This is perhaps one of the most controversial MNC Wednesday seasons ever, as two major-college squads posted perfect records—and split the mythical national championship, with one team claiming the Associated Press vote and another claiming the United Press International vote. We honestly had no idea how this was going to play out when we started this week’s data crunch …

So, “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.

The 1991 MNC: Data wins out, not emotion and self-created voting hype

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

1. Miami-FL: 12-0-0 — W, Orange, 22-0
2. Washington: 12-0-0 — W, Rose, 34-14
3. Penn State: 11-2-0 — W, Fiesta, 42-17
4. Florida State: 11-2-0 — W, Cotton, 10-2
5. Alabama: 11-1-0 — W, Blockbuster, 30-25
6. Michigan: 10-2-0 — L, Rose, 14-34
7. Florida: 10-2-0 — L, Sugar, 28-39
8. California: 10-2-0 — W, Citrus, 37-13
9. East Carolina: 11-1-0 — W, Peach, 37-34
10. Iowa: 10-1-1 — T, Holiday, 13-13

Okay, the Hurricanes get advanced, obviously, as do the Huskies—who claimed the UPI title referenced above. The Nittany Lions lost by 6 points on the road to Miami, so they get eliminated here. And the Seminoles lost by a point at home to the Hurricanes—the infamous Wide Right I game—so that’s that for FSU.

The Crimson Tide did not win the SEC, by virtue of its loss on the road to the Gators, who lost their bowl game and the resulting chance at the MNC. See how the dominoes fall by the wayside here? The Wolverines lost their shot with yet another Rose Bowl loss, while the Golden Bears did not win the Pac-10 Conference.

The Pirates lost by a touchdown on the road to Illinois to open the season, and then they ran the table, so they will get some topical consideration below, but we do not expect the SOS to be good enough to matter. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes obviously did not win the B1G. Are we missing any other teams?

Bowling Green State posted an 11-1 record with its only loss coming against West Virginia on the road, but the MAC champs don’t have the SOS to matter here. That leaves us with 3 teams this year to analyze. Here are their respective SOS ratings, after sifting through all the teams above:

  • Washington: 12 Division I-A opponents, 5.97 SOS rating, 8th of 107
  • Miami-FL: 12 Division I-A opponents, 4.17 SOS rating, 26th
  • East Carolina: 11 Division I-A opponents, -1.55 SOS rating, 71st

So, the Pirates fared better than we thought they would, but we also knew they wouldn’t be in this hunt. So be it. And we can see the AP voters were swayed by the Hurricanes’ big win over then-No. 1 Florida State while also dropping the Huskies a spot in the poll for a mere 11-point road win over USC in early November. It’s like the AP voters wanted to create a No. 1-versus-No. 2 matchup for the hype.

Imagine that. Straight up? Washington was ranked ahead of Miami until the week before the FSU-Miami showdown, where the voters flipped the two teams in order to create “Game of the Century” hyperbole for that singular TV moment. And that is what ended up costing the Huskies a consensus MNC.

The Hurricanes actually beat four ranked teams during the season, while Washington beat just three. However, the overall quality of the schedule favors the Huskies—as does the SRS, which put UW atop its system by 2.5 points or so on a neutral field.

This was one of the seasons that directly led to the creation of the Bowl Championship Series, so it served a purpose, but we now know with certainty that Washington was the best team in the country this year. Miami got the big-name wins over Penn State, Florida State, and Nebraska, but the rest of the schedule was mediocre.

The Huskies beat Nebraska, Cal, and Michigan, along with a lot of other teams that were generally better than the teams the Hurricanes defeated. For the record, of the four Miami AP titles in a nine-year span from 1983 to 1991, we only confirmed one of them (1987). Too many voters were swayed, obviously, by emotion and hype—not facts.

Congratulations to the 1991 Washington Huskies, the mythical national champion!

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