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The best measure of his team is that Woody Hayes is not even pretending it won't be hard to beat. "You're darn right, we're a Big Ten contender, and a strong one," he says. Along about midseason Columbus hotels may start locking up the lobby furniture again. The problems of society as seen through the Crazy Eye might have to wait until winter.
A bashful back and a pleasant schedule can furnish lots of Gator aid
One day last spring Larry Smith, Florida's version of O. J. Simpson or Leroy Keyes, was having a bad time. The heat was enough to wither Spanish moss, and Smith's helmet was killing him—it felt six sizes too small. But none of this was as tough on Fullback Smith as the opposition he faced that day at Florida Field—a photographer shooting publicity pictures.
"C'mon Larry, now you gotta look mean. If you don't look mean the picture won't be any good at all. Now, Larry, c'mon and grimace; like this, grrrrrrrrhhhhh!"
So Smith, a very polite, bashful, reserved young man, clutched a football under one arm, bent over and tried to scowl for what seemed like the 100th time. Only he blushed—again—the ROTC guys watching from behind the fence in the end zone cracked up—again—and eventually the photographer settled for the only possible picture of Larry Smith, one of him grinning. Partly because of Smith and partly because of a beneficent schedule, everybody associated with the University of Florida's football team can be excused for grinning—or perhaps even smirking—for this could be the happiest year the Gators ever had. Florida is a much stronger team this season than last, when it won six of 10 games, and its schedule is considerably weaker, a combination of events that led SEC coaches in the spring to pick Florida as a co-favorite with Alabama for the conference title.
Though no coach would ever confess it, a schedule that can duck and dodge is at least as valuable as a halfback who can do the same. Following the opener with Air Force, Florida plays Florida State, Mississippi State, Tulane, North Carolina and Vanderbilt. If it can win its annual grudge match with Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida would almost certainly come into the Auburn game on November 2 unbeaten. After Auburn comes Georgia, then weak Kentucky and nonconference Miami. "It looks like all we have to do to win the SEC is beat Auburn and Georgia," says Coach Ray Graves. He is right, but he has to win those two with a team that is probably not the SEC's best, so it won't be all that breezy a season.
Silver-haired and heavy-set, Graves has an eight-year record of 55-27-2. He has had four bowl teams and six All-Americas, including the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner, Steve Spurrier. But it is this year that he has his big chance.
The pivotal man for Graves is going to be grinning Larry Smith. He is big (6'4", 221) and fast (9.8 in the 100). In a year without O. J. Simpson and Leroy Keyes he would surely be the finest runner in the country. He would be the first ballcarrier picked in the pro draft, and he would sign for the most money of any pro draft choice. His talents are manifold, and he feasts on competition.
Called Stampede by his teammates, Smith has run for 1,683 yards and 16 touchdowns in two years. He broke open the 1967 Orange Bowl game against Georgia Tech with a 94-yard run. This fall, playing fullback (a better position from which to make All-America because Keyes and Simpson are playing halfback), he will carry the ball 20 to 25 times a game. In passing situations, however, he will be moved out to flanker. "He is our best player anywhere we put him," says Graves, "and he is awfully hard to bring down when he catches a pass in the open field."