|1968 NCAA University Division football season|
|Preseason AP #1||Purdue Boilermakers|
|Regular season||September 21 – December 7, 1968|
|Number of bowls||10|
|Bowl games||December 14, 1968 – January 1, 1969|
|Champion||Ohio State Buckeyes (AP, Coaches, FWAA, NFF)|
|Heisman||O. J. Simpson, USC HB|
In the 1968 NCAA University Division football season, the system of "polls and bowls" changed. The Associated Press returned to its pre-1961 system of ranking the Top 20 rather than the Top 10, and voted on the national champion after the bowl games, rather than before. 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.
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 1968, the UPI issued its final poll before the bowls, but the AP Trophy was withheld until the postseason was completed.
The AP poll in 1968 consisted of the votes of as many as 49 sportswriters, though not all of them voted in every poll. With a Top 20 for the first time since the 1960 season, there were more matchups between ranked teams. Those who cast votes would give their opinion of the ten best teams. Under a point system of 20 points for first place, 19 for second, etc., the "overall" ranking was determined. In 1969, there were four regular season games that matched "Top Five" teams.
- The 1967 punting rule requiring five linemen on the kicking team to remain at the line of scrimmage until the ball is punted was repealed.
- Eliminating the "flex shift" (offensive linemen raising up then dropping back down into position, used by Kansas and UCLA the previous season and later popularized by the Dallas Cowboys) by requiring an offensive player to hold his position when he gets "on or near the ground".
- The game clock will be stopped on all first downs to move the chains, then restarted again.
- The "tackle-eligible" pass play was declared illegal by requiring five offensive lineman numbered 50-79 to be on the line of scrimmage and declaring none of them are eligible receivers.
- Prohibiting the receiver of a fair catch who does not catch the ball to then become a blocker.
- Limiting the legal clipping zone to a rectangular point three feet by four yards on either side of the ball.
- Defensive players who intercept a pass within five yards of the end zone and his momentum takes him into the end zone, the ball will be put in play at the spot of the interception if the defensive player does not attempt to advance the ball out of the end zone.
- Length of time-outs are shortened from 120 seconds to 90 seconds.
Conference and program changes
- Prior to the season, the Athletic Association of Western Universities officially renamed itself as the Pacific-8 Conference.
|School||1967 Conference||1968 Conference|
|Boise College Broncos||junior college||NAIA Independent|
|Memphis State Tigers||Independent||Missouri Valley|
|West Virginia Mountaineers||Southern||Independent|
In the preseason poll released on September 9, the Purdue Boilermakers were picked #1, followed by the defending champion USC Trojans. Third was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, followed by the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns. A second poll was taken on September 16 (with Texas and Oklahoma trading places), although most teams would not begin play until the 21st.
September 21 #1 Purdue beat Virginia 44–6, and #2 USC won 29–20 at #15 Minnesota. #3 Notre Dame beat #5 Oklahoma 45–21 at South Bend, while #4 Texas was tied 20–20 at home by #11 Houston. In a proud moment for football in Indiana, Purdue remained at first, and Notre Dame rose to second, days before the annual meeting between the two schools. #10 Penn State beat Navy 31–6 and took Oklahoma's place at fourth in the poll. #6 Florida defeated Air Force 23–20 in Tampa and was fifth.
The poll was 1.Purdue 2.Notre Dame 3.USC 4.Penn State 5.Florida
September 28 #1 Purdue traveled to #2 Notre Dame and won, 37–22. #3 USC won 24–7 at Northwestern, #4 Penn State beat Kansas State 25–9, and #5 Florida won at Florida State 9–3.
The poll was 1.Purdue 2.USC 3.Penn State 4.Florida 5.Notre Dame
October 5 #1 Purdue won at Northwestern, 43–6, and #2 USC beat visiting Miami (FL), 28–3. #3 Penn State won at West Virginia 31–20, #4 Florida beat Mississippi State 31–14, but fell from the Top Five, and #5 Notre Dame won at Iowa 51–28. With a 21–6 win over Oregon, Ohio State reached fourth place.
The poll was 1.Purdue 2.USC 3.Penn State 4.Ohio State 5.Notre Dame
October 12 #1 Purdue lost 13–0 at #4 Ohio State, and #2 USC won 27–24 at #18 Stanford. #3 Penn State won at UCLA 21–6, #5 Notre Dame beat Northwestern 27–7, and #6 Kansas won 23–13 at #9 Nebraska, and rose to fourth.
