|1977 NCAA Division I football season|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Oklahoma|
|Regular season||September 2 – November 26, 1977|
|Number of bowls||13|
|Bowl games||December 17, 1977 – January 2, 1978|
|Champion(s)||Notre Dame (AP, Coaches, FWAA, NFF)|
|Heisman||Earl Campbell (running back, Texas)|
The 1977 NCAA Division I football season was one in which the top five teams finished with 11–1 records. Notre Dame, which beat top-ranked and undefeated Texas in the Cotton Bowl, became the national champion.
The 1977 season was the last before NCAA's Division I was divided into I-A and I-AA. On the eve of a national playoff for the smaller programs that would be I-AA, the Sugar Bowl in 1977 became the fourth bowl game to sign a contract guaranteeing an appearance by a major conference champion. The result was that meetings between the media poll choices for the top two teams were less likely, unless those teams were in the Big Ten and Pac-8 (which met in the Rose Bowl), or one of the teams was not obligated to play in a particular bowl game.
Besides the Big Ten-Pac-8 matchup in the Rose Bowl, the Southwest champion played in the Cotton, the Big Eight titlist in the Orange, and the SEC champ in the Sugar. Top teams that had their choice of which bowl to play were either independent or in a conference outside the five major powers (such as the ACC or WAC).
During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for major college football teams, which became Division I-A in 1978. The NCAA Football Guide, however, did note an "unofficial national champion" based on the top ranked teams in the final "wire service" (AP and UPI) polls. The "writers' poll" by Associated Press (AP) was the most popular, followed by the "coaches' poll" by United Press International) (UPI). The AP poll consisted of the votes of as many as 64 writers, though not all voted in each poll, and the UPI poll was taken of a 42-member board of coaches.
|School||1976 Conference||1977 Conference|
|Chattanooga Mocs||D-I Independent||SoCon|
|East Carolina Pirates||SoCon||D-I Independent|
|Indiana State Sycamores||D-I Independent||Missouri Valley|
|Marshall Thundering Herd||D-I Independent||SoCon|
|Southern Illinois Salukis||D-I Independent||Missouri Valley|
|Western Carolina Catamounts||D-I Independent||SoCon|
|William & Mary Indians||SoCon||D-I Independent|
In the preseason poll released on September 5, the AP ranked Oklahoma first, followed by Michigan, Notre Dame, USC, and Ohio State. Sixth was Alabama, and defending champion Pittsburgh (minus Tony Dorsett and Johnny Majors) was ranked seventh.
September 10 No. 1 Oklahoma opened its season at home against Vanderbilt, 2–9 the year before. Though the Sooners avoided an upset, their narrow 25–23 win didn't impress the pollsters, and OU dropped to fifth. No. 2 Michigan won 37–9 at Illinois, and No. 3 Notre Dame won 19–9 at Pittsburgh. No. 4 USC won 27–10 at Missouri, and No. 5 Ohio State beat visiting Miami (FL) 10–0. No. 6 Alabama beat Mississippi 34–13 at Birmingham. Although the top six teams all won their openers, The next poll shuffled the rankings (2-4-3-6-1-5): 1.Michigan 2.USC 3.Notre Dame 4.Alabama 5.Oklahoma 6. Ohio State.
