As we creep closer to the B(C)$ era in college football on MNC Wednesday, the current entry was a really interesting season as the top two teams in the polls—undefeated at the time—did not face each other, and then both those teams lost in their bowl games. It was certainly shake-up city in 1996, for sure.

So … how will it shake out below? Read on to find out!

The 1996 MNC: SOS always tells us the hard truths, doesn’t it?

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

1. Florida: 12-1-0 — W, Sugar, 52-20
2. Ohio State: 11-1-0 — W, Rose, 20-17
3. Florida State: 11-1-0 — L, Sugar, 20-52
4. Arizona State: 11-1-0 — L, Rose, 17-20
5. BYU: 14-1-0 — W, Cotton, 19-15
6. Nebraska: 11-2-0 — W, Orange, 41-21
7. Penn State: 11-2-0 — W, Fiesta, 38-15
8. Colorado: 10-2-0 — W, Holiday, 33-21
9. Tennessee: 10-2-0 — W, Citrus, 48-28
10. North Carolina: 10-2-0 — W, Gator, 20-13

The Gators had lost to the Seminoles in each team’s regular-season finale, but Florida got a random second chance in the Sugar Bowl and exacted some serious revenge. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes scored in the final moments of the Rose Bowl to sink the Sun Devils, giving us two legitimate teams at the top of the polls here. Ohio State also lost its season finale to Michigan, but the team clearly recovered.

The Cougars’ one loss was to Washington on the road, so BYU is also a legit contender. The Cornhuskers lost to ASU early in the season, and they would have been in the fray … but they lost the Big XII title game to Texas. The Nittany Lions lost to Ohio State, while the Buffaloes didn’t win the Big XII, either, obviously.

The Vols did not win the SEC, and the Tar Heels did not win the ACC. That’s about it for our teams under consideration here, and with a combination of different bowl results, this could have been a real mess instead of just a minor one.

That leaves us with three teams to examine more closely this year, and here are the respective SOS ratings for our finalists, after analyzing all the information above:

  • Florida: 12 Division I-A opponents, 5.30 SOS rating, 17th of 111
  • Ohio State: 12 Division I-A opponents, 6.95 SOS rating, 3rd
  • BYU: 15 Division I-A opponents, -3.02 SOS rating, 82nd

Well, well, well … The Gators benefitted from some interesting voting, probably based on the blowout of the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl, because clearly the Buckeyes played the tougher schedule. Florida also gained from the immediate rematch with a team it just lost to, and it’s hard for any team to beat the same team twice in row—no matter what the sport.

Perhaps if the Gators had scheduled a real opponent in Game 2 instead of Georgia Southern, they could have escaped here with a mythical national championship, but SOS does not lie—and neither do we. For the record, this is Ohio State’s seventh MNC from us, trailing only USC’s eight. John Cooper: You are redeemed, sir!

Congratulations to the 1996 Ohio State Buckeyes, the mythical national champion!

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