The 1966 University Division football season was marked by some controversy as the year of "The Tie", a famous 10–10 game between the two top-ranked teams, Michigan State and Notre Dame on November 19. Both teams were crowned national champions by various organizations after the regular season concluded, and neither participated in bowl game. Alabama finished the regular season undefeated and was third in the AP poll, while Georgia was fourth. Alabama went on to win the Sugar Bowl in dominant fashion. During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known 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 1966, both services issued their final polls at the close of the regular season, but before teams competed in bowl games. The Associated Press presented the "AP Trophy" to the winner.
The AP poll in 1966 consisted of the votes of as many as 63 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 10 points for first place, 9 for second, etc., the "overall" ranking was determined. In the preseason poll for 1966, Alabama was slightly ahead of Michigan State in first place votes (15 vs. 12) and points.
Prior to the start of the 1966 season, East Carolina was elevated to the University Division.
The American Broadcasting Company began showing college football in color this season. By the NCAA rules, only 8 national and 5 regional telecasts were allowed during the season.
- A jersey numbering system was adopted requiring the center, tackles and guards on the offense to wear numbers 50–79. The offensive team captain must designate the players occupying these positions to an official upon request; failure to do so results in a five-yard penalty.
- Intentionally throwing a backward pass out of bounds to conserve time is illegal.
- Pyramiding players (allowing a player to stand on another player) in an effort to block a kick is outlawed. This change was made in response to an incident the previous season in the Ivy League: two Cornell players stood on the shoulders of two teammates to block field goal attempts by Princeton placekicker Charlie Gogolak.
Conference and program changesEdit
In the preseason poll released on September 12, the top six teams were from different conferences. First place was the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC), followed by defending UPI champ Michigan State (Big Ten), Nebraska (Big Eight), UCLA (Pacific-8), Arkansas (SWC) and Notre Dame (independent).
September 17 #2 Michigan State beat North Carolina State 28-10 at home, #3 Nebraska beat Texas Christian (TCU) 14-10, and #4 UCLA crushed Pittsburgh 57-14 in Los Angeles. At a game in Little Rock, #5 Arkansas beat visiting Oklahoma State 14-10, but fell to 6th place in the next poll, while #9 USC won at Texas, 10-6. Alabama had not yet begun its season. The poll was 1.Michigan State 2.UCLA 3.Alabama 4.Nebraska and 5.USC.
September 24 #1 Michigan State beat Penn State 42-8 at home in East Lansing. #2 UCLA won 31-12 at Syracuse, #3 Alabama easily handled Louisiana Tech 34-0, and #4 Nebraska won over Utah State 28-7 but would drop to sixth. The Cornhuskers were replaced by #8 Notre Dame, which had beaten #7 Purdue at home, 26-14. #5 USC beat Wisconsin in Los Angeles 38-3. In the poll, it was
1.Michigan State 2.UCLA 3.Alabama 4.Notre Dame and 5.USC.
October 1 #1 Michigan State won at Illinois, 26-10. #2 UCLA hosted Missouri and won, 24-15. #3 Alabama beat Mississippi 17-7, while #4 Notre Dame won 35-7 at Northwestern and thus jumped over Alabama to #3. #5 USC played Oregon State in a game at Portland, winning 21-0, but it dropped from fifth to sixth. Its place was taken by #7 Arkansas, which shut out Texas Christian by the same 21-0 score. The next poll was 1.Michigan State 2.UCLA 3.Notre Dame 4.Alabama 5.Arkansas. All of the Top Ten teams remained unbeaten (the next five were USC, Nebraska, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Florida
October 8 #1 Michigan State beat Michigan at home, 20-7. #2 UCLA won in Houston against Rice, 27-24. #3 Notre Dame and #4 Alabama registered shutouts, beating Army (35-0) and Clemson (26-0), respectively. Thus, Notre Dame and Alabama jumped over UCLA. #5 Arkansas was itself shut out, 7-0, by the Baylor Bears. They were replaced at fifth place by #6 USC which won 17-14 at home against Washington. #7 Nebraska beat the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison, 31-3. In a matchup between #9 Georgia Tech and #8 Tennessee in Atlanta, Tech won 6-3. With two unbeatens gone, the eight remaining in the poll were 1.Michigan State 2.Notre Dame 3.Alabama 4.UCLA 5.USC 6.Nebraska 7.Georgia Tech 8.Florida
October 15 #1 Michigan State narrowly beat Ohio State in Columbus, 11-8, while #2 Notre Dame held North Carolina scoreless at home, 32-0, which was enough for them to trade places in the next poll. Likewise, #3 Alabama edged Tennessee 11-10 while #4 UCLA overwhelmed Penn State 49-11 to jump back ahead of Alabama. UCLA's Los Angeles rival, #5 USC, beat Stanford 21-7. #6 Nebraska won 21-10 over Kansas State. #7 Georgia Tech met Auburn in Birmingham, winning 17-3 to stay unbeaten, and #8 Florida won at North Carolina State, 17-10. Oklahoma, which was scheduled to face Notre Dame, beat Kansas 35-0, while Purdue (set to face Michigan State) beat Michigan 22-21 in Ann Arbor. Purdue was the only team with a loss in the next poll: 1.Notre Dame 2.Michigan State 3.UCLA 4.Alabama 5.USC 6.Georgia Tech 7.Nebraska 8.Florida 9.Purdue 10.Oklahoma
