On the 30th edition of MNC Wednesday, we have a doozy for ya: a complete mess which ended up changing the structure of college football for the foreseeable future, in terms of polling nightmares. Things would never be the same after this season.
Read on to see how we sorted through this mess, where three schools still claim a legit MNC for the year, issued by accredited bodies: the Associated Press (Alabama), the Football Writers Association of America (Arkansas), the National Football Foundation (Notre Dame), and the United Press International (Alabama).
Which team will we pick?
The 1964 MNC: Same as it ever was!
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results.
1. Alabama: 10-1-0 — L, Orange Bowl, 17-21
2. Arkansas: 11-0-0 — W, Cotton, 10-7
3. Notre Dame: 9-1-0 — NONE
4. Michigan: 9-1-0 — W, Rose, 34-7
5. Texas: 10-1-0 — W, Orange, 21-17
6. Nebraska: 9-2-0 — L, Cotton, 7-10
7. LSU: 8-2-1 — W, Sugar, 13-10
8. Oregon State: 8-3-0 — L, Rose, 7-34
9. Ohio State: 7-2-0 — NONE
10. USC: 7-3-0 — NONE
Here is the mess we promised. Alabama is out, since they lost the Orange Bowl. The AP title remains in Crimson Tide hands to this day, but the real MNC will not. Those are the breaks.
The Razorbacks look strong with the perfect record and the Cotton Bowl win, to go with their Southwest Conference title. They beat Texas by one point on the road during the regular season, so that knocks out the Longhorns, obviously.
The Fighting Irish were No. 1 throughout November before a final-game loss at USC by three points; with the Trojans finishing in the AP Top 10, that’s obviously not a bad loss at all.
The Wolverines won the B1G and the Rose Bowl, with a one-point loss against Purdue keeping Michigan from greater glories. This team is definitely in the fray, of course.
Any other pretenders out there? Princeton posted a 9-0 record against the 95th-ranked schedule in the nation, demonstrating how irrelevant the Ivy League had become by the 1960s. Congrats to the Tigers on their perfect season, but they can’t rate with the competition.
Also, Florida State posted a 9-1-1 record to be nationally relevant, thanks to wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff. You may have heard of him. However, the road loss to unranked Virginia Tech and the road tie to unranked Houston somewhat diminish the Seminoles’ qualifications. The Cougars finished 2-6-1, making that a bad tie—and somewhat disqualifying.
So now that we’ve done that sifting through the chafe, we have three seriously legit teams to examine up close and personal—and their respective strengths of schedule, based on the Simple Rating System:
- Arkansas: 11 Division I-A opponents, 5.51 SOS rating, 44th of 120
- Notre Dame: 10 Division I-A opponents, 8.82 SOS rating, 16th
- Michigan: 11 Division I-A opponents, 11.04 SOS rating, 9th
Whoa, Nellie! Clearly, the Razorbacks’ SOS hurts them and pretty much knocks them out of the conversation despite the perfect record. That schedule is only above average, while the other two squads played great slates. Furthermore, Arkansas’ two wins over ranked teams came by a combined four points. This was not a dominant or a great team.
The Razorbacks also finished a mere 4th in the SRS overall, trailing both Notre Dame (#1) and Michigan (#2) by a lot. So, how do we choose between the Irish and the Wolverines?
The Wolverines do get a boost for their SOS and their bowl win, which the Irish do not have. However, Notre Dame had the much better loss, dropping a road game to a ranked team while Michigan lost at home to an unranked team. That all but equalizes the Wolverines’ advantages.
The Irish finished 3rd in scoring offense and 8th in scoring defense, but they didn’t beat a ranked team all season. The Wolverines ended up 10th in scoring offense and 15th in scoring defense, while beating four ranked teams by a combined 82-17 margin.
In the end, the SOS for Michigan has to be factored in to everything, so that’s where our decision resides. Add another log to the 1964 MNC dumpster fire, as a result, giving Ann Arbor a legitimate claim to the title—the school’s first MNC since the late 1940s.
Congratulations to the 1964 Michigan Wolverines, the mythical national champion!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.