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Never before in the history of football have the form charts taken such a beating. The stretch run is just beginning, but already there have been disappointments and surprises, upsets and routs—everything that goes into making football the greatest combative sport of all. This, to my mind, is collegiate football's finest year.
The mighty have fallen. Most disappointing has been Illinois, among the mightiest in 1953. The Illini have lost four of their five games. But Texas, touted to be impervious to defeat, has only two wins against four losses; once-mighty Maryland has two wins, two losses and a tie. Many felt Michigan State would keep its strangle hold on Midwestern football despite the loss of key personnel and a cohesive coaching staff. The Spartan failure glares in a record of one win and four losses. On the West Coast most experts thought California was a shoo-in for the Rose Bowl. Experts thought wrong. The Bears have two wins and four losses.
Pleasant surprises have filled the national scene. Ohio State, always potentially a powerhouse, but, invariably, hot and cold over the season's span, seems to have torn up and thrown away its old scripts. The Buckeyes have gained momentum by the week and must be placed close to the top of the national list.
Army, after taking an opening-game beating from South Carolina, has completely dominated its opposition to date. The 26-7 trouncing of Michigan's underrated Sophomores looms significantly, after the Wolverines' 34-0 rout of previously undefeated Minnesota. The Cadets' defense is solid and the running of a whole raft of backs is more than faintly reminiscent of the Blanchard-Davis era. This West Point team professed to be a year away. If it is—WOW!!
If Arkansas' Bowden Wyatt loses all the remaining games on his schedule—which he won't—he would still be considered for the year's coaching honors. He's kept low-rated Arkansas undefeated and untied against such opposition as T.C.U., Baylor, Texas and Mississippi (left). In the entire land of the South, stretching from the Gulf to West Virginia, there are only three major unbeaten teams: West Virginia and V.P.I, at the northern pole, Miami U. in the sunnier South. This doesn't mean that the teams in the section that gave birth to the best blues and the most Bowls are sub-par. Rather, they're all damn good.
In the Southeastern Conference, Georgia is on top by itself, with a 2-0 league record and a 5-1 overall. With Alabama, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech coming up, this probably won't last. Almost everyone is strong enough to challenge.
Duke, Maryland and South Carolina still are the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference and in the Southern Conference it's West Virginia and V.P.I. Maybe Miami's squad is the strongest in the entire South but the university has been censured by the N.C.A.A. As a result, strong though they are, they probably won't be invited to a bowl.
Rampaging is the word for U.C.L.A. In six games the Uclans have scored 265 points against their opponents' 34. I forget, momentarily, the source of the quote, "Cry 'havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war," but that just about sums up Red Sanders' campaign. Standing at three conference wins along with the Bruins is their old cross-town rival, Southern Cal. The Trojans have coordinated all of their latent forces of yesteryear into a well-knit unit that could trouble any foe—even U.C.L.A. Southern Cal looks like a safe bet for the Rose Bowl, with Stanford, at two wins and one loss, having only an outside chance. Oregon could not quite live up to its Bowl hopes and California has been most disappointing. Actually, Southern Cal may take the Pacific Coast Conference title too, but somehow I don't think that the Trojans will.
In the Southwest, surprising Arkansas, ofttimes referred to as the stepchild of the Southwest Conference—it's the only member not in Texas—leads the league with three wins and no losses, but the Razorbacks have Texas A.& M., Rice and S.M.U. coming up for the next three weeks. They have gone undefeated this far. Who knows, they may go farther. Southern Methodist, looking much stronger than in preseason estimates, has won its first conference test and has five more to go. T.C.U., Rice and Baylor all stand at one and one.