1976 college football season
|1976 college football season|
|Total # of teams||138|
|Preseason AP #1||Nebraska Cornhuskers|
|Number of bowls||12|
|Heisman||Tony Dorsett, Pittsburgh RB|
|College football seasons
The 1976 college football season ended with a championship for the Panthers of the University of Pittsburgh. Coached by Johnny Majors (voted the AFCA Coach of the Year), the Pitt Panthers brought a college football championship to the home of the defending pro football champions, the Steelers. Pitt also had the Heisman Trophy winner, Tony Dorsett. At the beginning of the season, the Panthers had been ranked #9 in the AP poll.
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). The AP poll consisted of the votes of as many as 62 writers, though not all voted in each poll, and the UPI poll was taken of a 25 member board of coaches.
In the preseason poll released on September 7, 1976, the AP ranked Nebraska #1, followed by #2 Michigan, #3 Arizona State (the highest preseason ranking for a WAC team), #4 Ohio State and #5 Oklahoma.
September 11 #1 Nebraska failed to win its opening game, being tied 6-6 by LSU in Baton Rouge, escaping with the stalemate only after the Bayou Bengals missed a 44-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds. #2 Michigan beat Wisconsin, 40-27. #3 Arizona State lost its home opener to #17 UCLA, 28-10, and dropped to 18th, then out of the Top 20 entirely. #4 Ohio State beat Michigan State, 49-21. #5 Oklahoma won at Vanderbilt, 24-3. After a 31-10 win at #11 Notre Dame, #9 Pittsburgh rose to third. With Nebraska and Arizona State dropping to 8th and 18th, and Pitt and UCLA moving up, the Top Five was: 1.Michigan 2.Ohio State 3.Pittsburgh 4.Oklahoma 5.UCLA.
September 18 #1 Michigan beat Stanford 51-0. #2 Ohio State won at #7 Penn State, 12-7 #3 Pittsburgh went to Atlanta, beating Georgia Tech 42-14. #4 Oklahoma beat California, 28-17 #5 UCLA beat Arizona, 37-9. The poll remained unchanged: 1.Michigan 2.Ohio State 3.Pittsburgh 4.Oklahoma 5.UCLA.
September 25 #1 Michigan crushed Navy, 70-14 #2 Ohio State lost a close game to Missouri, 22-21, and fell to 6th place. #3 Pittsburgh beat the visiting (from Philadelphia) Temple Owls, 21-7. #4 Oklahoma beat Florida State, 24-9 #5 UCLA beat Air Force, 40-7. #6 Nebraska, which beat TCU 64-10, returned to the Top 5: 1.Michigan 2.Pittsburgh 3.Oklahoma 4.UCLA and 5.Nebraska
October 2 #1 Michigan beat Wake Forest, 31-0. #2 Pittsburgh won at Duke, 44-31. #3 Oklahoma won at Iowa State, 24-10. #4 UCLA traveled to Columbus and played #6 Ohio State to a 10-10 tie. #5 Nebraska beat the Miami Hurricanes, 17-9, but dropped to 6th. #6 Georgia shut out #10 Alabama, 21-0 and moved up to 4th. the Top Five was: 1.Michigan 2.Pittsburgh 3.Oklahoma 4.Georgia 5.UCLA
October 9 #1 Michigan defeated Michigan State 42-10. #2 Pittsburgh beat Louisville, 27-6. #3 Oklahoma played its annual game against (#16) Texas in Dallas, to a 6-6 tie. #4 Georgia was upset by Mississippi in Oxford, MS, 21-17. #5 UCLA beat Stanford, 38-20 #6 Nebraska won at Colorado, 24-12, and rose to third. #7 Maryland, which beat NC State 16-6, rose to fifth the Top Five was: 1.Michigan 2.Pittsburgh 3.Nebraska 4.UCLA 5.Maryland
October 16 After playing its first five games at home, #1 Michigan traveled to Evanston and defeated Northwestern, 38-7. The #2 Pittsburgh Panthers beat visit the visiting Miami Hurricanes, 36-19. #3 Nebraska shut out Kansas State, 51-0. #4 UCLA beat Washington State 62-3 #5 Maryland narrowly beat Wake Forest, 17-15, and fell to 6th. #6 Oklahoma returned to the Top Five after a 28-10 win at #15 Kansas. the Top Five was: 1.Michigan 2.Pittsburgh 3.Nebraska 4.UCLA 5.Oklahoma
