If the uncustomary ruggedness of the early going doesn't overwhelm Ohio State's young players, the Buckeyes could spend a fourth straight New Year's Day Rose Bowling in Pasadena.
8 PENN STATE
Time was when Penn State was the big bully on a little block, taking on Army, Navy and assorted other Eastern pussycats. As a result, two things happened: the schedule helped Joe Paterno compile the best coaching record in the game—in nine years as head coach he is 85-15-1—and the Nittany Lions were never chosen No. 1, not even two years ago when they won 12 straight, including an Orange Bowl defeat of LSU. The pollsters would look at the weak schedule and vote for some other team, often one with a lot of bigger-name patsies on its schedule.
This season no one can accuse Penn State of dodging the heavyweights. For one thing, some of those pussycats have grown sharp teeth; Pitt, Maryland and North Carolina State were all in the Top 20 last year. And two weeks from now Penn State takes on a superheavyweight, Ohio State—and in Columbus. It should be a bruising afternoon.
Paterno spent the summer huddled in a darkroom, watching films and trying to come up with a workable offense. He emerged sounding somewhat the worse for wear. "I really don't know what system we'll run," he says. "Who knows, we might line up in a single wing."
Penn State's offense mostly consists of hefty juniors ( Paterno could field a line averaging close to 250 pounds). There are two quarterback candidates, John Andress, who threw only eight passes last year, and 6'5�" John Carroll. Andress is the better all-round athlete, but Carroll, says Paterno, "has the potential to be a really outstanding passer. He's smart and learns quickly." The running game looks solid with last year's frosh flash Jimmy Cefalo, Woody Petchel, the best rusher in the spring game, and Fullback Larry Suhey, who grew up in State College, Pa. Gone are Ouarterback Tom Shuman, Tight End Dan Natale and Fullback Tom Donchez, but the offensive line should help the replacements. One behemoth, 270-pound Dave Shukri, should be recovered from an off-season injury by the time Stanford checks in for the home opener next week.
The defensive line had better be tough, since it will be trying to contain some of the nation's best runners—Ohio State's Archie Griffin, Kentucky's Sonny Collins, West Virginia's Artie Owens, Pitt's Tony Dorsett. To help make it so, Paterno moved Offensive Tackle Ron Coder, a walk-on who played schoolboy football in Japan, to defensive tackle. Returning is Linebacker Greg Buttle, who had 165 tackles and assists last fall, tops on the squad. Paterno has no Jack Hams or Dennis Onkotzes, but nonetheless the opposition had better try to pass.
"This will be a young team," Paterno says. "Basically sophomores and juniors. However, we have the potential for a fine team." And that rugged schedule? "Oh, that should be a lot of fun," says Paterno with a smile. Joe may want to reconsider that statement as the season goes on.
Arizona Stadium in Tucson will be enlarged by 18,000 seats for the 1976 season and, with a capacity of 58,000, will be the largest in the Western Athletic Conference. There is good reason for expansion. The university's football reputation has improved tremendously in Jim Young's two years as head coach. His Wildcats had an 8-3-1 record in 1973 and were co-champions of the WAC. Last year they beat Arizona State for the first time in a decade and their 9-2 record was the best since the school started intercollegiate football in 1899, 13 years before the territory became a state. This season, Arizona should be a crowd-pleasing stadium-filling team again.