The poll was 1.USC 2.Ohio State 3.Penn State 4.Kansas 5.Purdue
October 19 #1 USC beat Washington 14–7, and #2 Ohio State beat Northwestern 45–21. #3 Penn State was idle, #4 Kansas beat Oklahoma State 49–14, #5 Purdue edged Wake Forest 28–27 and dropped to seventh, and Notre Dame beat Illinois 58–8 and rose to fifth.
The poll was 1.USC 2.Ohio State 3.Kansas 4.Penn State 5.Notre Dame
October 26 #1 USC was idle, and #2 Ohio State won at Illinois 31–24. #3 Kansas won at Iowa State 46–25, #4 Penn State won at Boston College 29–0, and #5 Notre Dame was upset at unranked Michigan State, 21–17. Tennessee, which had reached 4–0–1 the week before with a 10–9 win over Alabama, was fifth.
The poll was 1.USC 2.Ohio State 3.Kansas 4.Penn State 5.Tennessee
November 2 #1 USC won at Oregon, 20–13, and #2 Ohio State beat #16 Michigan State 25–20. #3 Kansas posted its seventh win, over visiting Colorado, 27–14. #4 Penn State slipped past Army, 28–24 and #5 Tennessee beat visiting UCLA 42-18.
The poll was 1.USC 2.Ohio State 3.Kansas 4.Penn State 5.Tennessee
November 9 #1 USC turned back #11 California 35–17, and #2 Ohio State stayed unbeaten as well, downing Wisconsin 43–8. #3 Kansas, however, lost to unranked Oklahoma, 27–23, #4 Penn State beat visiting Miami (FL) 22–7, and #5 Tennessee lost to #18 Auburn in Birmingham, 28–14. #7 Michigan, with a 36–0 win over Illinois, rose to fourth. #9 Georgia, which was unbeaten (6–0–2) after a 51–0 win over Florida in Jacksonville, reached fifth. The poll was 1.USC 2.Ohio State 3.Penn State 4.Michigan 5.Georgia
November 16 #1 USC beat #13 Oregon State 17–13 in a game that decided the Pac-8 title; Oregon State finished 5–1 and USC 6–0 in the renamed conference, formerly the AAUW (but commonly referred to as the Pac-8). #2 Ohio State won at unranked Iowa 33–27. #3 Penn State won its eighth straight at Maryland 57–13, and #4 Michigan beat Wisconsin 34–9. #5 Georgia won 17–3 at #12 Auburn.
The poll was 1.USC 2.Ohio State 3.Penn State 4.Michigan 5.Georgia
November 23 #1 USC beat UCLA 28–16 to stay unbeaten, as did #2 Ohio State, which hosted #4 Michigan; both teams were unbeaten in Big Ten conference play, and the game would determine who would go to Pasadena (and who would stay home). Woody Hayes' Buckeyes triumphed 50–14 over the Wolverines. After seven weeks at second place, Ohio State took the lead from USC. #3 Penn State traveled and crushed Pittsburgh 65–9. #5 Georgia was idle. Kansas clinched the Big 8 title and the Orange Bowl bid with a 21–19 win at #13 Missouri, finished 9–1 and placed fifth.
Two undefeated teams Yale and Harvard met and ended their game in a 29–29 tie. The game was the basis of Harvard Crimson newspaper headline (and later the title of a documentary) Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.
In the polls released on November 25, there was a disagreement between the AP writers and the UPI coaches as the AP made Ohio State its new #1.  Though USC had more first place votes than Ohio State (24½ vs 21½), the Buckeyes were 10 points ahead overall in the AP poll (935–925).
In the UPI poll of coaches, however, USC remained in first place and Ohio State second. (332-321 in total points). In the two polls, Ohio State and USC alternated first and second, and the remainder was 3.Penn State 4.Georgia 5.Kansas
November 30 #2 USC was tied by visiting #9 Notre Dame, 21–21. #4 Georgia closed its season unbeaten at 8–0–2, with a 47–8 win at home over Georgia Tech, were SEC champs and went to the Sugar Bowl. Following USC's 9-0-1 finish, the UPI coaches voted unbeaten and untied (9-0-0) Ohio State as the national champion for their final poll on December 3. At the time, the UPI did not do a poll following the postseason bowl games, and the result would have been unaffected by the OSU and USC meeting in the Rose Bowl. The result was 28 first place votes (and 334 points) for OSU, and only 4 first place (and 277 points) for USC. 
