Coaches, sportswriters, and sportscasters throughout the country have made it official - Penn State is finally the national college football champion. By defeating previously top-ranked Georgia 27-23 in the Sugar Bowl Saturday night, the Nittany Lions (11-1) climbed from No. 2 to the coveted No. 1 spot in both the United Press International poll of coaches and the Associated Press poll of media representatives. The honor ended a decade and a half of frustration for Coach Joe Paterno, whose teams had come tantalizingly close several times before but had always been denied the top ranking one way or another.
Southern Methodist, which defeated Pitt 7-3 in the Cotton Bowl to finish as the only unbeaten major team (11-0-1) was a relatively distant second in both polls.Penn State received 33 of the 37 first place votes in the UPI voting, with SMU getting the other four, while in the AP poll the Nittany Lions got 44 first place votes to the Mustangs' nine.
Nebraska (12-1) finished third in both polls, Georgia (11-1) dropped to fourth, and UCLA (10-1-1) was fifth.
Predictably, SMU Coach Bobby Collins and his players disputed the poll results, insisting that their record (marred only by a tie with Arkansas in the regular season finale) merited the top spot. Ironically, the person who undoubtedly could empathize with their feelings better than anyone else was Paterno, who coached three previous Penn State teams to perfect records (in 1968 , '69, and '73) but never finished higher than second in the polls until this year.