Wake Forest, the conference doormat last fall with a 1-9-1 record (the Deacons beat Florida State by two points in their opener), might do a little better, but right in the middle of the schedule lurk three straight road games: Oklahoma, Penn State and Maryland. However, Wake Forest may not be kicked around much longer: it has an offensive tackle candidate named Richard Nixon.
Bury and forget all those Aggie jokes that have been so popular in Dallas bars and at Houston cocktail parties. Texas A&M Coach Emory Bellard expects his team to be 80 to 100% improved in 1974, and nobody around the league is scoffing. That is because the Aggies, who had a 5 and 6 record, led the SWC in total defense in 1973 and not one starter graduated. Last year's team was also the third-highest-scoring outfit in the school's history; moreover, all 38 touchdowns were produced by freshmen and sophomores.
The likely starting quarterback is sophomore David Walker. Mike Jay was No. 1 the first five games in '73, but Walker beat him out to start the final six, in which the Aggies were 3-3, losing by four points each to Arkansas and Rice.
Arkansas is the other possibility to upset Texas and Texas Tech. The Razor-backs have been down the last couple of seasons (5-5-1, 6-5), partly because of letdowns after season-opening losses to USC. Unfortunately, the first opponent this fall again will be USC. Still, Coach Frank Broyles has plenty of talent, notably All-SWC Defensive Tackle Jon Rhiddlehoover. Arkansas will go with the Wishbone.
Southern Methodist has Tight End Oscar Roan of Dallas, who caught 16 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns last fall, but the Mustangs are woefully thin. Rice has definitely bitten off too much: Notre Dame, Houston, LSU, Texas and Texas Tech. But Coach Al Con-over seems singularly unafraid, saying, "You've got to play the best to beat the best, so we are going to challenge 'em." Beating 'em will be another thing, but Conover has a good kicking game, plus Guard Cornelius Walker and Split End Ed Lofton, the latter from that famous cow town, Brooklyn.
Texas Christian used the I and the Wishbone last season—neither with great success—but is trying the Pro Set in 1974. The Frogs are counting on senior Mike Luttrell, a power runner with good hands. He gained 865 yards last year despite missing most of four games. Neal Jeffrey will be quarterbacking Baylor for the third straight year. The son of a onetime Bear All-America halfback, Jeffrey led the league in passing and total offense in 1973.
Fans of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane insist that Rod Shoate of Oklahoma is not the best linebacker in the state. That honor, they say, belongs to their own Al Humphrey, a 6'3", 225-pound senior who was the runner-up for defensive player of the year in the MVC in 1973. Humphrey is just one reason Tulsa is favored to win the championship over North Texas State and Louisville. Another is Running Back Freddie Carolina, than whom nothing will be finer, whether carrying the ball or catching passes from Quarterback Jeb Blount.
A shortcoming is an offensive line that lacks experience, but Coach F. A. Dry claims his best athletes are there. "I think this conference has more balance than it has had in the past several years," he says, "and that will help make all of us better teams."