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LiMu's system


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
Fixing the 1952 AP Poll
1952 was all about two teams: Michigan State and Georgia Tech ran the table and everybody else lost. A debate about which of those teams should have been #1 is interesting but would be unnecessary in LiMu’s system. There would be just the one post-bowl game to determine the champion.

I think Michigan State was rated #1 and Georgia Tech #2 by most services for two reasons. One is that the Big Ten was the most prestigious conference at this team. They had been since football became popular elsewhere than the east, where it began. The Midwest, with Michigan, Chicago and Minnesota, was the first area to have teams challenge the eastern, (mostly Ivy League) powers and when those schools created the Big Ten and the Ivys faded, that became the area of the country with the most respected teams. No SEC team finished #1 in the polls until Auburn in 1957 and they had to share the title with Ohio State. Gradually the SEC rose in prominence and today they are dominant but that was not the case in 1952.

One thing the SEC had to overcome was their own prejudice. They didn’t use black players and avoided playing teams that did. In the 1952 polls, Michigan State and Wisconsin were the two teams that were voted #1 in weekly polls and Southern California was also rated ahead of the Yellow Jackets. All used black players. For the next two decades there were many southern teams that contended for the national championship but there was always the question of how well they would have done against integrated teams. Vautravers cites the number of ranked teams Tech played but they were all segregated, southern teams too. Too bad LiMu wasn’t around back then to pit them against their northern and western counterparts in a game for the title.


Michigan State vs. Georgia Tech
Michigan State beat Penn State 34-7 who beat William & Mary 35-23 who lost to Wake Forest 21-28 who lost to Duke 7-14 who lost to Georgia Tech 7-28 = +4 for Michigan State
Michigan State beat Notre Dame 21-3 who beat North Carolina 34-14 who lost to Tennessee 14-41 who beat Florida 26-12 who lost to Georgia Tech 14-17 = +20 for Michigan State
Michigan State beat Syracuse 48-7 who lost Alabama 6-61 who lost to Georgia Tech 3-7 = +18 for Georgia Tech
Michigan State beat Michigan 27-13 who beat Northwestern 48-14 who tied Vanderbilt 20-20 who lost to Georgia 7-19 who lost to Georgia Tech 9-23 = +22 for Michigan State
Michigan State beat Purdue 14-7 who beat Iowa 41-14 who lost to Wisconsin 13-42 who beat Marquette 42-19 who lost to U of Miami 6-20 who lost to Kentucky 0-29 who tied Mississippi 13-13 who lost to Georgia Tech 7-24 = +32 for Georgia Tech
Result: +4/5 = Georgia Tech wins the national championship by a point.


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011

UCLA vs. Oklahoma
UCLA beat California 27-6 who lost to Oklahoma 13-27 = +7 for UCLA
UCLA beat Kansas 32-7 who lost to Oklahoma 0-65 = +40 for Oklahoma
UCLA beat Maryland 12-7 who beat Missouri 74-13 who beat Kansas State 35-7 who lost to Oklahoma 0-21 = +73 for UCLA
UCLA beat Oregon 41-0 who lost to Utah 6-7 who lost to Colorado 7-20 who lost to Oklahoma 6-13 = +21 for UCLA
UCLA beat Southern California 34-0 who lost to Texas Christian 7-20 who beat Kansas 27-6 who lost to Oklahoma State 12-47 who lost to Oklahoma 0-14 = +7 for Oklahoma
Result: +54/5 = UCLA wins by 11

Ohio State vs. UCLA
Ohio State beat California 21-13 who lost to UCLA 6-27 = +13 for UCLA
Ohio State beat Southern California 20-7 who lost to UCLA 0-34 = +21 for UCLA
Ohio State beat Wisconsin 31-14 who beat Illinois 27-14 who lost to Stanford 2-12 who lost to UCLA 0-72 = +52 for UCLA
Ohio State beat Purdue 28-6 who beat Missouri 31-0 who lost to Maryland 13-74 who lost to UCLA 7-12 = +13 for UCLA
Ohio State beat Michigan 21-7 who beat Washington 14-0 who lost to Oregon 7-26 who lost to UCLA 0-41 = +32 for UCLA
Result = +131/5 = UCLA wins the national championship by 26 points. Not even close!


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011

The 1957 national championship race had a lot of moving parts. On the surface, it seems obvious that Auburn should be considered the national champion: they were a power conference team that won all their games in a year when no other power conference team did. In most years, that resolves the issue. But if you look at the final AP poll, you’ll see that no less than 8 teams got first place votes. Auburn did get 210 of the 359 votes but that’s only 58.5%. Vautravers article on the national championship outlines all the lobbying that went into the final vote, which caused AP to change its rules, allocating votes in equal portions to each section of the country. In 1957, there were more voters in the south than in any other section. And remember, these were the guys who voted Jim Brown 5th in the 1956 Heisman race.

On top of that there’s the issue that comes up all the time in this era: Auburn was a segregated team that played only segregated teams. Ohio State and Michigan State were integrated teams that played integrated teams.

Then there was the fact that Auburn was on probation. That kept them out of a bowl game but, interestingly, that didn’t keep them out of the UPI, (coach’s poll). Later on the coaches agreed to simply ignore teams on probation but they had no such rule in 1957. It’s just that coaches were reluctant to declare a team on probation their national champion. They may have regarded Auburn as the best team.

Then there’s Auburn’s ‘performance’. They had a roller coaster season in terms of their scores. The Tigers beat Chattanooga 40-7, Houston, (then a mid-major as they have been in recent years, not an SWC team yet) 48-7, Florida State 29-7, and Alabama 40-0. Those last two scores sound impressive but Florida State was emerging as a football program at this time: they’d been a girls school until 1947, then a small college and were closer to a mid-major at this time. Bama was coached by J. B. ‘Ears’ Whitworth, surely the worst coach of all time: in three years at Alabama, he went 4-24-2, which caused the administration to beg Bear Bryant to come and save them. Against their other six opponents the War Eagles scored just 50 points. But they gave up only a single touchdown. Three of those teams were ranked. As Vautravers points out, you’ve got to consider the style of play of a team and Auburn’s strength was one of the great defenses of all time, one that gave up only 28 points in ten games. Their offense was conservative even by the standards of the 1950’s, taking care of the ball, grinding out drives on the ground and punting to get out of trouble. They were looking to win, not for style points. Because of the over-matched opponents, they managed to out-score their foes 207-28 overall but they were one of the least exciting national champions ever. Still it worked for them: they had a 24 game undefeated string from 1956-1958 before Tennessee beat them in the 1959 opener, (by 0-3, naturally).

Ohio State and Michigan State were almost twins, both going 8-1 with upsets by 4 and 7 points to team that went 5-4, (actually TCU was 5-4-1. The Buckeyes out-scored their opponents by 257-85 and the Spartans by 264-75. Both had flashy wins: Ohio State 17-13 over Iowa in the biggest and most dramatic game of the year and 31-14 over Michigan and Michigan State 35-6 over Michigan and 34-6 over Notre Dame a week before the Irish ended Oklahoma’s 47 game winning streak. Michigan State also has an ax to grind with the refs, who erroneously used a dead-ball foul to negate as touchdown in their 13-20 loss to Purdue: they might have been 8-0-1.

The differences between the two teams were that the Spartans loss was in conference and the Buckeyes was not so Ohio State got the Rose Bowl invite to face a 7-2 Oregon team that wasn’t even in AP’s top 20, (UPI had them at #17), and barely beat them 10-7, in a game where the Ducks out played them in the other statistics:
(Note broadcast legends doing the game: The Lakers' Chick Hearn and the Yankees’ Mel Allen!)
One wonders if the coaches might have dropped the Buckeyes below Auburn in a post bowl poll.

Vautravers dismisses Oklahoma, who went 9-1, losing to Notre Dame 0-7 to lose their streak. But then they won 13 of their next 14 games, losing only by a point to Texas in 1958. They beat Duke 48-21 in the 1958 Orange Bowl, out-scoring their opponents on the year 333-89. They were still Oklahoma.

Were I an AP voter voting on whether should be any additional games for 1958, I’d be torn between simply acknowledging the only contender with a perfect record or seeing what they could do against the Big Ten powers. And if I included them in, I’d also include Oklahoma. I think I’ll go ‘big tent’: Oklahoma plays Auburn while Ohio State and Michigan State slug it out to see who is really the best team in the Big Ten. Then the winners meet for the 1957 national championship.