September 17 No. 1 Michigan beat Duke 21–9 and No. 2 USC won at Oregon State, 17–10. A week after losing to Alabama, Mississippi stunned the nation with a 20–13 defeat of No. 3 Notre Dame on a humid 100 °F (38 °C) day in Jackson. The Irish dropped to eleventh, and as low as fourteenth the week after. No. 11 Maryland fell 24–16 to unranked West Virginia at home in College Park. No. 4 Alabama lost 31–24 at No. 14 Nebraska. No. 5 Oklahoma crushed visiting Utah, 62–24. No. 6 Ohio State and No. 10 Penn State which beat Minnesota 38–7 and Houston 31–14, respectively, reached the top five: 1.Michigan 2.USC 3.Oklahoma 4.Ohio State 5.Penn State
September 24 No. 1 Michigan beat Navy, 14–7. No. 2 USC beat visiting TCU 51–0. No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Ohio State met in Columbus in the season's first big matchup. In a close game, the visiting Sooners won 29–28 after a touchdown, an onside kick recovery, and a last second field goal by Uwe von Schamann, and reclaimed first place in the next poll. No. 5 Penn State beat Maryland, 27–9. No. 6 Texas A&M, which won 33–17 at No. 7 Texas Tech, reached the top five: 1.Oklahoma 2.USC 3.Michigan 4.Penn State 5.Texas A&M
October 1 No. 1 Oklahoma beat Kansas 24–9 and No. 2 USC was idle, but the Trojans were voted No. 1 anyway in a split vote (23 vs. 19 for OU and 16 for UM). No. 3 Michigan beat No. 5 Texas A&M 41–3. No. 4 Penn State lost 24–20 to visiting Kentucky, and No. 6 Ohio State won 35–7 at SMU. No. 8 Texas defeated visiting Rice 72–15. With USC having a plurality of votes (23 vs. 19 for OU and 16 for UM), the poll was: 1.USC 2.Oklahoma 3.Michigan 4.Ohio State 5.Texas
October 8 In Los Angeles, No. 1 USC was beaten 21–20 by No. 7 Alabama; on a two-point conversion try by USC in the final minute, the Tide intercepted to seal the upset. Earlier in Dallas, No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 5 Texas met in their annual game, and Texas won 13–6. In Big Ten play, No. 3 Michigan won 24–14 at Michigan State and No. 4 Ohio State beat Purdue 46–0. No. 6 Colorado beat visiting Oklahoma State 29–13 to move to third, and the Wolverines returned to the top: 1.Michigan 2.Texas 3.Colorado 4.Alabama 5.Ohio State
October 15 No. 1 Michigan beat No. 14 Wisconsin 56–0, and No. 2 Texas won at No. 7 Arkansas, 13–9. No. 3 Colorado played at Kansas, a 17–17 tie. No. 4 Alabama beat Tennessee in Birmingham, 24–10. No. 5 Ohio State beat Iowa 27–6. No. 6 USC beat Oregon 33–15 to return to the top five: 1.Michigan 2.Texas 3.Alabama 4.Ohio State 5.USC
October 22 No. 1 Michigan (6–0) was shut out 16–0 at unranked Minnesota, and No. 2 Texas won 30–14 at SMU. No. 3 Alabama beat Louisville 55–6, and No. 4 Ohio State won 35–15 at Northwestern. No. 11 Notre Dame wore their green jerseys for the first time in decades and overwhelmed No. 5 USC 49–19. No. 7 Oklahoma beat No. 16 Iowa State 35–16 and returned to the top five, and the Longhorns became the fourth team to lead the poll: 1.Texas 2.Alabama 3.Ohio State 4.Oklahoma 5.Notre Dame
October 29 No. 1 Texas beat visiting No. 14 Texas Tech 26–0, and No. 2 Alabama beat Mississippi State 37–7 in Jackson. No. 3 Ohio State beat Wisconsin 42–0, No. 4 Oklahoma won 42–7 at Kansas State, and No. 5 Notre Dame beat Navy 43–10. Other than the Sooners' trade with the Buckeyes, the poll was stable: 1.Texas 2.Alabama 3.Oklahoma 4.Ohio State 5.Notre Dame
November 5 No. 1 Texas won 35–21 at Houston, and No. 2 Alabama defeated No. 18 LSU 24–3 in Baton Rouge. No. 3 Oklahoma won 61–28 at Oklahoma State, No. 4 Ohio State won 35–0 at Illinois, and No. 5 Notre Dame beat Georgia Tech 69–14. For the first time since the season began, the top five remained unchanged (in fact, the top nine were the same): 1.Texas 2.Alabama 3.Oklahoma 4.Ohio State 5.Notre Dame
November 12 No. 1 Texas beat TCU 44–14 and No. 2 Alabama beat the visiting Miami Hurricanes, 36–0. No. 3 Oklahoma routed Colorado 52–14, No. 4 Ohio State beat Indiana 35–7, and No. 5 Notre Dame won at No. 15 Clemson, 21–17. No. 6 Michigan won 40–7 at Purdue and returned to the top five: 1.Texas 2.Alabama 3.Oklahoma 4.Ohio State 5.Michigan
November 19 No. 1 Texas beat Baylor 29–7, while No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Oklahoma were idle. Once again, the Big Ten title came down to a meeting between No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan, 7–0 and 6–1 in conference play, respectively. Michigan won 14–6 at home and gained the trip to the Rose Bowl. No. 6 Notre Dame beat Air Force 49–0. The poll: 1.Texas 2.Alabama 3.Oklahoma 4.Michigan 5.Notre Dame
