Top 25 Rankings 1901-1935
1911 National Championship
College Football Top 25
Pictured above is the starting 11 for the Carlisle Indian Industrial
School, which featured at halfback the greatest college football player
of all time, the
legendary Jim Thorpe (in the backfield on the right). Carlisle went
11-1 this season, and I selected them to share the 1911 mythical
national championship with 6-0-1 Minnesota.
I covered these 2 teams, as well as MNC contenders 8-0-2 Princeton and 8-0-1 Penn State, in great detail
in my 1911 national
As I said in the article, I think a national AP poll would have gone
with Minnesota #1, Carlisle #2, and Princeton #3, but even if it
didn't, that's the way these teams should be ranked.
there had been an AP poll in these early years, and if Minnesota did
finish #1 in it this season, they would have been the first
team from outside the East to ever finish #1.
Minnesota #1, Carlisle #2, and Princeton #3.
Navy and Penn State
As discussed in my 1911 national
I think 6-0-3 Navy would have ended up ranked higher than 8-0-1 Penn
State. The 2 teams tied each other, but Navy held their starters out of
the game so that they'd be healthy against Army the next week. And
there was a huge drop-off between Navy's starters and their backups
this year. Navy's other 2 ties came to #3 Princeton, a higher-ranked
team, and to unrated Western Reserve, a weak minor team. Navy's big win
came 3-0 over #6 Army (6-1-1). Penn State's best wins came over #14
Penn (7-4) and #15 Cornell (7-3). The rest of Navy's wins all came by
more than a touchdown, whereas PSU edged unrated Pitt (4-3-1) 3-0 in
their finale. So Navy being rated higher works fine.
Navy #4, Penn State #5.
coach was Douglas Howard, who went 25-7-4 here 1911-1914. He was
awarded the Navy Cross for his service in World War 1, and in World War
2 the Navy named a ship after him.
This season Navy fielded four players who made first team All America lists. Two of them are in the Hall of Fame:
tackle John Brown and fullback/halfback Jack
Dalton (pictured above). Dalton kicked a 35 yard field goal this season
to beat Army 3-0. The other AA players were the guards, Ray Wakeman and
Army, Yale, and Harvard
6-1-1 Army, as
noted, took their loss 3-0 to #4 Navy. The tie came to 7-1-1 Georgetown
(#11). Their big win was 6-0 over 7-2-1 Yale.
Yale took their other loss to #3 Princeton. All of their wins came
by dominating scores, including 12-0 over 5-3-2 Syracuse (#20), 33-0
over 6-1-2 Virginia Tech, and 15-0 over 7-3-1 Brown (#13). They tied
6-2-1 Harvard 0-0 in their finale. Harvard took their losses to #2
Carlisle and #3 Princeton. They won 20-6 over 7-3-1 Brown (#13) and 5-3
over 8-2 Dartmouth (#12). Because Yale and Harvard tied each other, and
because their seasons were so similar, we'll just leave them tied here.
Army #6, Yale and Harvard tied for #7.
Chicago, Wisconsin, Georgetown, and Dartmouth
might have been rated as high as #4 in a 1911 AP poll, but their
performances were just not good enough to merit better than this spot.
They were blown out 30-0 at #1 Minnesota, whereas the losses taken by
Harvard and Yale were all very close. And Chicago had 3 close wins, one
over an unrated opponent, while Yale had no close wins, and Harvard had
one, but against #12 Dartmouth. Chicago's best wins came 6-0 over #15
Cornell (7-3) and 5-0 over 5-1-1 Wisconsin in their finale.
Wisconsin's tie was against #1 Minnesota. All of their wins came by
more than a touchdown, but none of those teams held any value.
Georgetown took their loss 28-5 to #2 Carlisle, and like Wisconsin,
they tied a higher-rated team, #6 Army. Their one win of note was 9-0
over 8-2 Virginia.
