I must be suffering from gridiron withdrawal. It seems to happen about this time every year, as the bowl season and ensuing recruiting national signing day have begun to move into the rearview mirror. Oh sure, I get a bit of a fix from snippets of spring training (depending on which team you're following, as they hold spring drills at different times).
But it's hard to get much of a gauge there, because if the offense is doing well, is it because of the offense being impressive or the defense simply stinking? Difficult to tell in a number of cases. Plus, time and again I see a springtime superstar become an autumn outcast, barely even making the two-deep, if that, in some instances.
So, with baseball season not quite here, now is my chance to discuss my overall favorite sport: college football.
My first task is/was to gather the best of the bunch, and not necessarily every national title team will be among the top teams for the decade. Additionally, there may be more than one team from a particular season that I believe merits lofty consideration. One season the latter proved true is undoubtedly the 1966 campaign.
Here are the teams I'm currently looking more closely at to develop a precise pecking order. As of now, I'm just talkin' with ya about it, listing the teams and a blurb or two. Obviously, I'd love to have others join the fray. [If you don't have a blogger account, it's now done thru setting up a simple google account, much as you would for hotmail, yahoo, or some other highly-used and FREE email account. Here's a good place to get started: Blogger Help--Getting Started
]1960 Ole Miss
--Minnesota may have won the national title (its nation-leading fourth since the advent of the AP poll in 1936), but I believe this Rebel squad deserved note ahead of that Golden Gophers group. Why? The titlists lost two games, while Mississippi went 10-0-1. A tie to an LSU team that stunningly went just 5-4-1 (after finishing #3 and #1 nationally the prior two seasons) is the only blight of the bunch. But the list of wins was impressive, including road wins at Arkansas and Tennessee (24-3) and a Sugar Bowl victory over Rice (when the Owls regularly flew high). Eight of the 11 opponents were held to a TD or less on the season. 1961 Alabama
--Bear Bryant's (pic) squad took every national title poll except for the Football Writers. It finished by nearly blanking a strong Arkansas squad, 10-3. Not an absolutely overwhelming offense (as many teams didn't possess in those days of defensive-minded football with none of the rules that currently favor the offense), but it shut out five straight opponents to end the regular season and allowed just 25 points in 11 games! This may have been the greatest defensive team since the end of the second World War, even factoring in the rules of the time. 1961 LSU
--despite Woody Hayes' Ohio State Buckeyes capturing the only other noteworthy national title (Football Writers), I thought this Tigers' bunch was a bit better. It upended Ole Miss, giving Johnny Vaught's Rebs their only regular season loss (the other was to Texas in the Cotton Bowl). The Tigers also whipped previously one-loss Colorado, 25-7, in the Orange Bowl. In all, the opponents had a clearly better W-L mark than 'Bama's did.
However, a loss at Rice, 16-3, prevented a perfect season. It should be recalled--with fondness by old SWC fans--that the Owls could and often did put a hurt on plenty of good teams in that period still. 1961 Texas
--In contrast to LSU's loss to Rice, the Longhorns hammered the Owls, 34-7. This was perhaps Darrell Royal's best team that didn't win a national title, at least until 1968, and even then there's some argument. In an era when points were pretty rare (compared to nowadays' scoring orgies), Texas rang up some high-level offensive numbers. I noted 'Bama's victory over Arkansas, 10-3, in the Sugar Bowl; Texas destroyed the Hogs on the road, 33-7.
One could say, including the Longhorns' upending of the powerful Ole Miss Rebels, they had bragging rights on the SEC that season (also noting again the whipping of Rice compared to LSU's losing).
But, much as the Ohio State Buckeyes stubbed their toe to TCU (7-7 tie), Texas saw its national title aspirations wilted (6-0 defeat) by a dramatically underperforming Horned Frogs bunch. The Frogs were giant killers that year, but little else on their way to a particularly peculiar 3-5-2 mark.
