Before we line up and dive into the end zone for our 1978 College Football Index ratings, it would probably be a great idea for us to discuss what this is all about, in the huddle. Everybody here? Great. Let’s play.
I have always been intrigued with the various polls which rank the teams. From the point of a rookie fan to college football it is about as daunting as running head first towards Lawrence Taylor. Hell! Even to some experts, it can be confusing and does cause much debate in the football world.
Rather than rank a team based on opinion or which Conference they play in, I decided to create a College Football Index. This is a ‘results’ based ranking system. No opinions, no bias and no trickery. Every team is ranked according to their results, how many points they scored, what the score differential was to their opponent, home advantage or away bonus. It has one very important element which is discussed a lot on social media: strength of schedule.
The one thing we will not include in our index ratings is if an FBS team plays an FCS team. It is only games between FBS teams which count.
That is the College Football Index, and we are kicking off with the season where the sub-divisions split: 1978.
Welcome to 1978!
Welcome to 1978. Jimmy Carter is President. Dallas has hit television screens. College football has split into Divisions I-A and I-AA. The season opened on Friday 1st September, 1978 when Penn State visited Temple. The very next day, nine other games took place. Two other officially ranked teams playing each other, with Alabama (1) entertaining Nebraska (10). As our first set of College Football Index rankings are new, I decided not to produce a set until Week 5 of the season. We will also have a Top 25, both throughout and at the end of the season.
In the official polls for the first five weeks, the AP and Coaches’ Polls had pre-season toppers Alabama as number one weeks 1-2 and Oklahoma weeks 3-5. By Week 5 both agreed Oklahoma and USC were one and two respectively, but differed with Arkansas, Penn State and Michigan taking up different positions within the top five. All five of these teams were unbeaten. Meanwhile, we at College Football Index had our Top 5:
2. Ball State
3. Penn State
5. Texas A&M
Texas A&M actually sat 6th in the official rankings, but Ball State? Remember, this is a “results” based index and they were unbeaten at this stage (4-0) with wins over Miami (OH), Kent State, Toledo and Central Michigan. Looking at the strength of their schedule over the next few weeks, it would be tough for them to remain there, not facing any big-hitters.
In Week 6, Oklahoma remained number 1 with their 31-10 win over Texas. Penn State white-washed Kentucky 30-0 to move into second. Ball State, who were second, did win but moved down to 5th. Texas A&M moved up to 3rd and Michigan remained in 4th. Michigan, interestingly, beat the highest ranked of opponents in Arizona out of all the top five. They remained where they were due to the dominating score differential Texas A&M had, with their 38-9 win over Texas Tech.
Knocking on the door to move into the top five were Nebraska, Colorado, Maryland, USC and Arkansas.
It was all change (bar one) in the top five. Oklahoma remained top with their 17-16 win over Kansas. With Penn State not playing, Texas A&M white-washed by Houston, Michigan losing to rivals Michigan State and Ball State losing to Louisiana Tech, there were four new teams entering the top five. Welcome to (in order from number 2 to 5), Maryland, Holy Cross, Navy and Clemson. The reason Holy Cross found themselves in this position was mainly due to their two big wins over the Air Force and Army. As with Ball State, looking at their coming schedule they are going to be hard-pressed to stay there.
What interested me the most going into Week 8 is that both the official polls had Alabama ranked number three, whereas in the College Football Index they were ranked down at ten.
Oklahoma remained top after their 34-6 win over Iowa State. Nebraska sat 2nd after their 52-14 win over Colorado. Penn State returned after a week off by defeating Syracuse 45-15. Maryland remained in the top five after dispensing Wake Forest 39-0. UCLA moved into the top five for the first time with their 45-0 win over California. All big wins for these teams. Sitting outside the top five, in order, were: Michigan, Navy, Clemson, Holy Cross, Alabama, Western Michigan, Texas, Ball State, Arizona State and USC.
The top four in the College Football Index from the previous week remained the same, but although UCLA ran out 24-14 winners against Arizona, it would be Michigan who returned to the top five after their big 42-10 win over Minnesota. Outside the top five, Clemson leap-frogged Navy into 7th and Alabama moved up a place.
At Week 9 of the season it is time to reflect on the Top 10 teams of the College Football Index:
3. Penn State
Alabama found themselves in the top five with their 34-14 win over Mississippi State. Maryland dropped out and Michigan moved up one place. Penn State, with their win over Syracuse, leap-frogged Nebraska, who beat a lesser ranked Kansas team. Oklahoma are still topping the College Football Index rankings, with a 28-7 win over Colorado.
The Run-in: Weeks 11-14
With Oklahoma not playing in Week 13, it was a veritable swapping of places during the run-in. That said, after topping the rating in Week 11, Penn State dropped to 2nd for Week 12, only to take top spot back in Week 13 and remain there for the final ratings in Week 14. Notre Dame and Clemson made an entrance in Week 13 (mainly due to the Oklahoma absence), but disappeared out of the top five a week later. Going into the Bowl games, Penn State were ranked #1 overall.
The first set of Bowl games occurred on 16th December. Arizona State ran out winners in the Garden State Bowl in New Jersey, defeating Rutgers. East Carolina convincingly beat Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. Three days later, Texas A&M took the Hall Of Fame Classic in Birmingham, defeating Iowa State. The next Bowl was Navy versus BYU for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Navy ran out 23-16 winners.
The 23rd December saw three Bowl games. The Liberty Bowl was won by Missouri with their win over Louisiana State. NC State defeated Pittsburgh in Orlando to take the Tangerine Bowl. Texas white-washed Maryland in El Paso to take the Sun Bowl with a 42-0 victory.
Christmas Day saw Purdue and Georgia Tech travel to Atlanta to contest the Peach Bowl, with Purdue running out 41-21 winners. Over in Tempe, Arizona, it was a tied game between UCLA and Arkansas (10-10).
The final Bowl games held in 1978 were the Gator Bowl held in Jacksonville, where Clemson defeated Ohio State 17-15. The Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston between Stanford and Georgia ended 25-22 to the Cardinals.
Happy New Year!
On New Year’s Day, there were the last four Bowl games of the season. Alabama defeated Penn State in New Orleans to win the Sugar Bowl, Notre Dame took the Cotton Bowl with a one point win over Houston in Dallas, the final score 35-34. Over in Miami, Oklahoma and Nebraska were competing for the Orange Bowl. Oklahoma took the spoils with a 31-24 victory. The Rose Bowl, held in Pasadena, saw USC take on Michigan. USC took victory, 17-10.
After all the Bowl games had been completed, the number one team in the College Football Index ratings for 1978 would be the USC Trojans. Here is the final Top 25 list of the 1978 season:
5. Penn State
7. Central Michigan
8. Ball State
9. Notre Dame
12. North Texas
14. Michigan State
16. East Carolina
20. Florida State
23. Arizona State
As you can see from the College Football Index ratings, if a team does not play a particular week it will have a knock-on effect. This is opposed to the official rankings where that team will still be ranked by the official polls. That is because this is a result-by-result, week-by-week index ranking and come the final week, it all comes out in the end.