November 25–26 On Thanksgiving weekend, USC defeated UCLA 29–27 on a last-second field goal on Friday night to knock the Bruins out of the Rose Bowl and put Washington in. Earlier in the day, No. 3 Oklahoma beat No. 11 Nebraska 38–7 to go to 10–1. On Saturday, No. 1 Texas won 57–28 at No. 12 Texas A&M for an 11–0 record, the SWC title, and a trip to the Cotton Bowl. No. 2 Alabama closed its season in Birmingham, beating Auburn 48–21. The Crimson Tide was unbeaten (7–0) in SEC conference play, as was Kentucky (6–0, 10–1 overall), which was ineligible for bowls because of NCAA probation. No. 4 Michigan (10–1) had completed its regular season, and No. 5 Notre Dame was idle until December 3, a 48–10 win at Miami. The final regular season poll had been released on November 28: 1.Texas 2.Oklahoma 3.Alabama 4.Michigan 5.Notre Dame
|WEEKS||No. 1||No. 2||Event|
|PRE||Oklahoma||Michigan||Michigan 37, Illinois 9 (Sept 10)|
|1-2||Michigan||USC||Oklahoma 29, Ohio State 28 (Sept 24)|
|4||USC||Oklahoma||Alabama 21, USC 20 (Oct 8)|
|5-6||Michigan||Texas||Minnesota 16, Michigan 0 (Oct 22)|
|7-11||Texas||Alabama||Oklahoma 38, Nebraska 7 (Nov 25)|
|12-Bowls||Texas||Oklahoma||Notre Dame 38, Texas 10 (Jan 2)|
|Final||Notre Dame||Alabama||Notre Dame 38, Texas 10 (Jan 2)|
Monday, January 2, 1978
|Cotton||No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish||38||No. 1 Texas Longhorns||10|
|Sugar||No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide||35||No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes||6|
|Rose||No. 13 Washington Huskies||27||No. 4 Michigan Wolverines||20|
|Orange||No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks||31||No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners||6|
Two former NFL head coaching failures became college football successes, upsetting the No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Dan Devine had been unspectacular at Green Bay before succeeding Ara Parseghian at Notre Dame in 1975, while Lou Holtz had coached the New York Jets to a 3–11 finish in 1976 before taking over at Arkansas.
The Sugar Bowl was a matchup of coaching legends Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes; Bryant's No. 3 Alabama squad easily handled No. 8 Ohio State, 35–6.
The largest crowd in Cotton Bowl history (76,701) turned out in Dallas to watch the unbeaten No. 1 Texas Longhorns to attempt to finalize a national championship. Notre Dame's defense forced five turnovers, which set up five scores. Running back Vagas Ferguson scored three touchdowns, including one on a pass from Joe Montana in a 38–10 win. For Texas, both Earl Campbell and Johnny Lam Jones were injured. Devine changed his mind about resigning his Irish coaching job.
Following Texas' loss in the Cotton Bowl, No. 4 Michigan hoped an impressive win over the Washington might vault them to a possible national championship. However, the Huskies, led by Rose Bowl MVP Warren Moon, raced to a 24–0 lead in the third quarter and held on for a 27–20 upset.
With No. 1 Texas and No. 4 Michigan out of the way, No. 2 Oklahoma was in a position to claim the championship with a win over No. 6 Arkansas in the nightcap in Miami. The Razorbacks had finished behind Texas in SWC play and had settled for the Orange Bowl. The week of the game, Holtz suspended the Hogs' top rusher, Ben Cowins, and the top receiver, Donny Bobo for violating team rules. The Sooners were 18-point favorites but Cowins' backup Roland Sales rushed for two touchdowns and over 200 yards as the Razorbacks shut down the Sooners' ground game en route to a 24–0 lead after three quarters and a massive 31–6 upset.
The national championship was disputed as there were six teams with one loss: Alabama, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Texas, Penn State, and Kentucky (prohibited from playing in a bowl due to NCAA probation). Notre Dame had lost to Mississippi, who lost to Alabama, who lost to Nebraska, who lost to Oklahoma, who lost to Arkansas, who lost to Texas who lost to Notre Dame. Penn State lost to Kentucky and Kentucky lost to Baylor who had lost to Texas, Arkansas, and Nebraska. Amidst this confusion, there were several good choices for a champion; giant killers Notre Dame and Arkansas, and third-ranked Alabama, and Texas. Notre Dame, on the strength of its lopsided win over No. 1 Texas, vaulted over Texas, Oklahoma (who lost in the Orange Bowl), Alabama (who won in the Sugar Bowl), and Michigan (who lost in the Rose Bowl). Alabama fans cried foul as they assumed, as the No. 3 team before the bowls, that if No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Oklahoma lost (which they did), they would rise to No. 1 with a win over Ohio State.
