We are back with MNC Wednesday, and that means another look at college football. The decade of the 1970s was known for a lot of things, and one of the understated elements was the rise of this sport in the national consciousness, thanks to the some dominant schools and their cash-spending fan bases.

We’ve seen Notre Dame and Nebraska claim our titles the last two years, so which school will it be this time?

The 1972 MNC: Great schedules make for great teams and great debates

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

1. USC: 12-0-0 — W, Rose, 42-17
2. Oklahoma: 11-1-0 — W, Sugar, 14-0
3. Texas: 11-1-0 — W, Cotton, 17-13
4. Nebraska: 9-2-1 — W, Orange, 40-6
5. Auburn: 11-1-0 — W, Gator, 24-3
6. Michigan: 10-1-0 — NONE
7. Alabama: 10-2-0 — L, Cotton, 13-17
8. Tennessee: 10-2-0 — W, Bluebonnet, 24-17
9. Ohio State: 9-2-0 — L, Rose, 17-42
10. Penn State: 10-2-0 — L, Sugar, 0-14

The Trojans are obviously the frontrunners as the only perfect team from a major conference. What other teams can join them in the fray? The Sooners won the Big 8, so they’re in, while the Longhorns are out, because their one loss was to Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout.

Auburn and Alabama both finished the SEC schedule with one loss, and we know they played each other in the Iron Bowl, so … the Tigers get the nod for beating the Crimson Tide—even though Alabama got the much-better bowl bid. Just goes to show you it’s always been about the bullshit in this sport, doesn’t it? Oh, and the Wolverines blew their chance by losing to the Buckeyes and thus not winning the B1G title.

Any other schools to examine here? North Carolina posted an 11-1 record, but the one loss was to Ohio State—and that means the Tar Heels drop in the hierarchy below the Buckeyes. It’s a shame, though, that UNC was not ranked in the Top 10 after beating Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl.

So, these are the finalists and the SOS ratings, after we narrowed down the best of the contenders above:

  • USC: 12 Division I-A opponents, 9.08 SOS rating, 20th of 127
  • Oklahoma: 12 Division I-A opponents, 9.57 SOS rating, 14th
  • Auburn: 11 Division I-A opponents, 11.61 SOS rating, 4th

It is impressive that all three teams here finished with Top 20 schedules. In fact, both USC and Auburn played six ranked teams, which was at least half of the schedule! Oh, and Oklahoma played seven ranked teams. Unreal how good these schedules were—all in the same year, too.

The Tigers lose a little bit by only playing 11 games, as it’s possible to assume that Auburn’s SOS would drop a bit with an equalizing 12th game. That basically puts all these teams on the same level, and USC still comes out ahead with the undefeated record. The Sooners lost by 6 points on the road to then-No. 9 Colorado, while the Tigers lost by 28 on the road to then-No. 8 LSU. That’s an ugly loss, for sure.

The Trojans beat their six ranked opponents by more than 20 points per game each, which is impressive. It is also why USC was No. 1 in the SRS by about 3.5 points over the Sooners—who averaged a 15-point margin of victory over the six ranked opponents they beat. That loss to Colorado really hurt Oklahoma, though.

For the record, Auburn averaged 9-point wins over its ranked opponents that it beat, including Colorado in the Gator Bowl. That drops the Sooners down a peg, too. Losses can be problematic, right? Because in many other seasons we’ve looked at, these Auburn and Oklahoma squads would have been good enough to claim the title.

Just not this time around, thanks to USC’s dominance.

Congratulations to the 1972 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.