Should the Irish get by Purdue and Northwestern in the first two games, the waters will be smooth and untroubled until Michigan State on Nov. 19.
Right now, MICHIGAN STATE has other worries. For one thing, everybody knows that Big Ten champions never—well, almost never—repeat (the only one to do it in the past 15 years was Ohio State in 1955), and the average finish for defenders has been fifth place. But Coach Duffy Daugherty just gulps when he is reminded of that odd phenomenon and tries to disperse his own doubts by thinking of the five All-Americas still on his squad.
"Sure, there is something to it," says Daugherty realistically. "The lack of the Rose Bowl incentive is a real thing, and I am not naive enough to think we can be an automatic winner. After all, we did lose the heart of our defense. But we'll survive, and we'll be hard for anyone to beat."
Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but Daugherty surprised everyone a year ago when his Spartans were unbeaten—until the Rose Bowl—and it might pay to listen to him. Michigan State's losses were severe—Middle Guard Harold Lucas, Tackles Buddy Owens and Don Bierowicz, End Bob Viney and Linebacker Ron Goovert from the defense that was the best in the country last season (it held opponents to 45.6 yards a game on the ground) and Quarterback Steve Juday, who held the offense together.
The defense, though, is not exactly bankrupt. Two of those five All-Americas, Bubba Smith, a giant 275-pound end who can move, and 218-pound George Webster, the roughhouse rover back who likes to muss up ballcarriers, are defensemen. Linebacker Charlie Thornhill is still around, too, and so are Drake Garrett, Jerry Jones and Sterling Armstrong from the deep secondary. Although the newcomers, End Phil Hoag, Tackles Nick Jordan and Charles Bailey, a sophomore, Middle Guard Pat Gallinagh and Linebacker Bob Brawley, are hardly the behemoths Michigan State has been used to, they will impress people.
The offense, where the other three All-Americas—Halfback Clinton Jones, Fullback Bob Apisa and Split End Gene Washington—hang out, has a brighter look. The line is packed with experienced players like the lanky Washington, who is the Big Ten hurdles champion and holds most of the school pass-receiving records (he caught 40 for 638 yards last year), and Tackles Jerry West and Joe Przybycki. Then there is Dick Kenny, the barefoot Hawaiian who punts sky-high and boots field goals and extra points. He was good for 53 points in 1965.
The backfield is a delight. It has three players who, among them, ran for 1,864 yards. Jones, a strong, fast runner, gained 787 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He also grabbed 26 passes. Right Half Dwight Lee picked up 411 yards and Apisa, who hits like a baby bull, rushed for 666. Apisa, however, had knee surgery during the winter. If he is not right, the halfbacks can expect to meet swarming defenses.
The new quarterback is Jimmy Raye, a scrawny little fellow who would rather run than pass any day, and that fits in just fine with Daugherty's plans. Since his Spartans will be smaller all over, this calls for a new offensive approach. "We like our offense carefree but not irresponsible," says Duffy. "We know we can't blow people out of there with power anymore, so we'll rely more upon surprise and speed."
With that in mind, he remodeled his attack some in the spring. Raye ran the option a lot and Daugherty put in a balanced line. But he warns, "That doesn't mean we won't be unbalanced in the fall."
Whether or not State can beat the Big Ten year-after-the- Rose Bowl jinx will be decided early. The Spartans play Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State and Purdue on successive Saturdays in October.