In the final polls, the electors for AP and UPI were expectedly divided, but a majority in each picked Notre Dame.With one AP writer naming all three schools as number one, the writers poll was 37⅓ for Notre Dame, 19⅓ for Alabama and 5⅓ for Arkansas. UPI had 23 for Notre Dame, 13 for Alabama and 2 for Arkansas. Devine, who had followed in the footsteps of both Vince Lombardi and Parseghian, reversed his earlier plans and continued as head coach in 1978.
|Fiesta||Tempe||Arizona||December 25||No. 8 Penn State||42–30||No. 15 Arizona State|
|Sun||El Paso||Texas||December 31||Stanford||24–14||LSU|
|Gator||Jacksonville||Florida||December 30||No. 10 Pittsburgh||34–3||No. 11 Clemson|
|Tangerine||Orlando||Florida||December 23||No. 19 Florida State||40–17||Texas Tech|
|Astro-Bluebonnet||Houston||Texas||December 31||No. 20 USC||47–28||No. 17 Texas A&M|
|Liberty||Memphis||Tennessee||December 19||No. 12 Nebraska||21–17||No. 14 North Carolina|
|Peach||Atlanta||Georgia||December 31||NC State||24–14||Iowa State|
|Independence||Shreveport||Louisiana||December 17||Louisiana Tech||24–14||Louisville|
|Hall of Fame||Birmingham||Alabama||December 22||Maryland||17–7||Minnesota|
The NCAA was without a playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A, during the 20th century. The NCAA recognizes Division I-A national champions based on the final results of polls including the "wire service", FWAA and NFF. The 1964 AP poll continued to rank only ten teams, compiling the votes of 55 sportswriters, each of whom would give their opinion of the ten best. Under a point system of 10 points for first place, 9 for second, etc., the "overall" ranking was determined.
The 1978 NCAA Division I-A football season was the first season of Division I-A college football; Division I-A was created in 1978 when Division I was subdivided into Division I-A and Division I-AA for football only. With the exception of seven teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), Division I teams from the 1977 season played in Division I-A during the 1978 season. The SWAC teams, along with five conferences and five other teams formerly in Division II, played in Division I-AA.
The 1962 NCAA University Division football season was played by American football teams representing 140 colleges and universities recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as major programs. The remaining 370 colleges and universities that were NCAA members and fielded football teams competed in the 1962 NCAA College Division football season.
During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A. The NCAA did recognize a national champion based upon the final results of "wire service" polls. The "writers' poll" by Associated Press (AP) was the most popular, followed by the "coaches' poll" by United Press International) (UPI). Prior to 1965, both services issued their final polls at the close of the regular season, but before teams competed in bowl games. For the 1965 season, the AP took its final poll after the postseason games, an arrangement made permanent in 1968. The Associated Press presented the "AP Trophy" to the winner.
The 1966 University Division football season was marked by some controversy as the year of "The Tie", a famous 10–10 game between the two top-ranked teams, Michigan State and Notre Dame on November 19. Both teams were crowned national champions by various organizations after the regular season concluded, and neither participated in bowl game. Alabama finished the regular season undefeated and was third in the AP poll, while Georgia was fourth. Alabama went on to win the Sugar Bowl in dominant fashion. During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A.
The 1967 NCAA University Division football season was the last one in which college football's champion was crowned before the bowl games. During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A and now as the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
In the 1968 NCAA University Division football season, the system of "polls and bowls" changed. The Associated Press returned to its pre-1961 system of ranking the Top 20 rather than the Top 10, and voted on the national champion after the bowl games, rather than before. During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A.
The 1970 NCAA University Division football season was marked by tragedy, due to two airplane crashes. On October 2, one of the planes carrying the Wichita State football team crashed on the way to a game against Utah State, killing 31 people on board, including 14 players. Then, on November 14, the charter for the Marshall Thundering Herd crashed on the way home from a game against East Carolina, killing all 75 persons.
The 1971 NCAA University Division football season saw Coach Bob Devaney's Nebraska Cornhuskers repeat as national champions. Ranked a close second behind Notre Dame in the preseason poll, Nebraska moved up to first place the following week, remained there for the rest of 1971, and convincingly won the Orange Bowl 38–6 in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game against Alabama.