8-2 Dartmouth lost very close games at #3
Princeton and at #7 Harvard. They did not beat a good team, and they
struggled to get by 4-5 Holy Cross.
Chicago #9, Wisconsin #10, Georgetown #11, and Dartmouth #12.
had been mostly irrelevant through 1909, but they suddenly emerged in
under head coach Fred Nielsen, a Danish immigrant and former player for
Nebraska. He had previously coached George Washington to a 9-1-1
record, and he went 14-2-2 at Georgetown 1910-1911, 7-1-1 each season.
Nielsen's real job was with the State Department, so his coaching
hobby, really) ended up being thin (45-21-4 at 4 schools). But
Georgetown, given the taste of
winning football, later hired as coach former Carlisle great Albert
Exendine, who kept the success going, and so Georgetown was often a top
caliber team 1910-1922. The glory days slowly faded
away after that, and the school even dropped the sport for a while.
star player for Georgetown this season was halfback Harry Costello (pictured above), who
made first team All America lists this year and next.
Brown, Pennsylvania, Cornell, and Michigan
7-3-1 Brown took
their losses to #2 Carlisle, #7 Yale, and #7 Harvard, and they took an
upset tie to unrated Trinity-Connecticut (6-0-2). Their one big win
came 6-0 at 7-4 Penn.
Penn's other 3 losses came to #2 Carlisle, to #5 Penn State, and by
a score of 11-9 at 5-1-2 Michigan. But Penn defeated 7-3 Cornell 21-9,
and Cornell defeated Michigan 6-0. So these 3 teams defeated each other
in a circle. Since Michigan took upset ties to 2 lower-ranked teams,
and because their win was the weakest of this circle (and Penn's was
the best), we'll go with Penn > Cornell > Michigan.
In addition to Penn, 7-3 Cornell lost to #5 Penn State and #9 Chicago.
In addition to Michigan, they defeated 4-3-1 Pittsburgh (#26-32). 5-1-2
Michigan took their upset ties to 5-1-2 Nebraska (#19) and 5-3-2
Syracuse (#20). In addition to their victory over Penn, Michigan
won 9-8 over 8-1 Vanderbilt (#17) and 15-3 at 5-1 Michigan State
Brown #13, Pennsylvania #14, Cornell #15, and Michigan #16.
Vanderbilt, Lafayette, Nebraska, and Syracuse
lost by just 1 point at #16 Michigan, and they blew away everyone else
they played, including a 17-0 win over 7-1-1 Georgia (#26-32).
8-2 Lafayette took their losses to #2 Carlisle and #14 Penn. They
struggled repeatedly to get past unrated opponents, but they brought
home a big 10-0 win at 5-3-2 Syracuse.
5-1-2 Nebraska took their loss to #1 Minnesota, and they tied 5-1-2
Michigan (#16) and 6-1-1 Iowa State (#22). They rolled up 117 points in
one game, and they won 29-0 at 4-2-2 Kansas. I find Nebraska being
rated behind Lafayette very dubious due to Lafayette's repeated poor
performances, but I do think a 1911 AP poll would have preferred
Lafayette, and since they did beat a rated opponent, and Nebraska did
not, I suppose I can hold my nose and let the hypothetical AP poll
voters of 1911 have this one.
5-3-2 Syracuse took their losses to #7 Yale, to unranked
Springfield (7-1), and to the aforementioned Lafayette. They balanced
their upset loss out with the biggest win by any team this year, 12-11
over #2 Carlisle, dealing them their only loss. Syracuse tied a
higher-rated team, #16 Michigan, but they also tied unrated St. Louis
(7-1-2), whose other loss and tie came to unrated teams. Obviously,
Syracuse was highly erratic this season. The St. Louis tie, their most
miserable performance, came in their finale. Syracuse also posted 3
close wins over unrated opponents (Hobart, Rochester, and Ohio State).
Vanderbilt #17, Lafayette #18, Nebraska #19, and Syracuse #20.
