YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Year of the Running Back Gets a Chance for an Encore Performance

September 02, 1985|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

The Mormons from Brigham Young are defending national champions. Perhaps the best running back in the country is the son of a Baptist minister. Boston College has lost its "Hail Mary" quarterback, but the Eagles' best player this year is preparing to become a priest. The Methodists from SMU had the NCAA's good book thrown at them. Colorado's Bill McCartney doesn't have a prayer. Does Notre Dame's Gerry Faust? To learn more about the 1985 college football season, read on.

1 If last season was the year of the running back, then what is this season? Considering that 13 of last season's top 20 rushers were underclassmen, it's still the year of the running back. That doesn't even include Auburn's Bo Jackson and Navy's Napoleon McCallum, who missed most of last season with injuries.

Ohio State's Keith Byars, the son of a Baptist minister from Dayton, returns for his senior year after leading the nation in rushing last season. Washington State's Rueben Mayes and TCU's Kenneth Davis, second and third in rushing last season, also return.

Others returning who finished among the top 20 in rushing last season include LSU's Dalton Hillard, SMU's Reggie Dupard, Army's Doug Black, Arizona State's Darryl Clack, Iowa's Ronnie Harmon, Notre Dame's Allen Pinkett, Illinois' Thomas Rooks and USC's Fred Crutcher.

2 Is this the year the Big Ten finally wins another Rose Bowl? From a historical standpoint, probably not. Teams from the Big Ten have won only four times in the last 20 years.

On the other hand, the the Big Ten is so loaded at the top this season that Michigan again will be hard pressed to break into the first division. The Wolverines tied for sixth last season. The Big Three this season, Ohio State, Iowa and Illinois, are all possible top 10 teams.

Balance is still a relatively new occurrence in this conference, which at the beginning of this decade was known as the Big Two (Ohio State and Michigan) and Little Eight. But in the last four years, the Big Ten has had four different Rose Bowl representatives.

The improvement in the conference is due to the its discovery of the forward pass. The Big Ten has three of the nation's most productive passers, Iowa's Chuck Long, Illinois' Jack Trudeau and Purdue's Jim Everett.

The Big Ten also has the nation's best receiver, Illinois' David Williams, and Byars, 1984 Heisman Trophy runnerup.

3 Which are the best teams that won't be seen on television this fall? The networks would love to televise the Sept. 7 season opener between a couple of top 20 teams, USC and Illinois, but both still are prohibited from appearing on television during the regular season.

The Trojans technically no longer are on probation, meaning they can be ranked this season in the UPI coaches' poll, but they still must serve the final year of their television ban. The Illini are on the second-year of a two-year probation.

But both teams are eligible to accept bowl bids, in which they can appear on television. So NBC still could get this matchup on New Year's Day from Pasadena.

Florida is banned from television until the end of the 1986 season. The Gators were stripped of their 1984 SEC championship, their first in 52 years, but they were allowed to keep their championship rings.

Taking the fall at Florida was head coach Charley Pell, who resigned after three games last season. He fell to Gulf Shores, Ala., where he drives a $24,000 Cadillac that was awarded to him by Florida boosters.

SMU, predicted to finish among the top five in most pre-season forecasts, recently received one of the most severe sentences in NCAA history.

But because the Mustangs already were under contract to appear on television Dec. 7 at Oklahoma, their television ban does not begin until next season.

This is the last time in the last 11 years the Mustangs have been sent down the river by the NCAA. If the NCAA's so-called death penalty for repeat offenders had gone into effect before Sept. 1, the Mustangs would be asking for blindfolds. Not even Rose Bird would want to spare these notorious outlaws.

Incredibly, some of the violations this time occurred after the NCAA officially notified SMU in March, 1983 that it was investigating the Mustangs. How's that for flaunting the law?

Coach Bobby Collins had a clause in his contract that stipulated he would be fired if he was directly involved in violations, but the NCAA did not find him guilty of wrongdoing. He formerly was head coach at Southern Mississippi, which went on probation after he left for violations that occurred during his tenure.

4 Which is the most underrated team? Houston has been to the Cotton Bowl four times in the nine years it has been a member of the Southwest Conference, more than any other team during that period.

Yet, Coach Bill Yeoman's Cougars continue to be treated as a poor relation to their SWC cousins.

Los Angeles Times Articles