Preseason forecasts for the Western Football Conference (Division II) and the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Division III) once again have the traditional powers on top.
Cal State Sacramento and Portland State are favored to fight it out in the WFC, and Occidental and Claremont-Mudd are considered the leading teams in the SCIAC.
In a WFC coaches' poll, Cal State Sacramento received four first-place votes, Portland State two and Cal State Northridge the other one.
A notable scheduling quirk in the SCIAC: favorites Occidental and Claremont will play one another twice, with each game counting only as a half-game. Claremont was the only SCIAC team that won two games against the same opponent last year and that gave the Stags the title by a half-game.
Meanwhile, independent Azusa Pacific will begin the post-Christian Okoye era.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE 1986--8-3 overall, 4-2 WFC (2nd)
Coach Bob Burt has 17 starters back but had to replace Mike Kane, conference back of the year, so he went out and recruited All-City running back Albert Fann, 6 feet 2 inches and 200 pounds, from Cleveland High School. To go with Fann, Burt has returning tailback Richard Brown, two quarterbacks--Glendale College All-American Rob Huffman and freshman Sherdrick Bonner--and three solid linemen in Tony Palamara, Dean Allman and center Brian Clark.
With eight starters back, the defense boasts two all-conference linemen, tackles Steve Dominic and Dester Stowers, and all-WFC cornerback Kip Dukes. Linebacker Sean O'Brien, end Tom Lawrence and punter Trent Morgan have also been impressive in practice.
The Matadors will open Sept. 12 at Boise State.
CAL LUTHERAN 1986--3-8 overall, 0-6 WFC (7th)
The Kingsmen are putting their faith in Bonds this year. Senior quarterback Tom Bonds holds most Cal Lutheran passing records and has been an All-American when healthy.
When he gets hurt, though, the Kingsmen plummet. They lost four straight in 1985 when he was hurt and seven straight last year when he played with a bad knee. Even hobbled, Bonds managed to complete 198 of 350 passes for 2,402 yards and 18 touchdowns. He needs to pass for 2,738 yards this season to become the yardage leader in Division II.
Coach Bob Shoup says health is a concern again this year, because the Kingsmen's talent level falls off after the top 25 players. There are 30 lettermen back, including all-conference defensive lineman Rueben Solorio, linebacker Terry Rowe and running back Tracy Downs, a three-year starter.
The Kingsmen will open Sept. 12 at San Francisco State.
CAL POLY SAN LUIS OBISPO 1986--5-5 overall, 3-3 WFC (5th)
Coach Lyle Setencich is in from Boise State to try to get the Mustangs off the .500 mark. Another notable newcomer is Sacramento City College transfer Tom Sullivan, who passed for nearly 2,000 yards last year in leading Sac City to an undefeated season.
The Mustangs have several returning receivers, among them senior Lance Martin, who caught a school-record 41 passes last year. Sophomore running back Cornell Williams, who gained 303 yards, returns as a starter, as do all five offensive linemen. The big man there is all-WFC tackle Eric Tautolo, who is 6-5 and 310.
The defense has several starters back, led by junior lineman Tom Carey, who tied for the team lead in tackles with 79 and had 11 sacks. The punting game is bright spot, thanks to the return of All-American Kevin Emigh, who averaged 43.1 yards as a junior, second in the nation.
The Mustangs will open at home Sept. 12 against Humboldt State.
AZUSA PACIFIC 1986--5-2-2 (Victories later forfeited for use of ineligible player).
Graduated All-American running back Christian Okoye continues to help the Cougars, but the results may not be immediately apparent.
The media coverage the big Nigerian received when he was a high NFL draft pick helped Coach Jim Milhon in his recruiting, but the newcomers may not be enough to power the Cougars, who graduated 15 starters, including three NAIA first-team All-Americans, and are playing an upgraded independent schedule.
There is talent back, including quarterbacks Richard Jimenez and Aaron Eames, two running backs, several big linemen and two linebackers. Sophomore linebacker Jeff Gustin led the team with 56 tackles. Free safety Tim Dry, who led the team with four interceptions, is one of the returning starters. For the offensive line, Milhon has added three junior college recruits who weigh more than 260 pounds each.
The Cougars will open Sept. 12 at UC Santa Barbara.
OCCIDENTAL 1986--5-3-1 overall, 3-1-1 SCIAC (3rd)
The Tigers suffered a rare lapse in 1986, failing to win the SCIAC title for the first time in four years.
Coach Dale Widolff hopes to correct that with seven senior starters on offense and several more key players on defense.
"In the past, 5-3-1 was a good season, but with the talent we now have that is not acceptable," Widolff said.