The September shakedown is over in southern football and it is beginning to appear very much as though the dreadnaughts of last season are back in excellent running order and with a touch more armor. From College Park to Baton Rouge and from Morgantown to Miami, the teams to beat in the three major conferences are Georgia Tech in the Southeast, Maryland and Duke in the Atlantic Coast and West Virginia and Virginia Tech in the Southern.
Of the five, Georgia Tech will be pushed hardest. Undoubtedly among the best in the country after their 20-6 win over Southern Methodist Saturday, the Yellow Jackets still aren't that much better than the other schools in the country's second strongest conference and they face a withering schedule. Mississippi has already lost to Kentucky, but it doesn't have to meet another top team in the SEC all season. Ole Miss could sneak by while Tech and Auburn, 13-0 victor over Florida, are busy looking the other way.
Neither Maryland nor Duke has Tech's problem. West Virginia must still get by a good William and Mary, loser by only 14-7 in the closing minutes last week to Virginia Tech. Of the independents, the University of Miami, regardless of its opening loss to Georgia Tech, is the strongest in the South and one of the best in the nation. Not too many rungs down the ladder is Florida State, loser to Miami last week but beginning to flex its muscles and join the big boys in the land of football and king cotton.
Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are always heading for a bowl, and this year is no different from the rest. The kicking game, the explosive offense and meticulous defense one has come to associate with Coach Bobby Dodd are all there again. Dodd's big men this year are halfbacks Paul Rotenberry and Jimmy Thompson and quarterbacks Wade Mitchell and Toppy Vann. A big sophomore halfback, Stan Flowers, also caught my eye.
Auburn. Toward the close of last season the Plainsmen may have been the best team in the country. They are winning the early ones this year and players like Fullback Joe Childress, Tackle Frank D'Agostino and Guard Bob Scarbrough may carry them to a great record.
Mississippi. The Rebs looked brilliant in the second half against Georgia, with unpredictable Eagle Day doing everything a quarterback should. But then came the embarrassing Kentucky loss. Mississippi, with Billy Kinnard, half, Buddy Alliston, guard, and Gene Dubuisson, center, has the strength but remains an enigma.
Kentucky. The Wildcats were the surprise team of the SEC last season. Much is expected this year, although they were beaten by LSU in the opener 19-7. Bob Hardy is generally recognized as the best quarterback in the SEC. The line, led by End Howard Schnellenberger, is top-drawer.
Mississippi State. The Maroons lost a heartbreaker to Florida 14-20 in the opener but revived to beat Tennessee 13-7. Coach Darrell Royal expects State to be better this year and swears that Art Davis (voted most valuable player in the SEC in 1954) is the best halfback in America. "He plays at 190 and runs the 100 in 9.9."
Florida. Principal difficulty facing Florida is finding replacements for four tackles lost from last year's squad. Center Steve DeLa Torre, prime favorite for national recognition, only slightly overshadows Halfback Jackie Simpson. The Gator diet ( Georgia Tech and Auburn) was a little rich for a starter, but blander opposition the rest of the way should balance the menu.