Even use football enthusiasts, who had lived so long with their memories of better days, watched in wonder last year when the Trojans got past 10 straight opponents to win the national championship. Another national title is too much to expect but, with many of the same players returning, USC again will be the best in the West.
Coach Johnny McKay, true to the tradition of his profession, is not so sure. Although he admits that "we're faster than last year and our passing will be as good if not better," McKay complains about a lack of depth. Additionally, he is apprehensive about his schedule. Before they even get to a Big Six rival, the Trojans must play Oklahoma, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. "Why," says McKay, "we're liable to put a guy in motion and he'll drop dead—from sheer fright."
This USC team is not likely to be scared by anyone. It will be too busy prodding opponents off balance with McKay's shifting T, which is really the I formation jiggered up with precisely timed movement. Pete Beathard is a constant threat at quarterback with his roll-outs and sharpshooting passes to Hal Bedsole, the 6-foot-5 end who moves with astonishing swiftness for a big man, and goes after a pass with the zeal of an octopus. Then there is Willie Brown, the free-swinging halfback. Brown can slither through a line or skip brazenly around it, and he catches passes too. His running mate will be Mike Garrett, a smallish sophomore with major moves.
Good as the backfield is, it is the line that makes USC so formidable. Not big, comparatively, it blocks fiercely and defends with the stubbornness of a Dutch dike. Guard Damon Bame, although only 187 pounds, is a linebacker who delights in smashing ballcarriers head on. The best of all may be Gary Kirner, a 200-pound tackle with the strength to penetrate opposing defenses.
McKay pretends to be unimpressed by these obvious riches. Says he, "I'm picking Stanford to win in the Big Six." Privately, McKay frets about WASHINGTON. The Huskies have suffered critical losses at halfback and center—Charlie Mitchell and Ray Mansfield have left—and Fullback Junior Coffey is out with a broken foot. Only 13 lettermen are back, but all are top-grade players and Coach Jim Owens has a delectable crop of sophomores.
Washington and USC will meet in Seattle on November 2, and the weapon will be the I formation, variations of which are used by both. Retaining the hurried but organized confusion that bewilders almost everybody, the Huskies will peel out of the huddle in two waves, then come back with their blinking I with the end split 15 yards, one halfback set out 10 yards and the other posted behind the fullback. Sometimes all will move on the first signal, other times the deep halfback will go into motion.
Washington will be quick and deft but without Coffey's brutal running power it may not be so damaging. Charlie Browning, who hits hard, is not another Coffey and Washington may have to rely more upon Quarterback Bill Douglas' little passes and the wide sweeps of Halfbacks Dave Kopay and Ron Medved, a slick sophomore runner. But the Huskies have a lively line to help, including Rick Redmond and Rick Sortun, a pair of aggressive 210-pound guards.
"We'll be exciting," predicts Owens, "and capable, I hope, of beating any team we play." He means USC.
Oregon, stripped almost bare in the line, nevertheless figures to be the most dangerous independent in the West. The reason? A rat-tat-tat offense led by Mel Renfro, one of the best runners in college this year. Renfro runs with the easy grace of a hurdler—which he is—and can also bull for short yardage. Should the defense stack against him, it will discover Larry Hill, the other halfback, who can run, too.
Mindful of his team's defensive shortcomings, Coach Len Casanova knows that Oregon will have to score a lot to win. So, with Quarterback Bob Berry, an expert passer, and good split ends like letterman Paul Burleson and sophomore Ray Palm, the Webfoots will pass more.