In response to the multiple, time-killing articles bemoaning 'Bama's undefeated 1966 season that ended without a national title, Blue-Gray Sky pulls out the research stick on those who say Notre Dame stole the title from Bryant's squad and lays a whoopin' to the argument. The only thing they don't lay waste to in their refutation is this: 'Bama went undefeated, Notre Dame tied a game with Michigan State, and Notre Dame walks away with a national title.
There's reasons for this--and in appropriately Jesuitical fashion, BGS goes through every last one--but none seems more compelling to me than reputation and media concentration. It's the reason West Coast teams still don't get the credit they deserve, it's the reason the climb up to the top 25 takes so long for up and coming programs, and it's the reason why Oklahoma will get a bowl bid to the BCS championship game when it really shouldn't. Attempt to quantify the process all you like--human bias creeps into the numbers.
Why? We take cognitive shortcuts, both out of total laziness and in the name of efficiency. We lazily assume the sun will rise every morning, and as Brian points out, sometimes we see tigers in the jungle where there are none. Reputation, like a credit rating, is one of those shortcuts. In 1966, given a difficult choice, we think pollsters relied on reputation. Notre Dame was still NOTRE DAME in all caps, nestled in the heart of bland, wholesome Middle America. Alabama was a stone's throw away from Birmingham, where Bull Connor had loosed German Shepherds on black people.
PR 101: Uh, don't do this.
Let's put it this way: given two nearly identical dates, who do you choose: the girl with the huge honking cold sore, or the girl without one? That's what we thought, too. It's not the only reason Notre Dame won--as BGS shows, they were a phenomenal team--but it sure as hell didn't help.
Why else wouldn't Bama rise above two teams who'd tied after going the season undefeated? Firehoses, dogs, and the predetermined weight of national program rep. Just shows that a playoff has been a good idea for a very, very long time.