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THE TOP 20
September 10, 1979
1. USC
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September 10, 1979

The Top 20

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The secondary has experience and speed, but the first of these qualities is missing elsewhere. However, the Buckeyes have 10 games in which to gain some of it. In Game 11 they meet Michigan. Before that traditional showdown, Ohio State faces six Big Ten opponents—Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa—whom it has beaten in 53 of 54 games in the last decade and out-scored by a 1,980-485 margin. The nonconference opponents, Syracuse, Washington State and UCLA, aren't tough, either.

"We don't have the talent I first thought we had when I got the job," Bruce says. "But it will come." Considering the schedule, it won't have to come too quickly for Bruce to make a Hayesian mark at Ohio State.

19. Arizona State

In his 22 years as Sun Devil coach, Frank Kush has won 173 of 226 games. That puts him second in wins among active coaches, to Bear Bryant. Kush has had only one losing season, and even though Arizona State is now a member of the cutthroat Pac 10, Kush's career record doesn't figure to suffer much this season.

Twelve starters return from last season's statistically awesome 9-3 team. The Sun Devils rang up 415.1 yards a game, and on third downs or non-kicking fourth downs, they got first downs 42.5% of the time. Their opponents succeeded on only 29.6% of such occasions. "We should be able to score," says Kush, who is a mean man with a metaphor, "because we have some home-run hitters."

One is Quarterback Mark Malone, a 4.6 sprinter in the 40, who has fullback bulk (220 pounds) and quarterback height (6'4"). Last season Malone's runs and passes provided 44% of the Sun Devils' offense, which was ninth best in the country. His one weakness is that everything he throws—including 50-yard passes—is a bullet, which sometimes makes it tough for receivers to catch up to the ball. "Mark is just a colt," says Kush. "But he's going to be a thoroughbred." Among Kush's other heavy-hitters/stallions are receivers Ron Washington and John Mistier.

The Sun Devils are also well stocked with speedy runners, among them old reliables Newton Williams, Gerald Riggs and Arthur (Turtle) Lane, and potential stars in freshman Willie Gittens and sophomores Robert Weathers and Alvin Moore. The problem is literally right in front of their backs' faces—the offensive line. Arizona State must start a new center, a new tight end and two new tackles. "I don't care how many thoroughbreds you have," Kush cautions while sticking to his equine motif. "You can't go without the horses up front."

Kush's defensive concerns are the opposite of those on offense. "We're strong in the line, but the strength tapers off as we progress back," he says. "We could get into some track meets in which we could score big and still lose." Last year both Washington and Washington State tore apart the Sun Devil secondary, the Huskies winning by 34 points and the Cougars by 25. The line is solid, even though All-America End Al Harris is gone. Either Joe Peters or Tom Allen will fill the gap, and the other end is filled by Bob Kohrs, who despite his unimpressive size (6'3", 225 pounds) for his position, matched Harris in Kush's grading system last fall. Kohrs worked as a bouncer in local bars during the summer. One of the watering holes held boxing matches, and one night Kohrs' pals succeeded in pressuring him into taking on a 280-pound amateur who had been daring customers to step into the ring. Kohrs pulled off his shirt, climbed under the ropes and coldcocked the loudmouth. Time of K.O.: eight seconds of Round 1.

Another tough guy is Linebacker Ben Apuna. Following last year's 20-7 upset of USC, Trojan Running Back Charles White called the Sun Devil defenders "just a dirty bunch of guys. One guy [Apuna] never stopped talking and kept shouting things like 'We're going to kick your butts.' " Washington got the word, and two weeks later the Husky linemen buried Apuna. Whenever they blocked in his direction, they yelled, "Apuna! Apuna!" Later Apuna just smiled. "The only people I don't want yelling at me are Kush and Bob Owens [a defensive coach]," he said.

Much as Kush would like his thoroughbreds to outgallop the field in the race for the Pac 10 title, it seems there might be a track meet or two at which his horses will be overmatched and his home-run hitters will strike out.

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