71. Central Michigan
After winning at Michigan State in '91 and '92, the Chips were down in '93, finishing below .500 for only the second time in 29 seasons. But Central has the perfect player to revive its program: senior tailback Brian Pruitt, who plans to become an evangelist. Pruitt's retort to trash talk? "Yes, and Jesus loves you, too."
After a one-year sabbatical from coaching, athletic director Chris Ault returns to the sidelines to guide the Wolf Pack. He'll have to get used to a lot of new faces. Eleven starters—including NCAA total offense leader Chris Vargas—are gone.
The offense will rely on a massive back-field: quarterback John Gustin (6'6", 225 pounds) and alternating running backs Terry Hendricks (5'10", 237) and Ryan Christopherson (6', 236). The defensive backfield is smaller—and slower—and that spells big trouble in the explosive WAC.
Coach Rich Brooks has stepped down as athletic director to concentrate on football. Just what is it that demands his undivided attention? Even though Danny O'Neil became only the fourth quarterback in Pac-10 history to throw for more than 3,000 yards, the team had a losing record in '93.
After riding the pine behind Marshall Faulk at San Diego State, running back Joe Abdullah returned to his hometown of Stockton to join the Tigers. Just in time, too: Pacific's rushing attack was the nation's second worst (69.4 yards per game) last fall.
76. Southern Mississippi
Nugget II, a 10-year-old golden eagle, was found dead in her cage on Dec. 6, 1992. Initial reports speculated that the bird, the team mascot, had been poisoned, but a federal investigation that was concluded just before the beginning of last season revealed that malnutrition was the cause of death. It was an omen: The Golden Eagles went 2-8-1, their leanest mark since 1925.
Before injuring his ankle last year, All-MAC tailback Casey McBeth could leg-press his entire offensive line (1,427 pounds) and nearly hurdle them (36-inch vertical leap). If McBeth is healthy, he could launch the Rockets to the top of the conference.
78. East Carolina
Following a dismal '93 season the Pirates have two things to be excited about: Quarterback Marcus Crandell is back after breaking his leg in the second game of the year, and real estate tycoon Ron Dowdy has donated $1 million to the team. Needless to say, Crandell will now be playing in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The Tigers finally have an attraction to rival Graceland. Freshman running back Derrick Jones, a Florida high school 100-meter champion, is a bullish runner, who—with the help of his pit bulls—hunts wild boars in his spare time.
The nadir for the Boilermakers came last Oct. 9, when they became the first team in NCAA history to score 56 points...and lose. Minnesota squeaked by 59-56. Says coach Jim Colletto, "We're not setting any goals other than making one of the biggest turnarounds in college history."