for 1,681 yards, second to Heisman Trophy-winner Charles White of USC. The swift 6'2", 220-pounder ran for 100 yards or more in each of South Carolina's last 10 games, including a 217-yard performance that helped sink ACC-champion North Carolina State 30-28. And durable? His 311 carries set a Gamecock record. This fall, Rogers might not get the ball quite as much, but the Gamecocks' attack shouldn't suffer now that Fullback Johnnie Wright has returned after being redshirted in 1979 because of a bad knee. The 6'1", 205-pound Wright gained 903 yards in 1978, and he should be impressive again, but he's just as eager to block for George. "Rogers is something," Wright says. "Without even warming up he can run a 4.5 40, and he has the moves of a 185-pounder."
Quarterback Garry Harper threw 103 passes in South Carolina's last eight regular-season games without being intercepted. Indeed, only five of his passes were picked off all season. And though Harper completed only 73 passes all year, seven went for touchdowns.
The defense needs an overhauling, but five starters are back and one of them is Robert Perlotte, the 1979 unit's No. 1 tackier. Carlen believes the defense will be stronger, if only because of new Middle Guard Emanuel Weaver, a transfer from Arizona Western Junior College, where he was a JC All-America. In spring drills Weaver emerged as South Carolina's best athlete; the Gamecock offense needed two players to block him. Four weeks of that bumpy routine and he was listed as first string. What didn't emerge was a bonafide punter, who might very well come in handy seeing as how the Gamecocks have back-to-back road games against USC and Michigan.
If you were to pick a low point for UCLA, it would be that sinking moment at the end of the first half of the USC game last Nov. 24 when the scoreboard flashed zero for the Bruins and 35 for USC. The situation improved only slightly by game's end, for a 49-14 loss, the fourth straight to UCLA's crosstown rivals. After that the Bruins went on to a 5-6 record, its first losing season since 1971, and there were to be even more cruel blows. Twelve players departed because of scholastic or disciplinary problems, all with eligibility left. Five assistant coaches decamped. Head Coach Terry Donohue's job was said to be on the line. And then came the Pac-10 ruling banning UCLA from bowl games.
Well, it's high time for good news, and there is some. UCLA did not lose a band of talented seniors, who comprise the nucleus of a strong '80 Bruin team. When Donahue recruited this group in 1977, it was widely regarded as the best new class in the nation. Its standouts include Tailback Freeman McNeil, who last year rushed for 1,396 yards to break Wendell Tyler's single-season UCLA record, and Free Safety Kenny Easley (page 32). "Our class was touted as having the ability to bring a national championship to UCLA," says Easley. "This is our opportunity to see if we can do it. This is our year, our team."
Enter Offensive Coordinator Homer Smith, who returns to UCLA after a stint as head coach at Army and a couple of years of study at Harvard Divinity School. Last season, the Bruins had switched to a pass-oriented I formation, but it lacked the sophisticated pass routes to enable UCLA's fine receivers to shine. Now Smith, in effect, is dotting the I. Says McNeil, "Coach Smith has brought in things that UCLA didn't do before—like short dump passes to the backs, and sideline patterns. Opponents will expect a stereotyped UCLA team of the past, and we'll surprise them."
Smith's new pass routes will be run by a receiver corps that has been augmented by the presence of Cormac Carney, who caught 57 passes for 870 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman at Air Force in 1978, and then sat out last season after transferring to UCLA. As for getting the ball to those receivers, Jay Schroeder looks like the man. He, too, sees this as "our year, our team."
As the 1979 season drew to a close, Iowa fans were displaying signs that read NEXT YEAR—PASADENA. That's what you call optimism. Never mind such piddling roadblocks as Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue, consider instead the Hawkeyes themselves. They haven't had a winning season in 19 years.
The source of Iowa optimism is Coach Hayden Fry, a born promoter who has brought wide-open offense to this perennial Big Ten also-ran. Last season, Fry's first at Iowa after six years at North Texas State, where his record was 40-23-3, the Hawkeyes finished 5-6 and came within a triple reverse of a winning season, having led both Nebraska and Oklahoma in the fourth quarter. After the Nebraska loss, 60,000 Iowa fans stood and cheered their team for 10 minutes. "I was furious," Fry insists. "I would much rather have had boos. I told the players to wipe the smiles off their faces. I told them they could smile when they played a good game and won...and only then. There is no such thing as a moral victory."
Win or lose, Fry's football is entertaining. His 1968 SMU team, with Chuck Hixson at quarterback, still holds an NCAA single-game record for putting the ball in the air—69 times. "I think we showed something to a lot of Big Ten teams last year," Fry says. "I hear some of them are switching to more wide-open offenses. I hope so. It sure makes for a more interesting game." Whether it's the razzle-dazzle or the prospect of a winning season, Iowa fans have already bought up all 60,000 seats for every Hawkeye game this fall, the first preseason sellout in the school's history.
One of Fry's first moves was to install Phil Suess, a 6'5" junior and pinpoint passer, at quarterback. Under Bob Commings the season before, Suess had played exactly 8½ seconds and saw most of his action as a quarterback for the scout team. Suess responded to the promotion by completing more than 55% of 159 passes in 10 games.
Fry also junked Iowa's old wing T in favor of multiple sets, and he spends a lot of time practicing what he calls "exotic plays." And after "advertising" through the media that Iowa offers starting berths to speedy running backs, he completed a recruiting coup in the Chicago area: two top rushers, J.C. LoveJordan (formerly J.C. Love) and Eddie Phillips, are now Hawkeyes. In all, Fry signed five talented backs, including junior college transfer Glenn Buggs. Says Fry, "I can't wait to hear the P.A. man proclaim we now have Love-Buggs in the lineup."
In contrast to the caution of most coaches, Fry is so much the promoter that a temptation exists to discount his contentions. Are his Hawkeyes really that good? "I'm not saying we're going to be 11-0 and go to the Rose Bowl," he says, "but we're going to put on quite a show. It's about time. After 19 years, our fans deserve it."