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Ohio State. As usual, they're optimistic at Columbus; as usual, their supporters have their fingers crossed. Twenty-five lettermen are back. Quarterback John Borton, injured last year, should regain his 1952 form. The backfield is capable and deep. Howard Cassady and Bob Watkins are veteran backs with speed. They are being pushed by Jerry Harkrader and Jimmy Roseboro. Last year's fullback problem will be solved by two promising sophomores, Don Vicic and Hubert Bobo, battling for the starting position. The line, led by Ends Dick Brubaker and Dean Dugger, has plenty of size but may lack over-all speed. First test is improved Indiana on September 25th.
Minnesota. Peerless Paul Giel is pitching for the baseball Giants and not Minnesota this year. Despite this, I'm picking my old Tennessee teammate, Murray Warmath, Minnesota's new head coach, to have the surprise squad in the Western Conference this season. He's got 22 lettermen as a squad nucleus. The backfield speed is good. The McNamara brothers lead a competent group of halfbacks. Any Warmath-coached line will be rugged. On the pessimistic side the sophomores are sparse, and Co-Captain Jerry Helgeson was knocked out of his post at center by injury last week. For the first time in 54 years Minnesota will not have any single-wing plays. The Split T has been installed. I repeat: MY Sleeper.
Michigan. Michigan has to rebuild this year. Fourteen lettermen, 11 of them linemen, are missing. But they have the material. Outstanding men returning are Halfback Tony Branoff, Tackle Art Walker and Quarterback Duncan McDonald. Good sophomores are in abundance with End Ron Kramer and Halfback Terry Barr outstanding. The Wolverines will use more T this year. They should be a good passing team, with McDonald as the best passer and Kramer a mighty fine target. But they're still a year away from their usual top ranking.
Purdue. Stu Holcomb contrives at least one upset each year. Last season he broke Michigan State's long winning streak and then finished off his traditional rival Indiana by a 30 to 0 score. With the exception of one halfback, that same starting team is available this fall. Guard Tom Bettis is the outstanding candidate for national honors. Other stalwarts are End John Kerr, Halfback Rex Brock and Tackle Joe Krupa. Leading sophomores are Quarterback Leonard Dawson and Tackle Ed Voytek. As usual Purdue is faced with a difficult schedule but should improve on last season's record.
Indiana . Coach Bernie Crimmins says: "We have more to work with this year than either of my first two years at Indiana. We'll be very inexperienced but bigger, faster and, I feel sure, more successful." The team may move up in the standings. Quarterback Florian Helinski and Tackle Nate Borden are possible All-Big Ten selections. One of the most heralded sophomores in the country is 215-pound Halfback Milt Campbell, Olympic decathlon star, who was a spring practice sensation but has not been tested under game conditions. Ohio State should provide that in the opener on September 25th.
Northwestern. Coach Bob Voigt's 1954 Northwestern team will be much stronger than those of the last few years?but so will most of its opposition. A veteran team built around 24 lettermen will provide experienced players at every position. A better than average freshman squad of last year figures to add much needed replacement strength. Biggest problem is developing a capable T quarterback. Center John Damore and Fullback Bob Lauter, the 1954 co-captains, are outstanding. Fine sophomore prospects are End Jack Stillwell, Quarterback Ed Broeker and Guard John Lohbauer.
THE BIG SEVEN
Oklahoma. Oklahoma, barring a stunning upset, should win its seventh straight Big Seven Championship. Actually, Oklahoma has outgrown the conference. It has more important engagements in the big intersectional battle at Berkeley this Saturday, and the Texas game in Dallas on October 9th. The Sooners have everything: excellent coaching under Bud Wilkerson and the cream of Oklahoma high school players. Ends Max Boydston and Carl Allison, Quarterback Gene Calame, Center Kurt Burris, and Halfback Buddy Leake, who has converted 50 out of a possible 52 extra points in his career, are all on hand. That gives you some idea of the Sooners' scoring potential.
Missouri. Signs point to second place and the Orange Bowl for Missouri. The Tigers, with three lettered quarterbacks returning, should have sound leadership. They have a hard core of senior veterans who got their baptism in 1951 when freshmen were eligible. Charles Bull is the leader of this group at tackle. Bob Bauman at fullback and Terry Roberts at guard were All-Conference last year. Ray Detring, a halfback, and End Pete Corpeny are also outstanding. Don Faurot's seventeenth squad at Old Mizzou may be his best.
Colorado. Coach Dal Ward says: "We have as fine a set of backs as anyone could want with Carroll Hardy, Frank Bernardi and Emerson Wilson." Hardy is unquestionably one of the best tailbacks in the country. Despite injuries he has a three-year record of 6.1 yards average gain. If eight graduating linemen can be replaced Colorado could beat out Missouri and spend New Year's in the sun.