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It's Showdown Time In The Big Ten

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By Wayne DeNeff

Hang onto your hats, football fans!

The Big Ten race is heading for a whirlwind finish and the next two Saturdays will determine all that counts—the champion and Rose Bowl representative.

It’s Ohio State (5-0), Michigan (4-1) and Purdue (4-1), all among the top-ranked teams in the nation, charging toward the wire and the fact that the Buckeyes will play both Purdue and Michigan will leave no doubt as to who is the best.

The Wolverines already have polished off the Boilermakers, 31-20, in their Big Ten opener several weeks ago but Michigan took it on the chin from arch-rival Michigan State, 23-12, the following weekend to account for their only loss.

This Saturday it’s Michigan, 6-2 on the season, visiting dangerous Iowa, 2-3 in the conference and 4-4 overall, while Purdue, 7-1 over the season, takes on the unbeaten Buckeyes (7-0) in Columbus.

Michigan and Ohio State will clash before a sell-out crowd in Ann Arbor in the season’s finale while Purdue will finish up at Indiana.

As far as the trip to Pasadena is concerned, that’s pretty much between Michigan and Purdue because Ohio State is ineligible after appearing there last year. But the Buckeyes want, and want badly, the conference championship and top ranking.

Indiana, 3-2 in the race, retains a slim chance of being the Rose Bowl representative.

All three of the title contenders charged into the final phase of the race looking like world beaters—Ohio mauling Wisconsin, 62-7; Michigan drubbing Illinois, 57-0, its biggest margin of victory since a 69-0 romp over Pittsburgh in 1947, and Purdue manhandling Michigan State, 41-13.

In the event the Wolverines and Boilermakers end up sharing either first or second place, the vote by athletic directors is likely to be for Michigan which last appeared in Pasadena for the 1965 game. Purdue traveled west for the post-season extravagame in 1967.

Despite their 7-0 record, the Buckeyes have some points to prove. One is answer critics who say they haven’t beaten anyone of note. Ohio State’s first seven foes have a combined 12-41-1 record while Purdue and Michigan have combined for a 13-3 mark.

It looks like Michigan will head into these last two critical games in its best shape of the season.

Coach Bo Schembechler said this morning that Marty Huff, the Wolverines’ leading tackler who did not make the Illinois trip, would be back. “His knee has healed,” said the coach.

“We took Bob Baumgartner out of the game at Illinois in the first half with a sore knee but he’s alright.

“We had no serious injuries in the game but there is a week of drills ahead of us and I just hope our luck continues as far as injuries are concerned.

“Our players know we can’t afford to look past Iowa to Ohio State. This is a key, crucial, vital—any term you want to use—football game. We have to approach it like that.”

Michigan’s depth is looking better.

When the Wolverines lost tailback Glenn Doughty, Billy Taylor came in to do a great job and he had another fine day against the Illini—155 yards in 18 carries.

Filling in for Huff and getting the job done against the Illini was sophomore Mike Taylor while the Wolverines were able to keep moving last Saturday despite the loss of Baumgartner, an offensive guard.

It also was encouraging for Michigan to see junior quarterback Jim Betts run the club effectively while junior Don Moorhead took a rest.

Betts led three touchdown drives, scoring once himself and passing to wingback John Gabler and fullback Garvie Craw for other TDs. Betts totaled 157 yards running and passing.

“We still are not deep in many positions, but we have received better work than we expected in some areas,” says Schembechler, “and the young players are coming along.

“I think our attitude is excellent and we now have to put everything together for our last two games.”

Ohio State, more daring than ever on offense, will be a solid favorite to dump the Boilermakers but with a guy like quarterback Mike Phipps, a Heisman Trophy candidate, at the controls anything could happen.

Michigan will enjoy the favorite’s role against the Hawkeyes but they have been particularly sharp on their own field and have finally put together a respectable defense to match their scoring abilities which have been so tremendous in recent years.