Texas was undefeated and ranked No. 1 heading into the 1978 Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns were led by Heisman Trophy-winning running back Earl Campbell and were set to square off with No. 5 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.
No. 2 Oklahoma, also unbeaten, was playing an undermanned Arkansas team coached by Lou Holtz in the Orange Bowl. Third-ranked Alabama faced Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 4 Michigan faced future NFL Hall of Famer Warren Moon in the Rose Bowl. By day’s end on Jan. 2, 1978, the Longhorns, Sooners and Wolverines had all lost. Notre Dame held Campbell scoreless in a 38-10 rout. Down the road in New Orleans, the Crimson Tide handled Ohio State with ease, 35-6.
With No. 1 and No. 2 losing, the natural progression seemed that No. 3 Alabama would move up to the top spot and claim the national title. The poll voters thought otherwise, however, vaulting the Irish from No. 5 to No. 1 on the strength of their 28-point win over the top-ranked and seemingly unstoppable Longhorns, giving coach Dan Devine his first and only national title.