Washington, Iowa State, Colorado, Oklahoma, and South Dakota
Token team time!
Here is where we recognize teams from outlying regions that posted nice
records. We start with 7-0 Washington, who produced their 3rd straight
perfect season and 4th straight unbeaten season (that streak would go
to 9 years). The closest anyone got to them this year was 17 points,
but as I say for every year during this time, we just have no idea how
Pacific Northwest football compared to football anywhere else.
Next we have 6-1-1 Iowa State, who could definitely be ranked higher than this. They
lost just 5-0 at #1 Minnesota, and their tie came to #19 Nebraska. On
the other hand, they didn't actually beat a team that held much value,
and struggled twice against unrated teams.
6-0 Colorado was this year's Rocky Mountain Champion, and this was
their 3rd straight perfect season. They won 9-0 at 5-1-1 Utah, and
they posted one close win over an unrated opponent.
8-0 Oklahoma was champion of the Southwest. They won 3-0 at 4-2-2 Kansas and 6-3 at 5-2 Texas in their finale.
finally we have 7-1 South Dakota. Like Iowa State, South Dakota lost
just 5-0 at #1 Minnesota. They won 10-0 over 5-2-1 Denver, and they posted
one close win over an unrated opponent. The other candidates for this
spot were 5-1 Michigan State and 6-0-2 Trinity-Connecticut. But MSU's
12-point loss to #16 Michigan was not as good as South Dakota's 5-point
loss to #1 Minnesota, and South Dakota defeated a good team, while MSU
did not. As for Trinity, they tied #13 Brown, but they also took a
terrible tie with 1-3-3 NYU. Like MSU, they did not defeat a good team,
and they posted 2 close wins over unrated opponents.
Washington #21, Iowa State #22, Colorado #23, Oklahoma #24, and South Dakota #25.
Iowa State, then called Ames
College, had been steadily improving under head coach Clyde Williams (pictured),
and 1911 was their breakthrough season. Clyde Williams was
one of the greatest Iowa Hawkeye players of all time, and it is a
wonder to me that he is not in the Hall of Fame. His 1899 Iowa team
went 9-0-1, outscoring opponents 257-5 and tying Western Conference
champion Chicago, the only team to score on them. That got Iowa an
invitation to the Western Conference (now the Big Ten), and they won a
share of the conference title in their first year, going 7-0-1 in 1900
and outscoring opponents 311-12. Iowa never lost a game with Clyde
Williams starting at quarterback, 23-0-3 over his 4 years.
coach of Iowa State, he went 32-15-2 over six seasons 1907-1912, and
shared the Missouri Valley Conference title with Nebraska in 1911 and
1912. Those are still the only conference titles ISU has ever won in
football. After 1912, Williams quit coaching, and Iowa State's run at
ended immediately thereafter. Iowa State's stadium was named for Clyde Williams from 1915-1975.
Colorado's coach was Hall of Famer Fred Folsom, for whom
is still named. He won 10 conference titles in 15 years at Colorado,
going 77-23-2 there, and 106-28-6 overall with a 29-5-4 mark in 4 years
coaching his alma mater, Dartmouth. That record puts him on the list for all-time best FBS coaching
win percentage. Colorado
dominated the Rocky
Mountain region during Folsom's time, but they did not fare well in
their few intersectional games, going 1-5 against Nebraska, Kansas
State, Oklahoma, and Washington.
was Hall of Famer Bennie Owen, a Kansas grad who had played for
Fielding Yost in 1899. Owen coached at Washburn (Kansas) in 1900 and at
Bethany (Kansas) 1901-1904, defeating Oklahoma in 1903 and 1904.
Oklahoma hired him away, and he went 122-54-16 there 1905-1926, winning 2 conference titles in the SWC and 1 in the MVC.
