Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller
                                Top 25 Rankings 1901-1935
                                1902 National Championship

1902 College Football Top 25

Michigan vs. Wisconsin in Chicago in 1902

Pictured above is 11-0 Michigan's only close game in 1902, a 6-0 win over Wisconsin (6-3, #9) in Chicago. Michigan claims 4 straight mythical national championships for 1901-1904, but the only one of those 4 teams I recognize as an MNC is this 1902 edition. However, a 1902 AP poll would have certainly tabbed 11-0-1 Yale #1, so that's where we'll start this top 25.

Despite the worse record, 11-0-1 Yale works for #1. Their tie came at 6-1-1 Army, who lost only to 11-1 Harvard, who lost only to Yale.

I covered 11-0-1 Yale, 11-0 Michigan, and 10-0 Nebraska in my 1902 national championship article.

#1 Yale

As noted above, 11-0-1 Yale was tied at 6-1-1 Army (#4), who lost only to 11-1 Harvard (#3), who lost only to Yale. Yale also gave 8-1 Princeton (#5) their only loss, and they defeated 4 other rated opponents. Only Army came within a touchdown of Yale this season.

#2 Michigan

Eastern writers probably would have rated 10-1 Harvard and 6-1-1 Army ahead of 11-0 Michigan, and possibly 8-1 Princeton as well, but I'm thinking the rest of the country would have helped get Michigan to #2 in a 1902 AP poll. Since Michigan had 1 close game (touchdown or less), while Harvard had 2, Michigan works well enough for #2. Michigan won 23-0 over #21 Notre Dame (6-2-1), 6-0 over #9 Wisconsin (6-3) in Chicago, 21-0 at #7 Chicago (14-1),and 23-6 over #8 Minnesota (9-2-1).

#3 Harvard

Defending MNC 11-1 Harvard lost 23-0 to #1 Yale in their finale. Their big win came 14-6 at #4 Army (6-1-1), who tied Yale, and they defeated 5 other rated opponents: #11 Amherst, #12 Dartmouth, #14 Brown, #15 Carlisle, and #16 Penn. They had 2 close wins, both by 6-0 at home, against Amherst and Brown.

#4 Army

1902 Army football team

6-1-1 Army lost 14-6 to #3 Harvard and they tied 6-6 with #1 Yale, both games at home. They had one big win, 46-0 at #10 Syracuse (6-2-1).

Welcome to the era when Army was a powerhouse football program. 1901-1916, they were top 25 caliber 13 times and a top 10 team 9 times, with 2 MNCs. They fell back just a bit 1917-1935, but still had 16 top 25 finishes in those 19 years, though just 6 in the top 10. The football program fell apart after that, but reawakened with WW2, and had their last run of greatness 1943-1958 (14 top 25, 9 top 10).

Yale ruled the first decade of the 20th century, winning 6 MNCs 1900-1909 and going 100-4-5. The peskiest thorn in their side during this time period was Army, who upset them in 1904 to cost them a 7th MNC, and who also marred perfect records for Yale with ties this season and in 1907.

The coach this year, and for only this year, was future general Dennis Nolan, and the team's student manager was another future general, Douglas MacArthur. Army featured a pair of Hall of Famers in tackle/halfback Paul Bunker and quarterback Charles Daly. Bunker was a consensus All American in 1901 and 1902, and died in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during WW2. Daly was a consensus AA 4 straight years 1898-1901, first at Harvard and then at Army. He would be Army's coach 1913-1916 and 1919-1922, going 58-13-3 and winning 2 MNCs. He cofounded the American Football Coaches Association in 1922 and served as its first president.

Center Robert Boyers was a consensus AA, and end Joseph McAndrew was a nonconsensus AA.

#5 Princeton

8-1 Princeton lost 12-5 to #1 Yale at home in their finale. They won the rest by more than a touchdown, but their schedule was very light, with only 2 other rated teams coming to town, #17 Cornell (8-3) and #18 Columbia (6-4-1).

#6 Nebraska

Missouri Valley champion 10-0 Nebraska got their big win 6-0 at #8 Minnesota (9-2-1). They also won 7-0 over #19 Knox (9-2), a margin that at that time was more than a touchdown, and they also won 10-0 at 5-1 Colorado (Rocky Mountain champion).

