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This season the national champion of college football might come from an old familiar place. Like the Rose Bowl. You do remember the Rose Bowl? Well, nobody can blame you if you don't, because it has been 19 years since an AP national champion emerged from Pasadena. And what about the Big Ten? We're not kidding. The league that gave us the Galloping Ghost, Old 98 and Woody Hayes is ready to deliver its first consensus national champion since—is it possible?—1968. And here's the kicker: Michigan, home of the most rousing fight song in the game, is the team to beat. Never mind that the Wolverines' most recent national title was in 1948, when Bennie Oosterbaan was the coach and Benny Goodman was still on the pop music charts.
Too often during the Bo Schembechler era Michigan was Miss-Again at the end of New Year's Day, but this could be the season when the Wolverines outshine the Florida powerhouses and outluck even the Fighting Peacocks, or whatever it is that NBC plans to call Notre Dame. Last season Michigan was 9-3 in its first campaign under Schembechler's successor, Gary Moeller, but could easily have been 12-0. Besides, who's going to argue when Greg Skrepenak, Michigan's 6'8", 320-pound offensive tackle (page 62), says, "We hope to be playing in Pasadena for the Number One ranking."
For that to happen, the Wolverines will have to survive one of the toughest schedules in the country. Michigan plays host to Notre Dame on Sept. 14 and Florida State on Sept. 28 before plunging into the Big Ten season on the road against defending champion Iowa and Michigan State. But Moeller has more than enough talent for the task at hand.
Although tailback Jon Vaughn (1,364 yards rushing as a sophomore) jumped to the pros, the Wolverines have capable replacements in Ricky Powers and backup Tyrone Wheatley, a true freshman. When Skrepenak and his companions on the offensive line aren't ripping open holes for Powers and Wheatley, they will be pass-blocking for quarterback Elvis Grbac and a receiving corps led by Desmond (Magic) Howard, whose many catches include one of Michael Jackson's hat at a concert. Howard had 63 receptions and was second in the nation in kickoff returns.
The Wolverine defense will have three new starters in the secondary, but defensive coordinator Lloyd Carr is so pleased with free safety Corwin (Cornflakes) Brown, cornerback Dwayne Ware and strong safety Otis Williams that, in spite of their inexperience, he feels they will be the strength of the unit. Initially, however, the anchor will be inside linebacker Erick Anderson, who has led the team in tackles for three straight years. "Erick is the complete package," Carr says. "He has the best instincts—being consistently accurate and not getting fooled—and is a tough, competitive athlete."
2. Florida State
Anderson and his Michigan teammates will need all the instinct and toughness they can muster to beat the Seminoles, even with the game being played in Ann Arbor. Florida State has finished among the nation's top four for four consecutive years but has nary a title to show for it. Now, though, Bobby Bowden may have assembled his best team yet.
He has 17 starters back from last season's 10-2 team, and he has signed seven high school All-Americas, led by running back Marquette Smith and safety Derrick Brooks. While they mature, they will be learning from such quality players as linebacker Marvin (Shade Tree) Jones, cornerback Terrell Buckley and tailback Amp Lee. Says quarterback Casey Weldon, "At every position we're two or three deep. Amazing. Everybody is expendable." Except Weldon, who completed 61.5% of his passes last season and led Florida State to six straight victories after becoming the starter in midseason.