At a July gathering of conference coaches, Memphis State's Billy Murphy said gleefully, "We're the team to beat." And he probably is correct.
MSU has been conference champ in each of its two years of membership, and this year should make it three. Center John Bonier is being touted as the best blocker at Memphis since Oakland's All-Pro Harry Schuh. Returning are three starting backs (Paul Gowen, Jay McCoy and Stan Davis) who averaged five yards a carry. The signal-calling falls to sophomore Steve Leech, a former high school All-America. If the defense holds, the Tigers should breeze.
North Texas State has lost Steve Ramsey, holder of all NCAA career passing records, and 20 other lettermen, but with Defensive Back Leonard Dunlap, who tied an NCAA record by returning three interceptions for TDs, and Center Willie Parker, the Mean Green should make a respectable showing.
Tulsa, Louisville and Wichita State should bring up the rear. Despite several blue-chip performers, each has a vulnerable defense.
West Texas State, which replaces departed Cincinnati (now independent), will be strong, but it is ineligible for the title until adequate conference scheduling can be arranged. Star Quarterback Clarence Redic, suspended last spring for scholastic reasons, attended summer school, and his return should make Coach Joe Kerbel happier. In fact, Kerbel may give him an A for effort.
Last year Cornell students became vigilantes, Princeton students became politicians and Yale students became girls. The Ivy League frenzy apparently rubbed off on the gridiron: Yale, which was supposed to fade out of contention, shared its unprecedented third straight title with Dartmouth and Princeton. Favored Harvard, meanwhile, tied for fifth.
In 1970, however, the old politics of certainty should dominate Ivy football. Dartmouth, which has the best winning percentage (.745) and most titles (six) in the 14 years of play since the formation of the Ivy League, is a slight favorite over Princeton and Yale. Dartmouth has 20 lettermen and graduates from an undefeated freshman team. The Indians lack depth at quarterback, but Jim Chasey is the league's best. Having lost 13 of 22 starters, Princeton Coach Jake McCandless will turn to promising sophs, led by Fullback Bill Early, who gained 289 yards in one freshman game. Yale's 1969 defense, second nationally, more than acquitted the New Haven 11. Nine defensive starters return to complement such offensive stars as Quarterback Joe Massey and Tailback Don Martin.
Titleless Cornell could be in the picture, too. There are 27 Big Red letter-men, and Ed Marinaro, second leading rusher in the nation, is one. Harvard Coach John Yovicsin, retiring after this, his 14th year, will have only 17 letter-men to help him win the one game he needs for a school record. Columbia will celebrate its football centennial, and that should be more fun to watch than its football. Penn has a good basketball team and Brown is in Providence.