Otherwise, this Texas team was arguably better than anyone period in 1961. 1962 Southern Cal
--the Trojans won it all in every main poll and defeated QB Ron VanderKelen's Wisconsin Badgers in a wild Rose Bowl, 42-37. USC did narrowly beat also-ran opponents Navy and Iowa (both with five losses), but besides the Badgers, it defeated a standout Duke team and held eight of 11 opponents to seven points or less. 1962 Ole Miss
--yet another great Johnny Vaught (pictured) team, the Rebs went unbeaten, including defeating Arkansas (only other loss, 7-3, to then top-ranked Texas, in Austin) in the Sugar, 17-13. It was arguably the better team vs USC, as it also defeated otherwise unbeaten LSU, 15-7, on the road, walloped Houston, 40-7, and punctured several others. Arkansas' 13 points was the most the Rebs allowed all season, otherwise not giving more than seven in a game. 1963 Texas
--not exactly glamorous in terms of offensive fireworks (unlike its 1961 non-#1 counterpart), but it continually found the way to win--all the way to the national championship--allowing just 71 points in 11 games. Additionally, the 'Horns came alive most in the biggest games, dominating both Oklahoma, 28-7, and Navy, 28-6. The lack of offense wasn't apparent in those contests. This era, though, seemed to breed the old adage of defense, kicking, field position and turnovers as the keys to victories, and Texas succeeded better than anyone else at that game. Defense particularly pleased in an astounding 7-0 shutout of high-octane Baylor. The only thing preventing this UT edition from possibly being considered higher on the all-decade list are two very close games against mediocre opposition. Still, the title crowning gave Darrell Royal something he'd narrowly missed a few times previously in a young but already decorated tenure at Texas.1964 Alabama
--once again, Bryant's Tide rolled, this time under the signal-calling of Joe Namath. Declared national champs prior to the bowls that season, 'Bama did get upended by another superb squad, Texas, in the Orange Bowl, 21-17. Despite that "asterisk" of sorts, this team was mighty potent when needed, taking on a pretty impressive list of opponents. Down went LSU (just one loss other than vs the Tide), Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Florida, all with only two other losses. Other than the Gators, everyone else was handled by at least a TD and often more. 1964 Arkansas
--Razorback fans still understandably chafe at their unbeaten group getting bumped out of the AP and UPI national title by the more popular Crimson Tide that season. However, they did get such recognition by a number of other polls, including the Football Writers.
The Hogs had some arguing in their favor. While Texas beat 'Bama in the Orange, Arkansas gave the 'Horns their only loss, a 14-13 midseason nailbiter in Austin. It also beat a very sound Nebraska squad (one other loss) in the Cotton Bowl, 10-7 (pic of Hog defense doing its thing vs the Huskers). The only relative low point all year was a close home opening contest vs a paltry Okie State bunch, 14-10.
In the process of this unbeaten campaign, the Hogs shut out five straight opponents (latter half of the season) and held eight of 11 teams to just seven points or less! 1965 Michigan State
--another case of perhaps the better team not winning the coveted national title trophy; This was the first year since the AP poll's advent that allowed the bowls to count in the rankings, and MSU lost narrowly in the Rose to UCLA, 14-12. The Spartans got sandwiched, because the AP went back to the pre-bowl final poll system for the following two years.
Something to note, here, though, is State had already beaten the Bruins to open the season, 13-3. It also beat everyone else, including a number of very strong opponents. With the likes of Bubba Smith and George Webster, the Spartans defeated Ohio State (32-7), Purdue (away) and Notre Dame (away). Including their triumph over UCLA, that gave Duffy Daughtery's group wins over four top 15 teams.
[It's naturally asked what Alabama, the only team ending above MSU, did. The Tide, in a sense, "earned" its spot above the Spartans by way of defeating previously unbeaten Nebraska, 39-28, in the Orange, when it was known to have a great shot at the crown after prior unbeatens were felled on New Year's Day. Still, this team lost and tied games earlier in the year, with the loss coming to Georgia (which dropped four contests on the season). As a result, it's narrowly out of contention]1966 Notre Dame
As noted in one of the earlier paragraphs, this season ultimately illustrates multiple valid claims to the mythical national title. In the end, the Irish took the honors, despite a late season tie with Michigan State. In fact, that tie--at East Lansing (pic below)--is a bit more favorable to the Irish than the Spartans. Not only was it on the road, but the Golden Domers were handcuffed with the loss of their top skill position personnel to various injuries. Additionally, they fought back to tie the game after being down 10-0. The only tarnish is that Ara Parseghian opted for the deadlock rather than the win, but the circumstances likely made it foolish to pel-mel go for the jugular in this case.
