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September 22, 1958
Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma are teams to beat
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September 22, 1958

The Midwest

Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma are teams to beat

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(1957 scores):

SEPT. 20

Dayton, N (13-13)

SEPT. 27

Wichita, N (19-13)

OCT. 4

Houston, N (0-7)

OCT. 11

Xavier (23-14)

OCT. 18

at College of Pacific, N (7-2)

OCT. 25

Oklahoma State (no game)

NOV. 1

at North Texas State, N (no game)

NOV. 8

Tulsa (7-12)

NOV. 15

at Marquette (14-0)

NOV. 27

Miami (Ohio) (14-20)

Ever since football became a truly national game, not just a sport that Harvard, Yale and Princeton somewhat condescendingly shared with the less fortunate academies of learning, the Middle West has continuously produced more first-class football than any other section of the country. For a period in the late 1920s and early 1930s, California briefly challenged this hegemony, and during the last decade the South has certainly achieved relative equality. Yet, for the last 40 years it has been the middle western states that have produced the great legends of football. Yost of Michigan, Zuppke and Grange of Illinois, Stagg and Eckersall of Chicago, Rockne and the Four Horsemen and heroes innumerable of Notre Dame, Bierman and Nagurski of Minnesota; these names bring memories of football thrills and glory to anyone who loves the game.

It is virtually an axiom of middle western football that no college dominates the competition for long or, conversely, stays long in the doldrums; unless, as was the case with the University of Chicago, it decides to abandon big-time football for good. Every team in the Western Intercollegiate (i.e., Big Ten) Conference has had its day and will again. There could be no better proof of this than the variety of representatives that the Big Ten has sent to the Rose Bowl each New Year's Day since 1947, when that postseason contest was converted into a playoff between the champions of the Big Ten and Pacific Coast Conference.

This year it is generally assumed that Ohio State will repeat its 1957 championship, although the strength of such rivals as Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Iowa make it anything but a foregone conclusion. The ground-hogging, passless Buckeyes play what would be considered as a very dull brand of football in the rest of the country, but the way that their followers fill the 79,000 seats in Ohio Stadium every Saturday would indicate that this sentiment is not shared in Columbus. In fact, Coach Woody Hayes, who has engineered an amazing streak of victories, shows no inclination to argue with the success of his formula which has been described quite accurately as "three yards and a cloud of dust."

Yet few teams in the country own such a wealth of fine players as Ohio State. If one were to be singled out, it would probably have to be Fullback Bob White. Strangely enough, this 6-foot 2-inch, 210-pound bull of a man is a bespectacled art student when he is not trampling over the opposition on the football field. Michigan Coach Bennie Oosterbaan has called him "one of the most powerful fullbacks we ever played against."

Experience warns that it would be a mistake to overlook several other fine teams in the Big Ten just because the Ohio State preseason prospects are so bright. Wisconsin has had a letdown since its brilliant 1952 season when it represented the Big Ten at the Rose Bowl—and suffered the only loss (to USC) that the Big Ten has taken in Pasadena. This year Wisconsin has more veterans back than any other team in the conference, and all they seem to lack is the one big star that so often spells the difference between a championship and just a good performance. Coach Milt Bruhn's principal assistant, Perry Moss, was hired away from the University of Miami to add the so-called Miami drive series to Wisconsin's attack, and it worked so well last year that Moss is now considered heir apparent to any Big Ten job that comes along.

Although it has not won the Big Ten championship since 1950, Michigan has always been such a powerful football force that it ranks as news when Michigan is not a contender. And this year the Wolverines are at one of their lowest points in years. One theory has it that Michigan is soft-pedaling its recruiting activities, hoping that its prestige both academically and athletically will be enough of an attraction to good football players. Head Coach Bennie Oosterbaan plans to inspire his athletes this season with thoughts of the great tradition they have behind them. "We'll see how many ball games it wins," says Oosterbaan without any real ring of conviction in his voice, but if anyone can evoke enthusiasm out of past glories it should be this greatest of all great Michigan ends.

Alongside the perennial suspense of the Big Ten dogfight, the rest of the middle western football competition has a somewhat pallid quality. To be sure, there is always Notre Dame, which this year is again a candidate for the nation's highest football honors after several seasons of readjustment under Terry Brennan, the able young coach who succeeded Frank Leahy in 1954 when he was only 25 years old. However, Notre Dame, except for three games against Big Ten opponents, must find rivals in other parts of the country in order to get the kind of competition it likes. This year, unfortunately, Brennan's Fighting Irish will not play Oklahoma in a rematch of last season's biggest upset, the one in which Notre Dame ended Oklahoma's 47-game winning streak. But the team meets SMU and Army and Navy and Pittsburgh among others in a characteristically rough 10-game schedule. If it survives without more than a couple of losses, Notre Dame will indeed be a great team, and Brennan will have proven his right to see his name alongside such distinguished Notre Dame coaches as Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy.

Of course, no discussion of midwest football would be complete without Oklahoma's name in prominence. Once again, the red-shirted, spare and dedicated players that turn up year after year on Coach Bud Wilkinson's teams will be among the nation's very best. This year the one who gets most of the attention is Bob Harrison, a tall and gifted center who is practically certain to be on most of the All-America teams. As usual Oklahoma will get its share of criticism for playing a soft schedule—seven of its opponents coming from the less than top-flight Big Eight Conference—but the team meets four rivals who would give their eyeteeth to pull an upset over the Sooners. One of these is neighboring Texas, a team that many have picked as the best in the Southwest. Texas has a strong grudge against Oklahoma, claiming that the Sooners have been carrying off the best young Texas athletes, so watch this contest for what might be the season's most spectacular news. Also watch Oklahoma against Colorado, a team that has come within a whisker of knocking over the Sooners in each of the last two seasons.


COLORS: Red and black
BASIC OFFENSE: Wing T, spread T
1957 RECORD: Won 5, lost 4, tied 1
WATCH FOR: Pass catching of all-MVC End Jim Leo; ball carrying of Ed Kovac

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