HERMAN HICKMAN SAYS:
The intercollegiate Conference—that is, the Western Conference or, in popular parlance, the Big Ten, but by any name the oldest formal organization of collegiate athletics in the country—is not suffering from decadence. Many feel that year in and year out from top to bottom this is the strongest football group in the nation. This season will be no exception. Throughout the conference, stars are legion and a solid soundness prevails in every squad.
At this early September date, before injuries, upsets and surprises rear their heads, I rate them in three categories: potential champions, contenders and underdogs.
The potential champions, and ranked close to the top nationally, are Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan. In the contender or dark-horse class come Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Purdue. It's a good bet that the Big Ten Rose Bowl representative will come from this group—Michigan State and Ohio State being ineligible to participate this coming January, leaving Michigan the only eligible entry from the top three.
With the Spartans ineligible to return to Pasadena because of the "no repeat" rule, the Buckeyes on probation and UCLA, USC and Washington precluded as the Pacific Coast standard bearers, a "Frustration Bowl" has been suggested for these teams.
Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State, bolstered by what may be the best backfield in the country and a better line than the squad which missed an undefeated season by seven points in 1955, cannot be left out of any championship conjecture.
Ohio State, although beaten by outsiders Stanford and Duke last season, has a 13-game conference winning streak on the line and is shooting for a history-making third consecutive title. Despite the loss of the great Howard Cassady, the Buckeyes seem destined to destroy the opposition again with a devastating ground attack.
Expect Michigan's multiple offense to be more "souped up" than in 1955. Add to this their usual stubborn defensive play and you have the ingredients of a champion.
All three of these teams have been selected on my Eleven Elevens and are discussed in detail, so let's get to the rest of the conference.
Illinois may be the team most likely to surprise everybody. Last year they had sensational halfbacks, and they have added some young and outstanding talent from the freshman team. Unpredictable but dangerous.