1972 college football season

1972 college football season

The 1972 college football season saw the Trojans of the University of Southern California, coached by John McKay, go undefeated and win the national championship as the unanimous choice of all 50 of the AP panelists. After being ranked #8 in the preseason, the Trojans were voted #1 in the first AP poll and stayed out front for the rest of the year.

During the 20th Century, the NCAA had no playoff for the college football teams that would later be described as "Division I-A". The NCAA Football Guide, however, did note an "unofficial national champion" based on the top ranked teams in the "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). In 1972, the UPI issued its final poll before the bowls, but the AP Trophy was withheld until the postseason was completed. The AP poll in 1972 consisted of the votes of 50 sportswriters, though not all of them voted in every poll. Those who cast votes would give their opinion of the ten best teams. Under a point system of 20 points for first place, 19 for second, etc., the "overall" ranking was determined.

This season was historically significant for two reasons:
*This was the first season in which freshmen were eligible to play varsity football. The NCAA had historically prohibited freshmen from varsity competition, except during the US involvement in World War II. In 1968, the NCAA allowed freshman eligibility in all sports except football and basketball, and extended the rule to those sports effective with the 1972-73 academic year.
*It was the last season for the NCAA's "University Division" and "College Division". For the 1973 season, the NCAA created the three-division structure that exists today, with the University Division schools becoming Division I and the College Division schools being divided into today's Division II and Division III. In 1978, Division I would be divided for football only into Division I-A, now Division I FBS, and Division I-AA, now Division I FCS.


In the preseason poll released on September 4, 1972, two-time defending national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers were ranked first, followed by their Big 8 conference rival, the Colorado Buffaloes. They were followed by #3 Ohio State, #4 Arkansas, and #5 Penn State.

On September 9, however, in Los Angeles, #1 Nebraska lost to unranked UCLA, 20-17, and dropped to 10th place. #2 Colorado beat California 20-10. #3 Ohio State was idle.
#4 Arkansas played against #8 USC in Little Rock and lost, 31-10. #5 Penn State had not begun its season and fell to 6th. #7 Alabama, with a 35-12 over Duke in Birmigham, reached the Top Five. So, too, did #6 Oklahoma, which had not yet played a game. In the next poll, USC received 13 first place votes, and Colorado and Oklahoma had 12 apiece, but USC had a narrow lead in points, 779 to Colorado's 769. The poll was: 1.USC 2.Colorado 3.Ohio State 4.Oklahoma 5.Alabama

September 16
#1 USC trounced Oregon State at home, 51-6. #2 Colorado beat California 20-10. #3 Ohio State beat Iowa 21-0. #4 Oklahoma beat Utah State at home, 49-0. #5 Alabama was idle, and #7 Tennessee took its place in the next poll: 1.USC 2.Oklahoma 3.Colorado 4.Ohio State 5.Tennessee

September 23 #1 USC won at Illinois, 55-20. #2 Oklahoma crushed visiting Oregon, 68-3. #3 Colorado won at Minnesota 38-6. #4 Ohio State was idle. #5 Tennessee beat Wake Forest 45-6. The poll was 1.USC 2.Oklahoma 3.Colorado 4.Tennessee 5.Ohio State

September 30
#1 USC played another Big Ten opponent, with the Trojans beating the Spartans at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, 51-6.
#2 Oklahoma beat Clemson 52-3, having outscored its first three opponents 169-6. #3 Colorado lost at Oklahoma State 31-6, and #4 Tennessee lost to Auburn in Birmingham, 10-6.
#5 Ohio State beat North Carolina 29-14. #6 Alabama, which beat Vanderbilt 48-21, and #8 Michigan (which beat Tulane 41-7) returned to the Top Five. The poll was 1.USC 2.Oklahoma 3.Ohio State 4.Alabama 5.Michigan


October 7 #1 USC won at Stanford, 30-21; its 9-point margin of victory was the closest game it would have all season.
#2 Oklahoma was idle
#3 Ohio State won at California 35-18. #4 Alabama won at Georgia 25-7 and #5 Michigan beat visiting Navy 35-7.

