MNC Wednesday has reached the last season of the 1960s, and with it, we have a lot fun ahead for you today. So far, we have overturned 19 mythical national championships in 33 seasons, which is astounding when you think about some schools and the legacies they claim.
This year’s analysis is a doozy, so hold on to your hats …
The 1969 MNC: Complications left and right—and up the middle, too
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results.
1. Texas: 11-0-0 — W, Cotton, 21-17
2. Penn State: 11-0-0 — W, Orange, 10-3
3. USC: 10-0-1 — W, Rose, 10-3
4. Ohio State: 8-1-0 — NONE
5. Notre Dame: 8-2-1 — L, Cotton, 17-21
6. Missouri: 9-2-0 — L, Orange, 3-10
7. Arkansas: 9-2-0 — L, Sugar, 22-27
8. Mississippi: 8-3-0 — W, Sugar, 27-22
9. Michigan: 8-3-0 — L, Rose, 3-10
10. LSU: 9-1-0 — NONE
Texas, Penn State, and USC all advance, obviously, based on each team having no losses, winning a conference title, and owning a bowl win. Ohio State did not win the B1G, by virtue of its loss to Michigan.
As for LSU, it won the SEC but was snubbed for bowl games due to a combination of random machinations involving Notre Dame accepting a bowl bid for the first time in forever (see below).
So, those are four heavies heading on to our final analysis below. Are there any other schools worthy of consideration? Florida posted a 9-1-1 record, without playing LSU, and uneven SEC scheduling left the Gators in the Gator Bowl—the jokes write themselves—against Tennessee, where they won, 14-13. Perhaps we should consider Florida? For now, yes.
A few small schools had great seasons: San Diego State posted an 11-0 mark, including a Pasadena Bowl victory, but the Aztecs’ SOS was ranked 96th out of 122 teams. Trivia: Don Coryell was the team’s head coach! Toledo also went 11-0 with a Tangerine Bowl victory, but the Rockets’ SOS was only slight better than San Diego State’s mark (92nd).
Additionally, West Virginia won the Peach Bowl over South Carolina to finish the season 10-1, but the SOS isn’t there either (ranked 82nd). Plus, the Mountaineers lost to Penn State, 20-0, so that would knock them out, either way.
At the end of this screening process, we have five teams to look at more closely—and their respective strengths of schedule, based on the Simple Rating System:
- Florida: 11 Division I-A opponents, 7.29 SOS rating, 32nd of 122
- LSU: 10 Division I-A opponents, 3.58 SOS rating, 51st of 122
- Penn State: 11 Division I-A opponents, 3.29 SOS rating, 54th of 122
- USC: 11 Division I-A opponents, 10.38 SOS rating, 8th of 122
- Texas: 11 Division I-A opponents, 4.32 SOS rating, 48th of 122
On the surface, this seems easy enough … the Trojans’ SOS is vastly superior to any other contender’s mark. We do have some conflicts to evaluate, however, so hold on.
First, Florida’s loss came to Auburn on the road by 26 points, and LSU beat Auburn at home by one point. The Gators have a better SOS than the Tigers do, but that scenario basically ends up axing Florida. And LSU’s SOS is going eliminate the Tigers in comparison to Texas, anyway. Also, the Gators’ SOS edge on Texas won’t erase a tie and that loss.
Second, Penn State’s schedule was the weakest of the bunch, so the Nittany Lions also get curbed here. That leaves us with Texas and USC, and on the surface, again, it seems like the Trojans have a huge advantage in SOS—definitely more than enough to overcome the tie on the schedule.
Yet … USC tied Notre Dame on the road, while Texas beat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl by four points. The Trojans’ SOS edge is so significant, however, that we have to look at this very closely. LSU is the team that the Longhorns should have played in the Cotton Bowl, and when the Cotton Bowl snubbed the Tigers, it created that snafu we mentioned above.
The Sugar Bowl then felt slighted by LSU, and as a result, the Tigers didn’t get a bowl game bid despite winning the SEC. This was also Notre Dame’s first bowl game since the 1924 Rose Bowl. These were strange circumstances, because in normal years, this dynamic wouldn’t be an issue.
We have two thoughts here, which may or may not be consistent with decisions made in the past—but again, these are unique situations. First, if the Trojans had lost to Notre Dame, that would be different than the tie on the road. Second, USC’s SOS is so overwhelmingly better than the Longhorns’ mark, this is all irrelevant.
In the end, we have to reward the Trojans’ strength of schedule factor as we always have done here, and a tie against a Top 5 team on the road is not enough to undo a 40-spot edge in SOS, no matter the unique circumstances.
Congratulations to the 1969 USC Trojans, the mythical national champion!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.