We have reached the midpoint of the turbulent 1960s on MNC Wednesday, and this was a year when the Associated Press decided to wait until after the bowl games to anoint its champion—an experiment it would soon abandon.
Either way, this was one of the most difficult choices we’ve had to make yet.
The 1965 MNC: When SRS overcomes SOS, which is not often
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results.
1. Alabama: 9-1-1 — W, Orange, 39-28
2. Michigan State: 10-1-0 — L, Rose, 12-14
3. Arkansas: 10-1-0 — L, Cotton, 7-14
4. UCLA: 8-2-1 — W, Rose, 14-12
5. Nebraska: 10-1-0 — L, Orange, 28-39
6. Missouri: 8-2-1 — W, Sugar, 20-18
7. Tennessee: 8-1-2 — W, Bluebonnet, 27-6
8. LSU: 8-3-0 — W, Cotton, 14-7
9. Notre Dame: 7-2-1 — NONE
10. USC: 7-2-1 — NONE
Look at this mess! Michigan State, Arkansas, and Nebraska were all undefeated going into their respective bowl games, and each of them lost their chances at the title with soul-crushing losses. Makes our job a lot easier … or does it?
Alabama won the SEC and its bowl game, so the Crimson Tide get moved forward to the final round of consideration here. Will they be alone? We suppose UCLA should get consideration, since the Bruins won their conference and the Rose Bowl.
Anyone else? Neither Missouri nor Tennessee won their conferences, so they are not eligible. Same for LSU. Yet if we consider UCLA with two losses and a tie, we probably can do the same for Notre Dame.
Dartmouth went 9-0 to win the Ivy League, but against the 113th-ranked schedule, that won’t hold water in any comparison. Like East Carolina posted a 9-1 record, but the Pirates played the easiest schedule in the nation. That can’t put them in the conversation.
So we only have three flawed teams to examine up close and personal, in this very strange season—and their respective strengths of schedule, based on the Simple Rating System:
- Alabama: 11 Division I-A opponents, 11.02 SOS rating, 12th of 120
- UCLA: 11 Division I-A opponents, 14.56 SOS rating, 1st
- Notre Dame: 10 Division I-A opponents, 10.37 SOS rating, 17th
The Fighting Irish are out, since both the Tide and the Bruins have better SOS ratings. For the record, Michigan State was No. 1 in the SRS, but we know the Spartans weren’t eligible here, thanks to their loss to UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
The Bruins actually played MSU twice: an opening-game loss on the road and the season-ending win in Pasadena. That’s one reason UCLA ended up playing the best schedule in the country: But is it enough to overcome Alabama’s one-game edge in overall record? Possibly.
The Bruins also had a “better” bowl win, since MSU was No. 1 in the polls going into the bowl game, but that is splitting hairs since Alabama also beat an undefeated, untied team in its bowl game.
Who else did UCLA lose to? And who did the Tide struggle against? The Bruins lost on the road to Tennessee in early December, while Alabama tied the Volunteers at home in the middle of October. So that’s a wash, and UCLA’s tie came against Missouri, also on the road.
The Bruins schedule was nasty: They played five Top 10 teams and posted a 2-2-1 record against them. The Tide played three ranked teams, going 2-0-1 in those games. None of UCLA’s blemishes are bad ones, and even the two losses came by a combined 13 points on the road.
SRS gives Alabama the edge by more than a field goal on a neutral field, and perhaps that should be our deciding factor. But we hate to “punish” UCLA for its top-ranked schedule, and usually the Tide’s schedule strength would be enough to carry them to the title in our analyses.
Each loss in a team’s slate can be overcome by a ten-spot edge in SOS, generally, so we literally have two teams we can’t decide between here. In the end, we choose to reward Alabama for the notably better SRS rating, but this is no slight against the Bruins: We would be fine with anyone disagreeing with us here.
Strangely, this is the first time we’ve awarded an MNC to Alabama, after taking the AP title away from the Crimson Tide previously in 1961 and 1964.
Congratulations to the 1965 Alabama Crimson Tide, the mythical national champion!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.