The 1967 NCAA University Division football season was the last one in which college football's champion was crowned before the bowl games. During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A and now as the Division IFootball Bowl Subdivision.
Prior to the start of the 1967 season, Idaho was demoted from the University Division to the College Division.
The NCAA Football Guide, however, did note an "unofficial national champion" based on the top ranked teams in the "wire service" (AP and UPI) polls. The "writers' poll" by Associated Press (AP) was the most popular, followed by the "coaches' poll" by United Press International (UPI). In 1967, both AP and UPI issued their final polls at the close of the regular season, but before teams competed in bowl games. The Associated Press presented the "AP Trophy" to the winner.
The AP poll in 1967 consisted of the votes of many sportswriters, though not all of them voted in every poll. Those who cast votes would give their opinion of the ten best teams. Under a point system of 10 points for first place, 9 for second, etc., the "overall" ranking was determined.
The five interior linemen in punt formation are now required to remain at the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked, which allowed for more and longer punt returns. However, the rule was extremely unpopular among coaches and was repealed for the 1968 season. This rule would be adopted by the National Football League in 1974.
The AAWU began its season a week ahead of most of the other conferences and #7 USC beat Washington State 49–0 in a Friday night game at Los Angeles, and the next day, #8 UCLA hosted #9 Tennessee and won 20–16. California beat Oregon 21–13 in advance of its game against #1 Notre Dame. USC reached the Top Five in the next poll, while Miami dropped to eighth before it had played a game. The poll was 1.Notre Dame 2.Alabama 3.Michigan State 4.USC 5.Texas
#1 Notre Dame hosted California and won 41–8. At Birmingham, #2 Alabama played to a 37–37 tie with Florida State. #3 Michigan State lost at home to the Houston Cougars 37–7, and proved the preseason prognosticators wrong on its way to a 3–7–0 finish. The big matchup was in L.A. between #4 USC and #5 Texas, and the Trojans won 17–13. Alabama and Michigan State fell out of the Top Five. #6 UCLA, which had beaten the Panthers at Pittsburgh 40–8, rose to fourth and #7 Georgia, following a 30–0 home win against Mississippi State, reached fifth. The next poll was 1.Notre Dame 2.USC 3.Houston 4.UCLA 5.Georgia
Saturday's games also saw a milestone in the integration of college sports in the South, as Kentucky's Nate Northington became the first African-American scholarship athlete to participate in any Southeastern Conference sport when he made his debut at Indiana. His debut was bittersweet, as it came while Greg Page, another African-American player who had arrived at Kentucky at the same time as Northington, was dying from complications of a paralyzing spinal cord injury suffered in an August 22 practice. Page would die on the Friday after Northington's debut.
In a Friday night game, #3 Houston rolled over Wake Forest at home, 50–6. On Saturday, #1 Notre Dame lost 28–21 at #10 Purdue, and #2 USC won 21–17 at Michigan State. #4 UCLA trampled Washington State in Spokane, 51–23, and #5 Georgia won at Clemson, 24–17. Notre Dame fell from the Top 5 in the next poll and USC took the lead, followed by 2.Houston 3.UCLA 4.Purdue 5.Georgia
In another integration-related milestone, the aforementioned Northington became the first African-American scholarship athlete to play in a matchup between two SEC teams when he took the field against Ole Miss that Saturday, the day after Page's death. Northington would suffer a separated shoulder shortly after entering the game, and never played again for the Wildcats, transferring to Western Kentucky after the season.[a]
Top-ranked USC beat Stanford at home, 30–0. The #2 Houston Cougars, who had come from nowhere to reach a top ranking, lost at home to unranked North Carolina State, 16–6. #3 UCLA edged Penn State 17–15. In a Big Ten matchup, #4 Purdue beat Northwestern 25–16, and #5 Georgia shut out South Carolina at home, 21-0. In South Bend, #6 Notre Dame crushed Iowa 56–6 to reach the Top Five as it prepared to face #1 USC. The next poll was: 1.USC 2.Purdue 3.Georgia 4.UCLA 5.Notre Dame
The #1 USC Trojans visited #5 Notre Dame and won 24–7, and #2 Purdue won at Ohio State 41–6. #3 Georgia lost to Ole Miss at Jackson, 29–20. #4 UCLA beat California at home, 37–14. Taking the place of the Irish and Georgia in the Top Five were #6 Colorado, which had beaten Missouri 23–9, and #9 N.C. State, which won at Maryland 31–9.
The poll was 1.USC 2.Purdue 3.UCLA 4.Colorado 5.North Carolina State
Top-ranked USC beat Washington in Seattle, 23–6, for its sixth straight win. The Trojans' cross-town rival, #3 UCLA was also 6–0–0, beating Stanford in Palo Alto, 21-16. #2 Purdue lost its first game of the season, falling to visiting Oregon State, 22–14. #4 Colorado won at Nebraska 21–16, and #5 N.C. State hosted Wake Forest and won 24-7. #6 Alabama and #7 Tennessee squared off in Birmingham and Tennessee won, 24–13. The Vols would win the SEC championship ahead of Alabama, but accepted an invitation to the Orange Bowl rather than the Sugar Bowl. In the next poll, USC was the unanimous choice for #1, with all 37 first place votes. The rankings were:
1.USC (all 37 votes) 2.UCLA 3.Colorado 4.Tennessee 5.NC State
USC stayed atop the polls, defeating Oregon 28–6 at home, while #2 UCLA was idle. #3 Colorado lost to visiting Oklahoma State 10–7. #4 Tennessee narrowly beat LSU at home, 17–14, and #5 N.C. State beat Duke 28–7. Replacing Colorado in the Top Five was #6 Georgia, which won 31–7 at Kentucky. The poll: 1.USC 2.UCLA 3.Tennessee 4.NC State 5.Georgia
Top-ranked USC beat California at Berkeley, 31-12, to extend its record to 8-0, and #2 UCLA stayed unbeaten, but was tied by visiting Oregon State, 16–16. #3 Tennessee visited Tampa and beat the Spartans, 38–0. #4 N.C. State won at Virginia 30–8, and the #5 Georgia Bulldogs narrowly lost at Houston 15–14. #6 Purdue, which had won at Illinois 42–9, returned to the Top Five.
