Penn State Football Should Claim 1994 National Championship

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It’s Beyond Time for Penn State Football to Claim the 1994 National Championship

Penn State Football officially claims two national championships from the Nittany Lions‘ football program, 1982 and 1986. In addition to these two claimed titles, Penn State boasts ten undefeated seasons and five unclaimed national titles over the years.

While some schools across the nation claim any national title for which the school receives a vote, Penn State Football has upheld a strict policy of only claiming unanimous or consensus national titles despite receiving votes for five additional national championships over the years. One of these unclaimed championships still is puzzling 30 years later; 1994.

On the 13th anniversary of the 1994 unclaimed title, it is beyond time for Penn State to recognize the 1994 Nittany Lion team as national champions and claim its third national championship.

1994 Nittany Lions

In only year two after joining the Big Ten, the 1994 Penn State Nittany Lions under head coach Joe Paterno was arguably the most dominant team in the nation, finishing the season ranked number two and going undefeated (12-0) after defeating number 12 Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

Penn State Football ranked first in scoring offense in 1994, scoring 43.8 points per game and winning games by an average margin of 24.5 points per game. Despite beating No. 14 USC, No. 5 Michigan, No. 12 Oregon, and No. 21 Ohio State (63-14) throughout the season, the “consensus” polls at the end of the season would keep Tom Osborne’s Nebraska Cornhuskers as the No. 1 team in the major polls, awarding the Huskers their second consecutive national championship.

However, Penn State Football was ranked No. 1 according to the Billingsley Report, Congrove Computer Rankings, DeVold System, Eck Rankings System, Matthews Grid Ratings, the National Championship Foundation, New York Times, Rothman (FACT), and Sagarin Ratings, all outlets which award national championships.


Why didn’t Penn State play Nebraska?

Because of bowl tie-in contracts, Penn State Football was required to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl against No. 12 Oregon from the PAC-10. Nebraska, on the other hand, played number three Miami in the Orange Bowl, in a game called the Bowl Coalition’s national championship, the day before the Rose Bowl. Nebraska came back in the fourth quarter to beat number three Miami and was declared the national champions, despite Penn State’s Rose Bowl win over Oregon.

Why should Penn State claim the 1994 title?

Penn State’s claim of the 1994 national championship would be far from an illegitimate claim compared to other top programs around the country.

Three years after Penn State did not claim the 1994 championship, Michigan split the national championship with Nebraska after both teams finished undefeated (the same circumstances as 1994). Miami and Washington also split the 1991 national championship after both teams finished the season undefeated.

Penn State’s 1994 team is the only team in the 25 years before the BCS national championship model to end unbeaten and untied and not claim a national championship for the season. Even Auburn claims a national championship from the 1993 seasons after finishing 11-0 and number four in the AP poll, despite only receiving a national championship vote from the National Championship Foundation that season.

College Football Reform Just 4 Years Later

Just four years after Penn State Football and Nebraska’s national championship controversy in 1994, college football finally moved to the BCS national championship model, pinning the top two ranked teams against each other for the national championship, despite bowl tie ins for the teams involved. The new system, however, did not completely eliminate the controversy, as the 2003 title was split between the BCS national champion LSU Tigers and the AP national champion USC Trojans.

Yes, it has been 30 years, but Penn State should recognize the 1994 Nittany Lions team as national champions and claim the 1994 national championship.

Despite utter dominance of the Big Ten on the way to the number two ranking and the lack of opportunity to compete against Nebraska in the “national championship,” the Nittany Lions should have split the title at the time with Nebraska like the rest of the undefeated teams of the 1990s. Penn State should right this wrong and recognize the 1994 national championship this season on the thirtieth anniversary. 

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