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N. Brooks Clark
September 01, 1983
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September 01, 1983

The Conferences

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Duke could surprise North Carolina and Maryland and win the ACC largely because of Quarterback Ben Bennett. The No. 5 passer in the country a year ago, Bennett has earned himself a reputation as something of a wise guy. He was only nine when he started telling his Pop Warner teammates. "Look at me, I'm Joe Willie," and he still says that Namath "is everything I ever wanted to be." When Bennett, a senior, arrived in Durham, he listed his hobbies as "wild women and fast cars" and bought himself a cream-colored 1978 Corvette just in case anybody missed the point. "I was a pain in the butt," says Bennett, "because I had fun." Last year Bennett completed 236 of his 374 passes for 3,033 yards and 20 touchdowns while throwing only 12 interceptions. Duke has a new coach, Steve Sloan, who came from Ole Miss, but he doesn't plan to tinker much with the Blue Devils' wide-open offense. With just minor improvement in the defense, which gave up 420.2 yards a game last year, Duke could easily get its first bowl bid in 23 years.

Clemson is riding a nine-game winning streak and probably won't have much difficulty coming up with solid replacements for 13 departed starters, but it doesn't matter. The Tigers are still on NCAA probation and are ineligible for the ACC title. Wake Forest is deploying such halftime and postgame attractions as Bob Hope, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Tanya Tucker and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to help fill Groves Stadium this fall, which may be good planning. The Demon Deacons lost all six ACC games in '82 and finished last in five of eight statistical categories, most notably total defense, allowing 449.3 yards per game. Wake Forest's hopes for success hinge on Quarterback Gary Schofield, who has thrown for 4,952 yards in two years.

Georgia Tech has come a long way in Bill Curry's three years as coach, but the Yellow Jackets still aren't durable enough or talented enough to survive a lineup of SEC opponents that's tougher than any SEC team's conference schedule. Tech meets Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia in addition to its ACC foes. The Yellow Jackets' attack features Robert Lavette, who led the ACC in rushing last year with 1,208 yards, scored 19 TDs and caught 25 passes.

Virginia is on the move under second-year Coach George Welsh, but he'll be lucky to win four games. One of those victories should come at North Carolina State, whose new coach, Tom Reed, stopped the spring game in the fourth quarter because he thought it was "dull and boring."


This year will make or break Missouri Coach Warren Powers. Last season the Tigers led the Big Eight in pass offense and the nation in pass defense, but their record was only 5-4-2, not good enough to keep the alums quiet. The Tigers finished sixth in the conference in rushing, averaging only 2.9 yards per carry, and attendance fell by 9,690 fans a game to an average of 52,097. Feeling the heat, Powers has brought in five new assistants and ditched the slotback formation in favor of the I. Rumor is that Powers must win at least seven games to keep his job. Seven home dates should help.

Oklahoma State Coach Jimmy Johnson has made changes, too. He has hired four new assistants, reassigned two others and switched from a drop-back pass offense to play-action passes. One old Cowboy face that still looks good is Ernest Anderson, who led the nation in rushing last year with 1,877 yards on 353 carries, an average of 170.6 yards per game.

Iowa State is also undergoing a face-lift. New Coach Jim Criner, who had a 59-21-1 record in seven years at Division 1-AA Boise State, inherits only 10 starters and the November Jinx—the Cyclones haven't won a game in that month in three years. Criner promises multiple formations to make better use of Quarterback David Archer, who threw for 1,465 yards and five TDs in '82.

Kansas State has vacancies everywhere, and 34 redshirts looking for jobs. As for Colorado, second-year Coach Bill McCartney needs another good recruiting year or two to clean up the mess left by Chuck Fairbanks. Kansas has more troubles than all the other Big Eight teams put together. Offensive Tackle Renwick Atkins pleaded guilty this spring to robbery charges and is on probation for three years; Quarterback Frank Seurer's father, who had moved to Lawrence from Huntington Beach, Calif. to be near his son, was found stabbed to death a month ago outside his restaurant; and the NCAA's longtime investigation of Kansas for recruiting violations hangs over the Jayhawks like a storm cloud. So top priority for first-year Coach Mike Gottfried is to improve morale.

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