One of the more memorable finishes to a season is today’s focus on MNC Wednesday, as many readers will remember the fateful decision by one legendary coach to go for a win—instead of settling for a tie that probably would have clinched the mythical national championship. This is why we love the sport, with all its flaws: the drama in the theater that can’t be replicated, even if it is often misplaced and misguided.
With that being said, let’s get to it!
The 1983 MNC: We believe strongly in SOS, and by extension, the SRS—and that has never changed …
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results:
1. Miami-FL: 11-1-0 — W, Orange, 31-30
2. Nebraska: 12-1-0 — L, Orange, 30-31
3. Auburn: 11-1-0 — W, Sugar, 9-7
4. Georgia: 10-1-1 — W, Cotton, 10-9
5. Texas: 11-1-0 — L, Cotton, 9-10
6. Florida: 9-2-1 — W, Gator, 14-6
7. BYU: 11-1-0 — W, Holiday, 21-17
8. Michigan: 9-3-0 — L, Sugar, 7-9
9. Ohio State: 9-3-0 — W, Fiesta, 28-23
10. Illinois: 10-2-0 — L, Rose, 9-45
The Hurricanes vaulted to the top of the poll after their shocking win over the Cornhuskers, and the SEC champ—the Tigers from Auburn—gets to advance as well after winning its bowl game, too. The Longhorns could have won the AP title, but losing to the SEC also-ran Bulldogs crushed those dreams. What a mess we avoided, thanks to Miami-FL and Georgia!
We can consider the Cougars, with an eye on next year, to be fair and honest. But are there any other teams we should look at not on this list above? Clemson went 9-1-1 to win the ACC, but due to previously discussed issues, those Tigers don’t get any love from us right now. Virginia Tech, an independent school, posted a 9-2 record, but the Hokies did not get a bowl invite due to their weak SOS (ranked 78th out of 112 big-time schools).
The only other school we want to give a nod to is Southern Illinois and its 13-1 record built upon the worst schedule in Division I-A football. Only a road loss at Wichita State kept the Salukis from a perfect season in 1983. Even if you’re playing dogs, it still is impressive to beat almost all of them.
So, after that preliminary sifting through the pretenders, we have 3 teams left 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 topical analysis of the teams under consideration:
- BYU: 12 Division I-A opponents, -0.58 SOS rating, 68th of 112
- Miami-FL: 12 Division I-A opponents, 6.68 SOS rating, 15th
- Auburn: 12 Division I-A opponents, 12.18 SOS rating, 1st
First thing first: The Cougars lost to Baylor on the road by four points to start the season and then rattled off 11 straight victories. Their quarterback was some guy named Steve Young, descended directly from Brigham himself, evidently. Imagine if BYU had won that game at Baylor to run the table. Then this could have been a crazy year for AP voters (but not for us, as the SOS reflects).
Next, we assume the voters were caught up in the emotions of the moment when they decided to elevate the Hurricanes from No. 5 to No. 1 at the end, completely leapfrogging the No. 3 Tigers in the process. Miami-FL lost its first game of the year by 25 points to Florida, a team that lost to Auburn during the regular season. Even topically, it did not make sense to give the Hurricanes that kind of elevation. So, it definitely was emotions that handed this AP title to Miami-FL.
In reality, we see that Auburn not only played the No. 1 schedule in the country, but the Tigers also topped the SRS—and would have been more than a field-goal favorite over the Hurricanes on a neutral field. As is our practice, we do not deny the superior SOS, ever. The Tigers did catch a break, as their one loss was to Texas on the road early in the season, so when the Longhorns went down, you have to think that Auburn was very confident about winning the AP title.
The Tigers—and their sophomore star running back Bo Jackson—were robbed by the theatrics in the Orange Bowl, for sure. Again, this is why we are here: to right the wrongs of the past. We stripped the Tigers of their 1957 AP title, but we do give them this one. What comes around goes around, after all.
Congratulations to the 1983 Auburn Tigers, the mythical national champion!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.