Northern Illinois is one of three MAC teams with a new coach. Jerry Pettibone comes to DeKalb from Texas A & M. The Huskies' best player is defensive tackle Scott Kellar, who had 20 stops for losses in '84. Cleve Bryant, a quarterback at Ohio University in 1967-69, takes over at his alma mater, while Paul Schudel, who coached the offensive line at Michigan the last 10 years, is Ball State's new coach.
Tim Rose is on the wrong track at Miami of Ohio. Not since 1941-42 had Miami suffered two losing seasons in a row, but Rose's last two teams were 4-7. That's not exactly tracing the footsteps of Hayes, Parseghian, Schembechler and Crum.
Led by linebacker John Offerdahl, who had 16.5 tackles per game last fall, Western Michigan will rely on defense. Never mind about Kent State or Eastern Michigan—at least this year. Kent State will have 20 redshirt freshmen. Eastern Michigan coach Jim Harkema is making progress but has a long way to go.
This is the year to stock up on Missouri Valley memorabilia, because after this season the conference goes the way of the World Football League and Billy Beer. All the teams become independents. Tulsa should win its sixth title in a row, even with a new coach. Don Morton arrived from North Dakota State, where he won the Division II title in '83. The top dog on offense is Ronnie Kelley, who averaged 25 yards per catch in '84. Linebacker Xavier Warren led the team in tackles with 132.
Wichita State has 16 starters back, including Eric Denson, the school's alltime leading rusher. That's good, because the defense will again be an embarrassment. Indiana State wound up No. 5 in Division I-AA last season. The leading holdover is quarterback Jeff Miller, who was the MVC's Offensive Player of the Year. After winning the Division I-AA title in '83, Southern Illinois had a long fall in '84 under new coach Ray Dorr. "Things last year never settled down," says fullback Bruce Phibbs. "The players never knew what the coaches wanted. This year will be much different."
If a quarterback doesn't show up soon, there will be a weekly Drake wake in Des Moines. Illinois State should finish last or close to it, with only eight starters returning. Everyone, however, could be low-balled by West Texas State, where coach Bill Kelly, late of Eastern New Mexico, inherits a team that has gone 6-26-1 over the last three years. Kelly will try to make hay by throwing 45 times a game.
The best backfield in the Pac-10 belongs to Washington State. Kerry Porter led the conference in rushing two seasons ago; Rueben Mayes is a Heisman candidate who led it last year, when he also broke the NCAA single-game rushing record of 357 yards against Oregon; and Mark Rypien was rated No. 1 among Pac-10 passers for '84. Together they give the Cougars the damndest option offense on the globe. Unfortunately, the defense is even younger than last year, when it gave up 319 points, two more than the offense scored.
When Darryl Rogers bolted to the Detroit Lions last February, Arizona State got a winner in John Cooper, who had won the last five MVC titles at Tulsa. Cooper was pleased to make the acquaintance of halfback Darryl Clack, who clicked off 1,052 yards last year on the ground and caught 32 passes for 385 yards. The bad news for Arizona is that it lost most of a defense that was ranked third nationally against the rush in '84. The good news is a sweet schedule that doesn't mention USC or Washington and brings UCLA and Washington State to Tucson. The Wildcats must fill holes on the offensive and defensive lines, and at linebacker and punter.