But of course, if Auburn is excluded entirely, then you’ve got just the one-loss teams. I’m against probation. I prefer a surgical approach with player ineligibility, coach suspensions or banishments and fines. So, in this fantasy, I’ll pretend that that was done instead. Afterall, both the writers and the coaches were allowed to vote for Auburn.


Auburn vs. Oklahoma
Auburn beat Tennessee 7-0 who beat Georgia Tech 21-6 who tied Southern Methodist 0-0 who lost to Notre Dame 21-54 who beat Oklahoma 7-0 = +4 for Oklahoma
Auburn beat Florida 13-0 who beat U of Miami 14-0 who beat Pittsburgh 28-13 who beat Nebraska 34-0 who lost 0-27 to Colorado who lost to Oklahoma 13-14 = +48 for Auburn
Auburn beat Mississippi State 15-7 who tied Mississippi 7-7 who lost to Arkansas 6-12 who beat Oklahoma State 12-0 who lost to Oklahoma 6-53 =+33 for Oklahoma
Auburn beat Houston 48-7 who lost to Texas A&M 6-28 who lost to Texas 7-9 who lost to Oklahoma 7-21 = +3 for Auburn
Auburn beat Georgia Tech 3-0 who beat Duke 13-0 who lost to Oklahoma 27-48 = +5 for Oklahoma
Result: +9/5 = Auburn wins by 2

Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Ohio State beat Illinois 21-7 who lost to Michigan State 14-19 = +9 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Indiana 56-0 who lost to Michigan State 0-54 = +2 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Wisconsin 16-13 who lost to Michigan State 7-21 = +11 for Michigan State
Ohio State beat Purdue 20-7 who beat Michigan State 20-13 = +20 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Michigan 31-14 who list to Michigan State 6-35 = +12 for Michigan State
Result: +8/5 = Ohio State wins by 2

Auburn vs. Ohio State
Auburn beat Tennessee 7-0 who beat Alabama 14-0 who lost to Texas Christian 0-28 who beat Marquette 26-7 who lost to Wisconsin 6-60 who lost to Ohio State 13-16 = +45 for Ohio State
Auburn beat Florida 13-0 who beat Georgia 27-0 who lost to Michigan 0-26 who lost to Ohio State 14-31 = +3 for Ohio State
Auburn beat Mississippi State 15-7 who beat Tulane 27-6 who beat Army 20-14 who beat Colgate 53-7 who lost to Illinois 0-40 who lost to Ohio State 7-21 = +27 for Auburn
Auburn beat Houston 48-7 who beat Cincinnati 7-0 who beat Indiana 21-0 who lost to Ohio State 0-56 = +13 for Auburn
Auburn beat Georgia Tech 3-0 who beat Duke 13-0 who tied Navy 6-6 who beat Notre Dame 20-6 who beat Purdue 12-0 who lost to Purdue 7-20 = +29 for Auburn
Result +21/5 = Auburn wins the national championship by 4

This brings me up-to-date on my updates of previous seasons. I've now used comparative scores to determine a (plausible) champion in my fantasy. next I'll move forward to the 1966 season and describe the season, then do the comparative scores as I go along.


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011

The 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State game was the great college football confrontation of my youth. The 1/1/63 Rose Bowl game, (Southern California 42 Wisconsin 37), was the greatest game but this was the biggest one. It was the first regular season confrontation between teams ranked #1 and #2 since the famous “Game of the Century” between Notre Dame and Army), that ended in a tie just as this game did. The game came at the end of Michigan State’s season and one game short of the end of Notre Dame’s and everyone could see that these were the strongest teams, not only in the country but of that era. It was like two locomotives headed for the same intersection and people were talking about the coming confrontation all season.

The big game was an anti-climax, being played very conservatively and ending with Ara Parseghian’s controversial decision to run out the clock at the end rather than to fill the air with footballs trying to pull out the win, at the risk of his back-up quarterback throwing an interception.

As Vautravers pointed out, Parseghian was heavily criticized for running out the clock, (see 52:15 in the second link) as he did but he wound up with a national championship whereas Tom Osborne in 1983, tried for two when he could have tied the game against U of Miami by kicking and extra point but was highly praised for going for two, even though they didn’t make it – and he did not come away with a championship. Parseghian was focused on the greater goal of winning the national championship and he achieved it, knowing that his team was already ranked #1, was playing the Spartans on their home field and had another chance the next week to certify their claim to the title against Southern California, (which they did, most affirmatively, 51-0). Michigan State couldn’t got to the Rose Bowl to take on 9-1 UCLA due to that stupid ‘no-repeat’ rule the Big Ten still had and would soon rid itself of.

Alabama was bummed out that they were 11-0-0 and got beat out by two 9-0-1 teams. In a way it was karma for what had happened the previous two seasons. In 1964 they were 10-0-0 and ranked #1 at the end of the regular season. There was no poll after the bowls so they went into the ‘books’, (whoever keeps the books), as the national champion when it should have gone to Arkansas, also 10-0-0 who won their bowl game over Nebraska. In 1965 the Tide lost by a point to Georgia and tied Tennessee and was ranked behind three 10-0-0 teams: Michigan State, Arkansas and Nebraska, all of whom lost on New Year’s Day, Nebraska to Alabama, who was voted #1 in the first post bowl AP poll, even though the Spartans, Razorbacks and Cornhuskers still had better records. Now Bama had a team better than either one of those, (They outscored their opposition 250-88 in ’64, 256-107 in ’65 but 301-44 in ’66).

Bama's Greatest Games-Volume 2: 1967 Nebraska (Sugar Bowl)

Under LiMu’s system, let’s give ‘em a shot, first at Michigan State and, if they win that, with Notre Dame.

Michigan State vs. Alabama
Michigan State tied Notre Dame 10-10 who beat North Carolina 32-0 who lost to Kentucky 0-10 who lost to Mississippi 0-19 who lost to Alabama 7-17 = +7 for Alabama
Michigan State beat Purdue 41-20 who beat Indiana 51-6 who lost to U of Miami 7-14 who lost to Louisiana State 8-10 who lost to Alabama 0-21 = +36 for Michigan State
Michigan State beat Michigan 20-7 who beat Wisconsin 28-17 who lost to Nebraska 3-31 who lost to Alabama 7-34 = +31 for Alabama
Michigan State beat North Carolina State 28-10 who beat Clemson 23-14 who lost to Alabama 0-26 = +1 for Michigan State
Michigan State beat Penn State 42-8 who lost to Georgia Tech 0-21 who beat Tennessee 6-3 who lost to Alabama 10-11 = +15 for Michigan State
Result: +14/5 = Michigan State wins by 3

Notre Dame vs. Michigan State II
Notre Dame tied Michigan State 10-10 = Even
Notre Dame beat Purdue 26-14 who lost to Michigan State 20-41 = +9 for Michigan State
Notre Dame beat Northwestern 35-7 who lost to Michigan State 0-22 = +6 for Notre Dame
Notre Dame beat Army 35-0 who beat Penn State 11-0 who lost to Michigan State 8-42 = +12 for Notre Dame
Notre Dame beat Southern California 51-0 who beat California 35-9 who lost to Michigan 7-17 who lost to Michigan State 7-20 = +54 for Notre Dame
Result: +63/5 = Notre Dame wins the national championship by 13 points.

In the first half of the 20th century, Michigan was the dominant team in the state. The Spartans were a wannabe. In the 50’s and 60’s, Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty flipped the script. But Bo Schembechler arrived in Ann Arbor in 1969 and flipped it back. The Spartans would be second fiddle until the 21st century when the rivalry would finally even out. But they’ve never gotten back to the national stature they had from 1950-66, when they went 117-37-4, the fourth best record in the country over that span, behind Mississippi, (who also faded after this year), Oklahoma and Princeton.


