Top 25 Rankings 1901-1935
1906 National Championship
College Football Top 25
above is advisory coach Walter Camp and halfback Hugh Knox of Yale
during practice in 1906. And if you're wondering why Knox was
practicing throwing the football, it's because the forward pass was
just legalized this season.
forward pass was just one of many changes in college football in 1906,
all coming in response to a growing outcry against the violence (and to
a lesser extent, the "professionalism") of college football. Indeed,
college football had been on the verge of being nationally banned
following the 1905 season. Some schools, including all of the major
California schools, dropped football altogether. Many others
drastically reduced the number of games they played. The Western
Conference (Big 10) cut the number of games they played in half, and
also instituted stringent eligibility standards.
And then there
were the major rules changes. In addition to the introduction of the
forward pass, teams now had to gain 10 yards to get a first down
(rather than 5), games were reduced from 70 minutes to 60, and referees
were urged to enforce various roughness penalties that were already in
the rulebook (but too often ignored).
On with the 1906 top 25...
Yale tied 9-0-1 Princeton on the road this year, but Yale's 6-0 triumph
over 10-0 Harvard the next week (the winning touchdown is pictured
above) would have made them a landslide #1 in a 1906 AP poll, leaving
co-MNC Princeton #2. I
summarized and compared both teams in detail
in my 1906 national
In addition to #3 Harvard, Yale also defeated #4 Penn State, #16 Brown, and #17 Syracuse.
As stated, 9-0-1 Princeton tied #1 Yale at home. They defeated #6 Cornell, #7 Navy, and #19 Washington & Jefferson.
10-1 Harvard lost 6-0 to #1 Yale at home in their finale, denying them the MNC. They defeated #5 Carlisle and #16 Brown.
8-1-1 Penn State
took their loss 10-0 at #1 Yale, and they took an upset tie to #10
Gettysburg (8-1-2) at home. Their big wins came 5-0 at #7 Navy and 4-0 over #5 Carlisle on a neutral field. They shut out every opponent but #1 Yale.
head coach was Tom Fennell, who had played for Cornell 1894-1896. He'd
gone 9-1-1 at Cincinnati in 1897, and he went 33-17-1 at Penn State
1904-1908, for a total of 42-18-2. He was PSU's first full-time coach.
The star player was center William "Mother" Dunn (pictured), PSU's first consensus All American. He became a doctor in Hawaii.
9-3 Carlisle took their losses at #3 Harvard (by 5 points), to #4 Penn
State (by 4), and at #12 Vanderbilt (by 4), the last result a landmark
win for both Vanderbilt and the South in general. Carlisle defeated #9
Penn, #13 Minnesota, and #17 Syracuse. Vanderbilt had a better-looking
record than Carlisle at 8-1, but they lost 10-4 at Michigan, who lost
17-0 at Penn, who lost 24-6 to Carlisle at home.
8-1-2 Cornell lost 14-5 to #2 Princeton on a neutral field, and they
suffered a pair of upset ties, to unrated Colgate (4-2-2) at home in
their opener, and at #9 Penn in their finale. Cornell's one big win
came over #8 Swarthmore.
Cornell's coach was Hall of Famer Pop Warner (pictured), who had played
here 1892-1894. He had first coached here 1897-1898, going 5-3-1 and
10-2, and then he went 39-18-3 at Carlisle 1899-1903. He returned to
his alma mater 1904-1906, pushing his Cornell total to 36-13-3. He then
returned to Carlisle, eventually winning an MNC in 1911. Then he moved on to Pittsburgh and won some more MNCs, and then to Stanford, who claims an MNC for 1926 (though I disagree with that one). Overall he was 319-106-32, a record for wins when he retired.
Cornell fielded 2 consensus All Americans this season, guard Elmer Thompson and center William Newman.
8-2-2 Navy lost
a pair of close games to #2 Princeton and #4 Penn State, and like
Cornell, they suffered a pair of upset ties, but these were really ugly: against 3-4-2 Dickinson and 3-4-1 Bucknell, both at home. Also like Cornell, Navy's one big win came over #8 Swarthmore.
head coach was Paul Dashiell (pictured), who had played for St. John's,
Johns Hopkins, and Lehigh as he accumulated advanced degrees. He was an
assistant coach at Navy 1892-1903, then head coach 1904-1906, going
25-5-4. They were top 25 caliber all 3 of his years as head coach. He
taught chemistry and math at Navy for his entire career, and he was
chairman of the national football rules committee for 15 years.
Bill Dague and quarterback Homer Norton were nonconsensus All Americans
this season, and Dague would be a consensus AA in 1907. Norton went on
to become a Hall of Fame coach, doing great work at Centenary, 61-22-9
over 11 seasons and coming very close to meriting an MNC in 1927, then winning an MNC at Texas A&M in 1939. Overall he was 143-75-18 over 25 seasons.
