The historical strength of the now-B1G Conference has been apparent in our MNC Wednesday series, as dating back to 1940, we have now had 12 mythical national champions from the league in 15 seasons. Will that change in 1955?
Read on to find out …
The 1955 MNC: A true power conference for the ages!
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results.
1. Oklahoma: 11-0-0 — W, Orange, 20-6
2. Michigan State: 9-1-0 — W, Rose, 17-14
3. Maryland: 10-1-0 — L, Orange, 6-20
4. UCLA: 9-2-0 — L, Rose, 14-17
5. Ohio State: 7-2-0 — None
6. TCU: 9-2-0 — L, Cotton, 13-14
7. Georgia Tech: 9-1-1 — W, Sugar, 7-0
8. Auburn: 8-2-1 — L, Gator, 13-25
9. Notre Dame: 8-2-0 — None
10. Mississippi: 10-1-0 — W, Cotton, 14-13
The Sooners finished the season on a 30-game winning streak, which certainly played into the minds of voters at the time. They’re at the top of the list, obviously. Meanwhile, the Spartans return to the discussion after a losing season in 1954; they’re strong, even with an early-season loss to then-No. 2 Michigan on the road by a touchdown.
The Yellowjackets and the Rebels “tied” for the SEC lead, without playing each other in an uneven scheduling process. Both get consideration here, as Georgia Tech’s tie and loss came against league opponents that combined for a 14-5-2 record—and Ole Miss suffered a road loss to a 6-3-1 team.
Are we missing any other worthy teams? Nope. Every other team in the country had at least two losses, so … we only have four teams to look at more closely now, and indicators for strength of schedule, based on the Simple Rating System:
- Oklahoma: 11 Division I-A opponents, 1.89 SOS rating, 50th of 110 teams
- Michigan State: 10 Division I-A opponents, 8.50 SOS rating, 14th of 110 teams
- Georgia Tech: 11 Division I-A opponents, 6.00 SOS rating, 23rd of 110 teams
- Mississippi: 10 Division I-A opponents, 5.70 SOS rating, 25th of 110 teams
So, we clearly have a dilemma here. The Sooners were the sentimental winners of the AP vote, based on their 30-game streak—but Oklahoma wasn’t playing a tough schedule. It was middling, at best; meanwhile, Michigan State was was playing a great lineup of teams and being punished for the road loss to its main rival that finished 7-2 on the year.
The two SEC schools also played very good schedules, but they are outdone by the Spartans, of course. So it comes down to how much that loss counts against MSU … when the Sooners played a much-weaker slate.
SRS says the Spartans would be favored by less than field goal on a neutral field, so that doesn’t mean anything, really. The Sooners did play three ranked teams during the year, while Michigan State played four—so that’s another slight edge to the Spartans here.
Oklahoma had the better bowl win, beating No. 3 Maryland by more points than MSU beat No. 4 UCLA. Both teams played that game with pressure on them, even if the poll was finalized beforehand. And the Terrapins certainly had something to play for, as did the Bruins. The Sooners looked “better” at the end, perhaps.
In the final analysis, however, we have to reward the schedule strength, and this pattern of B1G teams having strong schedules due to overall conference prominence in sabermetric evaluation is a big factor. In a crazy development, this means the Spartans win a fifth MNC in six years—while Oklahoma still doesn’t have a lot to show for its win streak.
Congratulations to the 1955 Michigan State Spartans, the mythical national champion!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.