It’s time for the turbulent 1990s on MNC Wednesday as this was a decade that saw a lot of drama and resulting change in the sport. The first eight seasons of the decade produced three split mythical national championships, officially. That meant something had to change, and by 1998, it did change—but more on that later.

For now, let’s get to the 1990 season and its craziness to reveal our champ!

The 1990 MNC: A strong SOS and luck are all you need to win the title?

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

1. Colorado: 11-1-1 — W, Orange, 10-9
2. Georgia Tech: 11-0-1 — W, Citrus, 45-21
3. Miami-FL: 10-2-0 — W, Cotton, 46-3
4. Florida State: 10-2-0 — W, Blockbuster, 24-17
5. Washington: 10-2-0 — W, Rose, 46-34
6. Notre Dame: 9-3-0 — L, Orange, 9-10
7. Michigan: 9-3-0 — W, Gator, 35-3
8. Tennessee: 9-2-2 — W, Sugar, 23-22
9. Clemson: 10-2-0 — W, Hall of Fame, 30-0
10. Houston: 10-1-0 — NONE (probation)

One year after losing the Orange Bowl and their chances at the MNC, the Buffaloes returned and did the job right. We will advance them, as well as the Yellow Jackets—the only Division I-A team without a loss in 1990. Remember, this was a split title year with Georgia Tech winning the UPI title. We can toss the Hurricanes into the fray as well, as both their losses came on the road to ranked teams by single digits.

The Seminoles lost to Miami-FL, so we can’t consider them this time around the block. The Huskies finished No. 2 in the SRS, but they lost to Colorado in Boulder by 6 points. Those are the breaks, as we know: You have to be good and lucky here, like the Hurricanes with their loss to Notre Dame and the subsequent Irish loss to the Buffs.

Clemson did not win the ACC, as Georgia Tech did, so we cannot accept them as a contender. The Vols—our defending champs—have too many blemishes here, but they did win the SEC. We will keep them for now. Any other schools not on this list above? Louisville posted a 10-1-1 record, beating Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl, so we will keep them for now, but we expect the SOS rating to be very poor.

That leaves us with a whopping 5 teams this time around to analyze. Here are their respective SOS ratings, after sorting through all worthy teams above:

  • Colorado: 13 Division I-A opponents, 9.06 SOS rating, 2nd of 107
  • Georgia Tech: 11 Division I-A opponents, 4.28 SOS rating, 28th
  • Miami-FL: 12 Division I-A opponents, 7.90 SOS rating, 6th
  • Tennessee: 13 Division I-A opponents, 2.93 SOS rating, 40th
  • Louisville: 10 Division I-A opponents, -4.41 SOS rating, 84th

This got simple in a hurry, didn’t it? It’s really either the Hurricanes or the Buffaloes. Everyone else falls by the wayside with the SOS failures. Colorado erases its loss in a matchup against Georgia Tech, while Miami can overcome its two losses against the Yellow Jackets as well.

Before we get to the nitty gritty, it’s also interesting to look at the variance in number of quality opponents played and how that impacts the SOS. For us, it’s going to pay off to play the big boys, even if you pick up an extra loss. Again, sabermetrics matter.

Now, Colorado or Miami? The second loss here does hurt the Hurricanes, as does the 11th win Colorado has by playing the extra game. Miami would have to be ahead of the Buffaloes by five spots in the SOS ratings to convert one of their losses into a tie, anyway. The Hurricanes were the No. 1 team in the SRS overall, however, but in the end, it’s Colorado earning this MNC.

For the record, the Buffs tied Tennessee in the season opener before losing on the road to a ranked Illinois team by one point. That Illini team finished 8-4, so there’s no shame there. Miami’s losses came to BYU and Notre Dame. There is the issue of the Fifth Down Game, but Colorado beat five ranked teams overall to really earn their SOS rating: Texas, Washington, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and the Irish.

Yes, the officials screwed up the Buffs win over Missouri, but looking at the game action, it’s clear the Colorado team had no idea the officials were in error, or else they wouldn’t have spiked the ball on “fourth down” … we just have to let this go, and remember the old adage: Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Congratulations to the 1990 Colorado Buffaloes, the mythical national champion!

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