The 1957 NCAA University Division football season saw two different national champions. Auburn was ranked first in the AP writers' poll taken at season's end, while Ohio State was first in the UPI coaches' poll. Auburn was ineligible for a bowl game, however, having been placed on probation indefinitely by the Southeastern Conference, after having paid two high school players $500 apiece.
The 1972 NCAA University Division football season saw the USC Trojans, coached by John McKay, go undefeated and win the national championship as the unanimous choice of the 50 AP panelists. Eighth-ranked in the preseason, the Trojans were narrowly voted No. 1 in the first AP poll, and stayed out front for the rest of the year.
The 1973 NCAA Division I football season was the first for the NCAA's current three-division structure. Effective with the 1973–74 academic year, schools formerly in the NCAA "University Division" were classified as Division I. Schools in the former "College Division" were classified into Division II, which allowed fewer athletic scholarships than Division I, and Division III, in which athletic scholarships were prohibited.
The 1974 NCAA Division I football season finished with two national champions. The Associated Press (AP) writers' poll ranked the University of Oklahoma, which was on probation and barred by the NCAA from postseason play, No. 1 at season's end. The United Press International (UPI) coaches' poll did not rank teams on probation, by unanimous agreement of the 25 member coaches' board. The UPI trophy went to the University of Southern California (USC).
The 1975 NCAA Division I football season saw University of Oklahoma repeat as national champion in the Associated Press (AP) writers' poll, and were ranked No. 1 in the United Press International (UPI) coaches' poll, just ahead of runner up Arizona State, runner-up in both final polls, despite having an undefeated 12–0 season and a win over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.
The 1954 college football season saw three teams finish unbeaten and untied, with Ohio State Buckeyes and the UCLA Bruins sharing the national championship as the No. 1 picks of the AP Poll and the UPI Poll, respectively. Although the winners of the Big Ten and the Pacific conferences normally met in the Rose Bowl, a "no repeat" prevented the two champions from meeting. UCLA, which had been in the Rose Bowl earlier in the year, was replaced by conference runner-up USC.
The 1953 college football season finished with the Maryland Terrapins capturing the AP, INS, and UPI national championship after Notre Dame held the top spot for the first nine weeks. The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners defeated Maryland in the Orange Bowl, but there was no further polling after the November 30 results were released. However, Notre Dame was selected as the National Champions by 10 other polls and the Oklahoma Sooners received first in two polls. However, despite the team receiving National Championship rings, the University of Notre Dame does not recognize this title due to their policy of only recognizing AP or coaches' poll titles during the polling era (1936–present). Maryland was also the first champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which had been formed earlier in 1953 by seven colleges formerly with the Southern Conference. The year 1953 also saw the Michigan State Spartans, previously an independent, join the Big Nine Conference, which then became the Big Ten; MSU won the conference title in that first year and was the conference representative to the Rose Bowl, which it won 28–20 over UCLA.
The 1952 college football season ended with the unbeaten Michigan State Spartans (9–0) and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12–0) each claiming a national championship from different polls. Michigan State finished first according to two of the "wire service" polls, which both placed Georgia Tech second. Georgia Tech was first in the International News Service poll. UP and INS merged in 1958 to form UPI. Although the Spartans became members of the Big Ten Conference in 1950, full participation did not come until 1953, and under the terms of their entry into the conference, they were not allowed to participate in postseason play. Georgia Tech won the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day in New Orleans.
The 1947 college football season finished with Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State all unbeaten and untied, but the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame were the first place choice for 107 of the 142 voters in the AP Poll, and repeated as national champions. Michigan went on to meet USC in the Rose Bowl and won 49–0, while Penn State was tied 13–13 by SMU in the Cotton Bowl Classic, and Notre Dame didn't participate in the postseason. An unofficial post bowl AP poll was conducted with Michigan and Notre Dame as the only options and Michigan won by a vote of 226 to 119.
The 1946 college football season finished with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish crowned as the national champion in the AP Poll, the Georgia Bulldogs recognized as national champion by the Williamson poll and United States Military Academy named as national champion in various other polls and rankings. The Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens were recognized by the AP as the small college national champion. Notre Dame and Army both won all of their games, with the exception of their November 9 meeting at New York's Yankee Stadium, where they had played to a 0–0 tie in a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup regarded as a "Game of the Century". Neither team played in bowl game that season.
The 1939 college football season concluded with the Aggies of The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas being named as the national champions by the voters in the Associated Press writers' poll.