With this talent, Switzer is not likely to order much more passing this season than in the past. As he says, "We might be tempted to pass more often except our receivers always tip off the opposition by doing cartwheels when they come out of the huddle."
Only rugged Tackle Mike Vaughan is missing from the offensive line, and nine starters are back on defense, including 6'4", 215-pound Linebacker Daryl Hunt, who as a freshman led the team in tackles with 172. If Nose Guard Reggie Kinlaw is sound following knee surgery, the defense should be considerably stronger than it was in '76, when the Sooners gave up 33 more first downs than its fleet offense made.
Switzer & Co. will get a clue as to how good they are on Sept. 24. That is when Oklahoma plays Ohio State for the first time—in Columbus. The talk is—and not just in and around Norman—that if the Sooners win that one, they'll win them all.
Come on now. Do you really expect to find anything startling in Ann Arbor? Michigan has the very same team that finished third in the polls last year and in the Top Ten every year since 1969, which, coincidentally, was the year Coach Bo Schembechler arrived. No new quarterbacks, running backs, linemen, kickers or cheerleaders. Some of the guys have different names, maybe, but everyone is as factory-built as a GM car. You can safely bet your maize-and-blue nose warmer, your Michigan helmet lamp and a six-pack of Strohs that a) the Wolverines will play Ohio State for the Big Ten title on Nov. 19, b) they will go to the Rose Bowl (if they win) or the Orange Bowl (if they don't), where they will c) lose.
Sorry, friends, but by now all of you know exactly how a Michigan season goes: nine teams get crushed by the Wolverines' peerless, passless option offense and powerhouse defense (O.K., so last year the Wolverines were upset by Purdue and this season there is Texas A&M to be reckoned with), then comes the gang war with Ohio State, then Michigan folds up at bowl time. Michigan's eight-year record in final games—four bowls and four with Ohio State—is 0-7-1. Otherwise it is 76-4-2.
Aside from the late-season face-down act, there is no mystery in how the Wolverines do it. Their triple option attack that last year led the nation in total offense (448 yards per game), rushing (363 yards) and scoring (38.7 points) is back almost in full, led by an all-veteran line that includes 6'3", 245-pound All-America Guard Mark Donahue. The only absentees are two other All-Americas: Wingback Jim Smith and Running Back Rob Lytle. Still on hand are junior Tailback Harlan Huckleby, who gained 912 yards, and Fullback Russell Davis, a 6'2", 215-pound junior who rushed for 596. Replacing Smith is either 6'5" senior Rick White, who started at split end in 1975, or prize freshman-recruit Rodney Feaster.
Schembechler's meat-grinder offense is again led by lefty Quarterback Rick Leach, a two-year starter, veteran of two bowl games and, as Curt Gowdy would say, only a junior. Schembechler allowed him to throw 105 times in 12 games last year and Leach, who also plays center field for the Wolverine baseball team, completed 50, including 13 for touchdowns—which, you better believe it, tied a Michigan record.
The defense will have to replace five starters, including All-America Linebacker Calvin O'Neal. But Outside Linebackers John Anderson and Dom Tedesco return, as do Middle Guard Steve Graves and Dwight Hicks and Jim Pickens in the secondary. Besides, history is on Michigan's side: Wolverine defenses have yielded an average of 7� points a game during the last seven years.
So where's the problem? If there is one, it is that Schembechler still has to find a way to welcome in the new year with a win.