Joe Paterno took over as the Nittany Lions Head Coach before the 1966 season and he had been an assistant there for 12 years before that.
After an initial 5-5 start at State College, the Nittany Lions started reeling off the wins starting in 1967.
In 1968 and 1969 Penn State went 11-0 both years and finished #2 in the AP Polls. Ohio State won it all in 1968 and the Texas Longhorns won in 1969.
The Lions went 12-0 in 1973 and finished #5. There were 6 undefeated teams in 1973 and Notre Dame finished on top. But, the Penn State Nittany Lions were nothing more than an after thought to voters.
In 1982, the Nittany Lions finished 11-1, but they finally did it and won a national title by beating Georgia and Herschel Walker in the Sugar Bowl, 27-23.
It was their first National Championship and it finally happened for them when they didn’t even finish undefeated in 1982.
They won another title in 1986 by beating the Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl, 14-10. They finished 12-0 that season and definitely deserved the championship after beating an undefeated Miami.
In 1994, bad things happened again to Penn State. They had just joined the Big 10 and beat Oregon fairly convincingly in the Rose Bowl, 38-20. They had a very impressive 12-0 team and still finished #2.
1994 was sort of an unusual season and during most seasons these things usually have a way of working themselves out. Nebraska won the national title after beating Miami in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska was an outstanding team in 1994 and probably would have beaten Penn State in a head to head. But, you never know unless you play the games. Penn State had an outstanding QB in Kerry Collins and of course they had the defense that they had always fielded coached by long time Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Yep, I’m talking about that Jerry Sandusky.
Did joining the Big 10 cost the Nittany Lions yet another championship? Possibly.
In 2014, college football begins a new playoff system. Will that solve all of the problems? Doubtfully, but maybe it will be better than what we have had so far.
Since I have been following the game of football here is how we have finished up as far as national championships go.
1967: USC won the national title with late season game of the century win over UCLA and a Rose Bowl win over the Indiana Hoosiers, 14-3. USC finished 10-1. Oklahoma finished 10-1 and #2.
1968: Ohio State was undefeated and was awesome and deserved the title. But, Penn State finished 11-0 and #2 and without a say in the matter.
1969: Texas beat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl to win the title. Penn State went 11-0 again and #2 again. Yet, they chose to go to Miami to the Orange Bowl instead of Dallas to face Texas saying people in Dallas were racist. USC finished #3 and was 10-0-1. We’ll never know if Penn State or USC was better than Texas.
1970: Nebraska finished 11-0-1 and won one title.
Texas lost in cotton bowl to Irish and were named champions before bowl games back in those years.
Arizona State finished 11-0 and #6. Tennessee was 11-1 and #4.
1971: No doubt Nebraska was best team and one of the best ever.
1972: 12-0 USC was the toast of the town.
1973: Notre Dame beat Alabama to win championship. Oklahoma was 10-0-1, Ohio State was 10-0-1 and Michigan was also 10-0-1. Penn State was 12-0 and Miami of Ohio was 11-0. Miami would never be declared champion but they did beat Florida 16-7 in the Tangerine Bowl. 1973 was a crazy year and could have used something like a playoff system.
1974: Oklahoma won it but they were on probation and not eligible for a bowl game
1975: Oklahoma was champ but they lost 1 game to Kansas. Ohio State was #1 till they lost the Rose Bowl to UCLA, 23-10. Arizona State finished 12-0 and beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl 17-14.
1976: Pittsburgh was 12-0 and whipped Georgia in Sugar Bowl, 27-3. #2 USC was 11-1 and beat #3 Michigan in the Rose Bowl, 14-6.
1977: Notre Dame beat #1 Texas and claimed the national title. Alabama still claims the 1977 title and yet they lost a game to Kentucky and finished 11-1. Kentucky, of all people, was 10-1. Arkansas and Penn State were both 11-1 and could have had a claim as well. Arkansas under Lou Holtz wiped out Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, 31-6.
1978: #2 Alabama beat #1 Penn State 14-7 in the Sugar Bowl. USC wound up #2 and had beaten Alabama 24-14 during the season. I haven’t seen any Alabama fans whining about that.
1979: Alabama wins it with a 12-0 record. USC was 11-0-1 with their tie costing them the national title.
1980: Georgia and Herschel Walker won it with a 12-0 record.
1981: Clemson was national champs with a 12-0 record.
1982: Penn State was the national champ with an 11-1 record. SMU which was 11-0-1 with the Pony Express was #2. First national championship for the Nittany Lions.
1983: Miami’s first national champions, but 11-1 Auburn was not happy in spite of getting beaten by Texas earlier.
1984: This was a strange season. BYU named national champs with 13-0 record. They struggled to beat 6-6 Michigan in the Holiday Bowl, 24-17. Washington was 11-1 and I have no doubt they would have soundly beaten BYU.
1985: Oklahoma beat #1 Penn State 25-10 and won the championship. OU was 11-1 with the loss coming to Miami.
1986: 12-0 Penn State beat Miami in a mild upset, 14-10.
1987: Miami was 12-0 and beat #2 OU 20-14 in the Orange Bowl.
1988: Notre Dame 12-0. It’s hard to argue with a 12-0 Notre Dame.
1990: Colorado 11-1-1 and Georgia Tech 11-0-1 split the title.
1991: Another split decision with Miami at 12-0 and Washington at 12-0 winning championships. Not very satisfying. Washington was tied into the Rose Bowl, of course.
1992: Alabama wins first SEC championship game and beats Miami for title.
1993: Florida State was #1 and beat #2 Nebraska in Orange Bowl, 18-16.
1994: Nebraska was incredible at 13-0 but Penn State was locked into Rose Bowl and finished up 12-0. Texas A&M was 10-0-1 but on probation and could not play in bowl.
1995: Nebraska had an incredible team no controversy here as they wiped out #2 Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl.
1996: Florida won with a 12-1 record and a 52-20 win over #1 Florida State was pretty convincing.
1997: Nebraska at 13-0 and Michigan at 12-0 split the title. I think Michigan was the sentimental favorite but Nebraska was awesome.
1998: Tennessee at 13-0 left no debate. The year after Peyton Manning had moved on to the NFL.
1999: Florida State and no doubt about it at 12-0.
2000: Oklahoma at 13-0 not much to talk about here other than it was Bob Stoops second year as a head coach.
2002: Ohio State shocked the world and went 14-0 and upset Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.
2003: Here we go again. Split decision. USC was 12-1 and LSU was 13-1.
2004: USC crushed Oklahoma 55-19 but had to give up the title due to NCAA violations. Auburn was 13-0 and left off.
2005: Texas surprised USC 35-31 and was 13-0 leaving little doubt. The media proclaimed USC the greatest team of all time.
2007: LSU won it with a 12-2 record.
2008: Florida beat Oklahoma and went 12-1.
2009: Alabama beat Texas and finished 14-0.
2010: Auburn and Cam Newton went 14-0.
2011: Alabama wins over LSU 21-0.
2012: Alabama crushed Notre Dame.
2013: Florida State first non SEC school in 7 years.
2014: To be determined, but it might turn out that the #5 and #6 teams felt they were left out. I am still picking Florida State.