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THE SEASON OF THE SOPHOMORE
Mervin Hyman
September 24, 1962
With a lot of first-year players, most Big Ten and Big Eight teams will be stronger than in 1961—but Ohio State is still best
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September 24, 1962

The Season Of The Sophomore

With a lot of first-year players, most Big Ten and Big Eight teams will be stronger than in 1961—but Ohio State is still best

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Bowling Green
1961 record: Won 8, lost 2

Sept. 22

Marsholl

(40-0)

Sept. 29

at Dayton, N

(28-11)

Oct. 6

at Western Michigan

(21-0)

Oct. 13

at Toledo, N

(17-6)

Oct. 20

Kent State

(21-6)

Oct. 27

at Miami (O.)

(6-7)

Nov. 3

at W. Texas State

(28-6)

Nov. 10

Ohio

(7-6)

Nov. 17

Southern Illinois

(20-0)

Coach Jack Mollenkopf of Purdue (above) is an upsetting man. There is something serene about his appearance, the look—almost—of a mild-mannered mathematics professor, yet football people know him for what he is—aggressive and excitable. Mollenkopf has never won a Big Ten title; only one Purdue team ever has, but there is no team which hasn't felt the sting of the "Spoilermakers," as the riveters of Lafayette, Ind. have come to be known. Purdue won but two conference games in 1960: it handed Minnesota its only league loss 23-14, and bumped Ohio State out of a share in the title 24-21. In 1961 Iowa had scored in 78 straight games, averaging 25-plus points a game; Purdue beat the Hawk-eyes 9-0. This year, for a change, Purdue is a favorite in the Big Ten, along with Ohio State, the favorite, and Michigan State. Yet Mollenkopf is still upsetting. He says things no college coach should.

Item: Stepping on faculty sensitivities, he comes right out with this: "The finest thing that has happened to our league was the elimination of the 'need factor' from the grant-in-aid program." Three years ago, under pressure from educators, the Big Ten agreed that each football player would be allowed the amount of money he needed to get through college. A rich boy on scholarship got nothing; a poor boy got everything, up to the NCAA limit. Many good prospects, whose families could afford to educate them but preferred not to, were directed to other conferences. That is all over now and, as Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty says, "The quality of Big Ten football will be the highest in history next fall. We're reaching an apex."

Item: Jack Mollenkopf fearlessly predicts a big year for his team. "I can't deny we'll finish high," he says. "It's going to take a whale of a team to beat us." Mollenkopf says he has 15 sophomores who are better-than-average Big Ten players. "Nobody," he adds, "has better quarterbacks than Ron Di Gravio and Gary Hogan. We've got five good fullbacks, and that's the kind of dogfight I love. If Tony Fugate comes fast, we could have [with Dave Miller and Tom Boris] the best halfbacks since I've been here." His defensive line, as always, is excellent.

Item: Mollenkopf talks frankly about the other Big Ten teams. Ohio State should win because of its favorable schedule. "Paul-Warfield," Mollenkopf says, "is a tremendous halfback and Daryl Sanders one of the outstanding tackles in the league. Also they don't have to meet Minnesota, Michigan State or Purdue."

Michigan State is a possible champion. "Daugherty has got Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan all at home and he doesn't have to play Ohio State, Iowa or Wisconsin. He's got terrific halfbacks, particularly Sherman Lewis, and two great linemen in Jim Bobbitt and Dave Behrman.

"The sleeper in the league is Minnesota, mostly because of its imposing defense. Michigan won't be as good as last year, but it shouldn't be sold short. Northwestern is much improved, Wisconsin is young but strong, Iowa lost a lot of players and Indiana and Illinois don't figure, but that could come back to haunt me," Mollenkopf concludes.

The summary, even coming from an involved coach, is probably as accurate as any you can get. The Big Ten again is the strongest conference in the country. Its record last year against outside competition was 20-6-1; the year before 19-2-2. The losses from graduation in 1961 were unusually low and almost all teams inducted an exceptional freshman class. For the first time since World War II, there has not been a single head coaching change. So confident are the coaches that there have been only two noticeable tactical alterations: Michigan State has junked the two-platoon system and Northwestern has adopted it.

There will be no radical change in the Big Eight either. As Oklahoma Coach Bud Wilkinson notes, "With the widespread use of film, whatever seems to work is rapidly copied. Football is becoming standardized all across the country."

The best Big Eight teams, Wilkinson says, compare favorably with the best from any other section, including the Big Ten. "What little difference there is in teams from rival areas comes in the range from top to bottom. Some areas have a few more topflight teams than others."

Like the Big Ten, the Big Eight is generally stronger this year and the reason again is better sophomores. Wilkinson has a whole raft of them, so many that that normally dour pessimist told a news conference, "I'm real optimistic. I feel our team has more athletic ability than we've had in several years and it should be a rapidly improving team."

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