#7 Chicago

14-1 Chicago lost 21-0 to #2 Michigan at home. They won 11-0 over #9 Wisconsin (6-3), 6-0 over #13 Illinois (10-2-1), 5-0 over #19 Knox (9-2), and 33-0 over #22 Purdue (7-2-1). They did not venture outside the city of Chicago in any of their 15 games this season.

#8 Minnesota

9-2-1 Minnesota lost 6-0 to #6 Nebraska (10-0) at home and 23-6 at #2 Michigan (11-0) in their finale. The tie came in an exhibition game against a high school in their opener that Minnesota didn't count or list as official at the time, though they do now. I don't take it seriously, however. The wins all came by more than a touchdown, the best being 17-5 over #13 Illinois (10-2-1) and 11-0 over #9 Wisconsin (6-3).

#9 Wisconsin

6-3 Wisconsin took their losses to #2 Michigan, #7 Chicago, and #8 Minnesota. Their wins came by big scores, but none of those teams were good, so this rating for Wisconsin stems mostly from the fact that they had been 9-0 the year before, and a Western Conference (Big 10) powerhouse over the previous 6 seasons (52-6-1). Since all their losses this season came to top 10 teams, and they gave #2 Michigan their only close game this season, #9 will work.

#10 Syracuse

Syracuse football coach Edwin Sweetland

6-2-1 Syracuse lost by big scores to #1 Yale and #4 Army, and they took an upset tie at Columbia (6-4-1, #18) in their finale. They make the top 10 thanks to one big win, 15-0 over #11 Amherst.

The arrival of Syracuse as a top 25 football school coincided with the arrival of head coach Edwin Sweetland (pictured), a Cornell grad who went a terrific 20-5-2 here 1900-1902. He was a traveling teacher of football, and for his career he went 100-41-10 over 18 seasons at 9 schools. He coached Colgate to their first top 25 finish in 1908, Kentucky in 1909.

#11 Amherst

7-3 Amherst lost at #1 Yale, at #3 Harvard, and at #10 Syracuse. They won 12-6 at #12 Dartmouth and 29-0 at #18 Columbia. They played 7 of their 10 games on the road.

#12 Dartmouth

6-2-1 Dartmouth took their losses at #3 Harvard and to #11 Amherst, and they took an upset tie to 2-3-2 Massachusetts at home early in the season. Their one big win came 12-6 over #14 Brown on a neutral field in their finale.

#13 Illinois

10-2-1 Illinois took their losses 6-0 at #7 Chicago and 17-5 at #8 Minnesota, and they took an upset scoreless tie at unrated 6-2-2 Ohio State late in the season. Their one win over a rated opponent came 29-5 over #22 Purdue.

Illinois was coached by Edgar Holt, a Princeton graduate who went 18-4-1 here 1901-1902, taking 2 losses each season. Oddly enough, that wasn't good enough, and students at the school clamored for a new coach. They got it, and Illinois declined drastically. They would finally get the championship coach they wanted with the hire of Hall of Famer Robert Zuppke in 1913.

Only 3 players on this year's team had more than 1 year of experience playing college football. The captain was Jake Stahl, who went on to an 11 year career in pro baseball and won a World Series as the player-manager of the Boston Red Sox in 1912.

#14 Brown

Brown halfback Thomas Barry

5-4-1 Brown lost 10-0 to #1 Yale, 6-0 at #3 Harvard, 6-5 at unrated 8-3 Lafayette, and 12-6 to #12 Dartmouth in their finale. The tie came to unrated 5-3-2 Vermont at home in their opener. That's a loss and a tie against unrated opponents, but the team behind them, Carlisle, took 2 losses to unrated teams, so Brown is safe at #14. Brown's big wins came 15-6 at #16 Penn and 28-0 at #18 Columbia.

Brown's coach was John "Duff" Gammons, who played at halfback here 1895-1897, and went 17-10-2 as head coach 1902 and 1908-1909. All 3 teams he coached were top 25 caliber.

The star player this year was consensus All American halfback Thomas Barry (pictured). He scored all of Brown's points in the 15-6 win at Penn, the first victory Brown ever managed against them. He scored touchdowns of 50 and 31 yards, and he kicked a 28 yard field goal in his first career attempt. Barry later became a coach, going 31-9-5 over 7 years at 4 schools.