The poll was 1.USC 2.Oklahoma 3.Alabama 4.Ohio State 5.Michigan

October 14
#1 USC went back to winning big, in a 42-14 win over California.
#2 Oklahoma beat Texas at Dallas, 27-0. #3 Alabama beat Florida 24-7. #4 Ohio State beat Illinois 25-7.
#5 Michigan beat Michigan State 10-0, but dropped to sixth. It was replaced by #6 Nebraska, which rolled over Missouri 62-0.The poll was 1.USC 2.Oklahoma 3.Alabama 4.Ohio State 5.Nebraska

October 21
#1 USC beat Washington 34-7. #2 Oklahoma yielded its first touchdown of the season at Colorado, and eventually fell 20-14. #4 Ohio State won at Wisconsin 28-20.
#3 Alabama won at Tennessee 17-10.
#5 Nebraska won at Kansas, 56-0, to continue its rise in the polls. #6 Michigan won at Illinois, 31-7, and returned to the Top 5.The poll was 1.USC 2.Alabama 3.Nebraska 4.Ohio State 5.Michigan

October 28
#1 USC won at Oregon, 18-0, its only shutout in a perfect season. #2 Alabama beat Southern Mississippi 48-11 in Birmingham.
#3 Nebraska registered its 4th consecutive shutout, a 34-0 win at Oklahoma State. Including a 77-7 win at Army, the Cornhuskers had outscored their opponents 271-14 after an 0-1 start. #4 Ohio State beat Indiana 44-7. #5 Michigan beat Minnesota 27-19. The poll was 1.USC 2.Alabama 3.Nebraska 4.Michigan 5.Ohio State


November 4 #1 USC beat Washington State at a game in Seattle, 44-3. #2 Alabama defeated Mississippi State 58-14. #3 Nebraska won at Colorado, 33-10.
#4 Michigan won at Indiana 21-7. #5 Ohio State beat Minnesota 27-19. The poll remained unchanged at: 1.USC 2.Alabama 3.Nebraska 4.Michigan 5.Ohio State

November 11
#1 USC had the week off
#2 Alabama beat LSU at Birmingham 35-21. #3 Nebraska visited Iowa State and played to a 23-23 tie. #4 Michigan won at Iowa, 31-0. to extend its record to 9-0-0. #5 Ohio State lost at Michigan State, 19-12. #7 Oklahoma, which beat Missouri 17-6, returned to the Top Five. The poll was: 1.USC 2.Alabama 3.Michigan 4.Oklahoma 5.Nebraska

November 18 #1 USC beat UCLA, 24-7. #2 Alabama beat Virginia Tech 52-13. #3 Michigan got past Purdue, 9-6. #4 Oklahoma won at Kansas 31-7
#5 Nebraska beat Kansas State 59-7. The Top 9 stayed unchanged. The Top Five:1.USC 2.Alabama 3.Michigan 4.Oklahoma 5.Nebraska

November 25 #1 USC closed its regular season with a 45-23 win over visiting Notre Dame to finish at 11-0-0.
#2 Alabama was idle.
#3 Michigan (10-0-0) and #9 Ohio State (9-1-0) met at Columbus, in a season ending game that would determine the Big Ten title and who would face USC in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State won, 14-11. #4 Oklahoma beat #5 Nebraska 17-14 in Lincoln, Neb. Oklahoma accepted a bid to the Sugar Bowl, where it would face #6 Penn State; Penn State had beat visiting Pittsburgh 49-27 to close its season 10-1-0. The poll: 1.USC 2.Alabama 3.Oklahoma 4.Ohio State 5.Penn State

December 2 #1 USC had closed its season unbeaten at 11-0-0, and
#2 Alabama, at (10-0-0), was preparing to do the same as it met Auburn (8-1-0) in the annual season ender in Birmingham. The Auburn Tigers spoiled perfection, beating Alabama 17-16. #3 Oklahoma closed its regular season with a 10-1-0 record after a 38-15 win over Oklahoma State. #4 Ohio State and #5 Penn State had both finished their seasons. The final regular season poll was: 1.USC 2.Oklahoma 3.Ohio State 4.Alabama 5.Penn State. In 1972, only the Rose Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac 8) and Cotton Bowl (SWC winner) had conference tie-ins. Thus, Big 8 champion Oklahoma passed up an Orange Bowl invitation to play in the Sugar Bowl, while SEC champion Alabama passed the Sugar to meet Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

Bowl Games

Other bowls:

Other champions

Many of the schools that are now in the NCAA's Division I FCS were ranked in the "college division poll", taken by both the UPI (coaches) and AP (a panel of writers). Both the UPI and the AP panel ranked Delaware (10-0-0) first, followed by Louisiana Tech (11-0-0). [ "UPI Names Delaware College Div. Grid King," Pacific Stars and Stripes, Nov. 24, 1972, p19 ] [ "AP Poll Picks Hens as Little Big Men," Pacific Stars and Stripes, Nov. 25, 1972, p19 ] (Louisiana Tech is now in Division I FBS.) In the NAIA Division I championship, East Texas State (now Texas A&M-Commerce) beat Carson-Newman 21-18. Missouri Southern beat Northwestern College (of Iowa) 21-14 for the Division II crown.

Heisman Trophy


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