A couple of years ago, if you asked an ACC student what he thought of football he'd probably have said, "I think they play it before basketball." Last season the ACC had its first winning record over nonconference opponents in 17 years and sent three teams to major bowl games. It shouldn't take long for the fans along Tobacco Road to forget David—uh—Thompson.
If North Carolina State follows Lou Holtz' grand plan for 1975, the Wolfpack should have its fourth straight 400-yard, 30-point-per-game offense. The plan is called "Keep Dave Buckey healthy," and it is the key to avenging 1974 losses to North Carolina and Maryland and the key to heaven if the Pack can beat Michigan State and Penn State. Buckey passed for 1,481 yards (64.8%) and knows all the moves of his favorite receiver, twin brother Don, whom he hit 26 times last year. There are no experienced ballcarriers, but Holtz has a 6'1" freshman jewel named Rickey Adams. Six starters return to the defense, notably Cornerback Ralph Stringer.
Clemson had its best record (7-4) since 1959, and 48 veterans are back, including All-America Tight End Bennie Cunningham. A happy addition for Coach Red Parker is 6'5" sophomore Wide Receiver Stan Rome, who shot the eyes out as a freshman basketball star in Clem-son's 83-82 upset over Maryland last winter. Only four starters are gone from the defensive unit, and season-ticket sales are better than ever.
Duke, with 35 returnees, may have its best team in 10 years, but also its worst schedule: six nonconference road games, beginning with USC and including Pitt, Florida and Georgia Tech. But that might only make life miserable for the four ACC foes who must visit Durham, especially since the Blue Devils did not lose a home game last year.
North Carolina has only six seniors, and none of them is All-ACC Quarterback Chris Kupec, who lost a court battle for an extra year of eligibility and took off for the WFL. It does have a pair of 1,000-yard tailbacks in James (Boom Boom) Betterson and Mike Voight. Beginning his second year at Virginia, Sonny Randle announced, "I only know one way. The players are going to have to accept me for what I am." So 18 of them quit. Still around are Quarterback Scott Gardner and Running Back Joe Sroba, but only three regulars return from a bad defense. And Wake Forest, which went five straight games without scoring a point last year, will not, on consecutive Saturdays, have to play Oklahoma, Penn State and Maryland. The combined score of that series last year was 165-0.
He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount. That proverb pretty much sums up Arizona in its role as favorite in the WAC. The tiger, of course, is Arizona State, which leads the nation in scoring over the past five years and has grown accustomed to winning a) at least 10 games a year, b) the WAC title and c) the Fiesta Bowl. State Coach Frank Kush, who believes it is better to die an infant than miss a block, is shouldering part of the blame for the Sun Devils' skid to 7-5 last season. Kush says he went overboard, letting players choose their own hair length and decide whether they wanted to live off-campus. "I hedged my beliefs," he warns. "But no more."
Cracked down upon or not, Fast Freddie Williams, the WAC's top rusher, and End John Jefferson will continue to light up the scoreboard. All-America Linebacker Bob Breunig is gone, but with eight returnees, the tightest defense against scoring in the WAC last year is not about to crumble. Top veteran is Mike Haynes, who led the nation in interceptions (11). Notably, Kush's Kids of 1974 are one year older, and only 11 of them are seniors.
The good news for defending champion Brigham Young is that Jay Miller has recovered from his knee injury. His 100 catches in 1973 led the country. The bad news is that more than half of last year's starters have split, among them Gary Sheide, who lost the national passing title to Steve Bartkowski by one completion. With Sheide gone, the most feared passer from Juarez to Saskatchewan will be Colorado State's Mark Driscoll, who threw for 19 TDs last year. Stardom also awaits CSU Linebacker Kevin McLain and Ron Harris, the nation's leading freshman running back. In fact, the Rams (4-6-1) might start winning despite having lost four-fifths of their offensive interior.