|1979 NCAA Division I-A season|
|Number of teams||139|
|Preseason AP No. 1||USC|
|Heisman Trophy||Charles White (running back, USC)|
|Division I-A football seasons|
The 1979 NCAA Division I-A football season saw the Alabama Crimson Tide bring home a national title with a perfect 12–0 season. The title was Alabama's 11th claimed, and their 6th Associated Press awarded title.
This was an extremely dominant Alabama team, only giving up 67 points the entire season and shutting out five opponents. The team won a tight game against LSU 3–0 and beat Auburn by a touchdown before beating Arkansas 24–9 in the Sugar Bowl.
There was very little movement at the top of the rankings throughout the season, as only three different teams held the top spot in the AP poll and only two in the UPI poll. USC was the pre-season top-ranked team, and held the number one ranking until a 21–21 tie with Stanford, a game USC led at halftime 21–0. A fumbled hold on the snap from center cost the Trojans a chance at a last-second field goal. Stanford was led by quarterback Turk Schonert, while freshman John Elway served as his backup. USC ended up finishing second in the country, but running back Charles White brought home the Heisman Trophy.
Number 2 Alabama then took over the top spot and never relinquished that position in the UPI poll. In the AP poll, however, Ohio State took over the top spot in the last regular season poll of the season. Ohio State had defeated No. 13 Michigan in Ann Arbor by a score of 18–15 to earn the Big Ten title. Two weeks later, Alabama defeated No. 14 Auburn 25–18 in Birmingham, but the AP voters saw fit to jump Ohio State ahead of them.
- Blocking below the waist is prohibited on fumble recoveries (before they touch the ground), interceptions of forward and backward passes, on wide receivers beyond five yards past the line of scrimmage, on kickers until they are five yards past the line of scrimmage, and by backs beyond three yards past the line of scrimmage.
- Adding an automatic first down to defensive penalties for spearing, blows to the head or helmet, or kicking an opponent.
- Fouls committed by the receiving team during punts and kickoffs after the ball crosses the line of scrimmage result in enforcement from the spot of the foul, not from the previous spot and a re-kick as was previously the case.
- Eliminating offsetting penalties when a dead-ball foul is involved.
Conference and program changes
- This season the total number of Division I-A teams grew by 1 to 139 with the addition of East Tennessee State as a member of the Southern Conference.
|School||1978 Conference||1979 Conference|
|East Tennessee State Buccaneers||Ohio Valley (I-AA)||Southern (I-A)|
|Hawaiʻi Rainbow Warriors||Independent||WAC|
No. 1 and No. 2 progress
|WEEKS||No. 1||No. 2||Event|
|PRE-5||USC||Alabama||Stanford 21, USC 21 (Oct 13)|
|6||Alabama||Texas||Arkansas 17, Texas 14 (Oct 20)|
|7-9||Alabama||Nebraska||Ohio State 34, Iowa 7 (Nov 10)|
|10-11||Alabama||Ohio State||USC 49, UCLA 14 (Nov 24)|
|13||Ohio State||Alabama||USC 17, Ohio State 16|
Notable rivalry games
- Alabama 25, Auburn 18
- Oklahoma 17, Nebraska 14
- Ohio State 18, Michigan 14
- Navy 31, Army 7
- Texas 16, Oklahoma 7
- Texas A&M 13, Texas 7
- Tulane 24, LSU 13
- USC 42, Notre Dame 23
- USC 49, UCLA 14
- California 21, Stanford 14
- Pitt 29, Penn State 14
|Rose Bowl||No. 3 USC||17||No. 1 Ohio State||16|
|Sugar Bowl||No. 2 Alabama||24||No. 6 Arkansas||9|
|Orange Bowl||No. 5 Oklahoma||24||No. 4 Florida State||7|
|Cotton Bowl||No. 8 Houston||17||No. 7 Nebraska||14|
|Bluebonnet Bowl||No. 12 Purdue||27||Tennessee||22|
|Peach Bowl||No. 19 Baylor||24||No. 18 Clemson||18|
|Hall of Fame Classic||Missouri||24||No. 16 South Carolina||14|
|Gator Bowl||North Carolina||17||No. 14 Michigan||15|
|Fiesta Bowl||No. 10 Pittsburgh||16||Arizona||10|
|Sun Bowl||No. 13 Washington||14||No. 11 Texas||7|
|Liberty Bowl||Penn State||9||No. 15 Tulane||6|
|Tangerine Bowl||LSU||34||Wake Forest||10|
|Holiday Bowl||Indiana||38||No. 9 Brigham Young||37|
|Garden State Bowl||No. 20 Temple||28||California||17|
|Independence Bowl||Syracuse||31||McNeese State||7|
Final AP and UPI rankings
|4.||Ohio State||Ohio State|
- Charles White, TB, USC, 1,695 points
- Billy Sims, HB, Oklahoma, 773
- Marc Wilson, QB, BYU, 589
- Art Schlichter, QB, Ohio State, 251
- Vagas Ferguson, TB, Notre Dame, 162
- Paul McDonald, QB, USC, 92
- George Rogers, TB, South Carolina, 81
- Mark Herrmann, QB, Purdue, 54
- Ron Simmons, MG, Florida State, 41
- Steadman Shealy, QB, Alabama, 32
- Schlicter was a sophomore; Rogers and Herrmann were juniors
Other major awards
- Maxwell (outstanding player) – Charles White, TB, USC
- Outland – Jim Ritcher, C, North Carolina State
- Camp – Charles White, TB, USC
- Lombardi – Brad Budde, G, USC
- "2017 Media Guide" (PDF). thesundevils.com. ASU Athletics. p. 127. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
- "White grabs Heisman". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. December 3, 1979. p. 25.
- "Heisman goes to White". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). (New York Times). December 4, 1979. p. 21.