As we move more solidly into the 1960s, we are going to see the emergence of two schools on MNC Wednesdays associated with college football for all time: Alabama and USC. American sports fans like symbols, and these two programs fit the bill.

But will they matter during this specific season? Hmmm …

The 1961 MNC: When does SOS not decide everything?

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

1. Alabama: 11-0-0 — W, Sugar, 10-3
2. Ohio State: 8-0-1 — NONE
3. Texas: 10-1-0 — W, Cotton, 12-7
4. LSU: 10-1-0 — W, Orange, 25-7
5. Mississippi: 10-2-0 — L, Cotton, 7-12
6. Minnesota: 8-2-0 — W, Rose, 21-3
7. Colorado: 9-2-0 — L, Orange, 7-25
8. Michigan State: 7-2-0 — NONE
9. Arkansas: 8-3-0 — L, Sugar, 3-10
10. Utah State: 9-1-1 — NONE

We have interesting stuff going on here. The Crimson Tide advance to our final discussion on the basis of a perfect record and a bowl win. But Ohio State turned down its invitation to the Rose Bowl, which is another story all together. However, the Buckeyes still get full consideration as the B1G champions.

The Longhorns enter the fray as well, based on their Southwest Conference title and bowl win. What about LSU? The Tigers went undefeated in the SEC, too, just like Alabama, and they won a bowl game. But LSU lost to Rice by 13 points, and the Owls lost to Texas by 27 points—so these Tigers really blew that chance. They’re out.

Any other teams to consider? We’d like to point out that Rutgers went 9-0 against the worst schedule in college football (out of 111 teams). No other teams really merit consideration, based on similar flaws.

So then, we have three teams to examine up close now—and their indicators for strength of schedule, based on the Simple Rating System:

  • Alabama: 11 Division I-A opponents, 5.30 SOS rating, 36th of 111
  • Ohio State: 9 Division I-A opponents, 6.75 SOS rating, 27th
  • Texas: 11 Division I-A opponents, 5.97 SOS rating, 34th

The Crimson Tide SOS is based on opponents’ opponents, because Alabama played one ranked team all year: Arkansas in the bowl game, and the Crimson Tide did not impress in that game, clearly.

Interestingly, TCU beat Texas and tied Ohio State, which is odd. Regardless, the Buckeyes also played just one ranked team all year: Iowa, which they beat by 16 points. It’s also strange that Alabama avoided Ole Miss and LSU on its schedule, while Ohio State sidestepped Michigan State and Minnesota as well.

What about the Longhorns? They only lost to TCU by six points, and they beat two ranked teams—including Ole Miss in the bowl game. Texas played a better schedule than Alabama, barely, on paper.

So, is the Texas schedule edge enough to overcome its loss in a head-to-head comparison with Alabama? Not really. SRS gives the Longhorns a 1.3-point edge over the Crimson Tide on a neutral field, but that is negligible, really. Plus, Texas lost to a team that Ohio State tied, dropping them further out.

So it comes down to Ohio State’s SOS and Alabama’s undefeated record for the mythical championship. The Buckeyes’ schedule superiority is enough to overcome its tie, and again, we cannot fault the players here for missing out on a bowl game.

We’re going to do some unreliable, transitive-score analysis here, too: Minnesota won the Rose Bowl, handily, yet the Golden Gophers lost to Wisconsin at home by 2 points—and Ohio State beat the Badgers by 9 points on the road.

We are going to assume, therefore, that the Buckeyes would have won the Rose Bowl if the university faculty had allowed them to go—which also would have improved their SOS, playing a ranked UCLA team in Pasadena.

This was beyond the players’s control. They did all they could, against the best schedule of the finalists, and that has to be good enough for us here.

Congratulations to the 1961 Ohio State Buckeyes, the mythical national champion!

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