1976 NCAA Division I football season

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The 1976 NCAA Division I football season ended with a championship for the Panthers of the University of Pittsburgh. Led by head coach 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; the Panthers had been ranked ninth in the preseason AP poll.

During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for major college football teams, which became Division I-A in 1978. 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.

Rule changes[edit]

  • 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 and program changes[edit]

School 1975 Conference 1976 Conference
Eastern Michigan Hurons D-II Independent MAC
Houston Cougars Independent Southwest
Richmond Spiders Southern Independent

September[edit]

In the preseason poll released on September 7, the AP ranked Nebraska first, followed by Michigan, Arizona State (the highest preseason ranking for a WAC team), Ohio State, and 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, and #3 Arizona State lost its home opener 28–10 to #17 UCLA, and dropped to 18th, then out of the Top 20 entirely. #4 Ohio State beat Michigan State 49–21, and #5 Oklahoma won 24–3 at Vanderbilt. 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 The top five teams all won: #1 Michigan beat Stanford 51–0, and #2 Ohio State won 12–7 at #7 Penn State. #3 Pittsburgh beat Georgia Tech 42–14 in Atlanta, #4 Oklahoma beat California 28–17, and #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, and #2 Ohio State lost 22–21 to Missouri and fell to sixth. #3 Pittsburgh beat Temple 21–7, #4 Oklahoma beat Florida State 24–9, and #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[edit]

October 2 #1 Michigan beat Wake Forest 31–0, and #2 Pittsburgh won 44–31 at Duke. #3 Oklahoma won 24–10 at Iowa State, while #4 UCLA traveled to Columbus and played #6 Ohio State to a 10–10 tie. #5 Nebraska beat Miami (FL) 17–9, but dropped to sixth. #6 Georgia shut out #10 Alabama 21–0 and moved up to fourth. Top Five: 1.Michigan 2.Pittsburgh 3.Oklahoma 4.Georgia 5.UCLA

October 9 #1 Michigan defeated Michigan State 42–10, and #2 Pittsburgh beat Louisville 27–6. #3 Oklahoma played its annual game in Dallas against #16 Texas to a 6–6 tie. #4 Georgia was upset 21–17 at Mississippi, #5 UCLA beat Stanford 38–20, while #6 Nebraska won 24–12 at Colorado 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. #2 Pittsburgh beat Miami (FL), 36–19. #3 Nebraska shut out Kansas State 51–0, #4 UCLA beat Washington State 62–3, but #5 Maryland narrowly beat Wake Forest 17–15, and fell to sixth. #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 35–0 at Indiana, while #2 Pittsburgh won 45–0 at Navy. #3 Nebraska lost 34–24 to #17 Missouri. Though Mizzou finished with a 6–5 record, they had also upset USC and Ohio State. #4 UCLA won 35–19 at California, #5 Oklahoma lost 31–24 at home to Oklahoma State, #6 Maryland won 30–3 at Duke to reach 7–0. #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. #3 UCLA won 30–21 at Washington and #4 USC beat California 20-6. #5 Maryland beat Kentucky 24–14, but fell back to sixth place in the polls, trading places with 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[edit]

November 6 #1 Michigan lost 16–14 at Purdue, and fell from the top spot. #2 Pittsburgh's 37–7 win over Army allowed it to take over the top spot. #3 UCLA beat Oregon 46–0, #4 USC won 48–24 at Stanford. #5 Texas Tech won 14–10 at TCU. The top five was: 1.Pittsburgh 2.UCLA 3.USC 4.Michigan 5.Texas Tech

November 13 #1 Pittsburgh beat West Virginia 24–16, and #2 UCLA won 45–14 at Oregon State to extend its record to 9–0–1. #3 USC beat Washington 20-3, #4 Michigan beat Illinois 38-7, and #5 Texas Tech beat SMU 34–7 to reach 8–0. 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 Los Angeles, #2 UCLA and #3 USC were both unbeaten in the Pac-8, so their crosstown game determined the conference title for the Rose Bowl berth. 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 had one loss and was second to #8 Ohio State; it was no contest as Michigan won 22–0 over the Buckeyes and climbed to second. The Southwest Conference title and a trip to the Cotton Bowl came down to a meeting between #5 Texas Tech and #9 Houston, in its first year of membership; the visiting Cougars handed the Red Raiders their first loss, 27–19. #6 Maryland closed an 11–0 regular season with a 28–0 win at Virginia, and the ACC champion was invited to meet SWC champion Houston in the Cotton Bowl. Top-ranked 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.[3] 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.Michigan 3.USC 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, but on the night 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.[4] (He was awarded the Heisman Trophy the following week.) USC maintained its #3 ranking with a 17–13 win over Notre Dame, and the final regular season poll was 1.Pittsburgh 2.Michigan 3.USC 4.Maryland 5.Georgia.

