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Few teams have ever taken them all. In the 41 seasons that have passed since Frank Dickinson's hobby started the epidemic of ratings, an absurd total of 104 teams have been acclaimed as national champions by one authority or another. That, of course, is a lot more than the world has needed, or could have had if the sport had ever grown serious about a national playoff, something that almost everyone seems to want except the chemistry professors.
Only seven teams have been unanimous choices over the years. They range from Notre Dame's wartime powerhouse of 1943, which lost only on the last play of its last game to Great Lakes, to the 1963 Texas Longhorns, an unbeaten jewel of a defensive team.
Often the national champions have piled up like a goal-line stand, a recent occasion being 1964 when Arkansas, Notre Dame, Alabama and Michigan all wound up with awards. No less than six times, in fact, four teams have been judged as No. 1 at the end of a season. And in 14 different years there have been three teams celebrated as the best.
The season of 1967 has a good chance of being just such a year. All across the southern part of the country there appears to be talent as never before. For example, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Miami all have a chance to be as good, or perhaps even better, than Alabama, which means that they have a serious shot at No. 1.
The same is true in the Big Eight, where Colorado and perhaps even Oklahoma may have finally caught up with Nebraska. And also in the Far West, where Washington is coming back to challenge USC and UCLA, which still has Gary Beban, the country's best quarterback of the last two years. And again in the Big Ten, where Michigan State will have all it can handle against Purdue, Ohio State and maybe Minnesota.
But no team has as much expected of it as Notre Dame. Look at the Irish this way. They are so loaded again that Defensive Coach John Ray refused two offers of jobs as head coach at other big schools in order to stay with Parseghian, which makes you wonder how many championship wristwatches a man thinks he needs.
The Irish are the favorite to be No. 1 again, and that brings the whole rating game right back to where it was on that day in 1926 when Knute Rockne sat down to lunch and won Notre Dame its first national championship award.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]