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
Fixing the 1967 AP Poll

The most intriguing team of 1967 was not a national championship contender. Dee Andros’ Oregon State team opened with a 13-7 win over a Stanford team that went 5-5. Then they played Arizona State, a rising power under Frank Kush who was 1-0 on their way to an 8-2 season and a #20 national ranking. The first of those ‘2’ was a 21-27 loss to the Beavers in Tempe. Andros’ team then blew out a 1-8-1 Iowa team, 38-18 to go 3-0. Then they stumbled badly, losing to a 5-5 Washington team 7-13 and a 6-4 Brigham Young team 13-31. Then they traveled to play an undefeated #2 ranked Purdue team who had opened the season by upsetting defending national champion Notre Dame 28-21 and had just beaten the school who would win the 1968 national title, Woody Hayes’ Ohio State team b y a whopping 41-6 in Columbus. But the busy beavers pulled off another road upset, 22-14. After blowing out 2-8 Washington State, 35-7 they then faced consecutive home games against undefeated #2 ranked UCLA, with Heisman trophy winner Gary Beban followed by undefeated #1 ranked Southern California, featuring the next season’s Heisman winner, one Orenthal James Simpson, who was re-writing the rushing record book. The Beavers tied the Bruins, 16-16 and beat the Trojans in a rainstorm 3-0 before finishing their season with a 14-10 win over 2-8 Oregon. If they hadn’t lost that Washington game, they’d have gone to the Rose Bowl. Under the rules at the time, they couldn’t go anywhere else. Nonetheless, they should be remembered as a team that played three teams ranked #2 or higher and didn’t lose to any of them.

The 1967 USC-UCLA game is my choice for the best college football game ever, partially because it was a great, dramatic game and partially because this one game had more on the line than any game ever played. It was for:
- bragging rights in the city of Los Angeles
- the Pac 8 title
- a Rose Bowl birth
- the national championship
- the Heisman trophy.
Both teams were superbly talented and probably had more track stars on their roster than any two teams that have ever played each other. As Vautravers describes, Beban threw for 300 yards despite being helped off the field multiple times with injured ribs and OJ shook off an injury of his own to rush for 177 yard, the last 64 on a twisting run through the entire defense that won his team everything listed above but didn’t get him the Heisman, which went to Gary. But the unsung hero was 6-8 Bill Hayhoe, a “guy with a name like the president of the Van Nuys Jaycees”, who blocked three kicks by the Bruin’s Zenon Andrusyshyn, a “guy with a name like a Russian poet”, per Sport’s Illustrated’s classic article about the game:
All the Way with O.J.

Vautravers erroneously says that Beban didn’t play in the next week’s game, a 32-14 whipping by Syracuse, in which Rick Cassata “performed as if he were the Heisman Trophy hopeful”. That 8-2 bunch was the last really good team of the Ben Schwartzwalder era.

The Rose Bowl was an anti-climactic 14-3 win over a Cinderella Indiana team whose coach had turned back into a pumpkin. (No, I didn’t mean Coach John Pont.) The Trojans wound up 10-1, having out-scored their opponents 258-87.

Two other teams matched the Trojan’s 9-1 regular season record. They were two traditional powers emerging from a fallow period: Tennessee and Oklahoma. After their great Coach Bob Neyland retired after the 1952 season, the Volunteers went through three different coaches in 11 years during which they went 64-44-5, not bad if you’re Vanderbilt but not the Tennessee standards. Then they hired Doug Dickey, who went 4-5-1 in his first year, (1964) but improved to 8-1-2 in his second year, including a 7-7 tie with national champion Alabama. Then in 1966, they lost by a point to the 11-0 Tide, 10-11, 3-6 to 9-2 Georgia Tech and 7-14 to 8-3 Mississippi before beating Syracuse 18-12 in the Gator Bowl. The big breakthrough came in ’67 when they opened with a 16-20 loss to Beban’s UCLA team in the Coliseum, then ripped off 9 wins in a row, including 24-13 over Alabama, the same score over Georgia Tech and 20-7 over Mississippi to win the SEC. They outscored their opponents 249-115 and were ranked #2 in the final regular season poll in the final season before the AP made post-bowl polls a regular thing.

Oklahoma’s decline had begun under their famous coach, Bud Wilkinson, who went 114-10-3 from 1947-58, then slipped to 31-19-1 in his last five years. Then he ran for the Senate from Oklahoma and lost to Fred Harris. His line coach, Gomer Jones took over and coached like the was Gomer Pyle, going 9-11-1 in 1964-65. Under Jim Mackenzie they showed signs of live with a 6-4 record in 1966 but then the 37-year-old Mackenzie shockingly died of a heart attack. His assistant, Chuck Fairbanks took over and pulled the team up to the 9-1 level in 1967. They lost an early 7-9 game to a 6-4 Texas team but otherwise rolled, outscoring their opponents 264-68. The Big Eight was mediocre but the Sooners beat the second-best team in the conference, Colorado, 23-0.

Then in the other great game 1967, Oklahoma downed Tennessee 26-24 in the Orange Bowl, surviving a last second field goal, even though they didn’t have Bill Hayhoe. The Sooners had a 19-0 halftime lead but gave up 17 unanswered points before a pick six provided the winning margin.

1968 Orange Bowl Oklahoma vs Tennessee No Huddle

There was one other 10-1 team: Wyoming, who was the closest thing then to what Boise State has been in this century. From 1949-1969 they had the fifth best record in major college football at 151-52-9. But their schedules never warranted their contention for the national championship, despite running the regular season table in 1950, 1956 and 1967 and going 9-1 in 1949, 1959 and 1966. Their high watermark was 1967, when they reached a #6 national ranking and got invited to play Louisiana State in the Sugar Bowl. The Cowboys stormed to a 13-0 halftime lead only to have the 6-3-1 Tigers rally to win 20-13. If Wyoming had held on to win that game, I’d have included them in the playoffs. But they didn’t and this is going to be the Trojans vs. the Sooners.

Southern California vs. Oklahoma
Southern California beat Washington State 49-0 who lost to Oklahoma 0-21 = +28 for Southern California
Southern California beat Texas 17-13 who beat Oklahoma 9-7 = +6 for Southern California
Southern California beat Notre Dame 24-7 who beat U of Miami 24-22 who lost to Colorado 21-31 who lost to Oklahoma 0-23 = +14 for Oklahoma
Southern California beat Indiana 14-3 who beat Kansas 18-15 who beat Missouri 17-6 who lost to Oklahoma 0-7 = +18 for Southern California
Southern California beat UCLA 21-20 who beat Tennessee 20-16 who lost to Oklahoma 24-26 (three great games!) = +3 for Southern California
Result: +41/5 = Southern California wins the national championship by 8.


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
Fixing the 1968 AP Poll

1968 was the first year the AP (writer’s) Poll conducted a poll after the bowls on an annual basis, thus including all the results in its deliberations instead of ignoring the last few regular season games and the bowls. The UPI (coach’s) poll didn’t follow suit until 1974.

This was also the period when the large state school really began to take over the game. Two platoon football increased recruiting requirements geometrically. It was really unlimited substitution football, meaning that schools could put their best offensive players on offense, their best defenders on defense and pull them in and out of the game as needed. They could also bring in certain players for certain situations, such as third or fourth down or goal line situations and use specialists to kick the ball. Ben Schwartzwalder’s traveling squads in the one-platoon, (limited substitution), era ere usually less than 40 players. The average number of players used in a modern game is 52 and you can have up to 85 players on scholarship. Actual rosters are over 100 players, the rest being walk-ons. That 85-player scholarship limit, (and 25 per recruiting class), didn’t exist until the 1980’s. When Johnny Majors was hired to revitalize the Pittsburgh program in 1973, he handed out a whopping total of 76 scholarships. Those guys went from 1-10 to 6-5-1 and a bowl game in their first year. As seniors, they won the national championship.

All this recruiting required schools to go outside their geographical area to compete for players. Ben Schwartzwalder never had a significant player not from New York or an adjacent state. Now to be a top national power a school had to battle for recruits all over the map. The big state schools and a few private schools who were either located in prime recruiting areas, (Southern California and later U of Miami) or with unmatched winning traditions, (Notre Dame), could compete but most private school or small state schools, (Syracuse, Duke, Mississippi, Kansas) could not. The large state schools, the schools in prime recruiting areas and the schools with great winning traditions have always done well but the teams they played regularly could at least give them relatively close games. Winning games by two touchdowns was considered decisive and by three was a rout. Anything more than that made headlines. Just winning consistently was the key. The 1963 Texas team never scored more than 17 points in any of heir last six regular season games and didn’t win any of them by more than a touchdown but they won them and held on to their #1 ranking to win the national championship. Beginning in the late 60’s, winning by large margins was the default setting for teams competing for the title. Huge scores were like the roar of mighty guns echoing across the country. If the country heard nothing from your guns, people would start to doubt you legitimacy as a contender. People complained about rolling up scores but that was less evident in the games won by 50+ points, which were more about over-matched opponents lacking depth and/or playing poorly and just giving way under a flood of scores, than it was in the unexpectedly competitive games where an underdog embarrassed the would-be contender by refusing to collapse. I recall a 1974 game where Syracuse shocked Penn State by jumping out to a 14-3 lead which they held onto for much of the game. But the Nittany Lions pounded their way to a 14-30 lead and had the ball with less than a minute to play. They started filling the air with footballs, rather than sitting on the ball and letting the clock run out. The reason was obvious to everybody: beating Syracuse only 30-14 would be embarrassing when Ohio State and Oklahoma and Alabama were winning games 40-0. Those were Penn State’s really opponents. 37-14 would look so much better. 1968 was when winning by big scores started to become common – and they would go bigger as the years progressed.

