When Tulsa Coach Glenn Dobbs warned he was going to pass more than ever this year, Memphis State Coach Billy Murphy said, "The only way he could do that would be if the officials gave him more downs." Mike Stripling and Dobbs's youngest son, Johnny, will try to throw Tulsa to a championship. Asked who was the one player they most feared last year, almost every Valley coach named Steve Ramsey, the gangly North Texas State quarterback who threw 21 touchdown passes—13 of them to Ronnie Shanklin. With this pair back, North Texas is the league's best long shot. Cincinnati's Homer Rice is rebuilding the Bearcats around a fine runner, Tailback Lloyd Pate. Eddie Kriwiel, who replaced Boyd Converse at Wichita State, is counting primarily on John Beeson, a good sophomore passer. Louisville had difficulty banning the bomb last year, but this season the Cardinals are looking to sophomore Oscar Brohm to set off a few himself.
It is not easy to look past Texas and Texas A&M and that big game they play on Thanksgiving Day that ought to decide the conference title, but then it wasn't easy to look at A&M last season and say, "Ah, there's the new league champion." A check of this year's prospective also-rans in the SWC begins with TCU. The Horned Frogs have 15 of their top 22 back, plus a sizzling transfer end named Linzy Cole. To this is added a confident attitude gained from winning four of the final five games last season. Two big men in the backfield, Ross Montgomery and Norman Bulaich, can run with most—and over many. And already the pro scouts are excited about a junior guard, 6'3", 230-pound James Ray. With the right start, TCU might get by without the passing attack it does not have.
Arkansas is certain it will have the passing in the form of Bill Montgomery, a sophomore who will be working out of a new pro-style offense. Fast runners and the alert Arkansas defense are already on hand, and Coach Frank Broyles is not likely to allow the Razorbacks to fall off to 4-5-1 again. Nor is quarterback a problem at Rice. Robby Shelton is well, and he is much feared on the keeper play. Behind him is sophomore Larry Caldwell, who will also be used as a tailback. Split End Larry Davis and Tackle Leland Winston give Rice two more outstanding players.
Sparkling individuals are scattered through the rest of the SWC, too, though their teams have limited hopes. Texas Tech has Fullback Jackie Stewart, SMU still has Flanker Jerry Levias, and Baylor has Tackle Richard Stevens. Each of these teams looks improved. Last year the SWC showed up badly against outside competition, but now it has a strong new look from top to bottom.
Last fall's race by Western Athletic Conference teams ended, typically enough, with Wyoming, Arizona State and member-elect Texas at El Paso bunched so closely at the top a ref's handkerchief might have covered all three. Wyoming and UTEP both went to bowls, and Arizona State thought it should have. This year looks like ASU's turn. Seventeen starters are back, including three All-WAC performers—Center George Hummer, Linebacker Ron Pritchard and Defensive Back Wes Plummer—but Coach Frank Kush, who would be gloomy if he ran the Green Bay Packers, reserves the right to be pessimistic. "Having all these veterans," he groans, "could be a real disadvantage if complacency set in."
At UTEP, Brooks Dawson steps in for Billy Stevens, the record-breaking passer, and he can start throwing immediately to his blazing flanker, Volly Murphy. This year UTEP should have a good running game, too, which, combined with a veteran defense, opens up title possibilities. Brigham Young has two quarterbacks, Marc Lyons and Terry Sanford, and a schedule that brings three WAC favorites to Provo, which makes BYU a dark-horse threat. Wyoming, which won 10 straight and almost beat LSU in the Sugar Bowl, needs a quarterback. Unless Ed Synakowski or Skip Jacobson comes through, the Cowboys are through. In Coach Darrell Mudra's first year, Arizona waxed too fat. Now the Wildcats are leaner and a little better.
"We could be competitive in one-platoon football," says Utah's Bill Meek, meaning he has only 11 good players. It is a rebuilding year for New Mexico and its recently hired coach, Rudy Feldman. Colorado State, another new WAC member, has 61 new players and a new stadium—but that's all.