THE SUGAR BOWL
A lot of teams never play each other in the overburdened 12-team Southeastern Conference. For 19 years the closest that two of the best of them, Alabama and Mississippi, have come to meeting has been in the newspapers. Now, happily, all is coming to a head. Beginning in 1965, Alabama's Bear Bryant and Ole Miss's Johnny Vaught, two of the country's three winningest coaches, are taking out after each other. But New Orleans has arranged a sneak preview, and Sugar Bowl sponsors were so eager to consummate the meeting that they did not care what happened in Ole Miss's final game, or in Alabama's last two, or what worthy teams—Memphis State or Pittsburgh, to name just two—were overlooked. Still, because of the natural rivalry between the two schools and coaches, they wound up with a real ball game.
The regular season schedules of both teams would not frighten the ordinary sandlot club in any given year, but one must never be misled by that. Alabama and Ole Miss are among the fine football dynasties of the U.S., and each is likely to flatten any opponent it meets. True, Mississippi was tied twice in 1963, and Alabama lost twice—the most games a Bryant-coached Alabama team has lost since 1958. Will failure spoil rock-hard Alabama?
Permanently, no, but on Jan. 1, yes. And the reason is Ole Miss, which has its usual legion of 6-foot-2, 220-pound, fast, talented natives, once described by a pro scout as "the finest looking group of athletes in the country each year." Two of them are splendid quarterbacks, senior Perry Lee Dunn and junior Jim Weatherly, who run hard, throw long passes and play defense. Up front there are Center Kenny Dill, Tackle Whaley Hall and End Allen Brown, each an accomplished athlete.
Alabama, by contrast, has all kinds of problems. Joe Namath, one of the nation's most gifted quarterbacks, has been booted off the squad until next season for a training violation. This promotes Jack Hurlbut, who has seen little service. And Bryant can never be certain whether his very good but often injured fullback, Mike Fracchia, will be able to play or, if he does, how long and how effectively. Alabama's offensive burden thus falls heavily on Halfback Benny Nelson, a shifty and fast operator who is referred to as one of Bryant's "sweethearts." This means that he plays at 100% efficiency, but he is not as effective as the more gifted Namaths or Fracchias or, worse luck, Ole Miss's winning Rebels.
THE GATOR BOWL
For rich suspense there was no better team in 1963 than Coach Ben Martin's Air Force Falcons. Almost everything that happened to the Falcons happened late. It was late when Quarterback Terry Isaacson passed the Air Force to upset victories over Washington (10-7), a Rose Bowl team, and Nebraska (17-13), an Orange Bowl team. It was late when Army came back to beat the Falcons 14-10, and it was very late—the last play—when Maryland defeated Air Force 21-14. Such things combined to make Air Force both exciting and attractive for the Gator Bowl game on Dec. 28 against North Carolina.
The most glamorous aspect of events in Jacksonville, however, will be the individual quarterback duel between Isaacson and North Carolina's Junior Edge. Both quarterbacks prefer to use the rollout pass-run option. Edge will have more backfield help in the persons of pro-type Running Backs Ken Willard (6-2, 220) and Eddie Kesler (6-0, 215). Willard gained 648 yards during the year. Isaacson, without very much help, represents more than half of Air Force's total offense. Both teams have fine receivers but, again, North Carolina has in End Bob Lacey perhaps the best of the lot.
The Tar Heels, too, know how to create some suspense of their own. Needing a victory over Duke in their final game to share the Atlantic Coast title, Coach Jim Hickey's team discovered itself trailing 14-13 with only 1:23 to play and the ball on its own 28. Edge went to work. With flare passes and options to the sidelines, North Carolina kept the clock in check, gained ground and finally kicked a winning field goal. But despite all of this, the Air Force seems to have come through a tougher schedule, displayed more quickness along the line and survived more crises. Hence—the Falcons in a thriller.
THE BLUEBONNET BOWL