The College Football Index: 1980

Welcome to 1980.

USC had finished 1979 as the number one team in the College Football Index. One area where second placed Alabama were better was in the Performance Indicator column. Now, as we move into the third season, it is an area I shall concentrate on more.

The ‘Performance Indicator’ in the College Football Index demonstrates how much a team improved (or not in some cases) from their starting index value. In the case of USC they finished the 1979 season 130.51 points above their starting value, whereas teams like Alabama (137.62), Pittsburgh in 7th (165.58) and Ohio State in 11th (148.09) had a significantly better increase.

It is 1980. The Pittsburgh Steelers win their fourth Super Bowl, the Rubik’s Cube makes its international debut and the Audi Quattro is launched in West Germany. USC began the year as the number one ranked team. Who will end 1980 in that spot?

Let’s find out.


Texas and Arkansas kicked off the season with Texas running out winners. The other programs would kick-off their season a few days later. Penn State gained a big win over Colgate, defeating their opponents 54-10. It would be the third week of games which saw changes in the rankings.

Florida State had a massive win over Louisville, shutting them out 52-0. Another big score would be Mississippi defeating Memphis 61-7. With USC retaining the top spot it would be further down the rankings where Rutgers and Georgia moved up 11 and 13 places respectively. Rutgers defeated Temple 21-3 and Georgia shut out Texas A&M 42-0.

The fourth week of games saw no movement in the top nine places but Notre Dame moved up one place to 10th and Penn State two places to 12th. Yale made a big jump up six places to put them inside the top fifteen and it would be Houston, after their 14-7 loss to the Miami Hurricanes who would lose out dropping six places. Southern Mississippi and North Carolina State moved into the top 25 and Clemson dropped six places with Auburn, Chattanooga, Michigan and Maryland closing in on them.

Over the next few weeks there were a lot of teams posting 40+ points wins which would undoubtedly assist that performance indicator, which is what I will concentrate on now.

Top Five

As of Week 7, the top five ranked teams were as follows:

  1. Alabama
  2. USC
  3. Florida State
  4. Texas
  5. Central Michigan

These teams had achieved their rankings due to successful and consistent campaigns over the last few seasons, but who was performing better now, at this point in Week 7?

As I mentioned at the beginning, the performance indicator was the difference between how a team started out the season to what they were currently doing, meaning what the difference was in their index points ratings.

Alabama at this point had increased by 28.33 points and sat number one in the rankings, but it was the ever improving teams below who were moving up the rankings. Here is a list of the ten most improved teams at Week 7 in 1980 with their plus increase from when they started and their current ranking:

Top 10 – Week 7

  1. UCLA +147.28 (16th – started the season 45th))
  2. Georgia +109.62 (17th – started the season 38th)
  3. Baylor +104.98 (30th – started the season 64th)
  4. Notre Dame +97.64 (6th – started the season 17th)
  5. Texas +94.48 (4th – started the season 14th)
  6. Southern Mississippi +88.06 (18th – started the season 36th)
  7. Iowa State +85.69 (56th – started the season 93rd)
  8. SMU +85.23 (51st – started the season 83rd)
  9. Florida State +82.41 (3rd – started the season 6th)
  10. Miami (FL) +75.56 (31st – started the season 57th)

What can we take from this? – Well, most certainly the teams who were higher up in the rankings such as Notre Dame, Texas and Florida State can be considered to be surrounded by more consistent teams. They have a big growth on their index value, but other teams around them have performed to a variable level which prevented them from being as dominant.

Whereas, you can look at the other teams who were much further down the rankings and they made massive jumps in value and in terms of where they were ranked, which shows evidence that in the middle to bottom tier of the rankings there is less consistency in performances.

Week 9 

Moving to the games commencing 25th October 1980, or Week 9 of the season, the top three of Alabama, USC and Florida State remained unchanged. Oklahoma bounced back, moving up three places with their 42-7 win over Iowa State and Notre Dame continued to improve, moving up one place. Nebraska moved down one place and even though they had a win over Colorado the teams around them were beating much stronger opponents.

It was behind Nebraska, sitting 6th, where the action was taking place. Pittsburgh, BYU and North Carolina were all moving up, Penn State were unable to make a change to their ranking in 10th, even with a win over Virginia and Texas dropped a whopping seven places. Houston had been suffering of late but were back in the hunt again and moved up seven places after their 25-17 win over Arkansas. Lower down in the top 25, Purdue, Georgia, Yale, South Carolina, Missouri and Michigan all improved.

Alabama continued to dominate over the next few weeks, with Florida State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame continuing to press, but who were the teams on a roll, those with the most improved performance indicators heading into the Bowl Games. I will produce two rankings below, the first is the CFI Top 10 and the second is the CFI Top Performance Indicators.

