No team will do that this year, though Texas A&M, hungry after much famine, has an outstanding sophomore quarterback named Lex James who should get the Aggies at least a few appetizing meals. They won the conference title in 1967, recently enough for them to remember what the glory was like and, with James only one member of an outstanding sophomore class. Coach Gene Stallings hopes for another taste.
While the Aggies must ride with an inexperienced quarterback, SMU will support its much-experienced Chuck Hixson with rookie receivers. Hixson, the nation's leading passer as a sophomore and No. 2 last year, seems to have lost his top receiver of 1969, junior Gary Hammond, who's moved to tailback. But in Coach Hayden Fry's Alphabet Offense it's likely Hammond will still turn out to be a favorite target.
TCU has its own outstanding quarterback, junior Steve Judy, who ranked nationally in total offense and passing offense last season. The Horned Frogs have an improved defense, but a one-man offense is not enough.
Rice, Texas Tech and Baylor, alas, will again gain experience.
Cal Coach Ray Willsey doesn't even alter his tone of voice when the subject shifts to his new running back, Isaac Curtis. Isaac is the sophomore who ran 100 yards in 9.3 last spring for the Golden Bears' track team and caused his high school coach down in Santa Ana to say he was the "most fantastic athlete I've ever seen." Cautious Willsey will only say, "We're in a position to have our best team since I've been here." Which would mean a 9-2 record. With Isaac running, Dave Penhall passing to a good set of receivers and Willsey's traditionally strong defense, this isn't as unlikely as it sounds, and the Bears are only slightly nervous about their second game, at Texas.
The woodsy schools up North should finish fifth through eighth as is often their custom. Oregon and Oregon State have questionable defenses. Washington and Washington State are coming off miserable 1-9 seasons, but WSU has All-League Defensive Back Lionel Thomas, and Coach Jim Sweeney says the Cougars "are the most improved club in the conference." Washington has a quarterback named Sonny Sixkiller. It's a shame he's not on the special team for goal-line stands.
For Jack Mildren 1969 was a very long year. He had been looked upon as the hero to lead Oklahoma to a Big Eight title and national ranking, a super quarterback who, somehow, got out of Texas and away from Darrell. And yet his adventure ended with innumerable hand-offs to Heisman winner Steve Owens and a mediocre 6-4 record. "I was like the new boy on the block," Mildren says of the experience. "Last year I didn't want to make any wrong moves. I felt like buying everyone ice cream or something, to make sure they liked me. Well, now we're playing with my football."
A revitalized Mildren will drive a veer-option offense this season, a refreshing departure from three years of Steve Owens blood and guts. "Before, our offense was just plain physical," Coach Chuck Fairbanks says. "This is a fun offense." But even if the veer is quickly geared Oklahoma will once again watch others fight for the conference title. The defense, which last season gave up 29 points a game, has not improved.