Two veteran players will get long-awaited opportunities. Kevin Mason, a fifth-year senior who has spent the last four years holding clipboards on the sideline and footballs on extra points, will start at quarterback. And linebacker Dan Conley, a Butkus Award candidate in 1992, has been granted a sixth year of eligibility following nine knee operations.
42. Western Michigan
They play at Waldo Stadium, study at Waldo Library and celebrate at Waldo's Tavern, but you should have no trouble finding the Broncos—they'll be atop the MAC standings. One of 18 returning starters is quarterback Jay McDonagh, a former junior Golden Gloves champ, who punched out the school record for completion percentage (.615) last year.
The Scarlet Knights move into a new 42,000-seat stadium, and they'll be counting on thunder and lightning every game. That is how the school is marketing its two game-breaking running backs, junior Bruce (Thunder) Presley and sophomore Terrell (Lightning) Willis.
Coach Bill Mallory will use John Paci and Chris Dittoe in a two-quarterback scheme. He alternated signal-callers once before—at Miami of Ohio in 1973—and the team went 11-0.
45. Texas Christian
In an effort to boost attendance, clowns, musicians and dancers have been booked to entertain fans at Carter Stadium. But the best performances might come from the Horned Frogs themselves: 18 starters return, including Andre Davis, who rushed for 867 yards in '93.
46. Oregon State
Last season's 4-7 record included three losses—to Washington, Stanford and UCLA—by a total of 14 points. The Beavers will keep things close again with running back J.J. Young, who coach Jerry Pettibone, an assistant at Oklahoma in the '70s, says is as good as former Sooner Billy Sims.
47. Arizona State
The Sun Devils, who were placed on probation in July, have finished above .500 in 10 of the last 11 seasons. Come December it'll be 10 of 12. They lost their best runner (1,100-yard man Mario Bates) and pass rusher (Shante Carver) to the NFL and their best linebacker (Brian Easter) to a suspension for violating team rules.
48. New Mexico
The Lobos must be going loco: Four of their losses last year were by a total of eight points. Still, they had their first winning season since 1982. They'll have their second this fall thanks to quarterback Stoney Case, who is a superb runner (14 touchdowns) and passer (2,490 yards. 17 touchdowns).
49. Bowling Green
The Falcons have put up some lofty numbers: seventh in the country in defense in '93, a 15-game home unbeaten streak, one conference loss in three years. Another number: Last fall they lost only two fumbles to become the first team in 25 years to lose fewer than three in a season.
Marion Campbell, the new defensive coordinator, will try to bring the same success to the Dawgs that he brought to the Rams (the Fearsome Foursome) and the Vikings (Purple People Eaters) during his NFL coaching career. Good luck. The offense is not a concern, however. Senior quarterback Eric Zeier will become the leading passer in SEC history.