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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Latest College Football News & Rumors / Why the 1984 College Football National Champion should have Been Washington and not BYU

Why the 1984 College Football National Champion should have Been Washington and not BYU

Should BYU have been crowned National Champions in 1984?
Publish Date: 12/31/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

In 1984 a little school actually was crowned the NCAA Football champions, and while that sounds great, it really wasn’t. The BYU Cougars were a good team, but national champions? Give me a break. Just look at the merits of BYU compared to what I think was hands down the best team in College Football, the Washington Huskies. Let us compare.

1984 BYU Cougars

Lavell Edwards built a juggernaut in the WAC conference and was ranked for most of two decades, and he had some great Quarterbacks like Gifford Nielson, Ty Detmer, Jim McMahon, and of course, Steve Young. Unfortunately, none of those guys was the Quarterback on this team, this Cougars team was led by Robbie Bosco, who was an outstanding College Quarterback, but my whole point with this is that I don’t think this was even the best BYU team that Edwards ever coached.

The Cougars started the season on ESPN with a win over Pittsburgh, but that win losses luster when you realize Pitt would finish the season 3-7. They only beat Pitt 20-14, and in fact, they won 5 games by a touchdown or less. Why are winning close games a big deal, you might ask? BYU’s 1984 opponents went 61-85-3, placing their schedule 96th amongst 98 division 1A schools, and almost half of their games were decided by less than a touchdown.

The bowl win was in the Holiday Bowl against Michigan, sounds impressive, right? Well, it does until you realize that Michigan was 6-6, and BYU needed a come from behind last-minute touchdown to win the game. To put the Michigan win into perspective, the Wolverines had finished 6th in the Big Ten, and in 1984, the Big ten was weak! How weak? The Big Ten was a horrid 12-15 against nonconference opponents and 1-5 in bowl games. The only conference in the country that was as bad as the Big 10 was the WAC itself.

BYU never beat a ranked opponent; heck, they never even played a ranked opponent!

Video: Cougar Classic Episode 12: BYU Beats Michigan in the 1984 Holiday Bowl

Cougar Classic Episode 12: BYU Beats Michigan in the 1984 Holiday Bowl

1984 Washington Huskies

The legendary Don James coached the Huskies, and while it’s true they were upset by USC early in the season and ended up tied for the PAC 10 title, they did end up upsetting favored Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Even with that loss, Oklahoma ended up ranked 6th. That win alone should put the Huskies in the conversation. Now, remember to win the Holiday Bowl, BYU needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Michigan on a neutral field. In that same season, Will Washington went to Ann Arbor and dominated the Wolverines 20-11; the only reason the score looked that close was a last-minute Michigan TD and 2 point conversion.

All but one of the Huskies’ 11 wins was by more than a touchdown (the only close game was 17-10 over 6-5 Oregon). That’s 4 fewer close wins than BYU had, and while the Huskies schedule was by no means hard, it was much tougher than BYU’s!

The Huskies had NFL talent on the roster, including Linebacker Joe Kelly, Guard Kevin Gogan, to name a few.

Video: 1985 Orange Bowl #2 Oklahoma vs #4 Washington No Huddle

1985 Orange Bowl #2 Oklahoma vs #4 Washington No Huddle


Washington was better than BYU, and to me, it would have been like the year Hawaii went undefeated against no-ranked opponents and got the brakes beat off them 41-10 against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma vs Washington in the Orange Bowl was the National Championship game, and the Huskies dominated that game.

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