Conference standings[edit]

The following is an incomplete list of conference standings:

1976 ACC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#13 Maryland $ 5 0 0     11 1 0
North Carolina 4 1 0     9 3 0
Wake Forest 3 3 0     5 6 0
Duke 2 3 1     5 5 1
NC State 2 3 0     3 7 1
Virginia 1 3 0     2 9 0
Clemson 0 4 1     3 6 2
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll[5]
1976 Big 8 football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#5 Oklahoma + 5 2 0     9 2 1
#14 Oklahoma State + 5 2 0     9 3 0
#16 Colorado + 5 2 0     8 4 0
#9 Nebraska 4 3 0     9 3 1
#19 Iowa State 4 3 0     8 3 0
Missouri 3 4 0     6 5 0
Kansas 2 5 0     6 5 0
Kansas State 0 7 0     1 10 0
  • + – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1976 Big Ten football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#3 Michigan + 7 1 0     10 2 0
#6 Ohio State + 7 1 0     9 2 1
Minnesota 4 4 0     6 5 0
Illinois 4 4 0     5 6 0
Indiana 4 4 0     5 6 0
Purdue 4 4 0     5 6 0
Iowa 3 5 0     5 6 0
Wisconsin 3 5 0     5 6 0
Michigan State 3 5 0     4 6 1
Northwestern 1 7 0     1 10 0
  • + – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1976 Ivy League football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Yale +   6 1         8 1  
Brown +   6 1         8 1  
Harvard   4 3         6 3  
Dartmouth   4 3         6 3  
Columbia   2 5         3 6  
Pennsylvania   2 5         3 6  
Princeton   2 5         2 7  
Cornell   2 5         2 7  
  • + – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1976 Mid-American Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
Ball State $ 4 1 0     8 3 0
Kent State 6 2 0     8 4 0
Ohio 6 2 0     7 4 0
Western Michigan 6 3 0     7 4 0
Central Michigan 4 3 0     7 4 0
Bowling Green 4 3 0     6 5 0
Miami (OH) 2 4 0     3 8 0
Toledo 2 6 0     3 8 0
Eastern Michigan 1 5 0     2 9 0
Northern Illinois 0 6 0     1 10 0
  • $ – Conference champion
1976 Pacific Coast Athletic Association football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
San Jose State $ 4 0 0     7 4 0
Fresno State 3 1 0     5 6 0
Long Beach State 2 2 0     8 3 0
Cal State Fullerton 1 3 0     3 7 1
Pacific (CA) 0 4 0     2 9 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1976 Pacific-8 football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#2 USC $ 7 0 0     11 1 0
#15 UCLA 6 1 0     9 2 1
Stanford 5 2 0     6 5 0
California 3 4 0     5 6 0
Washington 3 4 0     5 6 0
Washington State 2 5 0     3 8 0
Oregon 1 6 0     4 7 0
Oregon State 1 6 0     2 10 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1976 SEC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#10 Georgia $ 5 1 0     10 2 0
#11 Alabama 5 2 0     9 3 0
#20 Mississippi State 4 2 0     9 2 0
Florida 4 2 0     8 4 0
#18 Kentucky 4 2 0     8 4 0
Ole Miss 3 4 0     5 6 0
LSU 2 4 0     6 4 1
Tennessee 2 4 0     6 5 0
Auburn 2 4 0     3 8 0
Vanderbilt 0 6 0     2 9 0
  • $ – Conference champion
  • Mississippi State later forfeited all 1976 wins due to NCAA violations.
Rankings from AP Poll
1976 Southern Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
East Carolina $ 4 1 0     9 2 0
William & Mary 3 2 0     7 4 0
Appalachian State 2 2 1     6 4 1
Furman 2 2 1     6 4 1
VMI 2 3 0     5 5 0
The Citadel 1 4 0     6 5 0
  • $ – Conference champion
1976 Southland Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
McNeese State $ 4 1 0     10 2 0
Southwestern Louisiana 4 1 0     7 4 0
Texas–Arlington 3 2 0     5 6 0
Louisiana Tech 2 3 0     6 5 0
Arkansas State 2 3 0     5 6 0
Lamar 0 5 0     2 9 0
  • $ – Conference champion
  • Southwestern Louisiana forfeited 2 regular season wins.
Rankings from AP Poll
1976 Southwest Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#4 Houston + 7 1 0     10 2 0
#13 Texas Tech + 7 1 0     10 2 0
#7 Texas A&M 6 2 0     10 2 0
Baylor 4 3 1     7 3 1
Texas 4 4 0     5 5 1
Arkansas 3 4 1     5 5 1
Rice 2 6 0     3 8 0
SMU 2 6 0     3 8 0
TCU 0 8 0     0 11 0
  • + – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1976 NCAA Division I Independents football records
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#1 Pittsburgh         12 0 0
#17 Rutgers         11 0 0
San Diego State         10 1 0
#12 Notre Dame         9 3 0
Colgate         8 2 0
Boston College         8 3 0
Cincinnati         8 3 0
Memphis State         7 4 0
North Texas State         7 4 0
Penn State         7 5 0
Villanova         6 4 1
South Carolina         6 5 0
Virginia Tech         6 5 0
Army         5 6 0
Florida State         5 6 0
Illinois State         5 6 0
West Virginia         5 6 0
Georgia Tech         4 6 1
Temple         4 6 0
Air Force         4 7 0
Dayton         4 7 0
Louisville         4 7 0
Navy         4 7 0
Indiana State         3 7 0
Hawaii         3 8 0
Holy Cross         3 8 0
Miami (FL)         3 8 0
Syracuse         3 8 0
Utah State         3 8 0
Northeast Louisiana         2 9 0
Southern Miss         2 9 0
Tulane         2 9 0
Rankings from AP Poll
1976 WAC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
BYU + 6 1 0     9 3 0
Wyoming + 6 1 0     8 4 0
Arizona State 4 3 0     4 7 0
Utah 3 3 0     3 8 0
Arizona 3 4 0     5 6 0
New Mexico 3 4 0     4 7 0
Colorado State 2 4 0     6 5 0
UTEP 0 7 0     1 11 0
  • + – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll

