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At Drake, Quarterback Jeff Martin has completed 249 passes in three years, the top figure in the country, and this season gets protection from a line that averages 6'4" and 242 pounds. Since the Bulldogs have little else going for them, Coach Jack Wallace is putting all his money on the offense. It won't pay off.
Anyone outside its area who can name all 10 members of the Mid-American Conference is a trivia nut. Even Conference Commissioner Fred Jacoby admits, "Our main problem is identity." That problem is being rectified by Miami of Ohio, a school rich in football heritage that likes to knock off the biggies and expects to win the MAC for a fourth straight time.
But Bowling Green will be in contention, and its game with Miami on Oct. 23 will demonstrate that great football isn't played only in Norman, Columbus and Tuscaloosa. BG Tailback Dave Preston, second in the nation in scoring last year, is back: so is Dan Saleet, a brilliant rusher and pass catcher, and most of a talented offensive line. Only defensive weakness, especially in the secondary, keeps BG behind Miami.
Central Michigan is third best, mostly because of Tailback Walt (Smoke) Hodges. The offensive line is weak and the defense may be, meaning Central has to worry only when it has the ball or the other team does. A plus this year is that the Chippewas don't play Miami—or Ball State, a tough opponent largely because of Art Yaroch, the league's best quarterback.
Ohio University has no proven quarterback to direct an uncertain offense. Northern Illinois has a new coach in Pat Culpepper, who is changing everything but the school colors and his own name. Toledo has lost quarterback Gene Swick, who was a big part of the offense during the last three years. Kent State lost everything except hope. Eastern Michigan's coach quit after spring practice, which isn't a hopeful sign. Western Michigan is too slow.
Secession is changing this once well-populated conference. Defending Champion Richmond has gone independent, and four other teams will withdraw after the 1976 season: William & Mary's natural rivals lie farther north and east; Davidson has been deemphasizing football; VMI does not wish to be the only Virginia school left in the SC; and East Carolina, a good-looking team, wants to follow in Richmond's steps—and go out a champion. ECU was 8-3 last fall, and the best of those Pirates are back, including Halfback Eddie Hicks, who gained 296 yards in only 24 carries, and Free Safety Jim Bolding, who led the nation in interceptions with 10.
Appalachian State, also 8-3, threatens ECU. Halfback Emmitt Hamilton and Quarterback Robby Price will again man the Mountaineers' wishbone. If State puts together a defense, it could have the conference all to itself—perhaps for years to come.