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Texas Christian is the defending champion of the Southwest Conference, where some of the most flamboyant football in the land is played. Every team throws the ball with a reckless zest, and even Texans, inured to the impossible, have come to consider it an upset when one doesn't occur. But TCU stands out as the solid team in the conference. Wise old Coach Abe Martin still has most of the squad which outlasted the field last year, losing only to Iowa and Southern Methodist. Quarterbacking may be TCU's one weakness, and here Martin is depending upon Junior Larry Dawson to provide the passing to go with Fullback Jack Spikes's bone-crushing blasts at enemy lines. The Horned Frogs can, for once, make the SWC predictable—if they can hop over Texas, Rice and SMU in their last three games.
Southern Methodist is even more typical of Southwestern football, but all the Mustang hopes are wrapped up in Quarterback Don Meredith, who is one of the nation's most accurate passers. Coach Bill Meek, who laughingly describes his offense as the split-T, will again deploy spread formations to take advantage of Meredith's passing and running skill. But everything depends upon Meredith's ability to remain sound through a long, hard season. Perhaps Assistant Coach John Cudmore put it best when he recently said, "If anything happens to Meredith we'll have to change our offense. We'll resort to the confused T with the unbalanced coach in motion."
Army's Earl Blaik did football a tremendous service last year when he discarded his conservative style of play in favor of the widely publicized Lonesome End and a wide-open offense. Well, Blaik is gone, but his successor, able young Dale Hall, will continue the pattern set by his old boss. Although faced with the toughest Army schedule in years, Hall can look to Halfback Bob Anderson, who is lightning-quick to the outside and can go down the middle like a fullback, Quarterback Joe Caldwell, a rifle-armed passer, and Lonesome George himself, Bill Carpenter, to carry the attack. Lack of depth, especially in the forward wall, may hurt the Cadets, particularly when they have to face such robust opponents as Illinois, Penn State, Air Force, Oklahoma and Navy. Nonetheless, Cadet pride and will to win are important factors, so Army should rank as the best in the East.
Mississippi generally makes the most of a weak schedule to find its way into the Southeastern Conference first division and a New Year's bowl date. Johnny Vaught, one of the least known and least appreciated coaches in the business, rarely ever turns out a bad football team, and he manages to adjust his attack to the type of players he has on hand. This year he has two of the South's best in Quarterback Bobby Franklin and Fullback Charlie Flowers. Ole Miss could sneak ahead of Auburn and Louisiana State and grab the SEC championship.
North Carolina experienced its greatest loss with the sudden and tragic death of Coach Jim Tatum, who had spent three busy years recruiting, organizing and cajoling in an attempt to rebuild the Tar Heels into a first-class power. However, even with Big Jim gone, North Carolina may be ready to achieve the anticipated greatness under his successor, Jim Hickey, who inherited a typical Tatum hard-nose line and an outstanding quarterback in Jack Cummings. Cummings is the answer to a coach's dream. His ability to throw the long ball will keep the defense from crowding and give the running attack room to maneuver. The Tar Heels will meet their biggest tests (Clemson and Notre Dame) early, and they could breeze to the Atlantic Coast Conference title after that.
Iowa stormed to the top of the dog-eat-dog Big Ten in 1958, but the Hawkeyes will find the going somewhat rougher this time around. Quarterback Mitchell Ogiego, who was considered to be an able replacement for graduated Randy Duncan, and Willie Fleming, a tremendously fast halfback, lost the battle of the books, and it will take all of Coach Forest Evashevski's ingenuity and masterful offensive touch to find capable substitutes for this pair. But Evy has left few stones unturned in his search for good football players, and he might just have the quarterback who can make his devastating wing T click. Even without an experienced quarterback, Iowa will be formidable and, with the help of an upset here and there, could again finish ahead of Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Since these teams are regarded as the best, we can expect them to be typical of the kind of football which will be played this fall. And what kind of football is that? Well, for one thing, the trend toward the wide-open game will continue, and there is likely to be even more scoring and therefore more thrills and excitement for the fans these next dozen Saturday afternoons.
There are several factors which have helped to bring on football's new look. The defenses were beginning to catch up with the offenses, so coaches had to find a way to spread the defenders and provide more running and passing room for their quick backs. Army's invention last year, when the Lonesome End captured the nation's fancy, was perhaps the most sensational development, but coaches like LSU's Dietzel, Iowa's Evashevski and Oklahoma's Wilkinson were just as quick to sense the need for change, and the result was more and better passing and increased use of option plays, flankers and split ends, all of which was designed to produce a greater diversity of attack. The wing T, with its better blocking angles and greater maneuverability, provided the best offensive instrument, but even the staid old split-T, dedicated to crunching out three or four yards at a clip, has been jazzed up by increased use of the quarterback option.
In a further effort to step up the offense, many coaches are now planning to use the man-in-motion, a maneuver which creates all kinds of interesting possibilities, and pro-type spread formations to thin out the packed defenders and keep them guessing. And the team with the top-notch quarterback will be throwing the ball almost as often as it will run with it.
Of course, teams like Auburn and Ohio State, with an abundant supply of huge linemen, will probably continue to put the emphasis on rigid defense and grinding charges through the line. But even in these centers of perennial football efficiency, we may see more frequent use of the pass and some occasional flashes of razzle-dazzle.