1.USC 2.Tennessee 3.NC State 4.UCLA 5.Purdue
Top-ranked USC finally lost, falling 3–0 in the rain and mud at Corvallis to Oregon State. The Beavers ended the season 7–2–1, beat USC when it was #1, Purdue when it was #2, and tied UCLA when it was #2. #2 Tennessee beat Tulane 35-14. #3 N.C. State lost at Penn State 13–8. #4 UCLA shut out visiting Washington, 48–0, and #5 Purdue beat Minnesota 41–12. UCLA took USC's place at the top, leapfrogging Tennessee, who the Bruins had beaten earlier in the year. Tennessee remained #2, and USC fell to fourth. Purdue rose to third and Purdue's rival, #6 Indiana, rose to fifth after winning at Michigan State 14–13.
1.UCLA 2.Tennessee 3.Purdue 4.USC 5.Indiana
In Los Angeles, the #1 UCLA Bruins and the #4 USC Trojans met at the Coliseum for their rivalry game. USC reclaimed its place at the top, edging UCLA 21–20 to win the Pac-8 title (6–1 vs. 4–1–1 for Oregon State and UCLA). #2 Tennessee faced Mississippi in Memphis and won 20–7. #3 Purdue beat Michigan State 21–7, but #5 Indiana lost to Minnesota 33–7. #7 Oklahoma, which had beaten Kansas 14–10 at home, took I.U.'s place in the Top Five.
1.USC 2.Tennessee 3.Purdue 4.UCLA 5.Oklahoma
In the final week of games before the final polls, #1 USC had completed its season at 9–1, qualified for the Rose Bowl, and was in no danger of losing again. #2 Tennessee won at Kentucky 17–7. Indiana had fallen out of the Top Ten, but made their way back in when they beat #3 Purdue at home in Bloomington. There was a three-way tie in Big Ten Conference play. Not only were Indiana, Purdue, and Minnesota each 6–1, Indiana beat Purdue, Purdue beat Minnesota, and Minnesota beat Indiana. The Hoosiers had the better overall record (9–1 vs. 8–2 and 8–2), and since Purdue and Minnesota had been to the Rose Bowl more recently, Indiana qualified for the Rose Bowl. #4 UCLA, without injured Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban and little motivation after their heartbreaking loss to USC the week before, lost a meaningless game to Syracuse 32–14, and #5 Oklahoma beat Nebraska 21–14. #6 Notre Dame, which had won a Friday night game at Miami, 24-22, returned to the top five with unranked Indiana. In the final poll, USC was tops in both the AP and UPI polls, and was awarded the AP Trophy. Wyoming, which was the only major team to go unbeaten (10–0–0) was at sixth place.
The final regular season poll was 1.USC 2.Tennessee 3.Oklahoma 4.Indiana 5.Notre Dame 6.Wyoming 7.Oregon State 8.Alabama 9.Purdue 10.UCLA.
On December 2, #8 Alabama played Auburn in its annual game at Birmingham and won 7–3, and #3 Oklahoma won over Oklahoma State, 38–14 as Big 8 champion, and got the bid for the Orange Bowl.
Ironically, Oregon State played 3 teams that were ranked 1st or 2nd when they played them (UCLA, USC, and Purdue) and went 2–0–1 in those games. But their 13–6 loss to Washington on October 7 kept the "Giant Killers" out of the Rose Bowl.
In the final AP poll, 9–1 USC had been the top choice of the writers for the AP Trophy, with 36 of the 49 first place votes, and Tennessee followed with 11. Though there was no #1 vs. #2 matchup, the Rose and Orange bowls featured the four top-ranked teams, with #1 USC meeting #4 Indiana at Pasadena, and #2 Tennessee facing #3 Oklahoma at Miami. The Sugar Bowl, at that time, did not automatically get the SEC champion. Ultimately, the New Orleans game featured the Wyoming Cowboys (10–0) of the Western Athletic Conference, against the LSU Tigers. LSU had finished sixth in the ten-team SEC, behind Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Georgia. But LSU justified their selection by knocking off Wyoming, 20–13. In the Cotton Bowl, unranked Texas A&M upset #8 Alabama 20–16. USC then went out and claimed the national title with a 14–3 over Indiana in the Rose Bowl. Effectively eliminated from finishing #1 after USC's win, #2 Tennessee went out and lost in the Orange Bowl to #3 Oklahoma, 26–24.
The final poll was 1. USC 2. Oklahoma 3. Oregon State 4. Notre Dame 5. Indiana 6. Purdue 7. Texas A & M 8. UCLA 9. Tennessee 10. Alabama
^The SEC's first African American varsity athlete was Stephen Martin, a baseballwalk-on at Tulane, who made his varsity debut in 1966 (1965–66 school year), which was Tulane's last season as an SEC member. Later in the 1967–68 school year, Perry Wallace, who enrolled at Vanderbilt on a basketball scholarship at the same time as Northington and Page arrived at Kentucky, would become the first African American to play basketball in the SEC.