Missouri will, of course, and the game will be played at Columbia on November 21. It will be a doozer. Kansas has a line that averages 225 pounds overall and 231 from tackle to tackle. Included in this formidable collection of heft is 266-pound Guard Dick Pratt, a roly-poly with a perpetual smile who is also a skilled percussionist, 245-pound Tackle Brian Schweda and End Mike Shinn, a mere 220-pounder. Not many teams, Oklahoma and Missouri included, will take liberties with them.
Kansas also has All-America Halfback Gale Sayers. All he did last year, when he was the nation's No. 3 rusher, was run the ball for 917 yards, catch 11 passes for 155 yards, run back 14 punts and kickoffs for 314 more and score eight touchdowns. The one knock against Sayers is that he does not block or tackle. That is perfectly all right with Mitchell, just as long as he keeps running. Mike Johnson, a power runner who played behind Sayers, and Fullback Ron Oelschlager can take care of the blocking and tackling. Not all is muscle and brawn, however. Quarterback Steve Renko was a disappointment as a passer last year, completing only six passes in his last five games. "We would have been better off if we hadn't thrown a single pass," says Mitchell.
That may be the tip-off on how Kansas will play the game this year. Mitchell has switched Sayers to right halfback and gone back to the classic split T with its dive options and quick openers. But Kansas will have to throw the ball once in a while to avoid stacked defenses, and Renko must improve if the Jayhawkers are to make a hard run at Oklahoma.
Despite the loss of Quarterback Dennis Claridge and most of the king-sized linemen who thumped opponents so unmercifully, Nebraska Coach Bob Devaney is far from pessimistic. He says flatly, "We'll be a contender. We're the defending champs, and if anybody wants the title they have to beat us to get it."
It is a fair statement, even though many Husker rooters were disturbed when a mostly freshman team beat the varsity 24-15 in the spring game. Devaney was not unduly perturbed. He knows what his 26 holdovers can do and, face it, who is going to cry over freshmen who are that good?
Even without 260-pound All-America Guard Bob Brown and Lloyd Voss, the 245-pound All-Conference tackle, there are plenty of able bodies around for the line—like Larry Kramer, a 245-pounder, and converted center Walt Barnes, 240, at tackle. The end situation is pleasant, too. Right End Tony Jeter is a lean, sad-faced but very able 210-pounder who may be Nebraska's best lineman. He can grab passes, defends well, and is happiest when sent in a blocking assignment against a defensive halfback.
The Huskers' running game, the best in the nation in 1963, will again be something to see. Quarterback Fred Duda, a junior, loves to run with the ball on the option play, and they say he passes better than Claridge. The halfbacks, 9.6 sprinter Kent McCloughan and Bobby Hohn, can buzz on the off-tackle slants and sweeps, but Devaney needs a fullback who can take advantage of quick-opening holes. Pete Tatman, one of the many good sophomores, may be the answer.
The Mid-American Conference, still a cut below most of the bigger fellows in the Midwest but growing all the time, has three good teams. With 23 lettermen back, defending champion OHIO will be quicker and more explosive on offense and even tougher on defense than it was a year ago when it led the conference. Coach Bill Hess has three of the MAC's best linemen in Skip Hoovler, a 230-pound linebacker, Ron Fowlkes, a slinky 6-foot-2 end, and 240-pound Tackle Ron Stepsis, as well as a seasoned back-field. Quarterback Wes Danyo is only an average passer, but Hess, like his old boss, Woody Hayes, would rather run than pass anyway and he has the backs for it.
At first glance BOWLING GREEN'S losses (20 lettermen) would seem to indicate that disaster lies ahead for the Falcons. Don't believe it. Coach Doyt Perry, once a Woody Hayes man, too, still has Jay Cunningham, a halfback who last season ran for 539 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also has a fine passer in Quarterback Jerry Ward, two lusty tackles—300-pound Tony Lawrence and 260-pound Jerry Jones—and the best freshman crop in his 10 years at Bowling Green. One of them is Stew Williams (see box), the 230-pound fullback who is so good that he has made a halfback out of Jim Wisser, the Falcons' second-best runner last year with 537 yards gained rushing.
Miami's Bo Schembechler, unlike his old boss—who else but Woody Hayes?—likes the pass. The reason is obvious: Ernie Kellermann, a baby-faced, stringbeanish left-hander whom Bo calls "the greatest quarterback in the country." He may be taking in too much territory, but Kellermann is one of the best. Last year he completed 68 of 134 passes for 895 yards and eight touchdowns and rolled out on the option for another 358. Miami's defenses, however, are suspect. Unless Schembechler can find some depth in the line, Kellermann's best may not be quite good enough.