Actually, if you can believe some of the talk around Austin, the Longhorns' successes are getting a little boring. " Texas clobbers everyone," one sports watcher says. "The few times they don't, they get clobbered. Maybe 40% of the students are into the game. The rest worry more about their dates than whether Texas wins or loses." In fact, after last year's 52-13 thrashing by Oklahoma, the sports editor of the Daily Texan boycotted football, filling his columns with cross-country results and stories on the prospects of the wrestling team.
Rank ingratitude, some might say. Unnecessary, says Darrell Royal, because "there is going to be a drop-off; I don't think we'll be as good as we have been in the past." However, he also ominously says, "We aren't sacking up the bats before the ball game starts." When football coaches start using baseball metaphors, expect something sneaky.
Which is the only team to have been ranked in the final Top Ten each of the last five years? If you said Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama or Penn State, you're dead wrong. The answer is Michigan. Under Bo Schembechler the Wolverines have gone 48-6-1 over the last half decade. In Bo's "worst" season, 1969, Michigan won eight of 11 and upset Ohio State, while Schembechler was named Coach of the Year.
That brings us to the end-of-the-sea-son record—and here poor Bo is bidding to be the Tom Landry of college football. Four of his six losses, and the tie, have come in season finales, three in scheduled games, two in the Rose Bowl. And even the tie was a loss, one might almost say. Last year Michigan lost its finale not on the scoreboard but to the Big Ten athletic directors. After Michigan managed to tie mighty Ohio State 10-10, the Big Ten still picked the Buckeyes as its Rose Bowl representative.
According to nasty rumor, the major consideration was the injury suffered by Wolverine Quarterback Dennis Franklin in that game. Ironically, Franklin's shoulder mended so rapidly that he was able to throw again before New Year's Day. Which was doubly bad news for the athletic directors. Besides destroying their reputation for omniscience, it meant that Franklin was going to be very healthy for 1974. In '73 "healthy" meant 959 yards of total offense.
Fullback Ed Shuttlesworth, third leading rusher in Michigan history, and Wingback Clint Haslerig have graduated. To compensate, last year's trio of tailbacks—who together ran for 1,672 yards—will be scattered to three positions. Gil Chapman moves to wingback, Chuck Heater (only 205 pounds) goes to fullback and Gordon Bell remains at tailback. That gives Michigan its alltime fastest backfield. Which is good. Franklin can throw 60-yard lightning bolts, but Michigan's excellent receivers sometimes drop them—occasionally from sheer surprise that Bo allowed the team to pass.
The front line has great size and depth, most particularly on defense. In the last four years Michigan has yielded only 6.62 points per game. That makes winning easier. Behind the line, enemy passers stand in such awe of Safety Dave Brown that most of his 76 tackles last year came on running plays. Linebacker Steve Strinko was in on 137 tackles, a record, and Carl Russ had 94 stops. Altogether, Michigan should do very well in its conference, the Big Two plus Medium-Sized Eight. Stanford and Colorado, tough outside foes, should fall. That would carry Michigan to another epic struggle at Columbus.
Despite having a student body that is the farthest to the left in the Big Ten, Michigan takes football just about as seriously as any Columbus Rotarian. While Tom Hayden was editing the Michigan Daily and founding Students for a Democratic Society in the '60s, mobs of students still poured through Hoover Street on Saturdays to march on Michigan Stadium. Two months before the Black Action Movement strike paralyzed the university in 1970, many of the same people had sunned themselves in the Rose Bowl. Does so much victory cloy the students of Ann Arbor? Not on your (Henry) Wallace button. During the dull moments they risk the town's celebrated $5 pay-by-mail marijuana fine. When the third quarter ends they follow tradition and pass the empty Stroh's beer bottles 90 rows to the stadium's outer wall. When Michigan goes ahead by three touchdowns, 90 rows of lecherous young men pass assorted coeds up to the same wall. This will happen often in 1974.