This is a turning points, of sorts, for our MNC Wednesday series as there sadly was a two-loss “champion” crowned in 1960, and from this moment on, bowl games took on more significance—and the pollsters started to realize that they couldn’t risk a mythical national champion losing after being crowned.

So … on with the show, folks!

The 1960 MNC: Why bowl games start to matter now

Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results.

1. Minnesota: 8-2-0 — L, Rose, 7-17
2. Mississippi: 10-0-1 — W, Sugar, 14-6
3. Iowa: 8-1-0 — NONE
4. Navy: 9-2-0 — L, Orange, 14-21
5. Missouri: 10-1-0 — W, Orange, 21-14
6. Washington: 10-1-0 — W, Rose, 17-7
7. Arkansas: 8-3-0 — L, Cotton, 6-7
8. Ohio State: 7-2-0 — NONE
9. Alabama: 8-1-2 — T, Bluebonnet, 3-3
10. Duke: 8-3-0 — W, Cotton, 7-6

So, the Golden Gophers won the Associated Press title and then crapped the bed in the Rose Bowl, leaving a bittersweet reckoning of which team was really the best.

It wasn’t Minnesota, with its two losses, that’s for sure. Iowa actually finished No. 1 in the Simple Rating System, but the Hawkeyes lost to the Golden Gophers. That takes the Big Ten out of it all, much to the relief of the rest of the nation.

Ole Miss is an obvious candidate here, with its SEC title and Sugar Bowl victory over an unranked Rice team. More on that later. Mizzou won the Big 8 and the Orange Bowl, which an impressive upset win over Navy. And Washington’s Rose Bowl triumph over Minnesota gives us at least three quality teams here to consider.

Anyone else? We do want to give a shout out to New Mexico State, which posted an 11-0 record and a Sun Bowl victory, but the SOS was so poor (92nd out of 113), it is hard to take them seriously for this discussion.

So, that’s it, really. We have three teams to examine up close now—and their indicators for strength of schedule, based on the Simple Rating System:

  • Washington: 11 Division I-A opponents, 1.46 SOS rating, 53rd of 113
  • Missouri: 11 Division I-A opponents, 6.15 SOS rating, 34th
  • Mississippi: 10 Division I-A opponents, 6.10 SOS rating, 36th

On the surface, the Tigers seem to have the edge, due to superior SOS and number of real opponents. But Missouri lost by 16 points at home on November 19 in its regular-season finale (to 7-2-1 Kansas) to drop from No. 1 in the AP poll.

Clearly, the Tigers caved under the pressure, knowing if they’d won that game, the AP title was theirs. Thus, the bowl win brought serious motivation for Mizzou against Navy. For the record, KU was forced to forfeit the win over the Tigers for using ineligible players soon after the game.

What does that all mean? Nothing, really. Washington’s one loss was to Navy, by one point, meaning that Missouri has a doubly better case than the Huskies, since it has a higher SOS and a victory over the team that beat Washington.

And what of Ole Miss? It tied 5-4-1 LSU at home, which isn’t great, and the Rebels also padded their schedule with a non-major opponent. We also wonder where Mississippi’s SOS came from as it played just two ranked teams all year (Arkansas, Tennessee).

Meanwhile, Mizzou played three ranked teams, had the better SOS overall against more legit teams, and posted the better bowl victory. The Tigers’ loss isn’t great, but it’s better than the Rebels’ tie—especially since the Jayhawks had to forfeit the win as their star player was ineligible. That gives us no hesitation here to rewarding Missouri with the MNC.

Congratulations to the 1960 Missouri Tigers, the mythical national champion!

Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.