This could be the Tide's year. Alabama is loaded and has all the makings of a potential national champion.

Coach Bear Bryant has talented players at every position returning from last year's 11-1 squad, and he has a challenging schedule.

The Tide will play eight home games, but two of them will be against Southern California and Nebraska [work illigible]will play Washington and Missouri on the road in addition to its normally tough Southeastern Conference schedule.

Quarterback Jeff Rutledge will lead the Alabama wishbone offense. He completed 60 percent of his passes last year and had only five intercepted -- all of them in one game.

The primary ballcarrier will be 6-foot-2, 198-pound Tony Nathan, who scored 15 touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards a carry a year ago.

The tough Tide defense is bolstered by linebackers Rick Wingo, Barry Krause, Randy Scott, Rickey Gilliland and tackle Marty Lyons.

The unflappable Bear is playing it cool. "I'm enthused about this team," he said. "Right enthused."

The Tide's toughest in-conference competition probably will come from Louisiana State, with Heisman Trophy candidate Charles Alexander. The 214-pound tailback rushed for 1,686 yards and scored 17 touchdowns last year.

Not too far from Tuscaloosa in nearby Fayetteville, Ark., Lou Holtz has a powerhouse brewing. The Arkansas Razorbacks have high-stepping runners everywhere and a flashy quarterback in Steve Calcagni, a solid defense and everything needed to challenge for national honors.

Arkansas lost only to Texas last year and ended the season by routing Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

Ben Cowins, Roland Sales, Michael Forrest and Jerry Eckwood are as fine a group of running backs as there is on any team and Holtz said all will play a lot.

Cowins has topped 1,000 yards rushing the past two years. He was suspended for the Orange Bowl for disciplinary reasons, so Sales stepped in and set an Orange Bowl rushing record of 205 yards.

Doing the work on defense will be tackles Jimmy Walker and Dan Hampton. Six other defensive starters are back from the team that yielded only 8.6 points a game last year.

Penn State looks like the toast of the East. Coach Joe Paterno has 32 of his top 44 players back and says this team "should be better than last year's team." Last year's Nittany Lions were 11-1.

"We should have an explosive team, an exciting team to watch," Paterno said.

A major reason for Paterno's enthusiasm is quarterback Chuck Fusina. He completed nearly 60 percent of his passes last year and threw for 15 touchdowns. He holds or shares nine school passing records.

Fusina should have plenty of time to throw, because only one starter is gone from the offensive line.

Washington won six of tis final seven games last season to capture the conference title and then upset Big 10 champion Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The Huskies have 18 starters back and Coach Don James says they are strongest on the offensive line, with ample talent at the running backs, linebackers and defensive secondary.

Tailback Joe Steele rushed for 865 yard and scored 13 touchdowns as a sophomore last year and junior All-America linebacker Michael Jackson made a whopping 210 tackles.

UCLA has the offensive forces in runners James Owens and Theotis Brown and a defense that has the irrepressible two-time All-America Jerry Robinson at linebacker.

USC has nifty Charles White back at tailback and some big linemen to clear the way. But the Trojans need a quarterback.

The Big 10 will do its usual big-two, small-eight number. Michig[word illigible]State will battel for the championship with Purdue probably the best of the rest.

The Wolverines will field one of the more potent backfields in the nation with quarterback Rick Leach, fullback Russell Davis, tailback Harlan Huckleby and halfback-wingback-flanker Ralph Clayton.

The left-handed Leach already has led the Wolverines to 28 victories and has accounted for 53 touchdowns in his college career.

Linebacker Ron Simpkins holds the Wolverine defense together.

Last year's national champion, Notre Dame, lost a lot of its defense but still has All-America linebacker Bob Golic and an offense, led by Joe Montana, Vagas Ferguson and Jerome Heavens, that can score.

Oklahoma will be strong as usual, with quarterback Thomas Lott and a defense led by linebackers George Cumby and Daryl Hunt.

The Sooners led the nation in rushing last year with 328 yards a game. To open things up a bit, Coach Barry Switzer has put in a pro-I formation to complement the wishbone.

Nebraska will be strong again with tailback I. M. Hipp and its usual assortment of giant linemen.

The sleeper this year could well be Texas A&M. Until 260-pound fullback George Woodard broke his leg playing softball in June, the Aggies looked almost unbeatable. Like Oklahoma, A&M put in the I to bolster its wishbone.

Quarterback Mike Moseley is a 9.4 sprinter, and halfback Curtis Dickey, who ran for 978 yards last year, was second in the NCAA 100-meter dash

The Aggies' kicker, Tony Franklin, has a 67-yard field goal to his credit and is consistent from 50 yards.