One of the things that helped them to grow bigger was the creation of a Texas assistant coach named Emory Bellard: the wishbone formation, featuring the triple option. The option dated back to rugby and had been a feature of the split T formation that took over college ball in the 1940’s: the quarterback would run along the line and either run it or pitch to a trailing back depending on how the defense responded. Bellard inverted the normal ‘T’ set to position the fullback right behind the quarterback and the halfbacks behind him. He had the quarterback turn to hand off to the fullback, who plunged straight ahead – or the quarterback pulled the ball away from the fullback and headed toward one end or the other of the line with the halfback, now called a ‘tailback’, trailing him. The play then became a traditional option. The defense had to cover the entire line-of scrimmage and any one of four backs could wind up carrying the ball. That took away their aggressiveness as they maneuvered to cover territory. All the had to do is get to one spot late or go for a fake and the back was off to the races. It was really the fullback that made it lethal: if he could have success funning inside, it sucked the defense in and opened up the outside. Passing was minimal because the rushing attack was so dominate it wasn’t really needed. But when the quarterback did fade back to pass, he often found wide-open receivers because all the defenders were up at the line of scrimmage.

This would become the dominant offense of the 1970’s and it started at Texas in 1968. Despite the innovation, or maybe because they were getting used to it, they were tied in their first game by Houston, 20-20, then lost to Texas Tech 22-31. Then they won their next 30 games in a row, baffling their opponents with their new toy, having relatively close wins over Oklahoma and Arkansas but beating everyone else by at least three touchdowns, including an 8-1-1, #8 tranked Tennessee team in the Cotton Bowl, 36-13:

They were probably the best team in the country at that time but it was too late to win the 1968 national championship but they would win it in 1969 and be ranked #1 going into the Cotton Bowl after the 1970 season. Alabama and Oklahoma both adopted the formation and the play and others schools like Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State did variations on it, to great success.

1969 Rose Bowl: 1969 Rose Bowl: Ohio State v. USC (Drive-Thru)

1969 Orange Bowl: 1/1/1969 Penn State vs. Kansas (Orange Bowl)

Still another trend began this year: Penn State running the table in the same year somebody else did and finding themselves ranked #2 – or lower. It happened in 1968, 1969, 1973 and 1994. There was no playoff then. Even the BCS didn’t start until 1998. Otherwise Joe Paterno’s teams would have played for national championships in all of those years. The problem was that Penn State was still regarded as an ‘eastern team’ and it was presumed that an eastern teams with a comparable record were the inferior of teams from other parts of the country. It was from this period that Paterno started to tell reporters that he didn’t consider Penn State to be an eastern team and plotted their eventual entrance in the Big 10.

But, under LiMu’s system, the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions will decide things on the field.

Ohio State vs. Penn State
Ohio State beat Southern Methodist 35-14 who be Oklahoma 28-27 who beat Kansas 27-23 who post to Penn State 14-15 = +25 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Purdue 13-0 who beat Virginia 44-6 who beat Navy 24-0 who lost to Boston College 15-49 who lost to Penn State 0-29 = +12 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Michigan State 25-20 who beat Syracuse 14-10 who lost to Penn State 12-30 = +9 for Penn State
Ohio State beat Michigan 50-14 who beat Duke 31-10 who lost to Army 25-57 who lost to Penn State 24-28 = +21 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Southern California 27-16 who beat UCLA 28-16 who lost to Syracuse 7-20 who lost to West Virginia 6-23 who lost to Penn State 20-31 = +18 for Penn State
Result: +31/5 = Ohio State wins the national championship by 6 points. They finally win one after losing under this system in 1942, 1944, 1954, 1957 and 1961.


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011

On the surface, this season was déjà vu all over again for Penn State: they went 11-0 and finished second to a team from a more respected section of the country who had gone 11-0, in this case, Texas. A Texas-Penn State would resolve it all. Or would it?

Vautravers dismisses the case of Southern California, the 1967 champs who had lost only to national champion Ohio State in 1968 and who won every game except a 14-14 tie at Notre Dame, the same team Texas rallied to beat 20-17 in the Cotton Bowl. They also beat Michigan, conquerors of Ohio State, in the Rose Bowl, 10-3. That makes the Trojan’s 10-0-1 seem virtually as impressive and the Longhorn’s 11-0-0.

Then there’s the Buckeyes, who were defending champions and the #1 ranked team through the season’s first nine weeks, during which they annihilated eight opponents by a combined 371-69, (an average of 46-9). Not one games was even close- all opponents were defeated by at least three touchdowns. People were comparing them to the greatest teams of all time. Then they were upset on the road by arch-rival Michigan, 12-24. Even so, many people still considered them the best team in the country. Woody Hayes said it was the best team he’d ever coached. My opinion of this team is similar to my opinion of Nebraska’s 1983 team. They were so dominant until being upset in their final game that I feel their dominance should not be ignored. There is such a thing as an upset. The thing is: if you let a team that has lost a game in a playoff with other teams that are undefeated, shouldn’t other teams with a single loss be brought in, too? But Notre Dame, Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee all got second losses in their bowl games. That leaves 10th ranked Louisiana State and 17th ranked West Virginia along with 13th ranked UCLA and 14th ranked Florida, both of whom have ties. Nobody ever regarded those teams as among the greatest of all time. There’s also 11-0-0 San Diego State and 11-0-0 Toledo. They would meet in a splendid Pesci Bowl, if there actually was one.

Cotton Bowl:

Rose Bowl: Not available
Orange Bowl: 1970 Orange Bowl #2 Penn State vs #6 Missouri No Huddle

I’ll go out on a limb and surmise that the public would have wanted USC and Ohio State included. They will take on Penn State and Texas, respectively. The Buckeyes (383-93) and the Longhorns (435-119) were the sort of juggernauts national champions have tended to be since. The Nittany Lions (322-90) and the Trojans (261-128) were more traditional contenders.

Texas vs. Ohio State
Texas beat Texas Christian 69-7 who lost to Ohio State 0-62 = Even (Quite a change from 1961: Ohio State tied Texas Christian 7-7 who beat Texas 6-0 = +6 for Ohio State. TCU was one of those private schools who faded with two platoon football.)
Texas beat Texas Tech 49-7 who beat Kansas 38-22 who lost to Missouri 21-69 who beat Michigan 40-17 who beat Ohio State 24-12 = +45 for Texas
Texas beat Oklahoma 27-17 who beat Wisconsin 48-21 who lost to Minnesota 7-35 who lost to Ohio State 7-34 = +18 for Ohio State
Texas beat Arkansas 15-14 who beat Southern Methodist 28-15 who lost to Michigan State 15-23 who lost to Ohio State 21-54 = +27 for Ohio State
Texas beat Notre Dame 21-17 who lost to Purdue 14-28 who lost to Ohio State 14-42 = +38 for Ohio State
Result: +38/5 = Ohio State wins by 8 points

Penn State vs. Southern California
Penn State beat Colorado 27-3 who lost to 7-20 Nebraska who lost to Southern California 21-31 = +1 for Penn State
Penn State beat West Virginia 20-0 who beat Pittsburgh 49-18 who lost to UCLA 8-42 who lost to Southern California 12-14 = +15 for Penn State
Penn State beat Boston College 38-16 who beat Navy 21-14 who lost to Notre Dame 0-47 who tied Southern California 14-14 = +18 for Southern California
Penn State beat Ohio University 42-3 who tied Minnesota 35-35 who lost to Michigan 9-35 who lost to Southern California 3-10 = +6 for Penn State
Penn State beat Missouri 10-3 who beat Air Force 19-17 who lost to Stanford 34-47 who lost to Stanford 24-26 = +6 for Southern California
Result: +2/5 = Southern California wins by a point

Southern California vs. Ohio State
Southern California beat Michigan 10-3 who beat Ohio State 24-12 = +19 for Southern California
Southern California beat Nebraska 31-21 who beat Minnesota 42-14 who lost to Ohio State 7-34 = +11 for Southern California
Southern California beat Stanford 26-24 who lost to Purdue 35-36 who lost to Ohio State 14-42 = +27 for Ohio State
Southern California tied Notre Dame 14-14 who beat Michigan State 42-28 who lost to Ohio State 21-54 = +19 for Ohio State
Southern California beat Northwester 36-0 who lost to Purdue 20-45 who beat Texas Christian 42-35 who lost to Ohio State 0-62 = +44 for Ohio State
Result: +60/5 = Ohio State wins a second straight national championship by 12 points.