October 23 #1 Michigan won at Indiana, 35-0, while #2 Pittsburgh won at Navy, 45-0. #3 Nebraska lost to #17 Missouri, 34-24. Though the Missouri Tigers would finish the 1976 season with a 6-5-0 record, they had upset USC and Ohio State as well. #4 UCLA won at California 35-19 #5 Oklahoma lost at home to Oklahoma State, 31-24. #6 Maryland won at Duke, 30-3, to reach 7-0-0. #7 USC (which had lost its opener to Missouri, then won four, beat Oregon State 56-0, and crashed the Top 5: 1.Michigan 2.Pittsburgh 3.UCLA 4.USC 5.Maryland
October 30' #1 Michigan beat Minnesota, 45-0 and #2 Pittsburgh beat Syracuse, 23-13, as both teams reached 8-0-0. #3 UCLA won at Washington, 30-21 #4 USC beat California 20-6. #5 Maryland beat Kentucky, 24-14, but fell back to 6th place in the polls, trading places with #6 Texas Tech, which had beaten #15 Texas 31-28. The Top Five was: 1.Michigan 2.Pittsburgh 3.UCLA 4.USC 5.Texas Tech
November 6 In West Lafayette, Indiana, #1 Michigan narrowly lost to Purdue, 16-14, and fell from the top spot. #2 Pittsburgh's 37-7 win over visiting Army allowed it to take over the top spot. #3 UCLA beat Oregon, 46-0 #4 USC won at Stanford, 48-24. #5 Texas Tech won at TCU 14-10. the Top Five was: 1.Pittsburgh 2.UCLA 3.USC 4.Michigan 5.Texas Tech
November 13 #1 Pittsburgh beat West Virginia 24-16. #2 UCLA won at Oregon State to extend its record to 9-0-1. #3 USC beat Washington, 20-3. #4 Michigan beat Illinois 38-7. #5 Texas Tech beat SMU 34-7 to reach 8-0-0. The Top Five was unchanged: 1.Pittsburgh 2.UCLA 3.USC 4.Michigan 5.Texas Tech
November 20 While #1 Pittsburgh was idle, three conference championships were determined on the same day. In Pac-8 conference play, #2 UCLA (7-0) and #3 USC (6-0) were both unbeaten, so their crosstown L.A. game determined not just the conference title, but who would go to the Rose Bowl. UCLA suffered its first loss of the season, falling to the Trojans 24-14. The same day in Columbus, Ohio, the Big Ten's two best teams were meeting to determine the other berth in the Rose Bowl. In conference play #4 Michigan (6-1-0) was second to #8 Ohio State (7-0). In the bicentennial year Schembechler-Hayes meeting, it was no contest as Michigan won 22-0 over the Buckeyes. The Southwest Conference title and a trip to Cotton Bowl came down to a meeting between #5 Texas Tech and #9 Houston, 6-0-0 and 5-1-0 in conference play, respectively. Visiting Houston handed the Red Raiders their first loss, 27-19. #6 Maryland closed an 11-0-0 regular season with a 28-0 win at Virginia, and the ACC champion was invited to meet SWC champion Houston in the Cotton Bowl. Pittsburgh was invited to play in the Sugar Bowl after the players took a vote and made it clear that they would prefer to play SEC champion #5 Georgia there rather than face lower ranked Big 8 co-champion Colorado in the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl then controversially selected Big 10 runner up Ohio State to play Colorado over Pac-8 runner up UCLA, even though UCLA had a better record and higher ranking than Ohio State. It was believed that Ohio State would bring more fans to Miami for the warm weather than UCLA would, and Orange Bowl officials did not like the prospect of a UCLA - Colorado matchup as it would be two schools from the west playing back east.
