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THE TEAMS ARE FAST AND TOUGH
From Pittsburgh to Boulder, Colo. the panorama of Midwest football unrolls next week, disclosing some of the nation's most powerful teams in their first encounters. Within the scope of the survey which follows are five of the eleven top-ranking elevens I picked last week. There is Notre Dame, independent and always in the highest bracket; there is Oklahoma, which dominates the Big Seven; and, from the ranks of the Big Ten, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Less known but no less scrappy are those inhabitants of a 50-mile circuit in Ohio that includes Cincinnati, Miami, Dayton and Xavier. And in the Missouri Valley Conference, there are Oklahoma A & M and Houston. Marquette will bear watching?last year they gave up a total of only nine points to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana.
The Saturday of September 25 will go a long way toward clarifying the situation in the Big Ten. Iowa meets Michigan State in a game which should show whether Iowa will live up to its late-season splurge of 1953, and whether the Spartans have been able to survive the ravages of graduation and the loss of Biggie Munn and practically his entire staff.
More important than the championship in the Big Seven this year may be the runner-up spot. Oklahoma is not eligible to play twice in succession in the Orange Bowl, so if the Sooners win the second-place team will take the trip. The competition will be heated, and it will be no less so in the Missouri Valley Conference and among the independents.
THE BIG TEN
Illinois. The Illini have the best chance of winning the Big Ten title and going to the Rose Bowl. The team of J. C. Caroline and Mickey Bates, sensational in 1953, may turn into a 1-2-3 punch this season with the addition of sophomore speedster Abe Woodson. The line led by Captain Jan Smid and Don Tate at guards should be formidable.
Iowa. Time and Michigan State will tell. Calvin Jones, at guard, and End Frank Gilliam form the backbone of a line that led the Big Ten in rushing defense last year. Captain George Broeder was the top Big Ten punter in 1953 and led all the Hawkeye ground gainers with a 4.2 yards average per try. Coach Forest Evashevski's varied offense is very tough to outguess, but even more important is the renaissance of Iowa spirit.
Wisconsin. Ivy Williamson, with 21 wins, 7 losses, and 4 ties, has recently been the "winningest" coach in Big Ten play. He has a severe schedule this season, but fine sophomores, good varsity holdovers including Quarterback Jim Miller and last, but not least, Alan "The Horse" Ameche again make Wisconsin a title threat.
Michigan State. Over the past three seasons Spartan teams have lost but one of 27 games. They could go on for the title although they've lost 15 players, eight of them regulars, and three coaches. On the other hand, 20 lettermen have returned including such names as Halfback Leroy Bolden, Tackle Randy Schrecengost, Guard Hank Bullough and End Carl Diener. Leading sophomore candidates are: Backs Lou Costanzo and Rudy Gaddini, End Lacey Bernard, Tackle Ron Latronica and Center Don Berger. Last year's Rose Bowl champions will be younger and thinner, especially in the backfield, than Michigan State teams have been in the past four years.