#15 Carlisle

8-3 Carlisle lost 23-0 at #3 Harvard, and as mentioned above, they took 2 losses to unrated opponents, 16-0 to 6-4 Bucknell and 6-5 at 8-1-1 Virginia. Carlisle's best wins came 5-0 at #16 Penn, 10-6 at #17 Cornell, and 21-0 at 7-3 Georgetown. All of their major opponents were played on the road.

#16 Pennsylvania

9-4 Penn took their losses at #3 Harvard, to #14 Brown, to #15 Carlisle, and at unrated 2-7-1 Navy. They defeated #17 Cornell, #18 Columbia, 7-3-1 Lehigh, and 6-4 Bucknell. The Cornell win came just 12-11 at home in their finale.

#17 Cornell

8-3 Cornell lost 10-0 at #5 Princeton, 10-6 to #15 Carlisle, and 12-11 at #16 Penn in their finale. Their best win came 28-0 at home over unrated 8-3 Lafayette.

#18 Columbia

6-4-1 Columbia took their losses to #5 Princeton, #11 Amherst, #14 Brown, and #16 Penn. Their one big "win" was their tie, 6-6 to #10 Syracuse at home. Their actual wins all came over poor teams, and they performed weakly outside the one big tie. All of their losses were routs, and they had 2 close wins, over 2-7-1 Navy and 3-5-1 Buffalo.

#19 Knox

1902 Knox football team

9-2 Knox lost 5-0 at #7 Chicago and 7-0 at #6 Nebraska. Their big win came 12-5 over #21 Notre Dame (6-2-1), and they also won 15-0 at 6-6 Northwestern and 5-0 over 6-4 Kansas.

Knox is a small college in Galesburg, Illinois, and this is their football program's only finish in the top 25. The coach was Jack McLean, who had played for Michigan through 1899, and who had won a silver medal in hurdles at the 1900 Olympics in Paris. He went 17-5-1 here 1901-1902.

This year's line was large for its time, headlined by George Martin, who weighed in at 232 pounds. The star player was halfback Joe Zalusky, who also handled the returns and kicking. He returned a punt 106 yards for a touchdown in the 15-0 win at Northwestern, and he had a 67 yard run to set up a touchdown in the 12-5 win over Notre Dame. That Notre Dame game was played in Rock Island, and was billed as the small-college "Championship of the West."

#20 California

A token spot for 8-0 California, West Coast champion. None of their games were close, other than a bout against a team of Cal alumni, and they defeated 6-1 Stanford (#25) 16-0.

#21 Notre Dame

6-2-1 Notre Dame took their losses to #2 Michigan and #19 Knox. They tied 6-6 at #22 Purdue (7-2-1) in their finale, and their big win came 6-5 at #24 Ohio Medical School (9-1).

#22 Purdue

7-2-1 Purdue took their losses by big scores at #7 Chicago and at #13 Illinois. Their best win came 5-0 over 6-3 Case at home, and they also won 5-0 at 6-6 Northwestern. The tie came 6-6 to #21 Notre Dame at home in their finale.

#23 Geneva

Geneva and Pittsburgh halfback Joe Thompson

7-0 Geneva was a minor team playing other minor teams, and none of their opponents were worth anything, but Geneva won every game by more than a touchdown, and only gave up 2 points on the season.

Geneva is a small college in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, and this was the school's only top 25 caliber football team. The head coach was J. B. Craig, who went a blistering 26-3-3 here 1900-1903, never taking more than 1 loss in a season.

The team actually fielded a Hall of Famer this season, halfback and captain Joe Thompson (pictured). He would play for Pittsburgh 1904-1906, leading Pitt to a 10-0 finish in his first season there. He then coached Pitt 1908-1912, going 30-14-2, including a 9-0 finish in 1910, shutting out every opponent.

#24 Ohio Medical

9-1 Ohio Medical took their loss by an extra point, 6-5 to #21 Notre Dame at home. Their big win came 15-0 at 6-3 Case, who took all their losses to rated teams, and that made Ohio Medical the unofficial champion of the state of Ohio. They also defeated 6-4 Washington & Jefferson 6-5 at home.

Ohio Medical University opened in 1892 in Columbus, Ohio, and they fielded football teams 1895-1906. The school merged with Starling Medical College in 1907, and became the medical department of Ohio State in 1914. This was their only top 25 football team.

