1979 NCAA Division I-A football season

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1979 NCAA Division I-A season
Number of teams 140[1]
Preseason AP #1 USC Trojans[2]
Post-season
Bowl games 15
AP Poll #1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Heisman Trophy Charles White, USC RB
Division I-A football seasons
← 1978
1980 →

The 1979 NCAA Division I-A football season saw the Alabama Crimson Tide bring home a national title with a perfect 12-0 season. The title was Alabama's 11th claimed, and their 6th Associated Press awarded title.

This was an extremely dominant Alabama team, only giving up 67 points the entire season and shutting out five opponents. The team won a tight game against LSU 3-0 and beat Auburn by a touchdown before beating Arkansas 24-9 in the Sugar Bowl.

There was very little movement at the top of the rankings throughout the season, as only three different teams held the top spot in the AP poll and only two in the UPI poll. USC was the pre-season top-ranked team, and held the number one ranking until a 21–21 tie with Stanford, a game USC led at halftime 21–0. A fumbled hold on the snap from center cost the Trojans a chance at a last-second field goal. Stanford was led by quarterback Turk Schonert, while freshman John Elway served as his backup. USC ended up finishing second in the country, but running back Charles White brought home the Heisman Trophy.

Number 2 Alabama then took over the top spot and never relinquished that position in the UPI poll. In the AP poll, however, Ohio State took over the top spot in the last regular season poll of the season. Ohio State had defeated #13 Michigan in Ann Arbor by a score of 18–15 to earn the Big 10 title. Two weeks later, Alabama defeated #14 Auburn 25-18 in Birmingham, but the AP voters saw fit to jump Ohio State ahead of them.

Thus, Ohio State came within one point of a national title under first-year coach Earle Bruce, who replaced coach Woody Hayes, falling to USC 17–16 in the Rose Bowl after an undefeated season.

This season the total number of Division 1-A teams grew by 2 to 140 with the addition of Connecticut as an independent and East Tennessee State as a member of the Southern Conference.

Rule Changes[edit]

  • Blocking below the waist is prohibited on fumble recoveries (before they touch the ground), interceptions of forward and backward passes, on wide receivers beyond five yards past the line of scrimmage, on kickers until they are five yards past the line of scrimmage, and by backs beyond three yards past the line of scrimmage.
  • Adding an automatic first down to defensive penalties for spearing, blows to the head or helmet, or kicking an opponent.
  • Fouls committed by the receiving team during punts and kickoffs after the ball crosses the line of scrimmage result in enforcement from the spot of the foul, not from the previous spot and a re-kick as was previously the case.
  • Eliminating offsetting penalties when a dead-ball foul is involved.

Conference standings[edit]

