1979 NCAA Division I-A football season

Last updated
1979 NCAA Division I-A season
Number of teams139 [1]
Preseason AP No. 1 USC
Bowl games 15
Heisman Trophy Charles White (running back, USC)
Champion(s) Alabama
Division I-A football seasons

The 1979 NCAA Division I-A football season saw the Alabama Crimson Tide bring home a national title with a perfect 12–0 season. The title was Alabama's 11th claimed, and their 6th Associated Press awarded title.


This was an extremely dominant Alabama team, only giving up 67 points the entire season and shutting out five opponents. The team won a tight game against LSU 3–0 and beat Auburn by a touchdown before beating Arkansas 24–9 in the Sugar Bowl.

There was very little movement at the top of the rankings throughout the season, as only three different teams held the top spot in the AP poll and only two in the UPI poll. USC was the pre-season top-ranked team, and held the number one ranking until a 21–21 tie with Stanford, a game USC led at halftime 21–0. A fumbled hold on the snap from center cost the Trojans a chance at a last-second field goal. Stanford was led by quarterback Turk Schonert, while freshman John Elway served as his backup. USC ended up finishing second in the country, but running back Charles White brought home the Heisman Trophy.

Number 2 Alabama then took over the top spot and never relinquished that position in the UPI poll. In the AP poll, however, Ohio State took over the top spot in the last regular season poll of the season. Ohio State had defeated No. 13 Michigan in Ann Arbor by a score of 18–15 to earn the Big Ten title. Two weeks later, Alabama defeated No. 14 Auburn 25–18 in Birmingham, but the AP voters saw fit to jump Ohio State ahead of them.

Thus, Ohio State came within one point of a national title under first-year coach Earle Bruce, who replaced coach Woody Hayes, falling to USC 17–16 in the Rose Bowl after an undefeated season.

Rule changes

Conference and program changes

School1978 Conference1979 Conference
East Tennessee State Buccaneers Ohio Valley (I-AA) Southern (I-A)
Hawaiʻi Rainbow Warriors Independent WAC

While Georgia Tech joined the ACC in non-football sports, the Yellow Jackets would not join ACC football until 1983.

Conference standings

1979 Atlantic Coast Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
NC State $510  740
Clemson 420  840
Maryland 420  740
Wake Forest 320  840
No. 15 North Carolina 330  831
Virginia 140  650
Duke 060  281
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Big Eight Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
No. 3 Oklahoma $700  1110
No. 9 Nebraska 610  1020
Oklahoma State 520  740
Missouri 340  750
Colorado 250  380
Iowa State 250  380
Kansas 250  380
Kansas State 160  380
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Big Ten Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
No. 4 Ohio State $800  1110
No. 10 Purdue 710  1020
No. 18 Michigan 620  840
No. 19 Indiana 530  840
Iowa 440  560
Minnesota 351  461
Michigan State 350  560
Wisconsin 350  470
Illinois 161  281
Northwestern 090  1100
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Ivy League football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Yale $610  810
Brown 520  630
Princeton 520  540
Cornell 430  540
Dartmouth 430  441
Harvard 340  360
Columbia 160  180
Penn 070  090
  • $ Conference champion
1979 Mid-American Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Central Michigan $801  1001
Toledo 711  731
Western Michigan 540  650
Ball State 440  650
Ohio 440  650
Northern Illinois 331  551
Miami 340  650
Bowling Green 350  470
Eastern Michigan 161  281
Kent State 180  1100
  • $ Conference champion
1979 Missouri Valley Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
West Texas State $500  551
Southern Illinois 410  830
Indiana State 320  830
Drake 140  380
New Mexico State 150  290
Wichita State 150  1100
Tulsa     650
  • $ Conference champion
  • Tulsa was ineligible for MVC title
1979 Pacific Coast Athletic Association football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Utah State $500  830
Long Beach State 320  740
Fresno State 320  560
Cal State Fullerton 230  470
San Jose State 230  380
Pacific (CA) 050  370
  • $ Conference champion
  • Records adjusted for San Jose State forfeits
1979 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
No. 2 USC $601  1101
No. 11 Washington 520  930
Arizona 430  651
Oregon 430  650
California 540  660
Stanford 331  551
Arizona State340  660
UCLA 340  560
Washington State 260  380
Oregon State 170  1100
  • $ Conference champion
  • † – Arizona State later forfeited 5 wins (3 in conference) due to NCAA sanctions [2]
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Southeastern Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
No. 1 Alabama $600  1200
Georgia 510  650
No. 16 Auburn 420  830
LSU 420  750
Tennessee 330  750
Kentucky 330  560
Ole Miss 330  470
Mississippi State 240  380
Vanderbilt 060  1100
Florida 060  0101
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Southern Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Chattanooga $510  920
VMI 410  641
The Citadel 420  650
Furman 430  560
Appalachian State 340  380
East Tennessee State 230  740
Western Carolina 240  650
Marshall 060  1100
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Southland Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
McNeese State $500  1110
Texas–Arlington 410  920
Lamar 320  632
Arkansas State 140  470
Southwestern Louisiana 140  470
Louisiana Tech 140  290
  • $ Conference champion
  • Louisiana Tech record includes one win by forfeit.
1979 Southwest Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
No. 5 Houston +710  1110
No. 8 Arkansas +710  1020
No. 12 Texas 620  930
No. 14 Baylor 530  840
Texas A&M 440  650
SMU 350  560
Texas Tech 251  362
TCU 161  281
Rice 080  1100
  • + Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Western Athletic Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
No. 13 BYU $700  1110
Utah 520  660
San Diego State 420  830
Hawaii 330  650
New Mexico 340  660
Colorado State 340  471
Wyoming 250  480
UTEP 070  290
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 NCAA Division I-A independents football records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
No. 6 Florida State      1110
No. 7 Pittsburgh      1110
UNLV      912
No. 17 Temple      1020
Tulane      930
Rutgers      830
East Carolina      731
No. 20 Penn State      840
South Carolina      840
Navy      740
Notre Dame      740
Southern Miss      641
Syracuse      750
Colgate      541
Boston College      560
Holy Cross      560
Memphis      560
Miami      560
North Texas State      560
Villanova      560
Virginia Tech      560
West Virginia      560
Georgia Tech      461
Louisville      461
William & Mary      470
Illinois State      380
Northeast Louisiana      380
Army      281
Air Force      290
Cincinnati      290
Richmond      0110
Rankings from AP Poll

