The MNC Wednesday series faces a(nother) serious question today: When will the Big Ten give up its dominance of the college football world? In this decade of the 1950s, all 8 mythical national championships have been claimed here by schools from that historic and mighty conference.
What will go down in 1958? Read on to find out …
The 1958 MNC: Perhaps a surprise to no one that SOS matters a lot
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results.
1. LSU: 11-0-0 — W, Sugar, 7-0
2. Iowa: 8-1-1 — W, Rose, 38-12
3. Army: 8-0-1 — NONE
4. Auburn: 9-0-1 — NONE
5. Oklahoma: 10-1-0 — W, Orange, 21-6
6. Air Force: 9-0-2 — T, Cotton, 0-0
7. Wisconsin: 7-1-1 — NONE
8. Ohio State: 6-1-2 — NONE
9. Syracuse: 8-2-0 — L, Orange, 6-21
10. TCU: 8-2-1 — T, Cotton, 0-0
The LSU Tigers may be tough to beat in this analysis, as the only major college to go undefeated and untied. But we know schedule strength always will matter, so we will get to that below.
Army will be included in the discussion, of course, and as for the Auburn Tigers, a tie against Georgia Tech kept them from tying the LSU team for the SEC championship. However, Auburn was still on probation in 1958, so that’s why the team did not get a bowl bid.
The Sooners are in the debate, too, as their one loss was by one point to a ranked-at-the-time Texas team in the Red River Shootout at a neutral site. Air Force did not have a loss, either, so the Falcons get consideration below.
There are no other teams that qualify for this discussion as all other conference champs had at least two losses, which would be hard to overcome in this crowd.
We now have five teams to look at more closely now—and their indicators for strength of schedule, based on the Simple Rating System:
- Air Force: 11 Division I-A opponents, 2.40 SOS rating, 50th of 112 teams
- Oklahoma: 11 Division I-A opponents, 3.59 SOS rating, 39th of 112 teams
- LSU: 11 Division I-A opponents, 5.59 SOS rating, 28th of 112 teams
- Iowa: 10 Division I-A opponents, 12.28 SOS rating, 2nd of 112 teams
- Army: 9 Division I-A opponents, 2.75 SOS rating, 45th of 112 teams
Well, this debate comes down to Iowa and LSU, clearly. The Sooners have a solid SOS rating, but Iowa clearly played an elite, powerhouse lineup, while LSU played a good schedule as well.
Let’s look at the Hawkeyes’ blemishes, because that could solve the problem for us before we have to analyze things more deeply: Ironically, Iowa tied Air Force, so there’s no shame there at all, and the Hawkeyes’ one loss came to Ohio State—which finished the season ranked in the Top 10.
On LSU’s schedule, there are no teams ranked in the final Top 10, and the Tigers only played two ranked teams all year: 9-2 Mississippi and 8-3 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. The margin of victory in those two games was 21 points combined—including a not-very-impressive 7-0 win over Clemson in the bowl game.
(Sidebar: Way too many colleges have “Tigers” as the mascot, right? Can’t some of these schools in the South come up with something better?)
Meanwhile, in Iowa’s five wins over ranked teams (including a 17-0 win over No. 10 TCU above), the Hawkeyes averaged 14-point victories themselves. Iowa has quantity and quality in its favor there, as LSU just didn’t really face that many “great” teams during the year.
We have to penalize the Hawkeyes for the loss and the tie, but when those came against Top 10 teams—and LSU didn’t play any of those—the penalty is minimal. In the end, we see Iowa’s SOS as so dominant, it’s hard to deny them the mythical crown (not to mention their superior efforts against more ranked teams overall and the better bowl victory, by far).
One other factor that agrees with our decision is the SRS: The Hawkeyes would have been a FG-plus favorite over the Tigers on a neutral field, and in fact, LSU was third in SRS—behind Wisconsin, a team Iowa beat by double digits on the road.
In the end, we have no issues giving this school its second MNC in three seasons.
Congratulations to the 1958 Iowa Hawkeyes, the mythical national champion!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.