1979 ACC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
NC State 5 1 0     7 4 0
Clemson 4 2 0     8 4 0
Maryland 4 2 0     7 4 0
Wake Forest 3 2 0     8 4 0
#15 North Carolina 3 3 0     8 3 1
Virginia 1 4 0     6 5 0
Duke 0 6 0     2 8 1
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Big 8 football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#3 Oklahoma 7 0 0     11 1 0
#9 Nebraska 6 1 0     10 2 0
Oklahoma State 5 2 0     7 4 0
Missouri 3 4 0     7 5 0
Colorado 2 5 0     3 8 0
Iowa State 2 5 0     3 8 0
Kansas 2 5 0     3 8 0
Kansas State 1 6 0     3 8 0
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Big Ten football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#4/4 Ohio State 8 0 0     11 1 0
#10/10 Purdue 7 1 0     10 2 0
#18/19 Michigan 6 2 0     8 4 0
#19/16 Indiana 5 3 0     8 4 0
Iowa 4 4 0     5 6 0
Minnesota 3 5 1     4 6 1
Michigan State 3 5 0     5 6 0
Wisconsin 3 5 0     4 7 0
Illinois 1 6 1     2 8 1
Northwestern 0 9 0     1 10 0
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll / Coaches' Poll
1979 Ivy League football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
Yale 6 1 0     8 1 0
Brown 5 2 0     6 3 0
Princeton 5 2 0     5 4 0
Cornell 4 3 0     5 4 0
Dartmouth 4 3 0     4 4 1
Harvard 3 4 0     3 6 0
Columbia 1 6 0     1 8 0
Pennsylvania 0 7 0     0 9 0
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Mid-American Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
Central Michigan 8 0 1     10 0 1
Toledo 7 1 1     7 3 1
Western Michigan 5 4 0     6 5 0
Ball State 4 4 0     6 5 0
Ohio 4 4 0     6 5 0
Northern Illinois 3 3 1     5 5 1
Miami 3 4 0     6 5 0
Bowling Green 3 5 0     4 7 0
Eastern Michigan 1 6 1     2 8 1
Kent State 1 8 0     1 10 0
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Missouri Valley Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
West Texas State 5 0 0     5 5 1
Southern Illinois 4 1 0     8 3 0
Indiana State 3 2 0     8 3 0
Drake 1 4 0     3 8 0
New Mexico State 1 5 0     2 9 0
Wichita State 1 5 0     1 10 0
Tulsa         6 5 0
† – Conference champion
  • Tulsa was ineligible for MVC title
    Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Pacific-10 football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#2 USC 6 0 1     11 0 1
#11 Washington 5 2 0     9 3 0
Arizona 4 3 0     6 5 1
Oregon 4 3 0     6 5 0
California 5 4 0     6 6 0
Stanford 3 3 1     5 5 1
Arizona State 3 4 0     6 6 0
UCLA 3 4 0     5 6 0
Washington State 2 6 0     3 8 0
Oregon State 1 7 0     1 10 0
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Pacific Coast Athletic Association football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
Utah State 4 0 1     7 3 1
San Jose State 4 0 1     6 4 1
Long Beach State 3 2 0     7 4 0
Fresno State 2 3 0     4 7 0
Cal State Fullerton 1 4 0     3 8 0
Pacific 0 5 0     3 7 0
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 SEC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#1 Alabama 6 0 0     12 0 0
Georgia 5 1 0     6 5 0
#16 Auburn 4 2 0     8 3 0
LSU 4 2 0     7 5 0
Tennessee 3 3 0     7 5 0
Kentucky 3 3 0     5 6 0
Ole Miss 3 3 0     4 7 0
Mississippi State 2 4 0     3 8 0
Vanderbilt 0 6 0     1 10 0
Florida 0 6 0     0 10 1
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Southern Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
Chattanooga 5 1 0     9 2 0
VMI 4 1 0     6 4 1
The Citadel 4 2 0     6 5 0
Furman 4 3 0     5 6 0
Appalachian State 3 4 0     3 8 0
East Tennessee State 2 3 0     7 4 0
Western Carolina 2 4 0     6 5 0
Marshall 0 6 0     1 10 0
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Southland Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
McNeese State 5 0 0     11 1 0
Texas–Arlington 4 1 0     9 2 0
Lamar 3 2 0     6 3 2
Arkansas State 1 4 0     4 7 0
Southwestern Louisiana 1 4 0     4 7 0
Louisiana Tech 1 4 0     2 9 0
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Division I-A independents football records
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#6 Florida State           11 1 0
#7 Pittsburgh           11 1 0
UNLV           9 1 2
#17 Temple           10 2 0
Tulane           9 3 0
Rutgers           8 3 0
East Carolina           7 3 1
#20 Penn State           8 4 0
South Carolina           8 4 0
Navy           7 4 0
Notre Dame           7 4 0
Southern Miss           6 4 1
Syracuse           7 5 0
Colgate           5 4 1
Boston College           5 6 0
Holy Cross           5 6 0
Memphis           5 6 0
Miami           5 6 0
North Texas           5 6 0
Villanova           5 6 0
Virginia Tech           5 6 0
West Virginia           5 6 0
Georgia Tech           4 6 1
Louisville           4 6 1
Connecticut           3 6 2
William & Mary           4 7 0
Northwestern State           3 6 0
Illinois State           3 8 0
Northeast Louisiana           3 8 0
Army           2 8 1
Air Force           2 9 0
Cincinnati           2 9 0
Richmond           0 11 0
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 Southwest Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#5 Houston § 7 1 0     11 1 0
#8 Arkansas § 7 1 0     10 2 0
#12 Texas 6 2 0     9 3 0
#14 Baylor 5 3 0     8 4 0
Texas A&M 4 4 0     6 5 0
SMU 3 5 0     5 6 0
Texas Tech 2 5 1     3 6 2
TCU 1 6 1     2 8 1
Rice 0 8 0     1 10 0
§ – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1979 WAC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#13 BYU 7 0 0     11 1 0
Utah 5 2 0     6 6 0
San Diego State 4 2 0     8 3 0
Hawaii 3 3 0     6 5 0
New Mexico 3 4 0     6 6 0
Colorado State 3 4 0     4 7 1
Wyoming 2 5 0     4 8 0
UTEP 0 7 0     2 9 0
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll

