One of the more controversial seasons in college football history has arrived on MNC Wednesday, in a season—that as much as any to follow—gave birth to Bowl Championship Series and the current College Football Playoff. A school outside the Power 5 conferences claimed the Associated Press mythical championship, and there was whining from coast to coast about it. Good thing now, though, is that we can use modern sabermetrics to determine the real MNC for 1984.
No more delays! Here we go …
The 1984 MNC: How bad can the SOS be in order to still claim a natty?
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results:
1. BYU: 13-0-0 — W, Holiday, 24-17
2. Washington: 11-1-0 — W, Orange, 28-17
3. Florida: 9-1-1 — NONE (probation)
4. Nebraska: 10-2-0 — W, Sugar, 28-10
5. Boston College: 10-2-0 — W, Cotton, 45-28
6. Oklahoma: 9-2-1 — L, Orange, 17-28
7. Oklahoma State: 10-2-0 — W, Gator, 21-14
8. SMU: 10-2-0 — W, Aloha, 27-20
9. UCLA: 9-3-0 — W, Fiesta, 39-37
10. USC: 9-3-0 — W, Rose, 20-17
Okay, as the only undefeated team in the nation, the Cougars advance to the next round of consideration. The Huskies, however, did not win the Pac-10, which is a nice stroke of luck for BYU. Washington’s one loss was to USC, so the Trojans claimed the conference crown and went on to win the Rose Bowl. This has always been a criterium here: Win your conference if you’re in one.
Florida and SMU have cheating issues, so those two schools do not get considered at all. The Cornhuskers lost the head-to-head matchup against the Sooners, which also means BYU lucked out here again with Oklahoma losing the Orange Bowl to Washington. Can you believe this?! The Cowboys obviously didn’t win the Big 8, either, so they fall by the wayside. It’s like the cosmic tumblers all clicked into place here.
What about the Eagles? As an independent, they can advanced, although their SOS is going to have be at least 20 spots higher than BYU’s in order to overcome the two losses (both on the road by a combined 8 points). This B.C. team was quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, who got his team to the Cotton Bowl on the strength of this famous play.
Two other teams from major conference finished with two losses: South Carolina (10-2) started the season 9-0, but the Gamecocks lost the Gator Bowl to eliminate themselves from the hunt, and Virginia finished 8-2-2 while winning the Peach Bowl—but the Cavaliers did not win the ACC, so they don’t make the cut. Finally, UNLV (11-2) won the Pacific Coast Athletic Association title and the California Bowl, too. One of the Runnin’ Rebels’ losses was to SMU, so we could consider them a one-loss team.
Now that we are finished separating the men from the boys, which is generous here, we have 3 teams left on the table in front of us to choose a mythical champ. This is clearly a perfect storm brewing for the Cougars, however. But it is what it is … These are the qualifying teams and their respective SOS ratings, after the surface sifting of the teams under consideration:
- BYU: 13 Division I-A opponents, -1.63 SOS rating, 82nd of 110
- Boston College: 10 Division I-A opponents, 3.37 SOS rating, 34th
- UNLV: 12 Division I-A opponents, -5.65 SOS rating, 90th
And this is where the cosmic tumblers click one more time and actually shut the door on the Cougars. That is a terrible schedule, with one win against a “ranked” team (then-No. 3 Pittsburgh on the road to open the season, and the Panthers finished 3-7-1, anyway). The powers that be shut BYU out of the major bowls, too, sending a mediocre 6-5 Michigan team to San Diego—with its starting quarterback Jim Harbaugh out injured—although a lot of schools, including B.C., turned down the chance to play in the Holiday Bowl due to its low financial payout to competing teams.
Either way, we just cannot have a mythical champ with a negative SOS rating, so the Eagles win this MNC by default, really. Boston College beat Southwest Conference champion Houston in the Cotton Bowl, and those Cougars finished 7-5. That wasn’t the Eagles’ fault, as the Washington Huskies were deemed a more-desirable choice for the Orange Bowl—especially since Flutie’s Hail Mary play had occurred on that same field against the Miami-FL Hurricanes, the defending AP champions.
All in all, it was a very strange year, and that means it gets an unexpected champion, for sure. Boston College played a good-enough schedule, which included road wins over ranked teams Alabama and Miami-FL, and the Eagles suffered a one-point loss on the road to ranked West Virginia, too, with the other loss coming at Penn State. It’s a respectable season, and with the way all the other cookies crumbled, it is good enough to “win” our analysis here.
Congratulations to the 1984 Boston College Eagles, the mythical national champion!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.