In all, it's a harsh chore to argue effectively against giving the Irish the championship. There were no games of close consequence, and victories included over an otherwise one-loss Purdue and a 51-0 destruction over USC at the Trojans' domain. In its 10-game sked, ND blanked six opponents and routed eight of its nine victims by at least 24 points. 1966 Michigan State
--alas, the Spartans again played the AP bridesmaid to someone else. Duffy's powerhouse couldn't even prove its mettle in the Rose Bowl, due to the Big Ten's no-repeat clause for the Grandaddy game. A squad with four early-first round draft picks gave Purdue its only other loss (beyond the Boilermakers' ND defeat) on its way to mirroring the Irish's 9-0-1 mark. The only stain of sorts, other than the ND tie, was an 11-8 escape over an uncharacteristically moribund Buckeyes' squad (4-5-1 record). That game, in fact, opened the door for Notre Dame's national title. 1966 Alabama
--one of the best of many Bear Bryant juggernauts, this one just happened to be left out in the midst of the two midwestern maulers, but it could play with anyone, as evidenced by a 34-7 Sugar Bowl rout of previous one-loss Nebraska. The Tide went 11-0, with additional triumphs over stout squads Mississippi and Tennessee. Despite the trend in scoring generally moving upward by this point (at least partly due to specialization and the phasing out of the two-way player), Bryant's boys shut out six opponents, including four in a row at one stretch. There were no close calls even, other than the 11-10 road win vs the Vols.1967 Southern Cal
--though a shocking 3-0 loss at Oregon State (7-2-1 mark) prevented a perfect season, the Trojans still claimed the country's championship on the strength of OJ Simpson's scampers, and specifically a 64-yarder that beat top-ranked UCLA and Gary Beban, 21-20. The opposition was fairly strong over the course of the season, and victories included three otherwise one-loss foes (Notre Dame, UCLA, and Indiana in the Rose Bowl). 1968 Ohio State
--featuring one of at least three groups of highly impressive sophomores (Texas and Arkansas being others), the Buckeyes rebounded from eight losses over the prior two campaigns to upend all ten opponents. It also captured the crown with a Rose Bowl win over defending champ USC, with OJ Simpson. This team wasn't without its struggles, even in victory, as close shaves with has-beens Illinois, Michigan State, and Iowa clouded greatness.
On the other side, USC had been unbeaten, and the Buckeyes also beat SMU, Purdue, and Michigan (50-14), with the latter two losing just one game otherwise.
*[special note this season should go to Texas, which, in warming up for even better things, annihilated all its foes following a sputtering start. That beginning (a tie and loss) is the only thing keeping this rendention of the 'Horns from being considered among the top. From the standpoint of pure power over the bulk of the season, it cannot be conquered. It culminated by blasting a potent Tennessee team, 36-13 (opened up a 28-0 lead), in the Cotton Bowl]1969 Texas
--the Longhorns, after Ohio State went down to Michigan, were unquestionably the top team in the land this season (though Arkansas and Penn State could brag on their accomplishments for varied reasons). This squad, as the cliche goes, had it all: it drove many opponents below the (artificial) turf and into the concrete, including one-time nemesis TCU, 69-7, on its way to numerous school, conference, and NCAA records. Most importantly, it had the inner stuff to fight back against the odds against immensely stellar opposition. It showed this to the nation in season-ending comeback wins over then-unbeaten Arkansas (road) and a Joe Theismann-led Notre Dame program playing in its first bowl game in 45 years (above rendition of Steve Worster on a rampage vs the Irish). Both of these games brought everything expected, as did the 'Horns' foes. In the end, an 11-0 season captured Darrell Royal's second national crown.