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Perennial powers LSU and Auburn had losing seasons last year, but you can bet that won't happen again—at least not to both of them. Doug Barfield (page 72), replacing Shug Jordan at Auburn, inherited only one defensive lineman and a 4-4 defense that he has changed to a 5-2. LSU has the better chance of a winning season now that Texas A&M and Tennessee have been supplanted on the schedule by Utah and Oregon State. A. J. Duhe, the colorful Cajun, is one of the best tackles Baton Rouge has ever seen. Coach Fred Pan-coast rebuilt Vanderbilt (7-4) well in his first year, but now he has to do it all over again. Sixteen starters are gone.
Commissioner Wayne Duke fumes at gibes that his conference, which last year led the country in attendance with a 59,658-per-game average, is really the Big Two—Ohio State and Michigan. "The millennium would be a 10-way tie for first," says Duke, "but that's not the way life is. You've got the haves and the have-nots."
With that, he submits a piece of paper that shows other conferences are more Big Two than his Big Two. Sure enough, in the Big Eight, Oklahoma and Nebraska have won 14 titles since 1960, while Ohio State and Michigan have won only 10; USC and UCLA have won 12 Pac-8 titles, as have Texas and Arkansas in the Southwest.
Nonetheless, one of the Big Two will win the Big Ten again this year, because nobody else can challenge. Best of the rest could be Minnesota, led by its splendid quarterback, Tony Dungy, who topped the league in total offense and in passing last year. The defense is anchored in this Bicentennial year by George Washington, who last year led the Big Ten in tackles with 126. The offensive line needs help.
Illinois should finish fourth, but the team has a rep for letting folks down when hopes are high. A bad season could spell the end for Coach Bob Blackman, who in five years has won far fewer than half his games. One mainstay is Defensive Tackle John DeFeliciantonio, who leads the league in longest name. Michigan State is on probation for recruiting violations, so TV viewers will not have an opportunity to see new Coach Darryl Rogers' passing game.
Heading the second division will be Purdue, which will have difficulty improving on last year's 4-7. The alums are anxious, if not yet mutinous, at Indiana, where Coach Lee Corso is 5-27-1 over three years. Northwestern won't ruin many Saturdays for its opponents and Iowa Coach Bob Commings is blowing smoke when he says seven or eight wins are possible. Wisconsin, which loses a lot and yet was fourth in the nation in home attendance last year, will lose and draw but not win much.
UCLA's Terry Donahue, 32, one of four new coaches in the league, has a dangerous running back in Wendell Tyler and sweet memories of the Rose Bowl win over Ohio State (he was an assistant then), but it isn't likely that the Bruins will go to Pasadena again next Jan. 1. For one thing, four All-Pac-8 players are gone, including Quarterback John Sciarra. Also, the team across town, USC, is loaded. And two of the first four teams on UCLA's schedule are Arizona State at Tempe and Ohio State at Columbus. Donahue will keep Dick Vermeil's veer T, which will be operated by either of two quarterbacks: Jeff Dankworth, a fine runner, or Steve Bukich, sharp-passing son of ex-pro Rudy. Other likely stars besides Tyler are Receiver Wally Henry and the announcer's delight, Defensive Tackle Manu Tuiasosopo.
Stanford has a favorite son, too, in Defensive End Duncan McColl, whose father Bill was a star for Stanford and the Chicago Bears. McColl has good people on the line with him, but the linebacker corps was hit hard by graduation. The Cardinals' two fine quarterbacks, Guy Benjamin and Mike Cordova, have Flanker Tony Hill as a target in addition to James Lofton. "Offensively, this could be the best team we've had in some time," says Coach Jack Christiansen, now in his fifth year.