Tailback Charlie Davis (926 yards, 14 TDs) is among the best in the land, and there is not much wrong with Fullback Bo Matthews (720 yards) or Wingback Jon Key-worth either. With Bill McDonald back at center, Greg Horton at left tackle and a herd of good sophomores like Guard John Kormylo and Center Pete Brock coming up, the line should help score a lot of points. That is good, because Colorado lost its entire top-flight defensive secondary, plus four starters up front. Transfer Backs Rod Perry and Ed Kertel must stick like campaign decals to aid Safety Rich Bland. Fortunately, linebacker is strong with Randy Geist, Jeff Geiser, John Stavely and Rick Stearns. Tackles Jeff Turcotte, Mark Sens and Wayne Mattingly characterized a kind of aluminum space-blanket front line—strong but thin. And there should be a lot of big kicks in the footwork, led by barefooted Chilean Fred Lima, national leader in placement scoring with 80 points. The Buffs are scarcely bare of talent: most of those 1971 sophomores are back for another try.
The Bruins are going to be good this season, perhaps very, very good, but the trouble is that very, very good in the Pacific Eight is likely to get you second place. For lurking at the end of the schedule—on Nov. 24, to be precise—is the showdown against cross-town rival USC, and teams that go head-to-head with the Trojans usually come out headless. More, the UCLA season begins in Lincoln against a Nebraska team that has a score, 17-20 as a matter of fact, to settle. In short, the Bruins are bracketed.
They were not bad last year, 8-3 including that first-game upset of two-time national champion Nebraska, and this year they have strengthened themselves with a transfusion of king-size junior college talent. "We're bigger all the way around, especially in the line," says the voluble coach, Pepper Rodgers. "They're quick, too, those big men." Two of the transfers, Pat Sweetland, a 6'2", 240-pound guard, and Weak Safety Kent Pearce, have earned starting positions on the defensive platoon, and many of the other 15 transfers are expected to see action. Rodgers believes that his two split ends, Steve Monahan, a junior college All-America last year at Orange Coast, and Norm Andersen can play anywhere, and this year UCLA, which appeared at times to lack confidence in passing, is expected to throw more than before.
Although Quarterback Mark Harmon missed the spring game with a fractured collarbone, he will be ready when the season starts. "There's not a better man in the country at operating the Wishbone," says Rodgers. "No one works harder than Harmon to play the game."
The running attack, strong last year, as fullbacks averaged five yards a carry, is expected to be even stronger. Halfbacks Kermit Johnson and Eddie Ayers and Fullback James McAlister give UCLA, as Rodgers puts it, "the speed and power you need in the Wishbone." McAlister may be uncertain at the start of the season. Switched from halfback to fullback, he missed all spring because of track and did not have the chance to work out at his new position. More definite debits: the kicking game is not as good as last year's, and the defensive secondary is not as deep.
For all his loquacity, Rodgers refuses to make predictions on how UCLA will do. "All I know," says Rodgers, "is that we throw the ball better, we catch the ball better, we execute better, we play better defense, we got better people, so we got to be better."
The University of Houston must wait until 1976 to become a full-fledged member of the Southwest Conference, but admission to the nation's Top 20 should come much sooner—like this season. There are two sound reasons why optimism is currently bubbling in aerospace country. The first is that Houston will have almost as high a percentage of veterans returning as the U.S Supreme Court. No less than 10 of the 11 defensive starters are back, and so are seven from the starting offense. Even both kicking specialists return. The second reason is a soft schedule.
Last year, with six sophomores scrambling to sort things out on defense, the Cougars ran into trouble early and had to win their last four games to pull out a 6-4-1 season. This year the crunch, such as it is, will not come until midseason. Over a five-week span they face their four toughest games—San Diego State, Miami of Florida, Auburn and Florida State—and they should be ready.