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With Texas favored to win an unprecedented fourth straight title and Arkansas and Texas Tech expected to finish second and third again, the five stragglers in the Southwest Conference could be excused if they asked for mercy killings and let it go at that. But there's life in them bones yet. In addition to some good quarterbacks, defenses and tight ends, there are two new coaches. They, at least, don't know how to lose to the Big Three.
One of them, Jim Pittman of TCU, was an assistant to Texas Coach Darrell Royal for 12 seasons. He will need more than accrued knowledge of his old boss to beat Texas, even though Quarterback Steve Judy is within roping distance of Sammy Baugh's school passing records. The offensive line is weak and Linebacker James Helwig quit school to become a pro boxer (and promptly bloodied Joe Frazier's nose). The other new head man, Bill Peterson of Rice, is known as a "thriller-type" coach, but he is most pleased with something more tangible: 32 lettermen, including Gary Butler, a classical (6'4", 234) tight end.
Baylor's defense surprised Texas, and 14 defensive lettermen, led by Linebacker Roger Goree, will have to try a little harder to do it again. Matthew Williams scored all the team's running touchdowns. SMU's Gary Hammond was the league's leading receiver as a sophomore end and fourth-leading rusher (and leading receiver again) as a junior tailback. Now he's at quarterback and the word is they're trying to find a position he can't play. A&M Quarterback Lex James is back after missing spring practice with hepatitis, and there are returning starters at 19 other positions. "Of course," says one observer, "no one knows if they can play football."
With the exception of Ohio State, Michigan and Northwestern, no Big Ten school broke even in 1970 and the shock was greatest at Purdue, where a 4-6 finish under former Assistant Coach Bob DeMoss hardly matched four previous 8-2 seasons. So severe was the plunge to obscurity that AP and UPI overlooked sophomore Otis Armstrong (1,009 yards rushing) on their all-conference teams. DeMoss' problems began when he picked the wrong quarterback and his offense never recovered. This fall he will go with junior Gary Danielson. In contrast, winning football returned to Northwestern for the first time since 1963, when Ara left. Quarterback Maurie Daigneau and the Big Ten's premier defense should keep the wins coming.
Wisconsin's spring brochure called the 1970 season "the best since 1863." Misprints notwithstanding, the Badgers have won only 15 games in seven years. Backs Rufus (Roadrunner) Ferguson and Alan (A-Train) Thompson should foster continued improvement. Another poor season reportedly would cost Duffy Daugherty his job at Michigan State, but his squad seems prepared to rescue him. Safety Brad VanPelt, who made 80 tackles and intercepted six passes, highlights a more Spartanlike team.
Coach Bob Blackman, ex-Dartmouth, may miss the Ivy League. His initiation at Illinois includes five of the nation's Top 20. Next door at Iowa is former Toledo Coach Frank Lauterbur, whose personal 23-game win streak won't grow much longer. Minnesota has passer Craig Curry and high hopes, while Indiana is convalescing nicely.
Georgia's Stone Mountain has just one carving on its surface, the Confederate Memorial Monument, and that includes a likeness of Robert E. Lee. But there is plenty of room for other Southern heroes. Quarterback John Reaves of Florida, for instance, Heisman Trophy in hand. Bear Bryant certainly has a case for Johnny Musso, already Alabama's alltime rushing leader. In nearby Athens, Georgia's Vince Dooley might interest sculptors in the left foot of Kim Braswell, kicker of a school-record 13 field goals.