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
Fixing the 1970 AP Poll

At this point Vautravers, (I had thought his name was Richard for some reason but it’s James), stopped doing his national championship articles. Maybe he just hasn’t gotten around to doing 1970 yet. (There is no obit, so we can hope it’s forthcoming. ) He did do his ‘fixed top 25” article although it’s not much help as the only contender he discusses is Arizona State. I’ll just have to ‘wing it’.

The big news is that two long streaks ended this year and another began. Penn State lost a 23-game winning streak and 31 game unbeaten sting when Colorado crushed them in the second week of the season. Texas rolled to a 30-game winning streak before finally being beaten in a Cotton Bowl rematch with Notre Dame. Nebraska was on a 7 game roll when the 1969 season ended, beat Wake Forest and tied Southern California to start the 1970 season and then won their next 23 games in a row before losing at UCLA, (and their QB, Mark Harmon of NCIS), to open the 1972 season. That’s a 32-game unbeaten string. They also won the next 7 games after the UCLA loss for a 38-1-1 stretch. The big state schools were really beginning to dominate.

Ohio State was #1 for the first six polls before a 48-29 win over an Illinois team that had been 0-10 the year before and who would finish 3-7 cause the voters to elevate defending national champion, (in their world) Texas to #1. They held on to the top spot for two weeks before a 21-14 win over a Baylor team that would wind up 2-9 dropped them to #2 while Notre Dame took over #1. The Irish fell from the top spot when they beat Georgia Tech by only 10-7, (even though the Jackets were a 9-3 team that year). Texas remained #1 until Notre Dame beat them in the Cotton Bowl, 24-11. But that didn’t elevate the Golden Domers to another national championship instead Nebraska won their first title, despite the 21-21 tie with USC, (who had a down year at 6-4-1). The Cornhuskers started at #1 and had slowly worked their way up in the standings to #3 before the bowl games. Notre Dame had lost in a monsoon to the Trojans, 28-38 in their last regular season game and dropped to #6 before their triumph over the Longhorns. Ohio State was #2 after beating Michigan 20-9 in a battle of undefeated, untied teams.

But the Buckeyes were upset by Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett’s 9-3 Stanford team in the Rose Bowl and when the Huskers beat a 9-3 LSU team 17-12 in the Orange Bowl, the AP voters decided to make them their national champion. The UPI coaches didn’t vote after the bowls so Texas went into the books as their champion. Nebraska was the choice for 25 selectors, Texas for 9, Notre Dame for 8 and Ohio State and Arizona State for 1 each: Yearly National Championship Selections

Every national champion recognized by the writers or coaches had won all their game or all but one save for LSU’s 2007 team. So that establishes the numerical criteria for a national championship contender. Here are the teams that won all their games or all but one for this season:
Arizona State was 11-0 (405-148) The Sun Devils were still a WAC team, much like their 1975 team except they didn’t beat Nebraska in a bowl game. Instead they beat 8-4 North Carolina 48-26 in the Peach Bowl. The Heels were easily the best team they’d faced that season and they weren’t ranked. The Sun devils were: #6 in the AP and #8 in the UPI. Vautravers has them #11 due to their schedule.
Toledo was 11-0 (384-88) the Rockets had quite a streak of their own, winning all 35 of their games in 1969-71 before losing to Tampa to on the 1972 season. They were basically the Nebraska of the MAC. But it was the MAC. Their bowl win was over William and Mary, 40-12. They were just too much for the royal couple. Toledo also played no ranked teams. AP and Vautravers have them ranked #12, UPI #17.
Dartmouth was 9-0 (311-42) This was Bob Backmon’s last great Dartmouth team. (He’d also gone 9-0 in 1962 and 1965). It was really really good Ivy league team but their only non-conference competition was UMASS and Holy Cross, meaning they didn’t play any ranked teams, either. All three sources have them #14.
Maybe LiMu should be in charge of the Pesci Bowl, too.
Nebraska was 10-0-1 (426-189) USC was ranked #3 and coming off a 30-2-2 stretch since 1967 when the Huskers tied them a week after the Trojans famous visit to Alabama where Bear Bryant thanks them for a 42-21 whipping that helped him convince ne the university and it it’s fans the time had come to integrate. Unfortunately, the Trojans had stumbled badly after that, (against one of the nation’s toughest schedules – only two teams had losing records) to finish 6-4-1 and unranked, despite their victory over Notre Dame, so the only Nebraska opponent to finish in the final rankings was LSU at #6 for the coaches and #7 for the writers.
Tennessee was 11-1 (370-116) lost their second game to 9-2 Auburn, 23-36, t hen ripped off 10 wins in a row to climb all the way through the rankings to #3 in the ASP, #4 in the other two. They beat 9-3 Air Force, 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl. They beat #13 Georgia Tech 17-6 along the way. Air Force wound up #16 and Auburn #10.
Notre Dame was 10-1 (354-108) They opened with a 35-14 win over a Northwestern team that went 6-4, followed by six straight easy wins over five teams that had losing records plus a 5-5 Pittsburgh team. Then came two narrow wins in defensive battles against 9-3 teams: 10-7 over Georgia Tech and 3-0 over Louisiana State. Then they did everything but beat Southern California in a driving rainstorm in the LA Coliseum. Their quarterback, Joe Theisman, (whose name was actually pronounced ‘Thees Men’ until the Notre Dame publicity people decided to change to ‘Thighs Men’ for obvious reasons), completed 33 passes for 526 yards in the muck, the finest bad weather performance I’ve ever seen. The Irish had 557 total yards and 28 first downs to 359 and 17 but also had 8 turnovers, falling behind 14-38 before a furious rally came up short. The coaches had them at #5. Then they travelled to Dallas to take on #1 Texas and pulled off the upset they’d almost pulled off the year before, 24-11. They wound up #2.
Texas was 10-1 (423-149) the Longhorns had close calls with 6-5 UCLA (20-17) and Baylor but blew out everybody else they played by at least three touchdowns until the ran into Notre Dame. #11 Arkansas, (9-2), whom they beat 42-7 was the only opponent prior to the Irish to wind up in the final rankings, although Texas Tech went 8-4. The Longhorns wound up #3 to the AP and to JV.
Ohio State was 9-1 (290-120). They were not the juggernaut they had been in 1969 but the only regular season game they didn’t win by at least 11 points was a 10-7 win at 4-6 Purdue. Their only ranked regular season opponent was Bo Schembechler’s Michigan team, who came into the big Horseshoe 9-0 to the Buckeyes 8-0 in one of the great confrontations in that series. The Buckeyes on 20-9 to rise to #2 in both polls but fell victim to Jim Plunkett’s passes in the Rose Bowl, 17-27.
Michigan was 9-1 (288-90) They’d had one close game, against a 2-9 Texas A&M team who they beat only 14-10 in the Big House. They’d won all their other games by at least 11 points when they travelled to Columbus. The only team that wound up with a winning record that they’d played in those first 9 games was 6-4 Washington, who they beat 17-3. Only one Big Ten team could go to a bowl so the Wolverines stayed home. They’d been #7 but somehow fell to #9 in AP’s post bowl poll. Vautravers kept them at #7

Cotton Bowl:
Sugar Bowl: 1971 Sugar Bowl #4 Tennessee vs #11 Air Force No Huddle

Rose Bowl: 1971 Rose Bowl Stanford vs Ohio State No Huddle

Orange Bowl: 1971 Orange Bowl Nebraska vs LSU No Huddle

I remember thinking that Notre Dame would be named national champion by the writers and was surprised they picked Nebraska. I’m still not convinced that Nebraska deserved it more. Yes, the Huskers were undefeated and their tie was to a team that had beaten the Irish but it was Notre Dame that had taken down the #1 team, a much better team than anyone Nebraska had beaten. And, having watched that USC-ND game, I felt that Notre Dame was much the better team and that USC’s win was a fluke caused by the turnovers. (Of course, turnovers are part of the game but if they weren’t a characteristic problem of the team giving the ball up, it can still be a fluke outcome.) The Huskers were one point away from being 12-0, in which case I don’t think I would have questioned their selection. But they are also one point away from being 11-1, which would put them on the same level as the other contenders. All these teams won every game but one. Should the national championship be decided by a tie?

