1971 The Year of the Big 8 Conference

One can’t turn on ESPN these days without hearing about the mighty SEC. One can go back and forth on that all day long and the last 2 college football seasons.

But, if one is really looking for a Conference dominating then look no further than the 1971 college football season. The Big 8 was as dominant that season as any conference in the history of the game.

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The 1971 season started with Notre Dame ranked number 1 in the Associated Press (AP) Poll. They were followed by the Nebraska Cornhuskers at number 2 who were the defending champs in one Poll. Texas was national champion in 1970 on another Poll and they came in ranked number 3.

Rounding out the top 5 were Michigan at number 4 and the USC Trojans at number 5.

It didn’t take long for losses to come with USC being surprised at home by Alabama, 10-17. Nebraska crushed Oregon in their opener and passed Notre Dame and took over the top spot in the Polls.

Nearing the end of September, Notre Dame barely beat Purdue, 8-7, and they dropped some more in the Polls.

The Big 8 started to make it’s move here with Colorado beating 6th ranked Ohio State.

As October 1971 rolled around, Notre Dame continued it’s downward slide with   a close win over Michigan State.

On October 9th, the Oklahoma Sooners of the Big 8 beat their bitter rivals the Texas Longhorns rather easily, 48- 27. Texas had been ranked 3rd and the Sooners dropped to number 2 because of their big win.

The Big 8 had Nebraska at number 1, with Oklahoma coming in at number 2. Surprising Colorado was ranked 6th with the season almost half over.

When Colorado came to Norman to play the Sooners, they got crushed 45-17, but this just demonstrated how good this Oklahoma football team was.

Nebraska drilled Kansas 55-0 this same weekend to retain the top ranking. Michigan was ranked 3rd, followed by Alabama and Auburn. Notre Dame was creeping back into the picture and ranked 6th.

The following week, Nebraska and Oklahoma continued their domination with the Sooners hanging 75 points on Kansas State.

Notre Dame, after working so hard to get back in it, lost to USC and that was pretty much it for them. All of the other contenders rolled to impressive wins.

As the schedule reached October 30th, Nebraska had Colorado coming to town. The Buffaloes were still ranked 9th even after a big beating by Oklahoma earlier. The Cornhuskers handled the Buffs pretty easily coming away with a 31-7 victory.

November 6th came and went with all of the top schools remaining unbeaten. The next weekend would eliminate the 9-0 Georgia Bulldogs from the picture as the 5th ranked Auburn Tigers beat them soundly, 35-20.

The top 6 teams were still unbeaten.

As November came to a close, Michigan beat Ohio State, 17-10 to win the Big 10 at 10-0 and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.

10- 0 Alabama beat 9-0 Auburn, 31-7 to win the SEC championship.

The greatest game of the season and some say of the entire century was the season’s end game between the number 1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers and the 2nd ranked Oklahoma Sooners. This game definitely lived up to the hype with Nebraska winning 35-31 in a game that any viewers will

never forget.

I watched a replay of the game a few months ago and I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first time.

The win strengthened Nebraska’s hold on the top spot and moved Oklahoma up to the 5th spot in the Polls.

Oklahoma dropped backed down to the 4th position after Penn State got whipped by Tennessee.

Nebraska was number 1 followed by Alabama and Michigan.

The Bowl games would settle everything and clearly show the domination of the Big 8 Conference in 1971.

In the Orange Bowl, the number 1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers thumped the number 2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, 38-6. The Huskers totally controlled the game from start to finish.

The Big 8 runner up Oklahoma Sooners took on the SEC runner up Auburn in the Sugar Bowl with the Sooners winning big, 40-22.

To help the Big 8 even more, the 3rd ranked Michigan Wolverines lost to the Stanford Indians, 13-12, in the Rose Bowl.

The Colorado Buffaloes beat the Houston Cougars in the Bluebonnet Bowl, 29- 17. The Buffaloes finished 10-2 on the season with their only losses coming to the best two teams in the land, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The final Poll was Nebraska in the top spot as national champion with Oklahoma as runner up. In the 3rd position in the final Poll was Colorado.

The Big 8 Conference finished 1, 2 and 3 in the final Poll and that had to be the most impressive showing of domination in the years of modern college football.

3 thoughts on “1971 The Year of the Big 8 Conference

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