The Top Five was: 1.Pittsburgh 2.USC 3.Michigan 4.Maryland 5.Georgia
November 27 #1 Pittsburgh moved its game against Penn State from its campus to Three Rivers Stadium. Pitt had not beaten the Nittany Lions in its last ten meetings, and on the day after Thanksgiving, cruised to a 24-7 win. Tony Dorsett, who rushed for 224 yards and scored two of Pitt's touchdowns, breaking the record for yards in a season (1,948) and becoming the first college player to reach 6,000 yards rushing in a career, closing with 6,082. USC maintained its #2 ranking with a 21-13 win over Notre Dame. The final regular season poll was 1.Pittsburgh 2.USC 3.Michigan 4.Maryland and 5.Georgia.
Rule Changes 
- Spearing will be called anytime the infraction occurs, previously it was called only if the official determined "malicious" intent.
- Blocking rules were liberalized, allowing half of full extension of arms within the frame of, but below the shoulder of, the opponent.
Conference standings 
The following is an incomplete list of conference standings:
#1 and #2 Progress 
|PRE||Nebraska||Michigan||LSU 6, Nebraska 6 (Sept 11)|
|1-2||Michigan||Ohio State||Missouri 22, Ohio State 21 (Sept 25)|
|3-8||Michigan||Pittsburgh||Purdue 16, Michigan 14 (Nov 6)|
|9-10||Pittsburgh||UCLA||USC 24 UCLA 14 (Nov 19)|
|11-Final||Pittsburgh||USC||Pittsburgh 27, Georgia 3|
Bowl Games 
At the Sugar Bowl, Pitt quarterback Matt Cavanaugh passed for 192 yards, and Dorsett had 32 carries for 202 yards, overcoming Georgia's heralded "Junkyard Dogs" defense. After taking a 21-0 lead at halftime, the Panthers cemented their number one status with a 27-3 win over Georgia. In the Cotton Bowl, #6 Houston beat #4 Maryland 30-21, and in the Rose Bowl, #2 USC beat #3 Michigan 14-6. Finally, Ohio State justified their Orange Bowl invitation by crushing Colorado, 27-10.
|SUGAR||#1 Pittsburgh Panthers||27||#5 Georgia Bulldogs||3|
|ROSE||#2 USC Trojans||14||#3 Michigan Wolverines||6|
|COTTON||#6 Houston Cougars||30||#4 Maryland Terrapins||21|
|ORANGE||#11 Ohio State Buckeyes||27||#12 Colorado Buffaloes||10|
Pittsburgh received 59 of the 62 first place votes cast to win the AP Trophy, and was ranked #1 by UPI as well, followed by 2.USC 3.Michigan 4.Houston and 5.Oklahoma. The other Division I unbeaten team, Rutgers (11-0-0), was ranked 17th in the final poll.
|SUN||El Paso||Texas A&M 37||Florida 14|
|GATOR||Jacksonville||Notre Dame 20||Penn State 9|
|TANGERINE||Orlando||Oklahoma State 49||Brigham Young 21|
|FIESTA||Tempe||Oklahoma 41||Wyoming 7|
|ASTRO-BLUEBONNET||Houston||Nebraska 27||Texas Tech 24|
|LIBERTY||Memphis||Alabama 36||UCLA 6|
|PEACH||Atlanta||Kentucky 21||North Carolina 0|
|INDEPENDENCE||Shreveport||McNeese State 20||Tulsa 16|
Other champions 
|NCAA Division II||Montana State Bobcats||24||Akron Zips||13|
|NCAA Division III||St. John's (Minn.) Johnnies||31||Towson State Tigers||28|
|NAIA Division I||Texas A & I Javelinas||26||Central Arkansas Bears||0|
|NAIA Division II||Westminster (Pa.) Titans||20||Redlands Bulldogs||13|
Heisman Trophy 
- "Panthers Sweet On Sugar" The Valley Independent (Monessen, Pa.), Nov. 17, 1976 p12
- "Dorsett adds to records", New Castle (Pa.) News, November 27, 1976, p15
- "1976 Atlantic Coast Conference Year Summary". sports-reference.com. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- "Pitt gilds no. 1 ranking", Star-News (Pasadena, Ca.), Jan. 2, 1977, p C-5