The are several ways to handle his:
- Do what the AP voters did and go for the undefeated power conference team over the one loss power conference teams.
- Match Nebraska and Notre Dame for the title, over the cries of the other four one loss power conference teams.
- Have a three-team playoff between the contenders that won on New Year’s Day: Nebraska, Notre Dame and Tennessee – over the cries of the three other one loss power conference teams, including Ohio State who was #1 for 6 weeks.
- Drop Texas out, despite the fact that they were also #1 in six weekly polls because they lost to Notre Dame and drop Michigan out because they lost to Ohio State. That leaves us with a four-game playoff between Nebraska, Notre Dame Tennessee and Ohio State.
- A six-team playoff, with the teams seeded by their ranking in the first round and the highest ranked survivor getting a bye in the second round.

I doubt the fans or writers would have voted for the last of those solutions but that’s the one that seems the fairest and most interesting to me so I’ll go with it.

Nebraska vs. Michigan
Nebraska beat Minnesota 35-10 who lost to Michigan 13-39 = +1 for Michigan
Nebraska beat Louisiana State 17-12 who lost to Notre Dame 0-3 who beat Purdue 48-0 who lost to Michigan 0-29 = +21 for Nebraska
Nebraska beat Oklahoma 28-21 who beat Wisconsin 21-7 who lost to Michigan 15-29 = +7 for Nebraska
Nebraska beat Colorado 29-13 who beat Air Force 49-19 who beat Stanford 31-14 who beat Ohio State 27-17 who beat Michigan 20-9 = +84 for Nebraska
Nebraska tied Southern California 21-21 who beat Washington 28-25 who lost to Michigan 3-17 who beat Michigan 20-9 = Even
Result: +111/5 = Nebraska wins by 22 points

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
Notre Dame beat Northwestern 35-14 who lost to Ohio State 10-24 = +7 for Notre Dame
Notre Dame beat Purdue 48-0 who lost to Ohio State 7-10 = +45 for Notre Dame
Notre Dame beat Michigan State 29-0 who lost to Ohio State 0-29 = Even
Notre Dame beat Louisiana State 3-0 who lost to Texas A&M 18-20 who lost to Michigan 10-14 who lost to Ohio State 9-20 = +14 for Ohio State
Notre Dame beat Texas 24-11 who beat California 56-15 who lost to Stanford 14-22 who beat Ohio State 27-17 = +56 for Notre Dame
Result: +94/5 = Notre Dame wins by 19 points. (So much for the Big Ten)

Texas vs. Tennessee
Texas beat UCLA 20-17 who lost to Tennessee 17-28 = +8 for Tennessee
Texas beat Southern Methodist 42-15 who lost to Tennessee 3-28 = +2 for Texas
Texas beat Texas Tech 25-13 who lost to Georgia Tech 9-17 who lost to Tennessee 6-17 = +7 for Tennessee
Texas beat Arkansas 42-7 who lost to Stanford 28-34 who lost to Air Force 14-31 who lost to Tennessee 13-34 = +9 for Tennessee
Texas lost to Notre Dame 11-24 who beat Georgia Tech 10-7 lost to Auburn 7-31 who beat Tennessee 36-23 = +21 for Tennessee
Result: +43/5 = Tennessee wins by 9 points

Notre Dame vs. Tennessee
Notre Dame beat Georgia Tech 10-7 who lost to Tennessee 6-17 = +8 for Tennessee
Notre Dame beat Army 51-10 who lost to Tennessee 3-48 = +4 for Tennessee
Notre Dame beat Texas 24-11 who beat Texas Tech 35-13 who lost to Mississippi State 16-20 who lost to Florida 13-34 who lost to Tennessee 7-38 = +21 for Tennessee
Notre Dame beat Louisiana State 3-0 who beat Auburn 17-9 who beat Tennessee 36-23 = +24 for Notre Dame
Notre Dame lost to Southern California 28-38 who lost to Oregon 7-10 who beat Air Force 46-35 who lost to Tennessee 13-34 = +23 for Tennessee
Result: +32/5 = Tennessee wins by 6

Nebraska vs. Tennessee
Nebraska beat Wake Forest 36-12 who lost to Tennessee 7-41 = +10 for Tennessee
Nebraska beat Army 28-0 who lost to Tennessee 3-48 = +17 for Tennessee
Nebraska beat Oklahoma 28-21 who beat Missouri 28-13 who lost to Air Force 14-37 who lost to Tennessee 13-34 = +22 for Tennessee
Nebraska beat Louisiana State 17-12 who beat Auburn 17-9 who beat Tennessee 36-23 = +26 for Nebraska
Nebraska tied Southern California 21-21 who beat Alabama 42-21 who beat Florida 46-15 who lost to Tennessee 7-38 = +21 for Nebraska
Result: +2/5 = Tennessee wins the national championship by a point.


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
1972 NCAA University Division football rankings - Wikipedia

I combined these two years as they are both walk-overs featuring two of the greatest teams of all time.

Nebraska took over #1 in the polls after the first week in 1971 and ran the table, outscoring their opposition 507-104. In the final AP poll, they were #1, Oklahoma was #2, Colorado #3 and Alabama #4. The Cornhuskers played all three of those other teams, beating Oklahoma, (a team that was 11-0, 503-182 vs. its other opponents), in another “Game of the Century”, 35-31, Colorado, (9-1, 363-189 vs. teams other than Nebraska and Oklahoma), 31-7 and Alabama, (11-0, 362-84), 38-6 in the Orange Bowl. That’s a total of 104-44, an average margin of 20 points! Georgia was 9-0 when they played 8-0 Auburn and lost 20-35. Auburn was 9-0 when they lost to 10-0 Alabama 7-31. 11-0 Alabama then lost to 12-0 Nebraska 6-38. Georgia finished 11-1 and yet was 71 points worse that Nebraska!

Nebraska-Oklahoma (Johnny Rodgers’ famous punt return is at 5:50):

The Orange Bowl (Johnny does it again at 6:47):

1972 Orange Bowl #2 Alabama vs #1 Nebraska No Huddle

No doubt the Huskers remembered the 1966 Orange Bowl and the 967 Sugar Bowl, where the Tide had whipped their team. Oklahoma and Alabama had experimented with the wishbone offense Texas made famous in 1968-70 during the 1970 season and had struggled with it, going 7-4 and 65, respectively. They met in the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl and played to a 24-24 tie. It was their only meeting of the decade because they were easily the top two programs the rest of that decade using that formation:
I-A Winning Percentage 1971-1979

The next season the Huskers travelled to Los Angeles to play UCLA, bringing with them a 32 game unbeaten string and a 23 game unbeaten string along with two straight real-world national championships. Mark Harmon, (of NCIS), the UCLA quarterback re-called that “They were favored by about a million points.” But the Bruins won, 20-17 and Southern California moved to the top of the polls and stayed there the whole season, out-scoring 12 opponents, 467-134, including a 24-7 win over Harmon’s Bruins, a 45-23 rout of Notre Dame in which Anthony Davis scored 6 touchdowns and a 42-17 domination of Ohio State in a continuation of what became a long-standing Rose Bowl Rivalry, (the Buckeyes won in ’55 ’68 and ‘74, the Trojans in ’73, ’75, ’80 and ’85). USC didn’t dominate the Top 10 as the ’71 Nebraska team had but they played 7 teams with winning records and the only one to get withing 17 points of them was Stanford, whom they beat 30-21 and nobody else was undefeated so they had no challengers for the national title.
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Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
1973 NCAA Division I football rankings - Wikipedia
Fixing the 1973 AP Poll

1973 is a year that must be looked at if you think that a four-team playoff will always be the answer in college football. How about SIX undefeated power conference teams? What do you do with that?