The famous Navy fight song "Anchors Aweigh" was written this year, and made its debut at the Army game, a 10-0 win.
7-2 Swarthmore lost to #6 Cornell and #7 Navy, and they defeated #9
Penn and #10 Gettysburg. Penn probably would have been ranked higher in
a 1906 AP poll anyway, but they shouldn't have been, so won't be here.
7-2-3 Penn took
their losses to #5 Carlisle and #8 Swarthmore, and the 3 ties came
against #6 Cornell, #10 Gettysburg, and #15 Lafayette. Their big win
was a 17-0 mauling of #11 Michigan (4-1), and they also defeated #16
Brown. Penn played all 12 of their games at home this season.
lost 19-4 at #8 Swarthmore (Penn only lost 4-0 to them), and their ties
came against #4 Penn State and #9 Penn. The tie against a higher-rated
team, plus Penn's tie to a lower-rated team, gave Gettysburg a better
relevant record than Penn had, but Penn played a much tougher schedule,
they performed better, and unlike Penn, Gettysburg did not actually
defeat a rated team. A 1906 AP poll would definitely have rated Penn
higher, and that works fine.
was Gettysburg's only top 25 caliber team. The coach was Fred Vail, who
went 34-21-4 here 1904-1906 and 1909-1911. The star player was halfback
Paul Sieber, who was the captain and made at least one 2nd team All
American list. He became a surgeon in Pittsburgh, and he is enshrined
in the Gettysburg Hall of Athletic Honor.
Michigan had been destroying teams in their own region the previous 5
seasons, and Hall of Fame coach Fielding Yost was hungry to show the
doubters in the East that his program was for real, so he took his team
to play #9 Penn this season... and got drubbed 17-0.
big win came 10-4 over #12 Vanderbilt at home, and they also defeated
nearly-rated Ohio State (8-1) 6-0 on the road (Ohio State was a minor
team at this time, its conference akin to today's MAC).
Vanderbilt, again, lost 10-4 at #11 Michigan. They pulled off a huge
4-0 upset over #5 Carlisle at home, and they won the championship of
the South the next week 20-0 over #22 Sewanee (8-1). Vanderbilt also
won 45-0 over #22 Texas (9-1) and 78-0 over 5-1 Alabama. A tremendously
impressive season for them that was well-noticed on a national level.
took their loss 17-0 to #5 Carlisle at home. Their big win came by the
baseball score of 4-2 at #14 Chicago (4-1), deciding the Western
Conference championship. Minnesota also gave 9-1 Iowa State (#22) their
only loss 22-4, and in their finale they edged 4-2 Indiana (#21) 8-6 at
4-1 Chicago was
nicked 4-2 by #13 Minnesota at home. They won the rest by big scores,
including 33-8 over #21 Indiana (4-2) and 38-5 over 6-4 Nebraska.
"won" 0-0 at #9 Penn, but they took an upset loss 12-4 to #17 Syracuse
at home. Their big win came 14-6 over #19 Washington & Jefferson on
a neutral field, and they also smashed nearly-rated Colgate (4-2-2).
Brown took their losses at #1 Yale (by 5 points), at #3 Harvard (by 4),
and at #9 Penn. The 2 close losses were their best accomplishments of
the season, as they did not defeat a rated opponent, but they did beat a good 6-3-1 Dartmouth team 23-0 in their finale.
took their losses at #1 Yale (51-0!), to #5 Carlisle (by 4 points), and
to unrated Colgate (4-2-2). They made up for the upset loss by giving
#15 Lafayette (8-1-1) their only loss 12-4 on the road.
played a ridiculously weak schedule, beating no one of any significance
at all. Their one victory over a winning opponent came 5-0 over
Lawrence (4-3 minor team) at home, which does not indicate a top 25
team. Still, this is about where a 1906 AP poll would have rated them,
and they did have a perfect record.
#19 Washington & Jefferson
& Jefferson took their losses at #2 Princeton (by 6 points) and to
#15 Lafayette on a neutral field. Their best win came 4-0 at
nearly-rated Pittsburgh (6-4). They had one very ill performance, a 2-0
home win over 3-4-2 Dickinson.
#20 St. Louis
I covered 11-0 St. Louis in some detail in my 1906 MNC article.
They took full advantage of the newly legal forward pass, becoming the
first pass-happy offense, and they pummeled foes by a total score of
407-20, though, like Wisconsin, they didn't beat anyone good. Also like
Wisconsin, their one weak performance came against 4-3 Lawrence, a 6-0
4-2 Indiana was
blown out badly at #14 Chicago, but they only lost 8-6 at #13 Minnesota
in their finale. They beat a pair of good minor teams, 5-1-1 Wabash and
6-1 Notre Dame.