#1 and #2 progress[edit]

WEEKS #1 #2 Event
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 Michigan Pittsburgh 27, Georgia 3

Bowl games[edit]

Major bowls[edit]

Saturday, January 1, 1977

At the Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans, 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.[6] In the Cotton at Dallas, #6 Houston beat #4 Maryland 30–21, and #3 USC beat #2 Michigan 14–6 in the Rose in Pasadena. At the nightcap in Miami, Ohio State justified their Orange Bowl invitation by crushing Colorado, 27–10.

BOWL
SUGAR #1 Pittsburgh Panthers 27 #5 Georgia Bulldogs 3
COTTON #6 Houston Cougars 30 #4 Maryland Terrapins 21
ROSE #3 USC Trojans 14 #2 Michigan Wolverines 6
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), was ranked 17th in the final poll.

Other bowls[edit]

BOWL Location Date Winner Score Runner-up
SUN El Paso, TX January 2 #10 Texas A&M 37–14 Florida
GATOR Jacksonville, FL December 27 #15 Notre Dame 20–9 #20 Penn State
TANGERINE Orlando, FL December 18 #14 Oklahoma State 49–21 Brigham Young
FIESTA Tempe, AZ December 25 #8 Oklahoma 41–7 Wyoming
ASTRO-BLUEBONNET Houston, TX December 31 #13 Nebraska 27–24 #9 Texas Tech
LIBERTY Memphis, TN December 20 #16 Alabama 36–6 #7 UCLA
PEACH Atlanta, GA December 31 Kentucky 21–0 #19 North Carolina
INDEPENDENCE Shreveport, LA December 13 McNeese State 20–16 Tulsa

Heisman Trophy[edit]

  1. Tony Dorsett, RB - Pittsburgh, 2,357 points
  2. Ricky Bell, RB - USC, 1,346
  3. Rob Lytle, RB - Michigan, 413
  4. Terry Miller, RB - Oklahoma State, 197
  5. Tommy Kramer, QB - Rice, 63
  6. Gifford Nielsen, QB - BYU, 45
  7. Ray Goff, QB - Georgia, 44
  8. Mike Voight, RB - North Carolina, 41
  9. Joe Roth, QB - California, 32
  10. Jeff Dankworth, QB - UCLA, 31
  • Miller and Nielsen were juniors

Source:[7][8][9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.jhowell.net/cf/cf1976.htm
  2. ^ http://www.appollarchive.com/football/ap/seasons.cfm?appollid=452
  3. ^ "Panthers Sweet On Sugar" The Valley Independent (Monessen, Pa.), Nov. 17, 1976 p12
  4. ^ "Dorsett adds to records", New Castle (Pa.) News, November 27, 1976, p15
  5. ^ "1976 Atlantic Coast Conference Year Summary". sports-reference.com. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Pitt gilds no. 1 ranking", Star-News (Pasadena, Ca.), Jan. 2, 1977, p C-5
  7. ^ "Tony Dorsett". Heisman Trophy. 1976. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Dorsett thinks he should have won two straight Heismans". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. December 1, 1976. p. 38. 
  9. ^ "Dorsett awes own mates". Pittsburgh Press. December 1, 1976. p. 69.