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THE ELEVEN BEST ELEVENS
Herman Hickman
September 23, 1957
The Bard of the Smokies greets the new season with his annual pick of the best teams, and Artist Joe Kaufman casts their coaches in Shakespearian roles which every football fan will recognize
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September 23, 1957

The Eleven Best Elevens

The Bard of the Smokies greets the new season with his annual pick of the best teams, and Artist Joe Kaufman casts their coaches in Shakespearian roles which every football fan will recognize

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COAST-TO-COAST FOOTBALL ON NBC-TV

SEPT. 21

Texas A&M vs. Maryland

1:45 CST

SEPT. 28

Stanford vs. Northwestern

1:45 PDT

OCT. 5

California vs. Michigan State

2:15 PST

OCT. 12
Regional

All games to be announced

OCT. 19
Color

Big Ten game, to be announced

1:15 CST

OCT. 26
Regional

All games to be announced

NOV. 2
Color

Big Ten game, to be announced

1:15 CST

NOV. 9
Regional

All games to be announced

NOV. 16
Color

Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame

1:45 CST

NOV. 23
Regional

All games to be announced

NOV. 28
Regional

Brown vs. Colgate
Denver vs. Wyoming
Texas A&M vs. Texas

1:45 EST
1:45 MST
1:15 CST

NOV. 30
Color

Army vs. Navy

1:15 EST

DEC. 7

Miami vs. Pittsburgh

1:45 EST

What a difference a few years make! The Two Platoonists are now just a memory, and the subsequent grind-it-out football of the split-T era is fast dying. The arm is coming back to the collegiate game, and there is even a faint rumor in some sections that the "foot" may return to football. Another revival from the past is the old game maxim: "Against equal opposition, a drive of more than 50 yards is seldom successful." The eight- and nine-man lines put a stop—as predicted last year—to the doctrine: "All we want is the ball. We'll grind it out chunk by chunk and yard by yard." And I say good riddance.

Once again innovation rears its head, and Football 1957 will be the more exciting for it. The static split-T, long ago discarded in fundamental form by its earliest and foremost protagonists, is being converted into more elastic offensive maneuvers. Thus, the packed defenses of this fading era will be challenged by a more open style of play.

Of paramount importance in today's football is the all-round player, and that is as it should be. Just "good run, no tackle" does not fit the present picture of a top-flight football player. Defensive ability has become a prime requisite in picking the starting eleven by some of the country's outstanding college coaches.

The two-unit system, with the players going both ways, continues to grow in popularity. Few of the nation's leading teams attempt to operate without "A" and "B" units alternating at planned intervals. While the specialist era was ended by rule-book legislation, the 60-minute player has been outmoded by the faster tempo of the modern game.

Sometimes we oldtimers brag about our "iron man" exploits when men were men and a substitute was an insult except for broken bones but, let's face it, we didn't play the same kind of game, even 25 years ago. There is nothing so disillusioning as viewing films of games in the early days. For the most part it was push and pull, built around a wedge attack up the middle. A mousetrap was still an implement for catching mice; downfield blocking was a myth and if a defensive man tackled above the knees he was considered yellow. Then came that dastardly innovation, the forward pass, and football coaching became a profession.

And speaking of the coach, his attitude toward the coming season has—for the most part—become mighty refreshing by comparison with the Gloomy Gus of yesteryear. I like the tongue-in-cheek statement of Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty: "With a legion of lettermen returning we should have a great season if the coaches come through." Or what Jim Myers, new coach at Iowa State, long the door mat of the conference, told me recently: " Oklahoma is so scared of us that they have an open date the week before our game in order to get ready." Red Sanders, whose UCLA squad has been wrecked by the Pacific Coast Conference eligibility ruling, put it most succinctly when asked about this season's prospects: "Just like the situation at Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Iowa or any other top university if you took away all the seniors."

On the administrative side long strides have been taken in the right direction by almost everyone—except the Pacific Coast Conference—toward a more realistic approach to the problems of scholarship aid and recruiting. The Big Ten adopted a new code almost exactly in line with the Nine Points For Survival advocated by me in the August 13, 1956 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. One particularly important aspect of this code is the inclusion of the "show-need" provision for granting aid to prospective athletes.

This clause is a sore spot in several of the Big Ten institutions and has been roundly ridiculed by many of my friends and former coaching compatriots in other sections. It has been called "an invasion of privacy" and "unworkable," but it has worked for years in the Ivy League as a criterion for scholarship aid to all students and I believe it will be adopted by most conferences as an integral part of the scholarship aid formula within the next few years.

The soft September schedule is a thing of the past. Most of the colleges go into action on the weekend of September 21, with the exception of the Big Ten and the Ivy League, who follow the next Saturday. Conference and national rankings could be decided early. Six of my Eleven Elevens play the first Saturday against major opponents. Perhaps the most important of these, from a national standpoint, is Oklahoma, putting its 40 straight victories on the line against Pittsburgh in Pitt Stadium. The powerful Panthers have a chance to make history, but the Sooners know this.

From a prognosticator's standpoint—particularly this one's—the Georgia Tech-Kentucky opener at Atlanta is even more important. Against all reason, according to my compatriots, I picked Tech, as usual, on my Eleven Elevens despite the fact that its first two teams have been decimated by graduation. The Wildcats are lean and hungry, while the Yellow Jackets are young. This affair, incidentally, is only the matinee at Grant Field. Georgia plays Texas that night.

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