CFI – Top 10 Ranked Teams

  1. Alabama
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Florida State
  4. Notre Dame
  5. USC
  6. BYU
  7. Pittsburgh
  8. Penn State
  9. Nebraska
  10. Central Michigan

CFI – Top 10 (Performance Indicator) 

  1. Baylor (19th)
  2. Georgia (12th)
  3. Notre Dame (4th)
  4. SMU (29th)
  5. UCLA (17th)
  6. Florida State (3rd)
  7. Mississippi State (46th)
  8. Florida (76th)
  9. Oregon (47th)
  10. Michigan (14th)

Bowl Games 

Southern Mississippi defeated McNeese State16-14 in the Independence Bowl to move them into the top 25 and the next day Houston white-washed Navy 35-0 in the Garden State Bowl.

BYU took on SMU in the Holiday Bowl, with the Cougars inside the Top 10 and SMU on the rise it was always going to be a cracking game, and so it proved as BYU edged it 46-45.

The next day Florida defeated Maryland in the Tangerine Bowl, but it still was not enough to push them into the final top 25 rankings.

Merry Christmas

Boxing Day saw Penn State defeat Ohio State 31-19 in the Fiesta Bowl, with three big games the following day.

Arkansas and Tulane battled for the Hall Of Fame Classic, with the Razorbacks running out 34-15 and over in El Paso the Sun Bowl saw Nebraska defeat Mississippi State 31-17. The Liberty Bowl in Memphis was a close affair as Purdue beat Missouri 28-25.

The last two games in the year 1980 saw Pittsburgh, who had been improving all season, beat South Carolina 37-9 in the Gator Bowl and two days later there was a winner from Carolina, with North Carolina defeating Texas 16-7 in the Bluebonnet Bowl.

Happy New Year 

Alabama entertained the impressive Baylor in the Cotton Bowl, but there was no match as the Crimson Tide rolled them over 30-2. Georgia defeated Notre Dame 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl and Michigan took the Rose Bowl by beating Washington  23-6.

The last two Bowl games of the season saw Oklahoma narrowly win 18-17 over Florida State in the Orange Bowl and the Miami Hurricanes defeat Virginia Tech 20-10 in the Peach Bowl.

Final Top 25 

The final Top 25 CFI rankings looked like this: (Rank, Team, Points, Bowl Appearance)

  1. Alabama (1342.75) – Cotton Bowl Winner
  2. Oklahoma (1339.81) – Orange Bowl Winner
  3. Florida State (1270.90) – Orange Bowl Runner-Up
  4. Pittsburgh (1273.76) – Gator Bowl Winner
  5. BYU (1261.91) – Holiday Bowl Winner
  6. Georgia (1223.95) – Sugar Bowl Winner
  7. Nebraska (1222.71) – Sun Bowl Winner
  8. Penn State (1218.21) – Fiesta Bowl Winner
  9. Michigan (1210.52) – Rose Bowl Winner
  10. North Carolina (1181.23) – Bluebonnet Bowl Winner
  11. Notre Dame (1177.78) – Sugar Bowl Runner-Up
  12. McNeese State (1138.74) – Independence Bowl Runner-Up
  13. Washington (1125.11) – Rose Bowl Runner-Up
  14. Houston (1100.50) – Garden State Bowl Winner
  15. Purdue (1105.67) – Liberty Bowl Winner
  16. Ohio State (1095.44) – Fiesta Bowl Runner-Up
  17. Baylor (1083.63) – Cotton Bowl Runner-Up
  18. Miami (FL) (1050.15) – Peach Bowl Winner
  19. Southern Mississippi (1000.09) – Holiday Bowl Runner-Up
  20. Texas (1028.59) – Bluebonnet Bowl Runner-Up
  21. Arkansas (1035.85) – Hall Of Fame Classic Winner
  22. Missouri (1001.05) – Liberty Bowl Runner-Up
  23. SMU (1000.09) – Holiday Bowl Runner-Up
  24. Maryland (993.93) – Tangerine Bowl Runner-Up
  25. South Carolina (972.60) – Gator Bowl Runner-Up

What was also notable about the 1980 season is that it was the first season a team had finished on a negative Index rating with Northwestern ranked 139th on -3.92 points.

The 1981 Draft

The first pick of the 1981 NFL Draft saw the New Orleans Saints take running back George Rogers from South Carolina. At the second pick a certain Lawrence Taylor from North Carolina was selected by the Giants. The only player from the CFI number one ranked college team to go in the first round was line-backer E.J. Junior who the St. Louis Cardinals took from Alabama. Although USC, who had been the number one ranked CFI team for the past two seasons, dropped out of the 25, they still had three players selected in the first round. Cornerback Ronnie Lott went 8th pick to the 49ers, offensive tackle Keith Van Horne went 11th to the Bears and safety Dennis Smith went 15th to the Broncos.

That was 1980 and Alabama, with a slim 2.94 points advantage over Oklahoma, were the number one ranked team in college football on the CFI Index.

We move onto 1981.


Twitter: @5YardIndex

Instagram: @5YardIndex


Other Articles

DraftRecent Articles
Recent Articles