As close as anyone has been able to figure, more than 600 colleges—give or take a couple—will field a football team this fall. Thus, during the next 12 weeks, roughly 20,000 young men will cavort in 2,700 games, with varying degrees of skill but comparatively equal enthusiasm.
In the preceding 60 pages, the top fourth of the nation's college teams have been diagnosed and assessed. The rest get little national attention, which in no way diminishes the pleasure (and occasional disappointment) they bring to their players, coaches, alumni and friends. Anyone who enjoys football would wish he might watch every one of these teams during the season, but obviously no one can. Nonetheless, each will be engraving its special signature on the scroll of college football, and certainly no preview of the coming season would be complete without a mention of at least some of the outstanding examples. For instance:
Air Force Academy: The Falcons are destined to be among the future giants of the U.S. football scene. The Academy, now in its second year, has already progressed from a freshman schedule to a nine-game program against some of the leading small colleges in the West. Coach Buck Shaw, who directed both Santa Clara and the San Francisco 49ers to football eminence, was hired by the Academy in an advisory capacity last year, but now he has taken over the reins on a full-time basis and is pointing toward national recognition for his fledglings within the next two or three seasons. The 84-man Falcon squad will be cut to 35 players just before the opener Sept. 29. Although the 1956 schedule is confined to opponents such as Colorado State, Whittier and Idaho State, the Falcons will add five Skyline Conference opponents and George Washington University in 1957. The Academy is now negotiating for the 1959-1961 period with Southern Methodist, Baylor, Pittsburgh, Oregon, UCLA, Missouri and Wisconsin. Both Army and Navy will be regulars on the schedule by that time.
Delaware: The Blue Hens topped the Eastern Intercollegiate Football Association last year with an 8-1 record and will be coming back strong in 1956. Delaware has a letterman at every position and in the backfield a letterman reserve at each of the four posts. Watch for 166-pound junior Halfback George Jerome to spark the second most potent rushing attack in the East (Army was first). It looks as if another good season is in store for Coach Dave Nelson, who has won 26 of 30 in his three years as head man.
Trinity: The Hilltoppers, undefeated for the past two seasons, will have to perform miracles to keep their 15-game winning streak alive. Gone is Charley Sticka, who turned down bids from Notre Dame to set ground-gaining records three years running at the little Hartford, Conn. college. Gone also are Quarterback Bobby Alexander, Halfback Dick Nissi and End Felix Karsky—the guts of the team. Hope lies in the sophomores, one of whom, John Kenney, has been termed the best potential back ever to show up at Trinity—and this includes Sticka. But unless the newcomers are gifted with exceptional aptitude, Coach Dan Jesse will be living with his memories.
Tufts: The Jumbos have what is probably the best small-college team in New England this season. Dave Wells, right halfback, was second high scorer in the region in 1955, and averaged better than eight yards per carry. Fullback Norm Wright is not as flashy, but he picks up the yards on the inside and is a rock on defense. There could be an undefeated season in the making.
Maryland State: The Hawks were undefeated among the Negro college teams last year. Top man at this tiny school is John Sample, Negro All-America the past two years as a freshman and sophomore. State's game against Tennessee State Oct. 27 could well decide the Negro football crown. Other teams to be considered are Florida A&M, Prairie View and Grambling, last year's champion.
Juniata: The Indians, undefeated since 1952, will try to keep their 23-game, regular-season winning streak alive under Coach Ken Bunn, the replacement for Bob Hicks, who moved on to DePauw. Bunn has installed the multiple offense in this single-wing school, and is looking forward to excellent results, with a large nucleus of last year's team returning. Best of these is Bob Sill, a 170-pound fullback, who holds Juniata's single-season record for rushing—726 yards. The toughest game of the season for Juniata will be against Drexel Institute, also undefeated last year. Never let it be said these little teams make their reputations on soft schedules. As soon as they see another strong team of their own size, they rush to meet it.
Whitworth: The Pirates from Spokane, Wash, have rolled up just as enviable a record on the West Coast as Juniata in the East. The last time Whitworth lost was in 1953, and since then it has built a record of 18 straight wins, with the outlook for continued victories as bright as ever.
Many others could be mentioned, colleges with teams of distinction such as Mississippi Southern, surprise conqueror of Alabama two years running; North Texas State, recently admitted to the Missouri Valley Conference; and Muskingum, a perennial power in the Midwest. And then there are the standout players—Steve Myhra at North Dakota, Bill Rhodes at Colorado Western and Jimmy Stehlin at Brandeis. These and hundreds more are out on the field every week playing the kind of football that makes the autumn spectacle so much fun for all.