Top 25 Rankings 1901-1935
1901 National Championship
College Football Top 25
above is the biggest game of the 1901 season, Harvard-Yale,
as published that year in Harper's Weekly. The caption tells you all you
need to know about who was considered national champion at the time:
WINS THE INTERCOLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSSHIP." Indeed, had there been an AP
poll in 1901, Harvard would have been #1 by a landslide.
covered 12-0 Harvard, 11-0 Michigan, and 9-0 Wisconsin in my 1901
national championship article.
Harvard defeated 6 top 25 teams, but their biggest wins came 6-0 at #5
Army (5-1-2), which was their only close game, 27-12 over #9 Dartmouth (10-1),
and 22-0 over #4 Yale (11-1-1) in their finale.
Michigan and Wisconsin
selectors really like 11-0 Michigan and are sure that they were the
best team this season, and among the best teams of all time. People in
1901, however, were far less certain about that, to say the very least.
If I had to guess which of these teams would have been rated higher in
a 1901 AP poll, that guess would be 9-0 Wisconsin, because they were a
better known quantity at the time, they had been expected to compete
against Minnesota (9-1-1, #8) for the Western Conference (Big 10) title
this year, and their 18-0 win over Minnesota was by far the biggest
game in the "West."
On the other hand, Michigan rolled up bigger
scores, outdoing their opposition by a total of 550-0, and huge scores
have always been very attractive to poll voters.
scores don't really matter in this case, since Wisconsin was as
unthreatened by any opponent this season as Michigan was, and
Wisconsin's average margin of victory was itself very impressive. So
we'll just place these teams into a tie with one another.
addition to their 18-0 win over #8 Minnesota, Wisconsin also beat #19
Nebraska 18-0. Michigan won 29-0 over #14 Northwestern and 50-0 over
11-1-1 Yale lost 22-0 at #1 Harvard in their finale, and they took
their tie 5-5 at #5 Army. They defeated #6 Princeton (9-1-1), #12
Columbia, #17 Penn State, and #18 Navy. They had one weak performance,
a 6-0 home win over 4-6-2 Amherst.
5-1-2 Army lost
6-0 to #1 Harvard, and they tied #4 Yale and #6 Princeton, all of those
games at home. Their only road game this season was their 11-5 win over
#18 Navy in Philadelphia in their finale. Army also won 15-0 over #16
Williams and 24-0 over #13 Penn.
lost 12-0 at #4 Yale in their finale, and they tied 6-6 at Army the
game before that. Princeton's big win came 8-6 at #7 Cornell (11-1),
and they also won 6-0 over #10 Lafayette at home. The rest of their
games were shutouts and routs.
11-1 Cornell lost 8-6 at home to #6 Princeton. They won 24-0 at #12
Columbia and 23-6 at #13 Penn. They had one weak win, 6-0 over unrated
6-4 Bucknell at home.
was tied in an exhibition game against a high school in their opener.
Minnesota didn't count it or list it as an official game at the time,
but they do now in their record book. I pretty much disregard it,
however. Their loss came 18-0 at home to #2 Wisconsin. They shut out
every other opponent, including 16-0 at #14 Northwestern, 16-0 at #15
Illinois, 19-0 over #19 Nebraska, and 16-0 over #20 Iowa. They also
defeated nearly-rated Haskell (7-2) 28-0.
took their loss 27-12 at #1 Harvard. They defeated only one good team,
by the slim score of 6-2 at #16 Williams (6-4). The rest of their games were routs over weak
coach was Walter McCornack, who had played quarterback for Dartmouth
1893-1896 and was team captain his last 2 years. He went 15-3-1 as
coach 1901-1902, then moved on to Northwestern 1903-1905, going 26-5-4
there, for an overall record of 41-8-5.
9-3 Lafayette took their one loss to a college team 6-0 at #6
Princeton, and their other 2 losses were routs at athletic clubs. Like
Dartmouth, they only beat one good team, 5-0 at #11 Syracuse (7-2). But
unlike Dartmouth, they had a weak win, 11-6 at Brown (4-7-1), whom Dartmouth drubbed 22-0 on the road in their finale.
was coached by Samuel Newton, who had played at end for Penn
in the early 1890s. Newton started coaching at Penn State 1896-1898,
going an anemic 12-14, but then he posted a terrific 30-6 record at Lafayette 1899-1901. More importantly, his
Lafayette teams were 6-0 against archrival Lehigh, as they played twice a year
then. Lehigh had had enough, and hired him away. He defeated Lafayette
his first 2 years at Lehigh, but ended up 2-2 against them while coaching there. He went 23-20-2
at Lehigh 1902-1905, not nearly as well as he had done at Lafayette. After
that stint at Lehigh, he coached just one more year, going 8-2 in an
encore at Lafayette in 1911. And that included another win over Lehigh. Overall he was 41-16 in 4 years at Lafayette.
