Besides North Carolina State, the ACC last season had three other bowl teams and the most noted face in college football, that of Clemson Middle Guard Charlie Bauman, the guy whom Woody punched. Clemson also had the nation's only undefeated coach, Danny Ford, who took over the Tigers just before their 17-15 Gator Bowl defeat of Ohio State. But he'll be hard pressed to duplicate 1978's 11-1-0 record and conference championship. Fifteen starters from that team, among them All-America Wide Receiver Jerry Butler, are missing. North Carolina Coach Dick Crum is praying for a "sound" football team. After last year's slew of injuries—eight key players were out for at least one game—who can blame him? The two men Crum most needs to have healthy are Quarterback Matt Kupec, who has completed 58.7% of his passes, and Running Back Amos (Famous) Lawrence, a junior who has already rushed for 2,254 yards. Maryland's two indispensables figure to be Charlie Wysocki, a sophomore tailback, and Mike Tice, who at 6'7" may be America's most altitudinous quarterback. Tice hit on 20 of 37 passes for 227 yards as a sophomore and moves up to first team to replace the departed Tim O'Hare. Hoping to improve on the Blue Devils' 4-7-0 record, new Duke Coach Red Wilson has junked the power I in favor of the veer. Now he must settle on a quarterback to run it. Stanley Driskell and Craig Browning are both up for the job, but Browning could have the inside track because of the long-range picture—he is a sophomore; Driskell's a senior. Despite Wake Forest's 10-game losing streak, Coach John Mackovic is optimistic. In his view, all the Demon Deacons need is a bit of balance. Wake Forest led the ACC in passing last fall, but was last in rushing. Running backs Albert Kerby and Kenny Duckett have the speed to take the heat off Quarterback James McDougal. Virginia managed a few "almost wins" late last year, but a porous defense left it 0-6-0 in the ACC. This year, a breakthrough into the win column is almost certain because 16 starters are back. Georgia Tech is in its first year in the ACC but isn't eligible for the title, which should make a lot of its rivals happy.
"The play's the thing" might hold true onstage and in most conferences, but this year the drama in the Big Eight is provided by casting changes—specifically, the wholesale turnover of head coaches as the perennial also-rans try to break the death grip Oklahoma and Nebraska have held on the title. Between them the Sooners and Cornhuskers have won 33 of 34 possible titles since 1946. Colorado made the most publicized coaching change, hiring the New England Patriots' Chuck Fairbanks. Fairbanks, who as the result of switching jobs now has a stock portfolio as thick as his playbook, is not saying whether the Buffs "will be a wishbone team or a what." Even a "what"—which rivals suspect is a Patriot-style pro set, heavily laced with wishbone-type options—should provide some improvement on last season's 2-5 conference record. Fairbanks does have a real concern—aside from the sluggish market: Who will run the ball out of whatever offense he chooses? Oklahoma State begins its second year of NCAA probation (because of recruiting violations) with Jim Johnson taking over as coach for Jim Stanley. Johnson is a defensive specialist, which is fortunate; he must find some way of shoring up a unit that allowed 24.2 points and 339 yards per game. Johnson's task isn't hopeless, since John Corker, the Big Eight Defender of the Year, is still on hand at linebacker. Kansas State is an exception to the Big Eight new-coach syndrome—Jim Dickey survived his first year there with a 3-4 conference record—but it stays in step by also being on probation. Besides the two-year no-bowls-or-television sentence imposed on the Wildcats for giving too many scholarships, the NCAA cut by 20 the number of grants-in-aid State may dish out over the next three years. Iowa State has only eight holdover starters to greet Donnie Duncan, who replaces Earle Bruce as head coach. Kansas, which is used to following everyone else, also has a new coach. Well, not really new. Don Fambrough, who resigned four seasons ago, is back, and has brought former NFL and Kansas Quarterback John Hadl along as his offensive coordinator. The joy of homecoming for both was no doubt tempered a bit by the knowledge that the Jayhawks were 0-7 in the conference last season.
