Aggie Placekicker Tony Franklin, who kicked field goals of 62 and 65 yards last season, has set nine NCAA records. No problem here. The problem is the schedule, with Texas Tech the third game of the season and Texas and Houston coming to College Station late in the year. One of these four teams is going to the Cotton Bowl.
If you want to see Maryland on a losing streak, don't hold your breath. The Terps, who were 11-0 before losing to Houston by a touchdown in the Cotton Bowl, have 37 lettermen returning, and Coach Jerry Claiborne, who has seen his troops win 20 straight ACC games, feels this might be his finest team ever.
Maryland gave up more than one touchdown in only three regular season games in 1976 to rank second in the nation in total defense and the Terps should be up there again, despite the loss of both tackles, most notably All-America Joe Campbell. The replacements are All-Conference Guard Ernie Salley and either of two outstanding junior lettermen, Charlie Johnson and Kenny Watson. With four veteran linebackers and five experienced people in the secondary, Maryland can afford to do some juggling up front, as long as everything has meshed by the time the Terps travel north to meet Penn State on Sept. 24.
The exceptionally quick Terrapins run from the power I and rely on three basic plays: the speed option with senior Quarterback Mark Manges carrying; tailback up the middle; tailback sweep. And with three excellent tailbacks—225-pound junior Steve Atkins, junior Preacher Maddox and sophomore George Scott—what Maryland wants, Maryland most usually will get. That threesome turned in seven 100-yards-plus games last season, the best individual performance being a 225-yard effort by Atkins against Syracuse.
Fullback Tim Wilson has graduated; Steve Koziol and Mickey Dudish, both junior lettermen, both capable blockers, will fill his cleats. The junior wingbacks, Chuck White and Dean Richards, are fine receivers. In fact, except for Tight End Bob Raba, who will be replaced by 6'3" sophomore letterman Eric Sievers, all the Terp receivers are back, to the delight of Manges, who is deadly at short range and only slightly less effective going long (81 for 139, good for 1,145 yards and 11 touchdowns last season). Manges loves to throw when no one—not even his coach—expects him to. However, Manges' second love is tucking the ball under his arm and taking off upfield. He averaged 3.6 yards in 125 carries last season.
"Our running will be excellent, our passing outstanding," says Claiborne, who has led Maryland to four straight bowl games since taking over a moribund program in 1972. He is not quite as enthusiastic when he talks of his freshmen, who he feels are only average. But that is of little solace to Maryland opponents. In recent years an average group of Terp freshmen would be considered outstanding elsewhere.
Says Claiborne, "Last year in the games we didn't play well and in the bowl game we lost, it was our mistakes and not the opposition that hurt us. Now we are going to do everything we did last season—only with fewer mistakes."
10 Penn State
Almost since he arrived at Penn State in 1966, Joe Paterno has been trying to sell the pollsters on Eastern college football. Each year, as his Nittany Lions marched toward another Lambert Trophy and another bowl game, Paterno crossed his fingers and hoped that this would be the year. And when the results from 1976 came in, the East had a national champion, the first since 1959—but it was Pittsburgh. Paterno, who suffered through a 7-5 season, had no choice but to grin and bear it.