The star of the team this year was center and team captain Walter Bachman, a consensus All American in 1900 and 1901.
5-0 win at #11 Syracuse was close because Lafayette repeatedly turned
the ball over near the Syracuse goal line. The closest Syracuse got to
Lafayette's goal was the Lafayette 35 yard line. The 6-0 loss at #6
Princeton was a defensive slugfest that was won by Princeton's Hall of
Fame guard, John DeWitt, on a 55 yard touchdown run with 6 minutes to
lost 5-0 at #10 Lafayette and 6-0 to a team of Syracuse alumni, so in
practical terms they were 7-1. They too beat just one good team, 11-5
at #12 Columbia, but no one else came close to them.
took their losses to #1 Harvard, #4 Yale, #7 Cornell, and #11 Syracuse,
and they also took an upset loss 5-0 at unranked Buffalo (4-2) in their opener.
Columbia defeated 3 rated teams: 5-0 over #16 Williams, 11-0 over #13 Penn, and 6-5 at #18 Navy.
was helmed by Hall of Fame coach George Sanford, who had played at
center for Yale in the early 1890s. He went 22-11-1 as coach of
Columbia 1899-1901, the high point coming in his first year, when
Columbia beat Yale for the first time ever. He then went 6-3 at
Virginia in 1904, and later made his fame at Rutgers 1913-1923, going
56-32-5 there. He produced 5 top 25 teams in his 11 years at Rutgers,
and Rutgers has been top 25 only 4 times since then. Overall Sanford
During all of Sanford's 3 seasons at Columbia, the
team was led by a pair of Hall of Fame halfbacks, Bill Morley (pictured
above at left) and Harold Weekes (pictured above at right). Morley was
a consensus All American in 1900 and 1901. He was also the kicker and a
great blocker, and would succeed Sanford as coach at Columbia the next
season, going 26-11-3 through 1905, after which Columbia dropped their
football program. Weekes was also a consensus AA this season, and was
the offensive star of the team. He was featured in a play called the
"Flying Hurdle," in which Weekes was launched over the line of
scrimmage. He was good at landing on his feet and running on with the
play. Weekes scored the touchdown that upset Yale 5-0 in 1899 from 50
Pennsylvania took their losses to #1 Harvard, #5 Army, #7 Cornell, #12
Columbia, and they also took a 6-5 upset loss at #18 Navy. Penn won 23-6 over #17 Penn State (who beat Navy) and 20-5 over #23 Virginia (8-2).
was the last season for Penn's great Hall of Fame coach, George
Woodruff (pictured), who had played for Yale 1885-1888, when they went
38-1-1. Woodruff went 124-15-2 as head coach at Penn 1892-1901, winning
3 MNCs, but this 10-5 season wasn't good enough, and there was
agitation for his replacement among alumni. He resigned, and coached
just 2 more years, going 8-6 at Illinois in 1903 and 10-4 at Carlisle
in 1905. That puts his overall record at 142-25-2, and that puts
Woodruff in the top 5 for all time coaching win percentage.
The star player this year was halfback Marshall Reynolds, a nonconsensus All American.
8-2-1 Northwestern lost handily to #2 Michigan and #8 Minnesota,
and they were tied 11-11 at home by unrated Beloit (5-3-3), an
embarrassment. But they won 17-11 at #15 Illinois (8-2) and 2-0 over
#22 Notre Dame (8-1-1).
8-2 Illinois lost 17-11 to #14 Northwestern and 16-0 to #8 Minnesota in
their finale, both at home. The rest of their games were routs, the
best being a 27-0 win at #20 Iowa.
lost to #1 Harvard, #5 Army, #9 Dartmouth, and #12 Columbia, and they
played well in those losses, but they only had one good win, 17-0 at
#21 Massachusetts (8-1), and they posted 2 close wins over weak
head coach at Williams was Yale grad Josiah Hazen. The years he was
officially the coach here are not clear, but appear to have been
1898-1902, during which time Williams went 28-26-2. The middle of those
years were the best for Williams: 10-4 in 1899, 6-4-1 in 1900, and 6-4 this year.
star player this year was end and team captain Frank "Buck" O' Neill,
who went on to become a Hall of Fame coach. He went 18-8-2 at Colgate
1902 and 1904-1905, and became famous in 3 stints at Syracuse
1906-1919, going 52-19-6 there.