The real question around Dartmouth is whether or not Joe Yukica can repeat himself. In his first year Yukica steered the Big Green to a 6-1-0 Ivy season, up from 4-3-0 in 1977. Quarterback Buddy Teevens is gone, but whoever replaces him—either Jeff Kemp or punter Larry Margerum—will still have Dave Shula (who caught 49 passes) as a target. Now that its Mark Whipple-Mark Farnham battery is a thing of the past—Whipple graduated—Brown's major concern is finding a quarterback who can whip the ball to Farnham. The top applicants for the spot are lefthanded Larry Carbone, who has tossed exactly one pass in varsity competition, and Scott Dumont, who has tossed exactly one fewer. With only one starter returning on offense and three on defense, Yale is deep into reconstruction. Most likely to be tapped to play quarterback for the Elis is Montana State transfer Dennis Dunn. Although he is new on the Ivy scene, Yale has gone all out to make him feel at ease by scheduling its first four games at home.
Cornell comes off its first winning season (5-3-1) in six years. The 1978 Big Red led the league in rushing, but Tailback Joe Holland, second nationally in per-game rushing with 155.1 yards, and his backups have graduated. Nonetheless there is a suspicion among the Ivies that Coach Bob Blackman, now in his third season, at Cornell, is ready to unleash a powerhouse. Penn, virtually wiped out by graduation, plays its 1,000th intercollegiate game, against Columbia, next month. That will have to serve as the season's highlight. Harvard, too, lost most of its offense, but if senior Quarterback Burke St. John can absorb Coach Joe Restic's complicated offense fast enough, things may still come up roses for the Crimson. After a 2-5-2 year, Princeton has high hopes for 649-yard rusher Cris Crissy and no hopes of contending for the Ivy crown. Columbia climbed to a 3-5-1 record last year, but the Lions remain the premier reason why their rivals keep singing "I love New York."
Mustang Mania: Year 2. Year 1 saw the average attendance for Southern Methodist's games at Texas Stadium soar to 51,960 from 26,635 in '77. It was the third-largest one-season increase in the annals of college football. Not bad for a team that lost five of its last six games. What, then, accounts for it?
Simple. Over the last four years Coach Ron Meyer has recruited some of the most exciting offensive players anywhere. For example, this season's additions include such highly sought running backs as Craig James and Eric Dicker-son; Eric rushed for nearly 6,000 yards in his high school career in Sealy, Texas. They could take some of the pressure off junior Quarterback Mike Ford, who last season completed 224 of 389 passes for 3,007 yards and 17 touchdowns and led Division I schools in total offense. Ford's favorite target will continue to be Emanuel Tolbert, who in three years has caught 143 passes for 2,408 yards and 21 TDs.
Though the SWC is top-heavy with Top 20 teams, the conference's bottom half can't be written off too quickly. True, Texas Tech must open against USC, but last year the Red Raiders had a 7-4 record and still have sophomore Ron Reeves at quarterback. In '78 Reeves hit on 77 of 161 for 1,195 yards and nine TDs. An erstwhile tight end now playing fullback, James Hadnot caught 20 of those completions, in addition to rambling for a conference-leading 1,369 yards rushing. While Hadnot will have some new backs lining up beside him, he'll have a sound veteran line working in front of him. Last year Baylor beat only three teams, one of which was Texas—a stunning 38-14 season-ending upset. The Bears figure that is a portent for this season. The main reason for the optimism in Waco is Running Back Walter Abercrombie. After becoming a starter midway through the '78 season, he rolled up 661 yards. While the Bears' schedule—Texas A&M, Houston, Alabama—is better suited to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Longhorns are again the opponents in the finale, so if all goes awry, Baylor diehards can always hope for another upset. Rice was outgained and outscored nearly three to one last season, even though Quarterback Randy Hertel completed 156 of 279 for 1,677 yards and 12 TDs. Hertel is back, but he needs help in the form of a receiver or two and something that can be described as a defense.
Texas Christian didn't win a conference game in 1978 but had injuries, operations and excuses aplenty. The miracles of modern medicine and some feverish recruiting may have improved the Horned Frogs' lot a bit, but not enough to make a significant difference in the team's record.