Coach John Ralston lost his leading ground gainer, Ray Handley, and 14 other lettermen, but he gets 25 back, plus transfers, redshirts and the cream of an undefeated freshman team that starred Washington and Tight End George Buehler (6 feet 2, 246 pounds). The Indians are deep at every position and have a good pro prospect in Defensive Guard Mike Hibler, who with lettermen Monty Mohrman and Bill Ogle will anchor a fine defensive line. Ralston has capable lettermen to replace four starters lost in the offensive line. The Farm has not sent a team to the Rose Bowl since 1952. This could be the season.
USC is famous for its wide-open and colorful offense, but defense may win for the Trojans this time. Seven starters are back from a defensive unit that allowed only 92 points last season. All-Coast Defensive Back Nate Shaw is big, fast and has instant judgment, and in front of him will be Tackle Harry Wells, Rover Eddie King, Middle Guard Larry Petrill and a brace of tough, although inexperienced, linebackers.
The offense will suffer from the losses of Heisman Trophy-winning Mike Garrett at halfback and every starting lineman except Guard Jim Homan. To compensate, Coach McKay has moved All-Coast Defensive Tackle Ron Yary (6 feet 6, 265 pounds plus) to offensive tackle. Yary runs 50 yards in 6.2, as fast as when he was 25 pounds lighter.
No Garrett, but another All-America backfield prospect is Flanker Rod Sherman, once a freshman star across town at UCLA. Sherman specializes in game-winning catches and has averaged more than six yards a carry in his Trojan career, but he missed spring drills because of a knee operation. Quarterback Troy Winslow also had knee surgery, and if he cannot function effectively McKay will go to one of his promising but untried backup men, probably junior college All-America Dick Hough or sophomore Steve Sogge, USC's leading hitter in baseball.
Dee Andros, in his second year tutoring OREGON STATE, thinks he has a tough slate, and he does, but the Beavers, like UCLA, play only four league games, none of them against the Uclans or Stanford.
Andros has 24 lettermen back from a 5-5 team that suffered some narrow defeats. Top returnee is Fullback Pete Pifer, who bulldozed his way to 1,095 yards last season, only the fifth man in conference history to top 1,000. Quarterback Paul Brothers was a sensational sophomore under Tommy Prothro but fell off last year, partly because of poor receivers. He now has End Harry Gunner, a 6-foot-6 basketball player from Texas who looked good in the spring game. And to ease the load on him, Pifer has Bob Grim, an ex-quarterback and ex-split end who is now an accomplished halfback.
Both lines are experienced and big, led by Defensive Guard Mark Gartung, 6-foot-5, 260-pound AAWU heavyweight wrestling champ. The whole defensive backfield was lost and must be replaced.
Washington, too, had a break-even 5-5 year in 1965 despite the pass-catching histrionics of End Dave Williams (38 receptions and 10 TDs). It is hard to believe Jim Owens' Purple Gang will be mediocre two seasons in a row. Williams, fast, strong and with good hands, is back as part of an all-veteran offensive line that also boasts Guard Mike Ryan (6 feet 1, 220 pounds) and Tackle Bob Richardson (6 feet 3, 235 pounds) from Hawaii. Junior Quarterback Tom Sparlin, who started one game as a sophomore and then broke his collarbone, will be feeding the passes to Williams.
Washington's running game should be good, although Halfbacks Steve Bramwell and Ron Medved are gone. Returning is Don Moore, top sophomore ground gainer in the school's history, who will play either halfback or fullback. The defensive backfield was not impressive in spring drills, but the defensive line, headed up by All-Coast End Tom Greenlee, should make up for its youth with speed and size. If the defense comes along as Owens hopes, Washington could be the Coast's second biggest surprise.
Beware of UTAH STATE! It may well be the surprise. The Aggies were 8-2 last season and seem sure to repeat as the West's strongest independent, even though Roy Shivers, fourth leading runner in the nation, gave up his senior year for a bundle of National Football League dollars. Coach Tony Knap has 18 starters back and just may knock off Nebraska a week from Saturday—not to mention every other team on his schedule.