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This powerhouse conference was at its best last year, winning 78% of its non-league games and placing seven teams in bowls and five in the Top 20. Only one school, Mississippi, had a losing season, but despite wholesale shuffling of personnel and new offensive and defensive formations, the Rebels will not do much better than 3-8 again this year.
Another once-proud power fallen on hard times is LSU, whose 5-5-1 record was its worst in 17 years. The Tigers have veered from the veer, but the multiple I may not be much better without a capable quarterback or ball carrier to make it go. The defense is more dependable, especially with Steve Cassidy at tackle.
Mississippi State, Tennessee and Kentucky all seem to be a quarterback away from success. The Bulldogs blossomed to 9-3 last year and could do as well if Coach Bob Tyler adequately replaces league MVP Rockey Felker. Tailback Walter Packer led the SEC in rushing, and Guard Harvey Hull heads a veteran defense. At Tennessee, Quarterback Con-dredge Holloway is gone, but junior Randy Wallace will try to fill the void. Most of the other positions are set, with such top performers as Tailback Stanley Morgan, Split End Larry Seivers, Tackle Mickey Marvin and Linebacker Andy Spiva returning.
Improving Kentucky will also miss its quarterback, Mike Fanuzzi, but Halfback Sonny Collins runs behind an experienced line. Collins gained 970 yards last year despite missing the final 2� games with a broken leg. If he stays healthy, he should become the league's top career ground-gainer and continue the Wildcats' steady climb under Coach Fran Curci.
Georgia and Vanderbilt are contrasting studies. The Bulldogs have a veteran offense that averaged 29 points and 280 yards a game in a 6-6 season. Quarterback Matt Robinson and Halfback Glynn Harrison will have to sparkle again because the defense is suspect. The opposite is true at Vanderbilt, where new Coach Fred Pancoast inherits 10 defensive starters, including Safety Jay Chesley, but has some gaping holes on offense. The quarterback problem should be solved by the return of Fred Fisher, who missed five games last season after starring as a sophomore. Even so, the Commodores enjoyed a 7-3-2 record, their best in 19 years. With Fisher full time, they could do as well.
Offense will again predominate in the Big Eight, especially at Colorado where Bill Mallory has the happy problem of trying to fit uniforms on a line that averages 6'5�" and 261 pounds. Of more serious concern is the Colorado defense, the Big Eight's worst a year ago, which Mallory has tried to treat with a liberal injection of Vitamin JC. On offense, the Buffaloes have an outstanding wide receiver in Dave Logan and a workmanlike quarterback in Dave Williams, who, with help from the Goliaths up front, should abet the running of Billy Waddy and Terry Kunz. An improvement on last year's 5-6 record seems likely.
Missouri's offense ripped off almost 3,170 yards last fall on the way to a 7-4 season, Tony Galbreath rushing for 870 yards and going 5 for 5 and three touchdowns with the halfback option pass. However, the Tigers will be relying more on the arm of Steve (Zark) Pisarkiewicz, who threw for 828 yards and six touchdowns. Defense should be the most acute headache for Al Onofrio.
Oklahoma State ended its season by winning the Fiesta Bowl, but Jim Stanley will have to rebuild his defense and improve the Cowboy passing attack for similar postseason joy. A good corps of receivers should make the job easier for Quarterback Charlie Weatherbie. A solid tackle tandem of James White and Phillip Dokes gives Stanley something to build on.