However, he only went 59-48-11 against major schools while at Oklahoma;
10-11 against major Texas schools and 20-29-8 against major Missouri
Valley teams (Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and Nebraska). He was 8-8
against Texas. Overall, he finished 155-60-19 for his career. Bennie
Owen is the namesake of Oklahoma's playing surface, Owen Field.
Oklahoma's star player this season was halfback Fred Capshaw. He
kicked a field goal to beat Kansas 3-0 (as shown above), and he scored a touchdown and
kicked the extra point to beat Texas 6-3. This season was the first
time Oklahoma ever beat Kansas (0-7 before) and Missouri (0-2 before).
are the teams closest to making this top 25. 5-0 Utah State, 7-0 New
Mexico State, and 5-0-1 Florida were too far removed from big time
football to consider.
Michigan State 5-1
above, 5-1 Michigan State lost 15-3 to #16 Michigan. They did not
defeat an opponent of any value, and they struggled to escape 0-5-3
Trinity (Connecticut) 6-0-2
above, 6-0-2 Trinity-Connecticut tied #13 Brown and 1-3-3 NYU. They did
not beat an opponent of much value, and they struggled twice against
bad minor teams.
pulled a big 9-5 upset win at #20 Syracuse, but they also lost 3-0 to
3-4-1 Amherst. They beat no one else of value, and they struggled in
one win, against 3-4-1 Williams.
(Massachusetts), then known as YMCA College, was helmed by longtime
coach James McCurdy (pictured above with Jim Thorpe, whom Springfield
played against in 1912). He graduated from Springfield in 1890, then
coached the football team 1896-1903 and 1907-1916. In his first stint
he went 23-15-8, and the 2nd time around he went 48-27-6. His 1914 team
was close to top 25 caliber as well.
The star player this year was
halfback/quarterback Les Mann (pictured), who went on to much greater fame as a
Major League Baseball player 1913-1928. In Springfield's big 9-5 upset
of Syracuse, Les Mann scored a touchdown on a 90 yard punt return and
kicked a 40 yard drop-kick goal. Against Carlisle and Jim Thorpe in
1912, he hit 10 of 12 passes and kicked 3 extra points and a field
goal. The Springfield student newspaper claimed he could drop-kick
goals from 50 yards out, and that he had a 55 yard punting average.
took their losses to #2 Carlisle, #5 Penn State, and #15 Cornell. They
tied 6-0-2 Notre Dame (covered next), and they won 12-0 over 6-4
Washington & Jefferson.
Notre Dame 6-0-2
6-0-2 Notre Dame
tied 4-3-1 Pitt (covered above) and 7-0-2 Marquette. They did not beat
a good team, and they struggled to get past 3-3-1 Wabash.
Swarthmore took their loss 11-5 to #18 Lafayette, and they were tied by
2-5-2 Delaware. Their big win came 9-8 at 8-2 Virginia, who won 22-6
over 7-1 VMI and 28-0 over 6-1-1 North Carolina.
Georgia took their loss 17-0 at #17 Vanderbilt, and they were tied by
5-2-1 Auburn. Georgia defeated 5-2-2 Alabama, 6-3-1 Sewanee, and 6-2-1
2) Carlisle 11-1
3) Princeton 8-0-2
4) Navy 6-0-3
5) Penn State 8-0-1
6) Army 6-1-1
7) Yale 7-2-1
9) Chicago 6-1
10) Wisconsin 5-1-1
12) Dartmouth 8-2
13) Brown 7-3-1
14) Pennsylvania 7-4
15) Cornell 7-3
16) Michigan 5-1-2
17) Vanderbilt 8-1
18) Lafayette 8-2
19) Nebraska 5-1-2
20) Syracuse 5-3-2
21) Washington 7-0
22) Iowa State 6-1-1
23) Colorado 6-0
24) Oklahoma 8-0
25) South Dakota 7-1
Michigan State 5-1
Trinity (Connecticut) 6-0-2
Notre Dame 6-0-2