With North Texas State and Louisville going independent, the Incredible Shrinking MVC has slipped, since 1973, from eight members to seven to five. Ranking the remains according to their title chances, you have: 1) Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane, coming off its first national ranking since 1967, again features the exciting air show of Jeb Blount (1,831 yards, 15 TDs, 55% completions) to Steve Largent (14 TDs, most in the land). Tulsa shook off the effects of a 60-0 drubbing by Arkansas and ran roughshod through the Valley last year, scoring 200 points in six MVC games and whipping all but one other foe by at least three touchdowns apiece. Opponents may as well watch last year's game films because 10 Hurricane offensive starters are back. Compact and sure-handed, Largent elicits memories of Howard Twilley, Tulsa's star of the '60s. Blount, a classic drop-back passer, suits the Hurricane pro set perfectly. Assisting in the air show are All-MVC Linemen Greg Fairchild and Wes Hamilton and Flanker Jessie Green who has more speed, spring and NFL suitors than Largent. The defense needs a few fill-ins, but Coach F.A. Dry hasn't the nerve to say so out loud.
Less successful, but more thrilling than Tulsa, is New Mexico State (5-6). Or at least it was last year, when the Aggies sweated out six games that were decided by three points or fewer, half in the last 30 seconds. NMS lost four of the six, but the experience may help. So should the lines, particularly the offensive front (Aggie backs gained 2,497 yards), which is deep enough to leave Coach Jim Bradley feeling secure about moving both starting tackles, Andre Anderson and Zack Carter, to defense. All-America Guard Carl Dean stays put, naturally.
West Texas State, a three-point victim at Tulsa, has a lot of monsters back in its trenches (seven on offense, five on defense), but the Buffaloes, who averaged just 4.5 completions, have lost Tracy Dickson and Merced Solis, their best receivers. Fullback Jim Herndon (six yards per carry) returns to Drake, which set a school rushing record of 2,124 yards. But its three top receivers also are gone. Wichita State (1-9-1) is flooded with JC transfers and last year's record number (22) of freshmen. For orientation, they will get to meet Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Colorado.