No, that is not Woody Hayes, it is Bo Schembechler of the Michigan Wolverines, once a member of Woody's staff at Ohio State and now his ex-boss' toughest rival in the Big Ten. Schembechler is a slimmed-down version of Woody with less of an explosive, tear-up-the-sideline-markers temper but all the same dogmatism, inner fury and stress on fundamental football.
Michigan had a 10-0 record last season and was on its way to Bo's third Rose Bowl in four years when disaster struck in Columbus. The Wolverines were sniffing at Ohio State's goal when Schembechler gambled on trying for a touchdown instead of a field goal, which would have produced a tie and given his team the bowl trip and the Big Ten title outright. The TD attempt failed. Ohio State held, won the game and tied for the title, thus earning the right to go out to Pasadena to get chewed up by USC.
This year the two teams again meet in the last regular-season game, but this time it will be before 100,000-plus screaming fans in Ann Arbor, where Michigan also plays Stanford—in its second game. There are not too many other dangerous teams on the schedule, and Michigan could possibly get through undefeated.
Back to Schembechler's startling admission that the Wolverines might pass more in 1973. The reason for such un-orthodoxy is junior Quarterback Dennis Franklin from Massillon, Ohio, "one of the greatest quarterbacks in the country," who will be throwing to such as Tight End Paul Seal, "the best tight end in the conference." The quotes are Bo's. In the past, Franklin has appeared to be a better runner than passer, but he worked on his throwing all summer back home in Massillon.
"It's nice to have an established quarterback to start the year with," said Schembechler. "The last two seasons we've had a sophomore for our opener and we weren't overly impressive."
Michigan has excellent players elsewhere, too, notably Safety Dave Brown, Fullback Ed Shuttlesworth (a plunger with Csonka-like sock) and Defensive Tackle Dave Gallagher ("as good as there is around"). And, of course, a coach who thinks a 10-1 season is par. The Wolverines will be no worse than last season.
Bear Bryant, you old dog you, you can't kid us. You've got another winner down here in Tuscaloosa, haven't you? "Who, us?" asks Bryant, keeping his leathery face straight. "Win our third straight SEC title? You can't be serious." And with that he pushes back his checkered hat and directs his attention away from such crazy talk and out to the practice field where the best team in the conference, whether he admits it or not, is working out.
Terry Davis is gone, the quarterback who operated Alabama's triple option so well he was voted the Player of the Year in the conference. Nor is Guard John Hannah there to open holes for runners. This has Bryant moaning, of course—"Other than linebackers, we have only eight proven winners," he says—but he quickly adds that he has some other people who should be winners soon. Wayne Wheeler, the wide receiver, is a winner. Wheeler caught the key passes in Alabama's victory over LSU. Buddy Brown is a strong offensive lineman. Defensive End John Croyle is highly considered, and Mike Washington promises to be an outstanding cornerback. Washington surprised Bryant this spring—"He was ordinary last year, but now he's anything but ordinary"—and it is a pet theory of the Bear's that a team must find several surprises in addition to its winners if it is to be a championship contender.
The position at which Alabama needs its biggest surprise is quarterback. Four men battled for the job all spring, each looking brilliant on occasion, clumsy on others. Right now the edge goes to junior Gary Rutledge, who was Davis' backup last year. Rutledge will have a wealth of running backs to hand off to, the most experienced of whom is Wilbur Jackson. He averaged 7.1 yards a carry in 1972 and could become one of the best in the South.