#17 Penn State
5-3 Penn State lost 22-0 at #4 Yale, 23-6 at #13 Penn, and 39-0 at an athletic club. Their one big win came 11-6 at #18 Navy.
6-4-1 Navy lost to #4 Yale, #5 Army, #12 Columbia, and #17 Penn State,
and they were tied 0-0 in their opener by unrated 3-3-2 Georgetown. On
the positive side, they had a big 6-5 home win over #13 Penn, but
that's all they accomplished, and they had a couple close home wins
over weak opponents.
took their losses 18-0 at #2 Wisconsin and 19-0 at #8 Minnesota. Their
best win came 18-10 over Haskell (7-2, #26-27). They also won 5-0 at
the Kirksville Osteopaths (10-3).
6-3 Iowa took
their losses 50-0 to #2 Michigan, 16-0 at #8 Minnesota, and 27-0
to #15 Illinois. Their best win came 17-11 over Grinnell (7-1-1), and
they had one weak performance in a 6-5 win at Drake (4-4).
Massachusetts took their loss 17-0 to #16 Williams. Their best win came
17-0 at Holy Cross (7-1-1), but they posted 3 close wins over weak
opponents. Technically, they were 9-1, but the 9th "win" was a forfeit
by Bates. I prefer to count games that were actually played.
#22 Notre Dame
8-1-1 Notre Dame
lost 2-0 at #14 Northwestern, and they tied the South Bend Athletic
Club 0-0 in their opener. Their best win came 18-5 over Indiana (6-3,
#26-27), and they too posted 3 close wins over weak opponents.
coach was Pat O' Dea (upper right in team picture above), a legendary
Hall of Fame fullback at Wisconsin 1896-1899. He was from Australia,
where he had been a rugby player, and at Wisconsin he gained nationwide
fame as one of the greatest kickers of all time. The "Kangaroo Kicker,"
as he was known, boomed a number of punts of more than 100 yards
(fields were 110 yards then), and he kicked at least 4 field goals of
60 yards or more. He connected on 32 field goals in his career,
extremely unusual for the time.
O' Dea went 14-4-2 as coach of
Notre Dame 1900-1901, then 5-3 at Missouri in 1902. He moved to San
Francisco to practice law, then disappeared in 1917. A reporter
searched for and found him in 1934, living under an assumed name
(Clarence Mitchell) in Westwood, California. He said that he had been
tired of his football fame, but after he was found, he spent the rest
of his life basking in it.
Notre Dame's star player this year
was also a Hall of Famer, Louis Salmon (pictured at left), who played
end, halfback, and fullback 1900-1903. He made Walter Camp's 3rd team
All American list in 1903. His 36 career touchdowns remained a school
record until 1985. He scored 250 points for his career.
8-2 Virginia lost 20-5 at #13 Penn, and they also took an upset
loss 17-16 at unranked Georgetown (3-3-2). Their big win came 16-0 at
#24 Virginia Tech, and they also won handily over 7-2 North Carolina
and 4-2-2 Sewanee.
#24 Virginia Tech
Tech took their loss 16-0 at home to #23 Virginia. They won 32-6 at
Georgetown (3-3-2), who beat Virginia and tied #18 Navy, and they won
17-11 at Clemson (3-1-1).
was the champion of the West Coast, I suppose. They tied an athletic
club in their opener, and they only played 2 colleges all season,
winning 12-0 over Nevada and 2-0 over Stanford.
are the teams closest to making this top 25.
6-3 Indiana took
their losses to #2 Michigan, #15 Illinois, and #22 Notre Dame. They did
not beat a particularly good team, but most of their wins were routs,
the exception being an 11-6 win over rival 4-4-1 Purdue.
head coach was James Horne (pictured), who had played at Bowdoin
College in Maine. He went 33-21-5 here 1898-1904, and was the athletic
director too. He ushered Indiana into the Western Conference (Big 10)
7-2 Haskell lost
to #8 Minnesota and #19 Nebraska. Their wins call came by more than a
touchdown, including a 36-5 win at the 10-3 Kirksville Osteopaths.
2) Michigan 11-0
4) Yale 11-1-1
5) Army 5-1-2
6) Princeton 9-1-1
7) Cornell 11-1
8) Minnesota 9-1-1
9) Dartmouth 10-1
10) Lafayette 9-3
12) Columbia 8-5
13) Pennsylvania 10-5
14) Northwestern 8-2-1
16) Williams 6-4
17) Penn State 5-3
18) Navy 6-4-1
19) Nebraska 7-2
20) Iowa 6-3
21) Massachusetts 8-1
22) Notre Dame 8-1-1
23) Virginia 8-2
24) Virginia Tech 6-1
25) California 9-0-1