HERMAN HICKMAN SAYS:
Possibly the best way to arrive at the final standings in the topsyturvy Southwest Conference race is to place the names of the schools in a ten-gallon hat, shake well, dig deep and pull them out one by one. Sounder still is the time-proven method of taking the unimpeachable consensus of conference coaches, critics and customers and reversing the order of selection. Most often, you will be correct. In better circles this procedure is not considered quite cricket simply because it is too easy. It ranks with shooting sitting quail or using live decoys. Last year, for example, Rice was considered a shoo-in for the title, with SMU a strong contender. Result: the Owls finished on the bottom, with the Mustangs still a strong contender—for last place. So, prognosticators, beware—including a big fat one whom I know rather intimately. At least he did say last September that TCU was a strong dark horse and that any team could win it, including Texas A&M.
Logically, last year's Champion TCU should be picked as a repeater, but I lean slightly toward Bear Bryant's hungry Aggies. Proponent of the rock 'em and sock 'em school of football, Bryant's two years of homesteading at College Station should bring a bumper crop in 1956, one year ahead of schedule. The SWC has lifted the second year of a two-year ban on A&M postseason athletics imposed for illegal recruiting, and the NCAA is expected to follow suit, making the Aggies a prime bowl prospect. (See The Eleven Best Elevens for A&M details.)
TCU returns 26 lettermen from the 1955 squad which lost only to A&M, but faces some problems which did not bother them last season. They may be softened by success; they lost three leaders in Center Hugh Pitts, End Bryan Engram and Back Ray Taylor; and every team will point for them. But Jim Swink is back at halfback, giving TCU a running threat second to none. Chuck Curtis at quarterback has improved, and if you add to this an array of huge veteran linemen you will understand why the Horned Frogs are the popular favorite to retain the title. An indication of how seriously the Frogs are bidding for a second successive title is found in the fact that Curtis, a good faker and ball handler last year, has spent the summer polishing his talents and has become superlative at them. A smart boy anyway, Curtis is so intense about learning the game that he enrolled on his own last spring at an Oklahoma University split-T clinic. Swink, whose play on defense has not been as spectacular as his heroics on offense, has spent hours working on the defensive drudgery and is vastly improved Last year the Horned Frogs reached the Cotton Bowl game without a single important injury. There, Curtis was hurt on the first play of the game and the team lost. The law of averages militates against the Frogs escaping unhurt again. In early fall workouts they were eager and high spirited, and the fear that they may be softened by success could well be unfounded.
One enigma of this section is the almost complete absence of the wide-open game which once was synonymous with Southwest Conference football. The split T—that dastardly innovation concocted by Don Faurot of Missouri which espouses the dogma of staying on the ground and picking up your first down in three tries—might understandably be accepted in some sections, but you would think never, sir, in Texas and the Southwest Conference. Yet it was, and colorful nicknames such as SMU's 'Aerial Circus" and Arkansas' "Passing Porkers" are only a fond remembrance. Gone, too, are the spreads and passing formations of TCU's Dutch Meyer and Southern Methodist's Matty Bell. Fleet halfbacks and pounding fullbacks churn the drought-dried sod of the stadiums once sanctified by Sammy Baugh and Doak Walker. Only at Bobby Layne's alma mater, the University of Texas, is there a rebirth of the wild, wonderful attacks of yesteryear. Nonetheless, the Southwest waits as impatiently as ever for the season, whether the football is pound-it-out or put-it-in-the-air.
FORT WORTH, TEXAS
COLORS: Purple and white.
BASIC OFFENSE: Split-T.
1955 RECORD: Won 9, lost 1.
LETTERMEN RETURNING: 24 of 31.