#25 Stanford

6-1 Stanford took their loss 16-0 to 8-0 California (#20). Their only win of note was impressive, 35-11 at 6-2-1 Utah.

Others Receiving Votes

Here are the teams closest to making this top 25. 5-0 Arizona State was too far removed from major college football to consider.

South Dakota 9-0

9-0 South Dakota was a minor team playing minor teams. They shut out every opponent, but they had one weak performance, a 5-0 win over 3-2 Morningside (Iowa). This season is the only perfect record South Dakota has produced.

The coach was A. H. "Buck" Whittemore, who had played for Brown 1897-1900. He was 37-21-6 as coach of South Dakota 1902-1909 and 1920-1921.

Colorado 5-1

5-1 Colorado was champion of the Rocky Mountain region. They lost 10-0 at home to #6 Nebraska, and they performed poorly against 3-3-2 Colorado State and 3-4 Colorado College, but they won 28-0 over 4-1-2 Colorado School of Mines in their finale.

Washington 5-1

5-1 Washington was champion of the Northwest. The loss came to the Multnomah Athletic Club. They defeated Oregon State, Idaho, and Washington State, and posted a weak 11-5 win at 2-4 Whitman.

Case 6-3

6-3 Case took their losses to #2 Michigan, #22 Purdue, and #24 Ohio Medical. They won 23-12 at 6-2-2 Ohio State (who tied #13 Illinois), giving them the Ohio Athletic Conference crown for the first of 4 straight seasons.

Bucknell 6-4

Penn State and Bucknell football coach George Hoskins

6-4 Bucknell took their losses at #1 Yale, at #16 Penn (by 1 point), at 9-1-1 Watertown Athletic Club, and at 5-6-1 Pittsburgh by the ugly score of 24-0. But they had 2 big wins, 16-0 over #15 Carlisle and 6-0 over 5-1 Steeltown YMCA (who defeated 7-3 Penn State, covered below).

The head coach was George Hoskins (pictured), who had played for Penn State 1892-1894, and was PSU's first official coach 1892-1895, going 17-4-4. He moved on to Pittsburgh and went 3-6 as coach in 1896, then came to Bucknell and went 39-38-5 here 1899-1909. Bucknell never quite made a top 25, but they would come close again in 1913.

Lafayette 8-3

8-3 Lafayette lost 28-0 at #17 Cornell, 6-0 to archrival 7-3-1 Lehigh (covered below), and most damaging, 12-11 at 2-7-1 Navy. They performed very well in their wins, the best a 6-5 home upset of #14 Brown.

Lehigh 7-3-1

7-3-1 Lehigh lost at #5 Princeton, at #16 Penn, and to 4-6 Dickinson at home. The tie came at 2-7-1 Navy. That's an ugly loss and tie, but they won 34-0 over 8-1-1 Virginia (who beat #15 Carlisle) in Washington, D.C., and they won 6-0 at archrival 8-3 Lafayette (covered above).

Penn State 7-3

1902 Penn State football team

7-3 Penn State took their losses at #1 Yale, at #16 Penn, and by 1 point at 5-1 Steeltown YMCA (who took their one loss to 6-4 Bucknell, covered above). Penn State did not beat a good team, and they struggled to win 6-0 at 2-7-1 Navy.

1902 Top 25

1) Yale 11-0-1
2) Michigan 11-0
3) Harvard 11-1
4) Army 6-1-1
5) Princeton 8-1
6) Nebraska 10-0
7) Chicago 14-1
8) Minnesota 9-2-1
9) Wisconsin 6-3
10) Syracuse 6-2-1

11) Amherst 7-3
12) Dartmouth 6-2-1
13) Illinois 10-2-1
Brown 5-4-1
15) Carlisle 8-3
16) Pennsylvania 9-4
17) Cornell 8-3
18) Columbia 6-4-1
19) Knox 9-2
20) California 8-0
21) Notre Dame 6-2-1
22) Purdue 7-2-1
23) Geneva 7-0
24) Ohio Medical 9-1
25) Stanford 6-1

Others Receiving Votes:
South Dakota 9-0
Colorado 5-1
Washington 5-1
Case 6-3
Bucknell 6-4
Lafayette 8-3
Lehigh 7-3-1
Penn State 7-3

Top 25 Rankings 1901-1935
1902 National Championship