In a vote devoid of drama because Oklahoma's three closest rivals all lost bowl games Wednesday, the Sooners were named the national champion of college football yesterday in the two major news-service polls.
Forty of 41 coaches voting in the United Press International poll cast their ballots for Oklahoma, as did 55 of 57 voters in the Associated Press poll of sportswriters and sportscasters.
Oklahoma was the No. 1 pick in both preseason polls, but went into the bowl games ranked No. 2 by UPI and No. 3 by AP.
In the 36 years of the UPI poll, the Sooners have finished No. 1 five times, tying Southern California for the most titles. In Associated Press' 50 final polls, they have been ranked No. 1 six times, one time less than Notre Dame.
The only dissenter in the UPI poll was Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer, who voted his Sooners No. 2 behind high-scoring Fresno State (11-0-1), champion of the Pacific Coast Athletic Association and winner of the California Bowl.
"They are the only unbeaten team in the country," said Switzer, in the afterglow of his team's 25-10 victory over previously unbeaten and top-ranked Penn State in the Orange Bowl.
Oklahoma finished with an 11-1 record in a schedule that included games against seven teams that went to bowls. Switzer said Penn State was "the best team we played this season, without a doubt; they're better than Nebraska."
Michigan and Tennessee, both surprise bowl winners Wednesday, received the other first-place votes in the Associated Press poll. Neither the identities of the voters nor their reasoning was available.
The results of the New Year's Day bowls resulted in a major shakeup of the final rankings, with Michigan (27-23 over Nebraska in the Fiesta), Tennessee (35-7 over Miami in the Sugar) and UCLA (45-28 over Iowa in the Rose) all making sizable gains and Penn State, Miami and Iowa slipping back down.
Both polls agreed on the top four teams: Oklahoma, Michigan, Penn State and Tennessee. But, from there down, there was disagreement.
The coaches, who do not rank teams on NCAA probation, followed with Air Force, UCLA, Texas A&M, Miami, Iowa and Nebraska.
The sportswriters and sportscasters voted Florida, serving the first year of a three-year NCAA probation for various violations, fifth, followed by Texas A&M, UCLA, Air Force, Miami and Iowa.
Maryland, which had been unranked going into postseason play, was voted 18th by the Associated Press and 19th by United Press International.
Fresno State, unranked by the sportswriters and sportscasters, finished 16th in the coaches' poll, buoyed by Switzer's vote for No. 1 and a second-place vote from its coach, Jim Sweeney, who thinks his team is the best-kept secret in the college game.
"Is he insane?" Sweeney said of Switzer's ranking. "Or is he saying, 'Hey, you ought to look at that team out there?' I don't expect to be high in the polls. But this team can play against -- and beat -- a lot of the teams I saw on television."
Switzer was unavailable for further comment on why he voted Fresno State No. 1, as he had done in the final regular season poll. But Switzer put his reasoning in perspective when he discussed polling earlier with United Press International.
"It (the national title) is a goal we have every year and it's a realistic goal here at Oklahoma," Switzer said. "It's happened before, it's happened now and it'll happen again in the future. I don't know when it'll happen again, but it will.
"I've always contended there are certain schools that have more opportunity to win mythical national championships than others. The only way some schools will ever have the chance to win would be to have a playoff, because they don't have enough tradition or prestige to get the votes in the popularity contest to be the national champion.
"I think it's evident we survived bowl day, and that gives us the mythical national championship," Switzer added. "You have to be lucky and have other people beat other people for you in this race for No. 1."
Penn State Coach Joe Paterno summed up his team's misfortune by saying, "We were beaten by a better team. We didn't play well enough to win. We just weren't poised. You've got to give Oklahoma credit."