Independent East Carolina (7-3-1) is breaking in a coach. In six years with the Pirates, Pat Dye guided ECU to a 48-18-1 record, then went to Wyoming in January, taking his staff with him. The new mentor, Ed Emory, formerly defensive line coordinator at Georgia Tech, is molding a team around Halfback Anthony Collins and Fullback Theodore Sutton, stars of a ground attack that was tops in the nation (368.5 yards a game).
In practically any conference other than the Southwest, Baylor (8-4) might be a major contender. It is coming off a 24-18 victory over Clemson in the Peach Bowl, and everything points to an up year for the Bears except a schedule that lists, in order, Houston, SMU, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Texas. Coach Grant Teaff is even a little uneasy about opening against Lamar on that school's home field. "I'll tell you right now that that's no snap," he says. "We'll have to play the best football of the season to beat them in Beaumont." Baylor's best: All-America Linebacker Mike Singletary, who averages 15.7 tackles a game. At Texas A&M (6-5) it's Coach Tim Wilson's second full season. In the first. Tailback Curtis Dickey & Co. upended Penn State (27-14), SMU (47-14) and Texas (13-7). To repeat that performance, the Aggies will have to get a lot of growing up from a group of 26 freshmen who are rated the best in the SWC this year.
Mark down Indiana State (8-3) for the Missouri Valley Conference title. The Sycamores have a new coach, former defensive coordinator Dennis Raetz, who took the place of Dick Jamieson, now an assistant with the St. Louis Cardinals, but Raetz, 34, has 44 lettermen (including 17 starters) returning. Three All-Conference players excel on offense, including Reggie Allen (1,895 yards of total offense last season). His receivers, Eddie Ruffin and Kirk Wilson, had 50 catches and 1,051 yards between them. Tulsa (6-5) and Southern Illinois (8-3) are the Missouri Valley's next best.
In the Mid-American Conference, Central Michigan (10-0-1) should extend its 18-game unbeaten streak and its domination of the league, in spite of up-and-coming Toledo (7-3-1). The Rockets' outstanding player is Roverback Mike Kennedy, who made 60 unassisted tackles and had four interceptions in '79.
Oklahoma State (7-4) might be a late-bloomer: the Cowboys won their last three games in '79 and have virtually everyone back except Quarterback Harold Bailey. Coach Jimmy Johnson has an all-conference fullback in Worley Taylor and a good wide receiver in Ron Ingram.
With half of the Pac-10 ineligible for the Rose Bowl, Washington (8-3), which upset Texas 14-7 in the Sun Bowl, could have something to say about Pasadena. For one thing, the Huskies have a known quantity in senior Quarterback Tom Flick. He stepped in in the eighth week of last season and led the team to four wins in the last five games, and in his one loss (24-17 to USC), converted on 18 of 28 passes for 245 yards. His completion percentage was 60.9%. Seven other returning starters include Fullback Toussaint Tyler. If the offense is solid, not so the defense. Coach Don James is compensating for inexperience with a new flex defense patterned after the Dallas Cowboys'. "We call it the Animal Package because of our terminology," says James. "It's 'Bear,' 'Lion' or 'Tiger,' depending on which defensive lineman is backed off the line of scrimmage."
In Coach Dave Currey's fourth season at Long Beach (Calif.) State (7-4) the '49ers should push past San Jose State (6-4-1) and Utah State (7-3-1) to the top of the Pacific Coast Athletic Association. Twenty-one transfers, including three J.C. All-Americas (Punter Mike Horan, Linebacker Michael Otis and Defensive Tackle Anthony Swain), complement Currey's 32 returning lettermen. Tackle Ben Rudolph and All-PCAA Safety Ervin Cobbs are defensive standouts, and Ralph Petrosian a pressure field-goal kicker. The Western Athletic Conference faces some knotty questions that will take all season to be answered. What becomes of Air Force (2-9), now without Quarterback Dave Ziebart, as the only service academy with a conference affiliation? Has Utah (6-6) recovered sufficiently from a so-so season to make a charge at second place? It would seem to have the numbers (50 lettermen and 10 transfers), but San Diego State (8-3) may have the better chance with Quarterback Matt Kofler on the roster. At Mesa (Calif.) J.C., Kofler completed 146 of 248 passes for 2,236 yards and 26 touchdowns, while running for 455 yards and seven TDs. As for Nevada-Las Vegas (9-1-2), its bid for WAC membership faces another year of study. The Rebels, meanwhile, have five starters at the skill positions on an offense that ranked third in the nation in total offense (472 yards per game).
Two years ago Navy won nine games, including a 23-16 victory over BYU in the Holiday Bowl, after which it lost Quarterback Bob Leszczynski. Bob Powers took over last year behind the Middies' finest line in a decade, and Navy went 7-4. Now he is gone, and Coach George Welsh has moved Fred Reitzel, a two-year starter at safety, to quarterback. Says Welsh, "If we can find some help in the offensive line and defensive secondary, we could be all right." The Middies had a total of 21 first-and second-teamers injured during spring drills, but they'll have time to recuperate before midseason, when Navy faces Washington, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. The situation at Army (2-8-1) continues to be grim. Coach Lou Saban quit. The new man is Ed Cavanaugh, and he hasn't got much to march with.
The 100th anniversary season of football at Dartmouth (4-4-1) should be considerably more auspicious. Coach Joe Yukica's team is just reaching its peak, led by the troika of Quarterback Jeff Kemp, Receiver Dave Shula and Halfback Jeff Dufresne. The Big Green's biggest obstacle in its run for the Ivy League title will be the Yale jinx. Dartmouth has scored only 13 points against the Eli (8-1) in their last three meetings.
Temple (10-2) made it to the Garden State Bowl, its first postseason game in 45 years, and triumphed over Cal 28-17. But the Owls have probably peaked. They will be without Brian Broomell, the NCAA's No. 2-ranked passer, and Mark Bright, their 1,000-yard halfback. Receiver Gerald (Sweet-feet) Lucear will still be looking for TD passes (he had 13 to top the country last year), but the defense will be weaker now that Linebacker Mike Curcio is gone.