This week for MNC Wednesday, we move closer to the end of the prominent 1970s. So far this decade, we have seen nothing but the top programs win our MNC analyses: USC (three), Notre Dame (two), Nebraska, Ohio State, and Oklahoma. Yet only three of these title teams were anointed by the Associated Press poll at the time. So, if it’s not one big school, it’s going to be another, right? Yes, that is usually the issue, strangely.

But hey, let’s get the right school at the top every time, at least—and here we go again …

The 1978 MNC: H2H results always matter, big time

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

1. Alabama: 11-1-0 — W, Sugar, 14-7
2. USC: 12-1-0 — W, Rose, 17-10
3. Oklahoma: 11-1-0 — W, Orange, 31-24
4. Penn State: 11-1-0 — L, Sugar, 7-14
5. Michigan: 10-2-0 — L, Rose, 10-17
6. Clemson: 11-1-0 — W, Gator, 17-15
7. Notre Dame: 9-3-0 — W, Cotton, 35-34
8. Nebraska: 9-3-0 — L, Orange, 24-31
9. Texas: 9-3-0 — W, Sun, 42-0
10. Houston: 9-3-0 — L, Cotton, 34-35

Well, the top three teams above won their respective conferences and bowl games. We can toss Clemson into the fray as well, as the champs of the ACC. That’s an easy Final Four right there. Ball State is the one small school to get consideration with its 10-1 mark, but the Cardinals’ SOS was the fourth-worst mark in the nation. This leaves us with just the big four noted above.

Or does it?

The Crimson Tide’s one loss came to USC, which is mystifying why the AP voters would have ignored that reality when putting Alabama No. 1 in the poll. The loss came on September 23, and it dropped the Tide from No. 1 at the time to No. 7 the next week. Alabama worked itself back to No. 2 by bowl season, still ahead of the Trojans. This is one of the more brutal dismissals of the H2H factor in voting history, in truth.

Either way, we count that fully, so we only have 3 finalists now. Here we go: These are the best teams and their respective SOS ratings, after our topical analysis and paring down of the contenders:

  • USC: 13 Division I-A opponents, 13.20 SOS rating, 2nd of 138
  • Oklahoma: 12 Division I-A opponents, 8.32 SOS rating, 22nd
  • Clemson: 12 Division I-A opponents, 2.52 SOS rating, 65th

For the record, Alabama played the 4th-hardest schedule in the country, in the process of losing to USC. The Tide did finish first in the SRS by less than half a point over the Trojans. But let’s not let this take away from one of the more impressive seasons in college football history: USC lost to 9-3 Arizona State on the road in conference play, so its one loss was not shameful in any way.

In the end, the H2H factor always matters: The Trojans would have won this analysis regardless, however, over Alabama, based on the slimmest of SOS margins. The Sooners and the Tigers had great seasons, too—especially Oklahoma, which might have won this mythical title in almost any other season—but it’s clear that USC easily wins this discussion.

For the record, this is the seventh title we’ve given to the Trojans, breaking their tie with Ohio State, while it’s also the second AP crown we have taken away from the Crimson Tide. Facts are facts.

Congratulations to the 1978 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.