Alabama went 11-0-0 in the SEC and was ranked #1 in both polls after the regular season. I have a system for examining the power and consistency of historical teams. I call it ‘point differential rankings”: If you beat a team that lost only that one game, tied a team that went undefeated or beat a team by more than anyone else did – or lost by the smallest margin to a team that won all their games, you get a ‘1’: you were the best team that team played, (or tied for it), by point differential. If one team did better, you get a ‘2’. If two teams did better, you get a ‘3’ and so on. You add up the points for a team and divide by the number of opponents to get their average performance. No one since the wartime Army teams has anyone scored a perfect 1.00 – being the best team each of their opponents had played. An average post-war national championship team is around 2.38. Last year’s Georgia team was 1.64. The 1971 Nebraska team was 1.36. The 1972 Southern California team was 1.42. The 1995 Nebraska team was 1.25. The 1959 Syracuse team was 1.18. But the lowest, (best point differential ranking of any team in the post war era belongs to the 1973 Alabama team. They were the best team 10 of their 11 regular season opponents played, (12 points/11 opponents = 1.09). Their one problem was Notre Dame, who beat U of Miami 44-0 after the Tide had beaten them only 43-13. Then the Irish beat Bama 24-23 in the Sugar Bowl in one of the greatest games ever played. Even that was a ‘1’ for Alabama- no one else came that close to beating Notre Dame that year – so their final PDR was 1.08 (13/12). They out-scored their opponents 477-113 and retained a share of the poll championship because the UPI, (coaches) still didn’t vote after the bowls. (That would come the next years, the first where both polls included bowl game results.)

Vautravers declares Oklahoma to have been the best team in 1973 – but not the national champion, which is not quite the same thing. He points out that every math formula has them as #1. But they had a tie to finish 10-0-1. The tied was to defending national champion Southern California, 7-7. That gives then essentially the same record as Nebraska’s 1970 national champions- they tied USC 21-21 and went 10-0-1, but Oklahoma’s strength of schedule was much higher, (also much higher than Bud Wilkinson’s teams of the 1950’s), and their performance in those games better than Nebraska ’70. They played 7 ranked opponents and were still another powerhouse Miami played, although the Canes played them much closer than Alabama or Notre Dame did, losing 20-24. The Sooners went off on a tear, winning every remaining game by at least 17 points and all but that one by at least 27 points. They outscored their opposition by a combined 400-133 (PDR: 1.82). They beat Texas 52-13 and Nebraska 27-0.

One problem with the Sooners- they were on probation, both this year and the next. My own position on probation is that punishment should in the form of fines to the school that tolerated it and suspensions or banishment of individuals, not punishment of teams that likely no longer have the miscreant who caused the probation on them, so I have been including teams on probation in these LiMu tournaments. The UPI poll listed Oklahoma as the #2 team this year but did not list them in 19754, despite the fact that they were 11-0-0, so 1974 was when the coaches decided not to vote for a team on probation.

Notre Dame was ranked #3 before the Sugar Bowl. They were 10-0-0 in the regular season but had only one win over a ranked team- Southern Cal, who they beat in South Bend, 23-14. They out-scored their opponents 382-89, (PDR: 2.00), including their epic 24-23 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, which had 6 lead changes and was decided due to a two point conversion and a daring pass from their own 1 yard line in the final seconds to get the AP (writer’s) national championship.

Ohio State and Michigan crushed everyone they played, excluding each other. They played to a 10-10 tied, the same score as the famous 1966 Notre Dame - Michigan State game. Only one could go to the Rose Bowl and the other would have to stay home as the Big Ten had a rule that only their champion could go bowling. It was put to a vote of the athletic directors and the Buckeyes won the vote, largely because Michigan’s quarterback, Dennis Franklin, had been injured and was not available for the bowl. State put on the most impressive performance in the bowls, almost reversing their 17-42 loos to the Trojans the year before to a 42-21 score this time. In many eyes, including mine, they looked like the best team in the country. Both teams were 10-0-1. The Buckeyes outscored their opponents 413-64 (PDR 1.36). The Wolverines outscored theirs 330-68 (2.18)

Then there was Penn State. Joe Paterno was in his familiar position of running the table against mostly Northeastern teams and finding themselves ranked lower than teams who had done the same thing in other sections. At least he had the Heisman Trophy winner, running back John Cappelletti, who handed the trophy to his younger brother, Joey, who was battling cancer.
The Lions, as usual, faced a lesser opponent in a bowl, 13th ranked LSU, whom they beat 16-9 in the Orange Bowl, a game that provided them with little chance to advance in the rankings, although they were moved one spot ahead of Michigan, to 5th. They outscored their opposition 447-129 (2.33)
They did get a terrific TV movie out of this season: Something for Joey, which I liked better than Brian’s Song, (even though it was about Penn State):
Something for Joey ジョーイ 1977

Sugar Bowl: 1973 Sugar Bowl highlights Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl: 1974 Rose Bowl USC vs Ohio State No Huddle
Orange Bowl: No gots but I found this: A Perfect Season-1973 Penn State Football Highlights (The orange Bowl starts at 25:30)

In the final polls, AP had Notre Dame #1, Ohio State #2, Oklahoma #3, Alabama #4, Penn State #5 and Michigan #6 while UPI still had Alabama #1, then Oklahoma, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan. A four-team playoff would have cut into the bone of this situation. Five of the teams hadn’t lost and the one that had, Alabama, was one of the best team ever and had lost by a single point. I felt they should all be included, using the same plan I used in 1970: have #1 play #6, #2, play #5 and $3 play #4. Then the highest ranked remaining team would get a bye while the other two teams played each other. The winner of that game would play the team that got the bye for the championship. I’ll use the AP rankings because they include the bowl games. Thus, we’ll start with Notre Dame vs. Michigan, Ohio State vs. Penn State, and Oklahoma vs. Alabama. Let the battle of Brobdingnagians begin!

Notre Dame vs. Michigan
Notre Dame beat Purdue 20-7 who lost to Michigan 9-34 = +12 for Michigan
Notre Dame beat Michigan State 14-10 who lost to Michigan 0-31 = +27 for Michigan
Notre Dame beat Navy 44-7 who lost to Michigan 0-14 = +23 for Notre Dame
Notre Dame beat Southern California 23-14 who beat Stanford 27-26 who lost to Michigan 10-47 = +27 for Michigan
Notre Dame beat Air Force 48-15 who beat Oregon 24-17 who lost to Michigan 0-24 = +16 for Notre Dame
Results: +27/5 = Michigan wins by 5 points

Ohio State vs. Penn State
Ohio State tied Michigan 10-10 who beat Wisconsin 35-6 who lost to Nebraska 16-20 who beat North Carolina State 31-14 who lost to Penn State 29-35 = +36 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Southern California 42-21 who beat Stanford 27-26 who lost to Penn State 6-20 = +8 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Minnesota 56-7 who beat Wisconsin 19-17 who lost to Colorado 25-28 who beat Air Force 38-17 who lost to Penn State 9-19 = +59 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Washington State 27-3 who lost to Kansas 8-29 who beat Colorado 17-15 who lost to LSU 6-17 who lost to 9-16 = +13 for Penn State
Ohio State beat Michigan State 35-0 who beat Syracuse 14-8 who lost to Maryland 0-38 who lost to Penn State 22-42 = +17 for Penn State
Result: +73/5 = Ohio State wins by 15 points.

Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Oklahoma tied Southern California 7-7 who beat Georgia Tech 23-6 who lost to 14-20 Tennessee who lost to Alabama 21-42 = +10 for Alabama
Oklahoma beat Texas 52-13 who lost to U of Miami 15-20 who lost to Notre Dame 0-44 who lost to Alabama 23-24 = +11 for Alabama
Oklahoma beat Missouri 31-3 who beat Auburn 34-17 who lost to LSU 6-20 who lost to 7-21 = +17 for Oklahoma
Oklahoma beat Kansas 48-20 who beat Florida State 28-0 who lost to Florida 0-49 who lost to Alabama 14-35 = +14 for Alabama
Oklahoma beat Nebraska 27-0 who beat North Carolina State 31-14 who lost to Georgia 12-31 who lost to Alabama 14-28 = +11 for Oklahoma
Result: 7/5 = Alabama wins by a point.

I decided that Ohio State and Michigan should resolve their tie, even though my procedure would have pitted Alabama and Michigan. Besides, this is easier.

Ohio State vs. Michigan
Ohio State tied Michigan 10-10 = Even
Ohio State beat Minnesota 56-7 who lost to Michigan 7-34 = +22 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Illinois 30-0 who lost to Michigan 6-21 = +15 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Michigan State 35-0 who lost to Michigan 0-31 = +4 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Wisconsin 24-0 who lost to Michigan 6-35 = +5 for Michigan
Ohio State beat Indiana 37-7 who lost to Michigan 13-49 = +6 for Michigan
Ohio State beat Iowa 55-13 who lost to Michigan 7-31 = +18 for Ohio State
Result: +48/7 =Ohio State wins by 7 points.

