There are, as the season begins, large sections of the nation where the mere mention of NORTHWESTERN does not produce quite the same involuntary trembling that a bludgeoning Southern Cal or Alabama attack would. Perhaps it is Northwestern's poison-pin-prick method of dispatching victims that throws people off. It is swift, it is sudden and it is merciful. But it is also fatal.
Coach Ara Parseghian, with 27 lettermen of more than ordinary ability back, claims his optimism is well guarded. So is his quarterback, Myers. Fast, 230-pound Jack Cvercko, Larry Zeno, Ed and Fred Tuerk and Rich Lawton constitute the best guard staff in Northwestern history. Joe Szczecko and Mike Schwager, backed by three lettermen, are fine tackles, and Joe Cerne has strengthened center. Returning at end are Gary Crum and Chuck Logan to help compensate for the important loss of Flanker Back Paul Flatley. The other two key receivers on whom Parseghian is counting are the nation's best pair of fullbacks, versatile Bill Swingle and Steve Murphy. And if those are not good enough reasons for making Northwestern the No. 1 favorite of the Midwest, Parseghian has one more—sophomore Dave Milam, whom some feel may prove good enough eventually to displace Myers.
In a region as large as the Midwest—it stretches from Ohio to Colorado—this may be predicting too much for Northwestern. There is, for one strong instance, the UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA. In most un-Wilkinsonian prose, Coach Bud Wilkinson told this year's team, "You can be the best college football team in the country."
From last year's sophomore-laden 8-2 Sooners (who outscored opponents by an average of 27-4) Wilkinson has lost a handful of good defensemen. That's all. Returning to the backfield is Fullback Jim Grisham, who bucked 107 yards against Alabama in the Orange Bowl, which is nearly twice the yardage averaged by teams playing 'Bama in 1962. Grisham may be the best bucking back in the country. That he was not even the best running Sooner last year should be a measure of the tribulations in store for 1963 foes. A 207-pound sprinter halfback, Joe Don Looney, skittered 852 yards, scored 62 points and—as a part-time hobby—led the nation in punting. He is back too. Right now, Wilkinson's quarterback is an untried junior, Bobby Page, a circumstance which causes no rejoicing among the enemy. He is good and he is barely beating out three sophomores for the position.
Actually, the Sooners do not need a backfield this good. The 1963 line is one of Wilkinson's biggest, epitomized by Ralph Neely, 6 feet 5 and 246 pounds of terrible-tempered tackle. Ed McQuarters and Newt Burton are a nicely complementary pair at guard, and John Flynn, John Porterfield, Rick McCurdy and Al Bumgardner make up an end corps fit to give an enemy backfield fits.
Far from Oklahoma prairies, high above the sky-blue waters of Lakes Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Waubesa, et al., broods a worried North Woods man. His name is Milt Bruhn. He has been told that his WISCONSIN Badgers should be chief contenders for the Big Ten intertribal football championship, despite the loss of braves like Ron Vander Kelen and Pat Richter. Now all Chief Bruhn has to do is fulfill expectations.
How well he does depends in large measure on how well Quarterback Harold Brandt fills the position. Brandt, who has flashed promise, is a smart general and an adequate passer, but his running is hardly spectacular, leaving a potential opening for good sophomore Dave Fronek. There is also an opening for one or two talented pass-catching ends, but the only holes related to the Wisconsin interior line are those it will leave when it tears through the enemy. Biggest, baddest Badger is 245-pound Roger Pillath, supplemented at tackle by Andy Wojdula and Roger Jacobazzi. Returning at halfback to take advantage of all that open space is the Big Ten's leading scorer, Lou Holland, who clutched and speed-shifted for 11 touchdowns last year. Bruhn, who may install the I formation to take advantage of the running, also has Ralph Kurek, his leading rusher last season, whom he calls the best fullback since Alan Ameche.
Behind Oklahoma in the Big Eight but ahead of some good Big Ten schools is KANSAS. Coach Jack Mitchell has a line that is inexperienced but capable and a backfield that could be superb. Says Mitchell of sophomore Steve Renko, a converted fullback: "After three days at quarterback, he looked as if he had been playing it all his life." Of sophomore Mike Johnson, slotback in Kansas' sliding-slot offense, he says, "He does everything well." You may remember that Kansas also had a pretty fair sophomore halfback last year, Gale Sayers, who rushed 1,125 yards. And Fullback Ken Coleman, who gained 347 yards and never lost one, also returns. Kansas will be fast and exciting. It will be good, too.
So will NEBRASKA, which is composed entirely of two-year lettermen, except at slotback. Naturally, this anguishes Coach Bob Devaney no end. You can see the man's problem—or can you? If not, you may be looking at Quarterback Dennis Claridge. Even Devaney admits that Claridge is "a fine passer," "fast, rugged runner," "a good punter" and "our best defensive back." Of course, you might be staring at powerful breakaway runner Willie Ross. Or, quite plausibly, your vision might be blocked by 6-foot-5 259-pound Guard Bob Brown, the pro scouts' favorite scenery, or by 6-foot-4 247-pound Tackle Lloyd Voss. Does Devaney have a problem? He does, but like Kansas', it is on the schedule. Oklahoma.