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It has been a season that stayed amazingly true to form. Of the original "Eleven Best Elevens" selected by Herman Hickman before the season started, only five failed to retain this rating at the end. Army, lacking an experienced quarterback and sufficient reserve strength, approached the all-important game with Navy as something of a disappointment. Duke had its ups and downs, depending largely on the availability of its brilliant quarterback, Sonny Jurgenson. Ohio State was great on the ground, but its three losses, two of them in the final two weeks against Iowa and Michigan, brought home the basic truth that a championship team must have at least some passing. Only a hairline separated Minnesota and Michigan, hut the former had to be considered the better on the basis of its Big Ten record. Notre Dame was simply too young and inexperienced to handle the kind of schedule that the Irish face year in and year out. Among the new names on the Eleven Best, Pittsburgh had been rated by Hickman as "the best in the East and a threat for the national title," but he had felt their rugged schedule would be too much for even such a strong squad as the Panthers were ready to field. Syracuse was a cinch to be good, if only because of its splendid halfback, Jim Brown. The fact that they jelled into an eleven-man instead of just a one-man team has made them the current favorite for the Lambert Trophy, symbol of eastern football supremacy. Tennessee had seemed to be a young team with plenty of potential but perhaps a year away from greatness. Thanks largely to Mr. Johnny Majors, Tennessee played the finest football in the South. The real surprise, however, was Iowa. As the Big Ten champion and its delegate to the Rose Bowl, Iowa serves as the exception, proving a very old rule: form will tell.
When the boys get to spinning tales about eastern football, they will no longer have to start their yarns with "Once upon a time...." The area so long dependent on dimming memories of a glorious past wound up the 1956 season with three of the top teams in the nation and a good chance of representation in a major bowl. The renaissance was conducted, fittingly, by Yale, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, three of the very teams responsible for yesterday's memories.
Yale closed out the season Saturday with a crushing 42-14 win over Harvard in "The Game." It was the highest score in the old rivalry since 1884, when Yale beat Harvard 48-0. The win gave the Blue an 8-1 season record and undisputed possession of the first official Ivy League crown. Pittsburgh dueled age-old rival Penn state to a 7-7 standoff before 51,123 at Pitt Stadium. The tie may have hurt Panther chances for a bowl bid, but it certainly put Syracuse in a better position for a postseason invitation. Though Syracuse suffered its only loss to Pittsburgh, the Orange beat Penn State later in the season.
In New England, Boston College warmed up for its annual showdown with Holy Cross this Saturday by roasting neighboring Brandeis 52-0. The point total was the highest a BC team has scored since the 76-0 whaling of Holy Cross in 1946. As originally forecast, the finest football squad in New England was to be found in New Haven, Conn. But whether it was Yale or undefeated New Haven Teachers was a matter of conjecture at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Brandeis had lost a preseason scrimmage to Yale (27-13) and a scheduled game to the Teachers (46-7). It was not entirely the comparative scores which prompted Brandeis Coach Benny Friedman to observe: "The teachers are a big-college team and the best all-round squad we've seen."
Though Yale won the Ivy marbles in a walkaway, it would appear that 1957 will bring tighter competition to this hallowed loop. Both Brown and Dartmouth left their fans cheering as they crowned mediocre seasons with final appearances of unexpected brilliance. Brown blanked Colgate 20-0 on Thanksgiving Day, and Dartmouth almost duplicated against Princeton 19-0 two days later. Columbia retired Coach Lou Little the way he wanted it—with an 18-12 win over Rutgers . Villanova , again on the rise as an eastern power, mauled Iowa State 26-0.
The next-to-last big football Saturday in Dixie found Tennessee and Georgia Tech, the giants of the Southeastern Conference, clearing the way for prospective delegates from various bowls, while three contenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference vied for the Orange Bowl assignment by trying unsuccessfully to run up big scores on the league's lesser opposition.
Of the bowl contenders, Tennessee came closest to disaster. Kentucky led the surprised Vols 7-6 well into the fourth quarter at Knoxville until Tailback Johnny Majors took over personally and scored two touchdowns. Now only this Saturday's traditional game with Vanderbilt stands between the Vols and a perfect season. A bowl (probably Sugar) is already assured.
Georgia Tech had an unexpectedly easy time with underrated Florida , breezing home 28-0 to insure the Engineers a sixth consecutive bowl invitation. Tech must now beat a subnormal Georgia team for a 9-1 season and a date in the Cotton or Gator Bowl. Not only that, but if Tennessee loses to Vanderbilt, Tech can win the SEC.