Penn State Football has had some historic teams over the years that deserve more national attention for their remarkable achievements.
Growing up in a Penn State household, for years I heard my father say how the media hated Penn State football. He would tell me all the time about the 1968 and 1969 teams that didn’t lose a game in two years, only to have President Nixon vote Texas as the National Champion in 1969. The 1994 squad was further proof of his hypothesis.
Sadly, he passed away in 2007, so didn’t get to experience the most recent snubbing of the Nittany Lions in 2016, beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten, only to get passed over by the same OSU team. Luckily, he didn’t get to witness the media’s delight over the Sandusky affair, which finally shed some dark shadows on Penn State’s storied history.
I decided to take a look at some of the Nittany Lions’ best teams that didn’t have the chance to compete for a National Championship. In researching for this article, my already strong feelings for an expanded playoff were amplified greatly.
Penn State’s first undefeated, untied team that was snubbed by voters was the aforementioned 1968 squad. The first slightly head-scratching event occurred after week 4. Penn State was 3rd going into their matchup at UCLA. The Nittany Lions won comfortably, 21-6. However, they dropped one spot in the polls to Kansas, who clobbered Oklahoma State 49-14. Both losing teams had 3-7 records, so voters only saw the large point differential, not taking into account Penn State was on the road and Joe Paterno’s reluctance to run up the score.
Led by the solid running of Charlie Pittman, the Lions had 7 different rushers that had over 100 yards and wide receiver Ted Kwalick was just shy of that mark with 96 yards.
The first real test that year came in week 6 against Army. A hard fought 28-24 win did not hurt the Lions in the poll that week, as they remained in 4th place. After their 22-7 victory over Miami the following week, Penn State climbed to #3 in the polls. Not even a 65-9 demolition of Pitt 2 weeks later could nudge them further in the rankings.
They squared off against Kansas on New Year’s Day in the Orange Bowl, while #1 Ohio State played #2 USC in the Rose Bowl. In one of the greatest Orange Bowls of all time, Penn State football came from behind in the closing minutes to win 15-14. Their only chance for a National Championship was for the Rose Bowl to be a tie. Unfortunately, this was not to be as the Buckeyes beat the Trojans 27-16.