We have entered the era of rampant cheating on MNC Wednesday, and in many years to come, we will have to sort through the bullshit in order to offer the most honest assessment we can—with integrity and morality in check. After last year’s debacle, we have to sort through that kind of garbage again with a few teams that normally might have been considered for the mythical national championship. This is just the way it will be from now on, sadly.

Here we go again … *sigh*

The 1982 MNC: Sometimes, it really does just come down to luck and stuff, but don’t teams “make” some luck, too?

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

1. Penn State: 11-1-0 — W, Sugar, 27-23
2. SMU: 11-0-1 — W, Cotton, 7-3
3. Nebraska: 12-1-0 — W, Orange, 21-20
4. Georgia: 11-1-0 — L, Sugar, 23-27
5. UCLA: 10-1-1 — W, Rose, 24-14
6. Arizona State: 10-2-0 — W, Fiesta, 32-21
7. Washington: 10-2-0 — W, Aloha, 21-20
8. Clemson: 9-1-1 — NONE (probation)
9. Arkansas: 9-2-1 — W, Bluebonnet, 28-24
10. LSU: 8-3-1 — L, Orange, 20-21

So, the Nittany Lions are in, but we cannot accept the Mustangs, and here is why: They were on probation in 1981, and they would soon be on probation again. By 1987, the program was given the death knell by the NCAA. We don’t have the time to recap it all here, but Wikipedia has it all documented pretty well. So SMU is out, period.

The Cornhuskers are in, of course, and so are the Bruins—the champions of a clearly brutal Pac-10 conference slate that included the Sun Devils and the Huskies (not to mention USC, which finished No. 4 in the SRS). The Tigers are out, too, while the Razorbacks did not win the Southwest Conference, finishing third behind DQ’d SMU and de facto winner Texas.

Any other schools to consider? Three small colleges posted one-loss records, and we want to highlight them: Fresno State (11-1), Tulsa (10-1), and New Mexico (10-1). The Bulldogs won the California Bowl over Bowling Green, while the Golden Hurricanes and the Lobos did not even receive bowl invitations. Sad! Regardless, none of these three teams posted an SOS rating better than 84th in the country, so they’re just not up for discussion with the big(ger) boys this time.

Thus, right now, we have only 3 teams this season to explore in more depth to decide the MNC. These are the qualifying teams and their respective SOS ratings, after the initial weeding out of the weaklings and the above topical analysis of the contenders:

  • Penn State: 12 Division I-A opponents, 10.27 SOS rating, 3rd of 113
  • Nebraska: 13 Division I-A opponents, 4.48 SOS rating, 38th
  • UCLA: 12 Division I-A opponents, 8.38 SOS rating, 8th

So, after years of contending without strong schedules, the Nittany Lions finally put together the season to end all those frustrations. For the record, Penn State’s one loss was a road thrashing at then-No. 4 Alabama on October 9 that dropped the Nittany Lions five spots in the polls (from No. 3 to No. 8). From there, Penn State worked its way back up to No. 2 in time for the bowl-season matchup with then-No. 1 Georgia by beating then-No. 13 West Virginia, then-No. 13 Notre Dame, and then-No. 5 Pitt by an average of 14-plus points per win.

We should note that the Cornhuskers’ one loss was actually to Penn State, so there’s no chance for Nebraska here, even if we tossed out the SOS ratings. And UCLA clearly might have won this MNC in most scenarios, but the Bruins were unlucky in the sense that the Nittany Lions played an even tougher schedule than they did. As a result, Penn State wins its first MNC … finally. This is the first MNC we have affirmed since 1977, too. Sometimes, it’s nice to agree with the voters.

Congratulations to the 1982 Penn State Nittany Lions, the mythical national champion!

Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.