No. 1 and No. 2 progress

WEEKSNo. 1No. 2Event
PRE-5USCAlabamaStanford 21, USC 21 (Oct 13)
6AlabamaTexasArkansas 17, Texas 14 (Oct 20)
7-9AlabamaNebraskaOhio State 34, Iowa 7 (Nov 10)
10-11AlabamaOhio StateUSC 49, UCLA 14 (Nov 24)
13Ohio StateAlabamaUSC 17, Ohio State 16

Notable rivalry games

Bowl games

Rose Bowl No. 3 USC17No. 1 Ohio State16
Sugar Bowl No. 2 Alabama24No. 6 Arkansas9
Orange Bowl No. 5 Oklahoma24No. 4 Florida State7
Cotton Bowl No. 8 Houston17No. 7 Nebraska14

Other Bowls:

Bluebonnet Bowl No. 12 Purdue27Tennessee22
Peach Bowl No. 19 Baylor24No. 18 Clemson18
Hall of Fame Classic Missouri24No. 16 South Carolina14
Gator Bowl North Carolina17No. 14 Michigan15
Fiesta Bowl No. 10 Pittsburgh16Arizona10
Sun Bowl No. 13 Washington14No. 11 Texas7
Liberty Bowl Penn State9No. 15 Tulane6
Tangerine Bowl LSU34Wake Forest10
Holiday Bowl Indiana38No. 9 Brigham Young37
Garden State Bowl No. 20 Temple28California17
Independence Bowl Syracuse31McNeese State7

Final AP and UPI rankings

4.Ohio StateOhio State
6.Florida StatePittsburgh
8.ArkansasFlorida State
14.BaylorNorth Carolina
15.North CarolinaBaylor
18.MichiganPenn State
20.Penn StateMissouri

Heisman Trophy

  1. Charles White , TB, USC, 1,695 points
  2. Billy Sims, HB, Oklahoma, 773
  3. Marc Wilson, QB, BYU, 589
  4. Art Schlichter, QB, Ohio State, 251
  5. Vagas Ferguson, TB, Notre Dame, 162
  6. Paul McDonald, QB, USC, 92
  7. George Rogers, TB, South Carolina, 81
  8. Mark Herrmann, QB, Purdue, 54
  9. Ron Simmons, MG, Florida State, 41
  10. Steadman Shealy, QB, Alabama, 32

Source: [3] [4]

Other major awards

Related Research Articles

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  1. http://www.jhowell.net/cf/cf1979.htm
  2. "2017 Media Guide" (PDF). thesundevils.com. ASU Athletics. p. 127. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  3. "White grabs Heisman". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. December 3, 1979. p. 25.
  4. "Heisman goes to White". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). (New York Times). December 4, 1979. p. 21.