#22: Iowa State, Sewanee, Texas, and Washington State
Here we have four strong token teams from four different outer
regions, and since there's no real way to properly compare them, we'll
just do the easy thing and toss them all into a tie for the last 4
slots in this top 25.
9-1 Iowa State lost 22-4 at #13 Minnesota. Their best win came 14-2
at 6-4 Nebraska. They had one weak performance, a 2-0 win at rival Iowa
8-1 Sewanee lost 20-0 at #12 Vanderbilt in their finale. They beat
5-3-1 Georgia Tech and 4-2 Mississippi, and like Iowa State, they had one weak
performance, a 10-5 win over 1-5-1 Auburn on a neutral field.
9-1 Texas was the Southwestern champion. They were blasted 45-0 at
#12 Vanderbilt. Their best win came 24-0 over 6-1 Texas A&M at
home, giving them the state crown. They too had one weak performance
(other than the Vanderbilt embarrassment), a 10-9 win at rival Oklahoma
(5-2-2). Oklahoma may have had a nice-looking record, but they were not
good, losing to Kansas (3-2-2), and tying Washburn and Pawhuska.
Washington State was champion of the Northwest, I suppose, though their
schedule was pretty much worthless, even so far as their own region was
concerned. They played 2 athletic clubs, Blair Business College, Idaho,
Montana, and Whitman, and they barely won against those last 2
schools. Still, it's impossible to know how good any of these teams
were compared to the rest of the nation, and WSU did shut out every opponent.
was Washington State's first top 25 caliber team. The head coach was
John "Chief" Bender (pictured), who had played for Nebraska 1900-1904.
He went 13-1 at WSU 1906-1907, then returned 1912-1914 and went a much
worse 8-11, for a total of 21-12 at the school. He also coached at
Haskell, St. Louis, Kansas State, and Tennessee, going 65-31-7 overall.
He was directly or indirectly responsible for 3 schools adopting their
current nicknames: St. Louis
Billikens, Kansas State Wildcats, and Houston Cougars (while a
physical education instructor there). I wonder if that last one came
from his earlier experience at Washington State?
are the teams closest to making this top 25.
pulled off a pair of terrific results, a tie at #6 Cornell in their
opener and a 5-0 win at #17 Syracuse, but they also took a loss and a
tie in the other direction, the tie coming at 3-5-1 Army and the loss
at 5-2-2 Williams (who lost to Army). Their other loss came 17-6 at #15
6-4 Pittsburgh took all their losses to ranked teams:
#4 Penn State, #5 Carlisle, #6 Cornell, and #19 Washington &
Jefferson. The losses to PSU and W&J were very close, and came in
their last 2 games. Pitt did not beat a good team, but their wins
were all routs and shut-outs.
Ohio State 8-1
Ohio State was very impressive in their loss, 6-0 to #11 Michigan at
home. They were less impressive in their wins, squeaking by 1-3-3
Oberlin, 1-4-2 Kenyon, and 6-2-1 Ohio Medical, but they were the
champion of the state of Ohio.
Ohio State's coach was Albert Herrnstein, who had played for Michigan 1899-1902,
winning a share of the MNC in his last season there. He then coached
for Haskell 1903-1904, going 7-3 and 8-1, and both those teams were top
25 caliber. He next went 5-1-1 at Purdue in 1905, again top 25 caliber.
And this Ohio State team may have been a top 25 team as well, but
their minor-league schedule didn't give them much chance to show it.
Herrnstein went 28-10-1 at Ohio State 1906-1909, putting his total at
OSU gave a mighty effort against Herrnstein's alma
mater, #11 Michigan, and the game was scoreless until Michigan finally
connected for a field goal, on their 4th attempt of the game, with
about 4 minutes remaining. Michigan added a safety in the final minute
for the 6-0 final score (field goals were worth 4 points at that time).
toughest win came against 6-2-1 Ohio Medical on Thanksgiving Day. Ohio
Medical's quarterback, Jack Means, kicked 2 field goals, one from 52
yards out, but he missed 4 attempts in the 2nd half, enabling OSU to
prevail 11-8 on 2 touchdowns, both scored by Fred Secrist, who was
playing just his 2nd game with the team.
2) Princeton 9-0-1
3) Harvard 10-1
4) Penn State 8-1-1
5) Carlisle 9-3
6) Cornell 8-1-2
7) Navy 8-2-2
8) Swarthmore 7-2
9) Pennsylvania 7-2-3
10) Gettysburg 8-1-2
11) Michigan 4-1
12) Vanderbilt 8-1
13) Minnesota 4-1
14) Chicago 4-1
16) Brown 6-3
17) Syracuse 6-3
18) Wisconsin 5-0
19) Washington & Jefferson 9-2
20) St. Louis 11-0
21) Indiana 4-2
22) Iowa State 9-1
Washington State 6-0
Ohio State 8-1