Augustana, which has transformed Division III into the Big One and the Little Two Hundred Seven, is gunning for its fifth straight national title. The Vikings have 14 starters back from a team that played Elmhurst to a scoreless tie in the opener, then won its next 12. Thirteen more victories this year would give Augustana not only its fifth straight Stagg Bowl win, but also a share of the alltime, all-divisions record of 63 games without a defeat set by Washington over the years 1907 to '17.
Once again, coach Bob Reade will shuttle half a dozen backs behind a formidable line in his wing T offense. That kind of bench strength makes wins, not stars—no Viking finished among the top 10 performers in any major offensive category. Defense is a different story. The tough 5-2 led all Division III schools in total defense, yielding just 136.2 yards per game; roverback Dave Torri (see story on page 110) is the man to watch.
The Vikes roll along while keeping the sport in its proper place. "It's still a game here," says Reade. "We don't try to make it Division I. There are no Sunday meetings, no night meetings. The players don't burn out, because it's something they're always looking forward to."
Backs from other schools had better beware of Dayton this fall. Middle guard Rich Kiko and defensive end Tom Ray lead a defensive front that returns intact after holding foes to a ridiculously low 13.5 yards on the ground a game in '86.
The defense at Mount Union is shy on some key elements, but the Purple Raiders welcome back 5'11", 200-pound Russ Kring, who rushed for 1,460 yards, caught 39 passes for 479 more and scored 20 touchdowns. Had Kring not twisted one of his black-high-topped ankles early in a 16-7 playoff loss to Augustana, Mount Union might have marched to an undefeated season. Yet, without the strong arm of quarterback Scott Gindlesberger, who completed over 60% of his passes for 2,157 yards in '86, the Raiders will have a hard time duplicating their Division III-leading 452.8 yards per game.
With 32 consecutive winning seasons, Wittenburg will give the Buckeye state a third top team, thanks to Ohio State transfer Roger Culbertson, a tigerback, and senior Leighton Antonio, the division's second-ranked kick returner.
Even if Mario Cuomo isn't in the running for a national title, two schools in his upstate New York are. Union, the only school besides Augustana to reach the tournament the past four years, is counting on quarterback Mike Gargiulo, who missed all of last year because of a broken foot. His sub, Tim Valachovic, who switched from wideout before last season, led the '86 team to a 9-1 record. Union's only defeat was authored by fellow upstater Ithaca: a 24-17 overtime shoot-out in the playoffs. Ithaca's senior noseguard Bob Mason—at his matriculation he weighed 180 pounds; now he's at 255—remains a staunch defender.
Central of Iowa holds the longest regular-season winning streak in all of football: 34 in a row. Two JB TBs—tailbacks Jeff Buseman and John Barten—teamed for 1,433 yards and 20 TDs in '86 and should share the backfield again, but the entire offensive line is new. One of last year's surprise teams, Hope of Michigan, hopes to surprise again. Mark Hahn, a transfer from Akron, could win the starting quarterback assignment now that Chris Mendels has graduated. He'll have conspicuous targets in ends Bill Vanderbilt (6'4", 215 pounds) and Todd Ackerman (6'3", 215), who caught 89 passes between them.
Occidental of California figures to be the class of the West, thanks to three-time all-conference cornerback Todd Stoney. Wisconsin- Stevens Point should triumph in its always heated in-state league. The Pointers will rely on sophomore quarterback Kirk Baumgartner, who threw for 1,788 yards as a freshman and took a team that started 0-3 to an 8-4 season.