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THE TOP 20
Mike Delnagro
August 31, 1981
1. MICHIGAN
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August 31, 1981

The Top 20

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1. MICHIGAN

There was a time when Anthony Carter was a quiet youngster from Riviera Beach, Fla. He was kind of shy, small, bordering on delicate—5'11", 161 pounds—but he could cover 40 yards in 4.4 seconds with sand in his shoes and snag flying footballs out of the air; he scored 54 touchdowns in his high school career. Of course, all the Florida schools wanted him. But Carter? He wanted to get out of the state. Where to? Certainly to a school that lived by the forward pass. So he narrowed his choices to—get this—Texas or Michigan, as in Wishbone or Ramrod, and chose Michigan. Which is roughly akin to a flashy skater taking a hockey scholarship to the University of Florida. Why'd he do it? " Michigan meant success to me," says Carter, who traces his athletic roots back to the Tate Recreation Center in Riviera Beach. "They had those 105,000 fans every Saturday. And the coach told me that with my talent there was no way he wouldn't get the ball to me."

Carter didn't know it then, but Coach Bo Schembechler had made promises before. "We'll throw," Bo would tell the hotshot high school quarterback to keep him from going to Notre Dame. But come September, Bo would hand out the playbooks and there would be page-after-page-after-page of running plays. Of course, Bo's battering-ram offense was successful in the Big Ten ( Michigan was 69-8-1 with eight championships in Bo's first 10 years), but at bowl time the bad joke was always on Michigan: 0-6. But all that was B.C. Before Carter.

Last year Michigan ended its bowl jinx by beating Washington 23-6. That Wolverine squad listed just eight seniors among its 44 top players. After losing two of its first three games in 1980—to Notre Dame and South Carolina, by a total of five points—Michigan regrouped to win eight straight, get Schembechler his ninth Big Ten title (second outright) and finish No. 4 in the polls.

As for Schembechler's promises, Carter says, "Coach Bo didn't lie to me." No, indeed. Bo is a pass fancier now—well, sort of. Michigan plays wide open against the patsies, but in the Big Ones, Bo still has a tendency toward over-caution. But even that could change. While becoming the first Michigan sophomore to make All-America since Bennie Oosterbaan in 1925, Carter caught 51 passes for a school-record 14 touchdowns, returned punts and kickoffs and averaged nearly 17 yards every time he touched the ball. The often curmudgeonly Schembechler calls Carter "the most gifted athlete I've ever been around." The gifted Carter says, "That's what he told me when he recruited me."

With Carter and 16 other starters returning, Michigan is clearly No. 1. Two of the four losses from the offense are at center and guard; important positions, yes, but the newcomers will be cushioned nicely by the tackle tandem of William (Bubba) Paris (6'7", 270) and Ed Muransky (6'7", 275), and Guard Kurt Becker (6'6", 260), who might be the best in the country at his position. The backfield features a trio that rushed for more than 2,700 yards, including Rose Bowl MVP Butch Woolfolk, Stan Edwards and Larry Ricks. Ordinarily there would be a lot of attention paid to the quarterback position, vacated by John Wangler, but the situation at Ann Arbor is such that there seems not to be much concern. Junior Rich Hewlett started last season before Wangler took over, and there is also sophomore Steve Smith, a former prep All-America.

The defense? Little worry here. Seven of 11 starters and a total of 20 lettermen are back from a unit that gave up just nine points in the last five games—including a secondary that allowed three touchdown passes all season. Nor do there appear to be any insuperable hurdles in the Wolverines' schedule, which includes one more Big Ten patsy than usual this year. The big dates are Sept. 19, when Notre Dame comes to Ann Arbor, and Nov. 21, when Ohio State takes the field. After that it should be the Rose Bowl, where Michigan has that phenomenal one-game winning streak. "Basically, we want back-to-back Rose Bowls," says Carter. That might be expecting a lot from Schembechler, but then again, Carter seems to get what he wants.

2. TEXAS

In four seasons at Texas, Coach Fred Akers has won one Southwest Conference championship, three games against hated Oklahoma and four bowl bids. Where did that get him? Well, when Texas won only seven games and lost five last year, Akers received so much abuse that his job may be on the line. One reason for all the frustration was that at mid-season the 'Horns looked all but bulletproof. They were 5-0, ranked No. 2 in the polls and had already defeated Oklahoma and SWC archrival Arkansas. Then, almost everybody got hurt. Star Halfback A.J. Jones suffered a neck injury, his running mate, Rodney Tate, injured his hand and Quarterback Donnie Little wrecked his right knee. In all, injuries cost Texas 14 starters or regulars for at least one game. No winning college team was banged up as badly as Texas. So many Long-horns were greenhorns that Texas drew 96 penalties for 1,037 yards—alltime conference highs.

But watch out. The infirmary is unoccupied—for now—and healthy again—for now—are 17 1980 starters, plus 21 other lettermen. And that's not counting Defensive Back Vance Bedford, a starter in 1979 who sat out all of last season with a knee injury, or Receiver Brent Duhon and Quarterback Todd Dodge, high school All-Americas last fall. With all that talent, Akers is sittin' pretty.

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