On October 22, #1 Notre Dame met #10 Oklahoma at Norman and beat them, 38-0. #2 Michigan State hosted #9 Purdue and won 41-20, which would give State the Big Ten crown. Because of a Big Ten rule barring two straight Rose Bowl appearances, Purdue went to Pasadena instead of the Spartans. #3 UCLA won 28-15 at California in Berkeley, while in Birmingham, #4 Alabama handled Vanderbilt 42-6 and #5 USC beat visiting Clemson 30-0. It was #6 Georgia Tech over Tulane, 35-17, and #7 Nebraska won 21-19 at Colorado in a game that would determine the Big 8 championship. Arkansas returned to the Top Ten with a 41-0 triumph over Wichita State at Little Rock and Wyoming (which had gone 6-0-0 with a 35-10 win over Utah State) reached #10. The next poll had nine unbeaten teams, and Arkansas: 1.Notre Dame 2.Michigan State 3.UCLA 4.Alabama 5.USC 6.Ga Tech 7.Florida 8.Nebraska 9.Arkansas 5-1 10.Wyoming
October 29 Week Eight featured games in large cities. In a Friday night game in Miami, #5 USC lost 10-7 to the Hurricanes. #1 Notre Dame met Navy in a game at Philadelphia and won 31-7. #2 Michigan State traveled to metropolitan Chicago (Evanston) to beat Northwestern 22-0. In Los Angeles, #3 UCLA beat the Air Force Academy 38-13. #4 Alabama beat Mississippi State 27-14 in Tuscaloosa. Three other teams won again to go 7-0-0 (#6 Georgia Tech over Duke 48-7, #7 Florida over Auburn 30-27 and #8 Nebraska 35-0 over Missouri). #9 Arkansas won 34-0 over Texas A&M, and #10 Wyoming's Top Ten ranking ended with its first loss, 12-10 at Colorado State. The remaining unbeatens in the Halloween rankings were 1.Notre Dame 2.Michigan State 3.UCLA 4.Alabama 5.Georgia Tech 6.Nebraska and 7.Florida.
November 5 #1 Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh at home, 40-0. #2 Michigan State beat Iowa at home, 56-7. In Seattle, The #3 UCLA Bruins suffered their first loss, falling 16-3 at Washington. #4 Alabama defeated LSU 21-0 at Birmingham. #5 Georgia Tech got by Virginia in Atlanta, 14-13. #6 Nebraska, which had won 24-13 at Kansas, entered the Top Five, which contained the nation's five unbeaten major teams: 1.Notre Dame 2.Michigan State 3.Alabama 4.Nebraska 5.Georgia Tech.
On November 12, #1 Notre Dame crushed Duke 64-0 at home. #2 Michigan State won at Indiana 37-19. #3 Alabama over South Carolina 24-0 at Tuscaloosa for its third straight shutout win. #4 Nebraska won 21-6 over Oklahoma State, and #5 Georgia Tech beat Penn State 21-0. The Top Five remained the same, as #1 Notre Dame and #2 Michigan State prepared to meet on State's turf in East Lansing.
November 19, In "the game of the century" #1 Notre Dame played #2 Michigan State to a 10-10 tie in East Lansing. The Spartans closed their season with a 9-0-1 record and no postseason game, since they had played the 1965 Rose Bowl and were barred from a repeat. After the game, the AP and UPI split, with the AP ranking Notre Dame #1 and the UPI ranking Michigan State #1. Without injured star QB Gary Beban, #8 UCLA still managed to beat #7 USC 14-7. Although UCLA finished with a better overall record (9-1) and ranking (#5) than USC (7-3), it was the Trojans who were voted by the conference to go on to the Rose Bowl, due to having played one more "conference game." UCLA students took to the streets protesting the decision in anger, at one point blocking the nearby 405 Freeway. The Rose Bowl would pit USC vs. Purdue when the ideal matchup was largely considered UCLA vs. Michigan State. #3 Alabama, #4 Nebraska and #5 Georgia Tech were all idle. The poll remained unchanged.
On Thanksgiving Day, #4 Nebraska and Oklahoma met at Norman, with the Sooners winning 10-9 to leave the Cornhuskers with a 9-1-0 finish. On Saturday, November 26, #1 Notre Dame went to Los Angeles to hand #10 USC a 51-0 shutout loss—the most points scored against USC up to that time, and USC's largest margin of defeat to this day. #3 Alabama won over Southern Mississippi in Mobile. #5 Georgia Tech lost to #7 Georgia 23-14 at Athens. The Bulldogs closed with a 9-1-0 finish, an unbeaten SEC record (tied with Alabama), and an invitation to the Cotton Bowl to face SMU. In the final regular poll, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Alabama were first, second and third, with Georgia 4th and UCLA 5th. On December 3, #3 Alabama closed its season with a 31-0 win over Auburn in Birmingham, for its fourth straight shutout and a 10-0-0 record.
In the final AP poll, taken before the bowl games, 9–0–1 Notre Dame (which did not end its 40+ year no-bowls policy until the 1969 season) was the overwhelming choice of the writers for the AP Trophy, with 41 of the 56 first place votes, and Michigan State was second; neither played in a bowl game. Alabama, which was unbeaten and later won the Sugar Bowl over Nebraska, finished third. Georgia, whose only blemish had been a one-point loss to the Miami Hurricanes, was fourth and UCLA was fifth.
Saturday, December 31, 1966 (Cotton)
Monday, January 2, 1967
- Steve Spurrier, QB – Florida, 1,659 points
- Bob Griese, QB – Purdue, 816
- Nick Eddy, RB – Notre Dame, 456
- Gary Beban, QB – UCLA, 318
- Floyd Little, RB – Syracuse, 296
- Clinton Jones, RB – Michigan State, 204
- Mel Farr, RB – UCLA, 115
- Terry Hanratty, QB – Notre Dame, 98
- Lloyd Phillips, DT – Arkansas, 67
- George Patton, DT – Georgia, 62
- Beban was a junior and Hanratty a sophomore