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With USC and UCLA ineligible for the Rose Bowl, California, led by Quarterback Rich Campbell, has an unusual opportunity. Cal surprised most observers last season by winning six games and a trip to the Garden State Bowl, its first bowl game in 21 years. Six wins, that's a big deal? Yes, and here's why: 1979 was a rebuilding year, and in the five losses, including defeats by USC, Washington and Michigan, the combined deficit was only 24 points.
The 6'5", 220-pound Campbell, who ranks second behind Ohio State's Art Schlichter in passing efficiency among Division I-A quarterbacks, just rears back and throws the ball—an average of 30 times a game last season. Because Cal lacked any pretense of a running game, it's remarkable that Campbell has any stats to talk about, but, in fact, he completed 216 of 322 in '79 for 2,859 yards and 13 touchdowns. Only BYU's Marc Wilson threw more times; no one else in Division I-A was even close. And while Schlichter's efficiency ranking is above Campbell's, the Golden Bear has the better completion average (67.0% to 52.5%). In another category—wholesomeness—Campbell might be the top quarterback in the land. He's a religious-studies major, hoping to become a minister. Chews tobacco, though.
In two seasons as a full-time starter, Campbell has amassed 5,148 yards passing and 29 touchdowns, erasing virtually every passing record at Cal, the alma mater of Craig Morton and Steve Bartkowski. And the Golden Bears are even stronger this season in the receiving department. Matt Bouza is the seventh-leading receiver in the country, with 59 catches, and Flanker Michael Buggs had 37. Also on hand are Holden Smith and Floyd Eddings, two speedsters who were injured early last season. They give Cal the deep threat it lacked in '79. Roughly 30% of the time, the Bears will line up in their tricky "Trojan Set" (invented last year just for the USC game): three receivers line up on one side of the field. "That leaves an inside linebacker covering our best pattern receiver [Bouza]," says Campbell, "and there's no way he can do it." With the running of Fullback Dave Palmer and Halfback John Tuggle to keep defenders honest, the formation is a formidable weapon.
Meanwhile, Cal's offensive line is set, led by tackles Harvey Salem and Brian Bailey, who was All- Pac-10, and the defense will be improved, with potential All-Americas Tackle Pat Graham and End Rich Dixon most notable among a group of seven returning starters. The Bears benefit from having six of their eight league games at home, but the finale, the Big Game against Stanford, might be the one for the Roses.
For two years now, despite a deluge of freebie T shirts, posters, bumper stickers, key chains and balloons, as well as discounted tickets, Dallas has been cool to what SMU drum-beaters like to call Mustang Mania. SMU football has been all chills and no fever. Says SMU promotions director Brad Thomas, "This is the year we have to give folks something new—like a real good football team."
Well, the 1980 SMU team might well be better than the good one everyone expected to see last fall. In that season 27 players who started or were slated to start were injured, and the Mustangs straggled home sixth in the Southwest Conference with a 5-6 record.
The big question now is whether Quarterback Mike Ford can come back from a knee injury that ended his season last Sept. 15 in the second game with TCU. In 1978 Ford led the nation in total offense with 268.8 yards a game and passed for 3,007 yards to raise his career total to 5,071 yards, which put him within striking distance of the alltime NCAA Division I career passing mark of 7,818 held by Washington State's Jack Thompson.
With no Ford to pass, the Mustangs, perforce, had to run in '79, and they wound up outrushing their opponents, a feat they've accomplished 10 times since 1949. Four freshmen running backs emerged as the most gifted group in the SWC, but two of them, Charles Wagoner and Eric Dickerson, suffered major injuries, Wagoner a broken neck that ended his career. Dickerson, who had been ranked by Parade magazine as the No. 1 high school running back, suffered a concussion. Fortunately, he is O.K. now.