THE DOPE: The Gophers have lost 23 lettermen and will field one of their poorest squads since World War II. Coach Murray Warmath has lost Quarterback Bobby Cox to the Los Angeles Rams and will have Dick Larson back, but only as a coaching assistant. He'll go with Jim Reese, a good passer but slow and not much of a running threat. Offsetting Reese's passing ability is the Gophers' mediocre pass receiving. Warmath also must go with untested sophomore fullbacks. Likely starter is Jim Rogers, who lacks the traditional Minnesota size and strength. Halfbacks Bob Soltis and Bill Chorske lack another important back-field ingredient: good speed. The line is woefully thin, and the only promising new material is Guard Tom Brown, who played two years of service football for Great Lakes. Strongest spot should be at end, where veterans Perry Gehring and Ken Schultz are backed by able juniors. Warmath has a complete rebuilding job on his hands, and the Gophers, in seventh place last year, could wind up even deeper in the hole.
COLORS: Gold and black
BASIC OFFENSE: Multiple, unbalanced line
1957 RECORD: Won 5, lost 4, tied 1
LETTERMEN RETURNING: 15 of 27
WATCH FOR: Slam-bang running of Hank Kuhlmann
THE DOPE: The Tigers have taken on a new coach and a new system and will be no easy mark for the rest of the Big Eight. Young Dan Devine, the former Michigan State aide who logged a 27-3-1 record at Arizona State, succeeds Frank Broyles, who in turn takes over Jack Mitchell's job at Arkansas. He brings a multiple offense to be built around Halfback Hank Kuhlmann, top ground-gainer and scorer (48 points) for last year's split-T Tigers. Devine's quarterback situation is above average, with veteran Phil Snowden and Rookie Mike Shannon, but his passing game is just so-so. The running game should be stronger with speedy newcomers Mel West and Donnie Smith backing up Kuhlmann and Bob Haas. Sophomore Jim Miles is likely fullback starter. Guards Charlie Rash and Don Chadwick head a strong all-veteran line. New PAT rule may minimize the role of Rash, who kicked 20 of 20 conversions in '57 and whose toe was instrumental in one-point victories over SMU and Nebraska and a 7-7 tie with Vanderbilt. Rash has a string of 26 straight going.
COLORS: Scarlet and cream
BASIC OFFENSE: Split-T
1957 RECORD: Won 1, lost 9
LETTERMEN RETURNING: 12 of 26
WATCH FOR: The running, passing of newcomer Pat Fischer
THE DOPE: The Cornhuskers are loaded with desire but not much else. Coach Bill Jennings will be trying to improve on a 1-9 record with a line that can be rated only fair, a shallow backfield that lacks breakaway speed and experience in all directions. Jennings' only hope is "that we improve as the season progresses." Nebraska has four lettermen returning to the backfield—Quarterbacks Leroy Zentic and Roy Stinnett, Halfback Larry Naviaux and Fullback Carroll Zaruba. Center Dick McCashland and Tackle Don Olson bolster the line. With only seven seniors back, the Cornhuskers will rely heavily on sophs and juniors. Best of these shape up as Halfbacks Pat Fischer and John Minnick, Center Robert Daniels and Tackles Dick Rudzik and Dennis Doyle. Doyle is the son of former Nebraska Tackle Ted Doyle, who later played with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fischer's three brothers all lettered at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers face another suicide schedule, which includes Purdue, Pitt and Oklahoma, and will be fortunate to climb out of the Big Eight cellar.
COLORS: Purple and white
BASIC OFFENSE: Split-T
1957 RECORD: Won none, lost 9
LETTERMEN RETURNING: 18 of 27
WATCH FOR: Sprinting Halfbacks Ron Burton and Willmer Fowler
THE DOPE: The Wildcats didn't win a game last year and haven't scored a point since Nov. 9. Furthermore, Coach Ara Parseghian has lost seven of his regulars through graduation, and one of his best soph replacements, Flanker Bill Schwanbeck, broke his leg in spring practice and is out for the season. Still, hope springs eternal, and with the Wildcats flat on their back, there's no way to look but up. With only five seniors on the squad, "we'll be forced to rely heavily on youth in our rebuilding plans," says Parseghian. "I realize that the Big Ten isn't a sophomore league, but we have no other alternative." Passing may improve with Soph Dick Thornton alternating with Chip Holcomb at quarterback, but this will be primarily a running team. Willmer Fowler, conference sprint champ last year, and Ron Burton will do most of the running, along with Sophomore Fullbacks Irv Cross and Fred Hecker plus injury-prone Jim Knowles. Only sure bets on the line are Center Jim Andreotti and Tackles Andy Cvercko and Gene Gossage. Another lean year at Evanston.