#1 and #2 Progress[edit]

WEEKS #1 #2 Event
PRE-5 USC Alabama Stanford 21, USC 21 (Oct 13)
6 Alabama Texas Arkansas 17, Texas 14 (Oct 20)
7-9 Alabama Nebraska Ohio State 34, Iowa 7 (Nov 10)
10-11 Alabama Ohio State USC 49, UCLA 14 (Nov 24)
12 Alabama USC
13 Ohio State Alabama USC 17, Ohio State 16

Notable rivalry games[edit]

  • Alabama 34, Auburn 16
  • #8 Oklahoma 17, #3 Nebraska 14
  • Ohio St. 18, Michigan 14
  • USC 42, Notre Dame 23
  • USC 49, UCLA 14
  • Pitt 29, Penn State 14

Bowl games[edit]

BOWL
Rose Bowl #3 USC 17 #1 Ohio State 16
Sugar Bowl #2 Alabama 24 #6 Arkansas 9
Orange Bowl #5 Oklahoma 24 #4 Florida State 7
Cotton Bowl Classic #8 Houston 17 #7 Nebraska 14
Bluebonnet Bowl #12 Purdue 27 Tennessee 22
Peach Bowl #19 Baylor 24 #18 Clemson 18
Hall of Fame Classic Missouri 24 #16 South Carolina 14
Gator Bowl North Carolina 17 #14 Michigan 15
Fiesta Bowl #10 Pittsburgh 16 Arizona 10
Sun Bowl #13 Washington 14 #11 Texas 7
Liberty Bowl Penn State 9 #15 Tulane 6
Tangerine Bowl LSU 34 Wake Forest 10
Holiday Bowl Indiana 38 #9 Brigham Young 37
Garden State Bowl #20 Temple 28 California 17
Independence Bowl Syracuse 31 McNeese State 7

Final AP Poll[edit]

  1. Alabama
  2. Southern California
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Ohio State
  5. Houston
  6. Florida State
  7. Pittsburgh
  8. Arkansas
  9. Nebraska
  10. Purdue
  11. Washington
  12. Texas
  13. Brigham Young
  14. Baylor
  15. North Carolina
  16. Auburn
  17. Temple
  18. Michigan
  19. Indiana
  20. Penn State

Final Coaches Poll[edit]

  1. Alabama
  2. Southern California
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Ohio St.
  5. Houston
  6. Pittsburgh
  7. Nebraska
  8. Florida St.
  9. Arkansas
  10. Purdue
  11. Washington
  12. Brigham Young
  13. Texas
  14. North Carolina
  15. Baylor
  16. Indiana
  17. Temple
  18. Penn St.
  19. Michigan
  20. Missouri

Heisman Trophy voting[edit]

  1. Charles White, Southern California TB
  2. Billy Sims, Oklahoma HB
  3. Marc Wilson, Brigham Young QB
  4. Art Schlichter, Ohio State QB
  5. Vagas Ferguson, Notre Dame TB

Other major awards[edit]

References[edit]