Ohio State vs. Alabama
Ohio State tied Michigan 10-10 beat Navy 14-0 who lost to Tulane 15-17 who lost to LSU 0-14 who lost to Alabama 7-21 = +16 for Alabama
Ohio State beat Southern California 42-21 who lost to Notre Dame 14-23 who beat Alabama 24-23 = +13 for Ohio State
Ohio State beat Minnesota 56-7 who lost to Kansas 19-34 who beat Florida State 28-0 who lost to Florida 0-49 who lost to Alabama 14-35 = +8 for Alabama
Ohio State beat Washington State 27-3 who beat Oregon State 13-7 who lost to Auburn 9-18 who lost to Tennessee 0-21 who lost to Alabama 21-42 = +21 Alabama
Ohio State beat Illinois 30-0 who beat Indiana 28-14 who beat Kentucky 17-3 who beat Georgia 12-7 who lost to Alabama 14-28 = +49 for Ohio State
Result: 17/5 = Ohio State wins the national championship by 3 points.


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
1974 NCAA Division I football rankings - Wikipedia
1975 NCAA Division I football rankings - Wikipedia
Fixing the 1974 AP Poll
Fixing the 1975 AP Poll

1974, like 1971 and 1972, was a ‘no-brainer’. Oklahoma was clearly the best team in the country. They went 11-0-0 and outscored their opposition 473-92. Their only wins over teams that wound up in AP’s final Top 20 were 28-14 over #9 Nebraska and 16-13 over #18 Texas but they had six wins over teams with winning records, including a 72-3 win over Utah State, a team that was otherwise 8-2. It was a much more difficult schedule than Bud Wilkinson’s powerhouses of the 1950’s faced because the Big 8 was a much better conference in the 1970’s. (The Big 7, which it was then, was a grilled cheese sandwich in the 50’s while the Big 8 was rare roast beef in in 70’s.) The 1974 team was Barry Switzer’s masterpiece. They led the country in total offense with 508 yards a game, 57 more than anyone else and rushing, 439 yards per game, 55 more than anyone else. They were 6th in total defense with 232 yards per game. Their tailbacks, Joe Washington and Jim Littrell, both averaged 6.8 yards per game – running the wishbone in either direction - while the Selmon brothers, Lucious, Lee Roy and Dewey, manned the defensive line. Nobody could match that.

And everybody else lost: Alabama again to a two loss Notre Dame team, this time in the Orange Bowl, Michigan to Ohio State, who had lost to Michigan State and who lost a rubber match to Southern California in the Rose Bowl. The Trojans had a loss to Arkansas and a tie with California. The problem was that the Sooners were still on probation. And this was the first year that the coaches refused to vote for a team on probation, (also the first year they voted after the bowls). To the coaches, the Rose Bowl was the battle for the national title, which they awarded to the Trojans. But everybody knew Oklahoma was the best team in the country. (Note that Vautravers doesn’t even discuss the issue.) In this fantasy I assume that the NCAA agrees with me that violations should be treated with fines for the schools and suspensions and banishments for the individuals involved, not preventing current teams from playing in the post season. Were that the case, the Sooners would have been the consensus champions with no need for additional games.

The same thing might have happened in 1975 but on November 8th something happened that hadn’t happened since October 21st, 1972. After 37 games, (and 28 wins in a row since the 7-7 tie with USC early in the 1973), the Sooners lost. The unstoppable wishbone broke: 8 turnovers led to a 3-23 home loss to Kansas, (who wound up 7-5). The machine was still malfunctioning the next week in a 28-27 win over a 6-5 Missouri team. Everybody expected them to lose to a 10-0 Nebraska team but they suddenly got the spark plugs firing on all cylinders and crushed the Cornhuskers 35-10 on national TV. That put them in the Orange Bowl against an 8-1-2 Michigan team, (the probation had ended), whom they beat 14-6 to finish 11-1. The Wolverines were the 8th winning team they’d played that year and the 7th they had beaten. Still, this team was not quite juggernaut of the year before, although the personnel was basically the same. They outscored their opponents 344-154. They gained 354 yards per game, 308 on the ground and gave up 261. But with Ohio State losing in the Rose Bowl, they moved to #1 in both polls.

The Buckeyes had been 11-0 and had outscored their opponents 374-79 until they lost to a UCLA team they had defeated 41-20 on October 4th by 13-23 in the Rose Bowl, (launching the Bruins’ coach, Dick Vermeil, into the NFL). It was an eerie sequel to what had happened to Michigan State a decade before. Alabama lost its opener to Missouri 7-20 at home but rallied from that to win 11 games in a row, including Penn State 13-6 in the Sugar Bowl. They outscored their opponents 374-72. Then there was Arizona State, still in the WAC, who ran the table to a 12-0 record, including a Fiesta Bowl win over Nebraska, 17-14 that to some voters verified their status as a big-time team. They outscored their opponents 347-127. Vautravers points out that their credentials exceed that of Brigham Young in 1984 but not Oklahoma’s in 1975. But fans of mid-majors were in love with them.

The Fiesta Bowl: No gots.
The Sugar Bowl: 1975 Sugar Bowl, #7 Penn State vs #3 Alabama (Highlights)
The Rose Bowl: 1976 Rose Bowl Ohio State vs UCLA No Huddle
The Orange Bowl: 1976 Orange Bowl Oklahoma vs Michigan No Huddle

The obvious solution: a 4-team playoff. By the AP rankings that’s Oklahoma vs. Ohio State and Arizona State vs. Alabama.

Oklahoma vs. Ohio State
Oklahoma beat Michigan 14-6 who lost to Ohio State 14-21 = +1 for Oklahoma
Oklahoma beat Texas 24-14 who beat Washington 28-0 who beat UCLA 17-13 who lost to Ohio State 20-41 = +23 for Oklahoma
Oklahoma beat Nebraska 35-10 who beat Indiana 45-0 who lost to Michigan State 6-14 who lost to Ohio State 0-21 = +41 for Oklahoma
Oklahoma beat Colorado 21-20 who beat California 34-27 who lost to UCLA 14-28 who beat Ohio State 23-13 = +4 Oklahoma
Oklahoma beat Pittsburgh 46-10 who lost to Penn State 6-7 who lost to Ohio State 9-17 = +27 Oklahoma
Result: +96/5 = Oklahoma wins by 19 points – and all five comparisons. Pretty convincing.

Arizona State vs. Alabama
Believe it or not, they had two common opponents:
Arizona State beat Washington 35-12 who lost to Alabama 0-52 = +29 for Alabama
Arizona State beat Texas Christian 33-10 who lost to Alabama 0-45 = +22 for Alabama
Arizona State beat Nebraska 17-14 who beat Louisiana State 10-7 who beat Rice 16-13 who lost to Vanderbilt 6-9 who lost to Alabama 7-40 = +27 for Alabama
Arizona State beat Arizona 24-21 who beat Northwestern 41-6 who beat Purdue 31-25 who lost to Ohio State 6-35 who beat Penn State 17-9 who lost to Alabama 6-13 = +16 for Arizona State
Arizona State beat Brigham Young 20-0 who lost to Southern Mississippi 14-42 who lost to Alabama 6-27 = +29 for Alabama
Results: +91/5 = Alabama wins by 18 points. Also pretty convincing.

Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Oklahoma beat Missouri 28-27 who beat Alabama 20-7 = +14 for Oklahoma
Oklahoma beat Texas 21-14 who beat Rice 41-9 who lost to Vanderbilt 6-9 who lost to Alabama 7-40 = +3 for Oklahoma
Oklahoma beat Nebraska 35-10 who beat Louisiana State 10-7 who lost to Mississippi State 6-16 who lost to Alabama 10-21 = +7 for Oklahoma
Oklahoma beat Colorado 21-20 who beat Wyoming 27-10 who lost to Brigham Young 20-33 who lost to Southern Mississippi 14-42 who lost to Alabama 6-27 = +44 for Alabama
Oklahoma beat Pittsburgh 46-10 who lost to Penn State 6-7 who lost to Alabama 6-13 = +28 for Oklahoma
Result: +8/5 = Oklahoma wins its second straight national championship by 2 points. They may not have been as dominant as in 1974 and had a terrible day vs. Kansas but they came through in the big games.

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