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Last season at Georgia, rookie coach Ray Goff's Bulldogs went 6-3, then lost their last three games, to Auburn, Georgia Tech and Syracuse in the Peach Bowl. This spring tailback Rodney Hampton, the school's No. 3 alltime rusher, decided to give up his senior year to enter the NFL draft. Unless freshman tailback Garrison Hearst develops faster than expected, Goff will have to depend more on the passing of quarterbacks Greg Talley and Preston Jones. Their leading targets will be split end Sean Hummings and flanker Arthur Marshall.
LSU, expected to contend for the conference championship in '89, lost four games by six points or less and slipped to 4-7, bringing the bittersweet Tommy Hodson era to an unhappy end. It was the Bayou Bengals' worst season since 1983. Without quarterback Hodson and record-setting placekicker David Brown-dyke, LSU's most dangerous offensive threat will probably be senior tailback Harvey Williams, though he has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent performance throughout his career. On defense, the Tigers will get a good deal of help from redshirt freshman Roovelroe Swan at outside linebacker. LSU's best hope for improvement may be an easier schedule that includes neither Auburn nor Tennessee.
To better last season's 8-4 record, Mississippi must not become discouraged in September when it meets Auburn and Arkansas back-to-back. Coach Billy Brewer is excited by tailback Randy Baldwin, who averaged six yards a carry last season, and he thinks quarterback Russ Shows might be just the man to replace John Darnell. The Ole Miss defense will be bolstered considerably if free safety Todd Sandroni, who had seven interceptions two years ago, is fully recovered from off-season surgery to his left knee. As usual, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt will have to fight to stay out of the cellar. After a 4-2 start last season, the Bulldogs faded to 5-6. It's unlikely that they will be much better this season, even with Tay Galloway, Tony James and Kenny Roberts trying to outdo one another at tailback. Vanderbilt, which ran up a 1-10 record—its seventh consecutive losing season—faces its toughest schedule in years with its usual dearth of talent. At least free safety Chris Donnelly, last year's Freshman of the Year in the SEC, will again get plenty of work. Last season he broke up 14 passes, a school record, and made 70 tackles.
In the Pac-10 they spell parity P-A-R-O-D-Y. Southern Cal and Washington (both in this season's Top 20 forecast) and UCLA haven't been very sporting over the past two decades, winning 17 of the last 18 league titles. This season, Oregon has the best chance of breaking the Big Three's Rose Bowl monopoly. The Ducks are coming off an 8-4 year in which they beat Tulsa 27-24 in the Independence Bowl, and three of the Ducks' four losses were by a total of 11 points. This fall, Oregon will enjoy an easier schedule, with seven home games and no USC. The Ducks' fortunes are in the capable hands of senior quarterback Bill Musgrave, who stayed healthy last season for the first time in his career. In his first two seasons, the Ducks were 10-3 with Musgrave under center; with him on the disabled list, they were 2-8. Coach Rich Brooks must find adequate replacements for departed running backs Derek Loville and Latin Berry.
Noting that Arizona quarterbacks threw for only 898 yards last season, coach Dick Tomey, a master of understatement, said, "We hope to be a better passing team this year." Tomey then generously excused one quarterback and two of his receivers from spring practice so that they could compete on the baseball and track teams. The Wildcats' strength will be a defensive back-field that boasts cornerback Darryl Lewis and safety Jeff Hammerschmidt. But Arizona will be hard-pressed to match its '89 record of 8-4; this season the Wildcats face Southern Cal, UCLA and Washington on the road.
UCLA will be out to prove that last season's 3-7-1 performance—the Bruins' worst record since 1971—was an aberration, but coach Terry Donahue cautions that '90 is a rebuilding year in Westwood. Offensive coordinator Homer Smith, who spent the past three years with the Kansas City Chiefs and Alabama, returns to guide a unit that is loaded in the backfield but thin along the line. Quarterback Bret Johnson, who took much of the blame for the '89 travesty, quit school last week after getting angry about being replaced by junior Jim Bonds, a stronger thrower. On defense, free safety Eric Turner follows Kenny Easley, Don Rogers and James Washington as the only Bruin to start at that position since 1977.
In trying to remain in the top half of the conference, the Sun Devils of Arizona State will rely on the aerial tandem of tight end Ryan McReynolds and Paul Justin, the league's top passer (259 yards per game), who could quietly turn out to be an even better quarterback than that Robo fellow at USC. Stanford will be lucky to survive a grueling early schedule. The Cardinal will open the season on a Thursday evening at Colorado and travel to Notre Dame one month later. But Stanford should get a boost from 300-pound sophomore tackle Bob Whitfield (page 90) and a backfield that is accustomed to college football's rarefied heights: Tailback Glyn Milburn is a transfer from Oklahoma and fullback Ellery Roberts spent one season with Miami.
With prep phenom running back Russell White having done his Proposition 48 penance, California is counting on having an exciting ground game, if not much else. Defensive tackle Joel Dickson will also make a comeback. In 1988, Dickson was regarded as one of the country's top linemen, but he was injured in a shooting accident four games into the season. Last year, he injured an ankle on the first series of the Bears' opening game and decided to redshirt. Cal has 15 of 22 starters back but will struggle to get out of the cellar. By mid-October last season, Washington State was 6-1 and thinking Rose Bowl. That bubble burst with four losses in five weeks. The Cougars lost a dozen players to the pros and will need to patch up a secondary that allowed a league-high 296 yards per game passing.
Oregon State hasn't had a winning football team in 20 years, but the easygoing folks in Corvallis take it all in stride. In January, when coach Dave Kragthorpe decided not to leave for Utah, he was roundly applauded by the crowd at a Beaver basketball game. Last year's 4-7-1 record wasn't bad for a school that has a tough time competing for the most talented recruits, though nosetackle Esera Tuaolo and scrambling quarterback Matt Booher would make any Pac-10 roster.
In its own way, the Big Eight is as cliquish as a suburban high school. You've got all the basic groups: jocks (Nebraska and Colorado), thugs (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State), punks (Iowa State and Missouri) and nerds (Kansas and Kansas State). To be sure, the groups occasionally overlap, but when the bell rings this season, look for Nebraska and Colorado to be in a class by themselves. Of course, the thugs will be detained in the principal's office for a while.