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Appalachian State has 11 starters returning, The Citadel 17. The Mountaineers boast Quarterback Phil Coccioletti and sophomore Punter Joe Parker, No. 5 in the nation last year; the Bulldogs feature soph Linebacker Brian Ruff and Fullback Andrew Johnson, a "miniature Jim Brown." But between them, the two teams won only three conference games last fall and figure to establish a holding pattern in the second division. VMI, which lost Tom Schultze, its finest passer ever, will be lucky to improve on its 3-8 record.
As billed, Miami of Ohio is indeed the "Cradle of Coaches." Trouble is, that means that the Redskins, the stingiest defensive team around last year, are setups for the old cradle-robbing play. Bill Mallory, now in his first year at Colorado, is the latest Miami coach to be filched, and Dick Crum, his successor, will undoubtedly be the next—provided that he lives up to the Redskin tradition.
Considering that Miami was the undefeated Mid-Am champion last season and beat Florida in the Tangerine Bowl, that is no small order. But Crum has 10 starters returning, including Guard Brad Cousino, the 1973 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, and all-conference Offensive Tackle Mike Biehle. Steve Sanna and Sherman Smith will again alternate at quarterback, but Rob Carpenter and Randy Walker can hardly make up for the loss of Bob Hitchens, the Redskins' top alltime rusher. Still, Miami has a lighting chance of retaining its Mid-Am title: at the very worst it could tumble to third place.
On paper MAC runner-up Kent State, 9-2 last year and on the upswing, has the edge over Miami. The double-barreled attack that averaged 27 points a game is reloaded and seems as deadly as ever. Big Shot No. 1 is All-MAC Tailback Larry Poole, who raced for 1,063 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall. Big Shot No. 2 is Greg Kokal, who fired at will for 1,776 yards and seven TDs as a sophomore. The Golden Flashes lost their three top receivers but Ken Dooner, Willie Davis and Carlos Cato are ready replacements. On defense, Coach Don James can count on All-MAC Linemen Walt Vrabel and Larry Faulk.
Although Ohio University was only 5-5 in 1973, there is cause for cheer: nine starters return on offense, eight on defense. That could total up to a few timely upsets, especially if Quarterback Rich Bevly, a strong but erratic passer, and leading rushers Dave Houseton and L. C. Lyons get it together.
The Toledo Rockets will again take off with Slick Gene Swick, the nation's sixth-leading passer last year, throwing to Randy Whateley and Don Seymour—and then just as likely come plummeting down again with a dead-cold ground game. It averaged only 121 yards a Saturday in 1973. Lopsided attacks have a way of failing, as evidenced by the fact that Toledo lost its third straight game to the alumni this spring.
Bowling Green's Don Nehlen calls his team the "No Names" for good reason. No fewer than 16 regulars have exited, and the renown of Linebacker Joe Russell is not expected to restore the Falcons to last year's 7-3 celebrity status. Western Michigan, strengthened by the return of Quarterback Paul Jorgensen but severely weakened on defense, must come out on the long end of more than one high-scoring game to extricate itself from last place.
As sure as the snowflakes that descend on Hanover, N.H. each football season come the reports that this is the year that Dartmouth will be dethroned as Ivy League champion. But the Big Green has won or shared the title five seasons running, grabbing it outright last fall after Coach Jake Crouthamel had the gall to dismiss 1973 as a "'rebuilding year." This season it may be more difficult to repeat.