Winless after two games, the #6 Texas Longhorns (8–1–1) won their last eight and finished with a 35–14 victory over Texas A&M two days earlier on Thanksgiving Day. The Longhorns returned to the Top 5, including a 39–29 win over Arkansas that tied them for the SWC title and got them the Cotton Bowl bid. #3 Penn State beat Syracuse 30–12 on December 7 to go to 10–0. Ohio State had 34 of the 39 first place votes cast.
The final regular season poll for both AP and UPI was 1.Ohio State 2.USC 3.Penn State 4.Georgia 5.Texas
Wednesday, January 1, 1969
|SUGAR||#9 Arkansas Razorbacks||16||#4 Georgia Bulldogs||2|
|COTTON||#5 Texas Longhorns||36||#8 Tennessee Volunteers||13|
|ROSE||#1 Ohio State Buckeyes||27||#2 USC Trojans||16|
|ORANGE||#3 Penn State Nittany Lions||15||#6 Kansas Jayhawks||14|
Because #1 Ohio State (9–0) and #2 USC (9–0–1) were the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-8 conferences, respectively, they were automatically set to meet in the Rose Bowl. #3 Penn State (10–0) accepted an invite to the Orange Bowl. #6 Kansas (9–1), which shared the Big 8 crown with Oklahoma (even after losing to the Sooners) got the other bid. The Sugar Bowl featured the SEC champion against the SWC runner-up (#4 Georgia (8–0–2) vs. #9 Arkansas (9–1)) while the Cotton Bowl pitted the SWC champion against the SEC runner-up (#5 Texas (8–1–1) vs. #8 Tennessee (8–1–1))
When the sportswriters voted for the Top 20 after the bowl games, Rose Bowl winner Ohio State won the AP Trophy and the unofficial national championship, taking all but five of the 49 first place votes. Penn State, which had narrowly won the Orange Bowl, was second. The final poll was 1.Ohio State 2.Penn State 3.Texas 4.USC 5.Notre Dame 6.Arkansas 7.Kansas 8.Georgia 9.Missouri 10.Purdue 11.Oklahoma 12.Michigan 13.Tennessee 14.SMU 15.Oregon State 16.Auburn 17.Alabama 18.Houston 19.LSU and 20.Ohio University.
|SUN||El Paso, Texas||December 28||Auburn||34–10||Arizona|
|GATOR||Jacksonville, Florida||December 28||#16 Missouri||35–10||#12 Alabama|
|TANGERINE||Orlando, Florida||December 27||Richmond||49–42||Ohio|
|ASTRO-BLUEBONNET||Houston||December 31||#20 SMU||28–27||#10 Oklahoma|
|PEACH||Atlanta||December 30||LSU||31–27||#19 Florida State|
|LIBERTY||Memphis, Tennessee||December 14||Ole Miss||34–17||Virginia Tech|
- Prior to the 1975 season, the Big Ten and Pac-8 conferences allowed only one postseason participant each, for the Rose Bowl.
- Notre Dame did not play in the postseason for 44 consecutive seasons (1925–1968).
- O. J. Simpson, RB – USC, 2,853 points
- Leroy Keyes, RB-CB – Purdue, 1,103
- Terry Hanratty, QB – Notre Dame, 387
- Ted Kwalick, TE – Penn State, 254
- Ted Hendricks, DE - Miami (FL), 174
- Ron Johnson, RB – Michigan, 158
- Bobby Douglass, QB – Kansas, 132
- Chris Gilbert, RB – Texas, 124
- Brian Dowling, QB – Yale, 119
- Ron Sellers, WR – Florida State, 91
Minor conference champions
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2016)
|Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association||Alma||5–0–0|
- "www.appollarchive.com". www.appollarchive.com. 2010-08-28. Archived from the original on February 29, 2012. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
- "USC (UPI) Split Buckeyes (AP) No. 1 Grid Spot", Minneapolis Star, November 26, 1968, p2-D
- "Bucks Finish UPI's No. 1", Cincinnati Enquirer, December 4, 1968, p46
- "1968 Atlantic Coast Conference Year Summary". sports-reference.com. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- "O.J. Simpson". Heisman Trophy. 1968. Retrieved January 24, 2017.