While USC was winning the Rose Bowl and a share of the national championship last year, the rest of the Pacific Eight was suffering one embarrassment after another. The seven other schools won only 10 of 28 nonconference games, and the 10 victories came against opponents whose combined winning percentage was .410.
After opening 0-3-1 outside the league, Stanford came on to finish second in the Pacific Eight with a 5-1-1 record. This season the Cardinals are in deep water again, with opening road games against Penn State and Michigan. The quarterback will be either Mike Cordova, who started all but two games last year, or Guy Benjamin, who came off the bench to help the Indians finish strong. Tony Hill is one of several fine receivers, and the Cardinal coaches believe Ron Inge can put some sock in a punchless running attack. The young defense will try to rally 'round End Duncan McColl, Linebacker Gez Church and Back Paul Skrabo.
California improved to 7-3-1 last year, its third straight gain under Coach Mike White. The offense has a couple of all-conference performers in Wide Receiver Steve Rivera and Halfback Chuck Munsie and a gaping hole at quarterback where Steve Bartkowski starred. The All-America's likely successor is either Fred Besana or Joe Roth. Middle Guard Paul Von der Mehden and Tackle Chuck Hextrum are standouts on defense.
Don James, formerly of Kent State, inherits a veteran Washington team that finished 5-6 last season. There seems to be more experience than talent on defense, however, and the new I formation needs a capable tailback. The strengths include 6'5", 245-pound Fullback Robin Earl, who switched from tight end after four games last year, and Center Ray Pinney. The weaknesses will be exposed by Arizona State, Texas and Alabama.
Washington State is another veteran team, but it may be looking for new blood after a 2-9 season. Oregon State, 3-8 last year, is "much stronger," according to Coach Dee Andros, who welcomes back Tight End Dave Brown and Linebacker Bob Horn. Oregon Coach Don Read also expects improvement from a Duck team that finished 2-9 in 1974 and ranked at the bottom of the league in scoring and scoring defense. Transfer Quarterback Phil Brus or his rival, sophomore Jack Henderson, will lead the search for respectability, but it will have to start with Game Two. The opener: Oklahoma.
San Diego State is favored to win its fourth-straight Pacific Coast Athletic Association title this year, and Quarterback Craig Penrose seems destined to lead the nation in passing. In 1969, '71 and '73 the country's top throwers were Aztecs Dennis Shaw, Brian Sipe and Jesse Freitas, all transfer students. And the 6'3", 215-pound Penrose, a transfer from Colorado two years ago, has more than circumstance in his favor. He ranked seventh in the nation last season while leading the Aztecs to an 8-2-1 record. Other blue-chippers back from that team are Defensive End Greg Boyd and Nose Guard Mike Gilbert.
While his San Jose State rival, Craig Kimball, is gone, Penrose may be hard pressed by Neftali (Nef) Cortez of Fresno State, who threw for 1,916 yards and 15 touchdowns in '74. The Battlin' Bulldog secondary was the best in the league, and three men return: Al Alaman, Mike Jackson and Calvin Lane. San Jose's offense will miss Kimball, but the Spartan defense should be tough. It is anchored by 6'5", 275-pound Tackle Wilson Faumuina, whom Coach Darryl Rogers considers the best in the nation.
Pacific lacks overall experience but claims the league's outstanding offensive lineman, Tackle Morrison England. Cal State-Fullerton has a new coach, Jim Colletto, but modest prospects. Running Back Roe McClendon will help if he holds on to the ball—he fumbled 17 times last season. Long Beach State had an improved 6-5 record in 1974, and with new Quarterback Joe Paopao the 49ers should do even better.