Tulane, which enjoyed an unaccustomed 9-2 regular-season record, has more good tidings and could make the Top 20. The Green Wave lost only three defensive starters and retains such one-man whirlpools as Charles Hall, Mark Olivari, Rusty Chambers, John Washington and David Lee. Although the offense, which ranked high nationally, lost one entire side of the line, virtually every statistical leader is back, notably Quarterback Steve Foley (601 yards rushing, 824 passing, and seven touchdowns), Flankers Jaime Garza and Tom Fortner and Fullback Lyndon Lasiter.
Another team that could vault into the Top 20 is Miami ( Fla.). Nearly everyone returns from last year's young squad, which jolted Texas 20-15 and almost beat Oklahoma, and the undefeated freshman team will put more electricity in the Hurricanes. I Back Woody Thompson, nationally a leading scorer until injured, ran for three touchdowns against Texas and two against Oklahoma. Split End Steve Marcantonio and Tight End Phil August provide good reception, and Tackle Dennis Harrah, fast at 259 pounds, will test any defense. Provoking Middle Guard Rubin Carter, on the other hand, will be suicide for any enemy offense.
Memphis State's defense should be improved, which would suggest an even better season than last year's 8-3, except that three-fourths of the offensive back-field will be sophomores. Fortunately, the fourth position is quarterback, and Coach Fred Pancoast has three good men there—Dave Fowler (759 yards passing), Joe Bruner (785 yards) and Mike Robb (309 yards, 67% completed). The four best receivers are also in hand, but the Tigers must beat the bushes for runners.
South Carolina fields most of the backs who made the Gamecocks' 1973 offense, a Veer, the biggest gainer in S.C. history, but the line presents a worry or four. Spectacular Quarterback Jeff Grantz had 1,670 yards in total offense and tallied 16 touchdowns despite being injured for three games. A good runner and a wicked threat as a halfback passer, Jay Lynn Hodgin accounted for 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also led the team in kickoff returns with 344 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown against Houston.
Utah State confidently claims two deep and talented offensive lines, unexpected quarterback depth behind Tom Wilson (1,177 yards passing), solid runners led by exciting little Louie Giammona (511 yards rushing) and Fullback Jerry Cox. It should be noted, however, that Tailback Archie Gibson (1,150 yards) is gone and that Oklahoma has been added to the schedule.
Air Force Coach Ben Martin has to come up with a quarterback to replace Rich Haynie, leading yardage maker in service academy history. Valiantly trying will be left-handed reserve Mike Worden and converted Cornerback Ken Vaughn. Chris Milodragovich leads a corps of good tailbacks, but Jim Monahan and Al Bready have little experience at fullback and flanker. The offensive and defensive lines are both whiz-bang.
How would you like to play all 11 of your games away from home, including Alabama, Mississippi and Memphis State? Southern Mississippi, whose stadium is being renovated, faces that prospect this year. Quarterback Jeff Bower, who completed 58% of his passes for 1,500 yards and accounted for 13 touchdowns, is back, while John Sawyer, Eddie Tate and Barry Gibson are capable catchers in the Veer offense.
"We could be a pretty good country football team," says West Virginia Coach Bobby Bowden, "if our quarter-backing comes through." Gawrsh. Hum a few bars of John Denver's Country Roads for your city-rube opponents from Pittsburgh, Boston and Richmond while you're at it, Bobby. The departed Ade Dillon was a fair country quarterback, all right, but there is nothing much wrong with understudies Chuck Fiorante and Ben Williams, or sophomore prospects Kirk Lewis and Tom Loadman. Especially when they'll be throwing to Dangerous Danny Buggs and Marshall Mills. Buggs, who runs like a bunny, has scored a touchdown every sixth time he has touched the ball, gaining 624 yards at an average of 23.1 per reception last year.
Pepper Rodgers, twice Coach of the Year in both the Big Eight and the Pacific Eight, is back home in Atlanta, and the probable result is a Georgia Tech homecoming to the ranks of the football powers. Only a good coach can afford to be colorful, and Rodgers is both. Besides, Tech has an ace defenseman named Randy Rhino, and who can compete with that for All-America cornerback? Rhino has been the nation's leading punt returner and ranked high in interceptions and open-field tackles. Joe Harris has the size of another rhino at linebacker, while Jim Robinson is in the cheetah class at split end.
Frank Maloney, coming in as successor to Syracuse Coach Ben Schwartzwalder, who retired after 25 years, arrived with some humility packed into his baggage. Not having seen the Orange play, he let the seniors pick the teams for the spring game. The seniors have their own reasons to feel humble. Last year's Syracuse squad was the lowest-scoring since 1948 and the most scored-upon since 1893. But Maloney did not hesitate to move Quarterback Bob Mitch, Syracuse's leading rusher and passer, to safety. Rob Sutton, first string in '72, left school, so Jim Donoghue will move in at quarterback. The other back positions need work, but the offensive line, key-noted by excellent Center Mike McNeely, Guard Tom Morgan and Tackle Steve Scully, may be the Orange aid this year.