Ripened and confident after a year among the pundits, Herman Hickman this season sets forth on his annual tour of the football fields with a solid record behind him. Of his 11 top elevens in 1954, only Illinois, Texas and Iowa failed to live up to his preseason expectations. The final score of HICKMAN'S HUNCHES, the weekly predictions which he will again begin for SI next week, showed a healthy .727 average. Herman's choice for the 11 top teams of 1955 is not, however, based merely on past records. To pick them out he visited and talked during the past fortnight with coaches, assistant coaches, players and other major and minor prophets in colleges from one end of the country to the other. Sifting and evaluating all opinions and weighing them against his own personal observations, SI's expert, an All-America football player and formerly a big-time coach, has now come up with his list. "My neck's on the block now," says he. "The rest is up to history."