Top 25 Rankings 1901-1935
1922 National Championship
College Football Top 25
Pictured above is 1922's game of the year, Princeton at Chicago.
It was the first game to be nationally broadcast on radio, and it was
considered, then and for decades afterward, one of the greatest
football games ever played. Princeton rallied for 2 late touchdowns and an
improbable 21-18 win, prompting Grantland Rice, who was there covering
the game, to dub Princeton the "Team of Destiny."
stuck, and the phrase has now become a common term for any sports team
that improbably wins close game after close game. Princeton struggled
to win all but 2 of their games, but when the dust had cleared, they
stood 8-0 against the toughest schedule played by any of this season's
contenders. They were not considered the best or most talented team in
college football in 1922, and would certainly not have been favored
against any other top 5 team, but they probably would have finished #1
in an AP poll had there been one at the time.
other contenders for the 1922 MNC were 9-0 California, 8-0 Cornell, 7-0
Iowa, 6-0-1 Michigan, and 8-0-1 Vanderbilt. I summarized each of these
teams and compared them in detail in my 1922 national championship article. Princeton
likely would have finished #1 in a 1922 AP poll, and though they were
probably not the best team, they did play the toughest schedule, and I
think #1 is a viable option for them.
California vs. Cornell
As covered in detail in my 1922 national championship article,
Cal and Cornell were the best performing teams of 1922. Their schedules
were not impressive, but no one came close to either team. It's
impossible to say which would have been ranked higher in a 1922 AP
poll, and since there is no good way to separate them, I'm going to
just place them into a tie with one another for #2.
California and Cornell share the #2 spot.
#4: Iowa vs. Michigan vs. Vanderbilt
As covered in detail in my 1922 national championship article,
Michigan clearly outperformed Iowa against a similar schedule (3 common
opponents). Iowa performed poorly, and in fact they barely qualify as
an MNC contender at all for 1922. Michigan would have been rated higher
in a 1922 AP poll, and deservedly so. And since Vanderbilt tied
Michigan, we'll place them ahead of Iowa as well.
Michigan #4, Vanderbilt #5, and Iowa #6.
Army, Chicago, Harvard, and Yale
I think a 1922 AP poll would have rated these teams next, in this order:
8-0-2 Army, 5-1-1 Chicago, 7-2 Harvard, and 6-3-1 Yale. That's not how
I would rate 'em, but it will just work, so that's the way we'll rate
Army was tied by Yale and 8-1-1 Notre Dame (will be rated #13).
Chicago only took one upset tie, to 4-2-1 Wisconsin (#16), but they
didn't beat any ranked teams, and Army did, so Army can remain ranked
Chicago's schedule was very unimpressive, and I'd be inclined to
rate them more like #20, but Harvard took an upset loss to 6-2-1 Brown
(#22), so Chicago's relevant record was effectively a half game better. As such, Chicago can stay ranked ahead of Harvard.
lost to Harvard 10-3 in their finale, but they actually had a better
relevant record because of Harvard's upset loss and Yale's tie with
Army, who is ranked ahead of Harvard. Yale's other losses came to #1
Princeton and #6 Iowa, irrelevant when comparing Yale to Harvard. Yale
beat Brown (the team that upset Harvard) 20-0, and they whipped 9-1
North Carolina 18-0. I would rank Yale ahead of Harvard myself, and
this was a very tough case, but Harvard's win over Yale came on the
road and in the last game of the season, giving it more weight, so I
gave this one to the hypothetical AP poll voters of 1922.
Army #7, Chicago #8, Harvard #9, and Yale #10. Note that although
Yale's 6-3-1 record was not impressive, all 3 of their losses came to
top 10 teams in close games, they tied #7 Army, and no one else came
close to them.
was Charles Daly's last season as head coach at Army. He is in the Hall
of Fame as a player, a four-time All American quarterback for Harvard
and Army 1898-1902. He went 58-13-3 as head coach at Army 1913-1916 and
1919-1922, winning MNCs in 1914 and 1916.
Edgar Garbisch was a consensus All American this season, and he is in
the Hall of Fame. I covered him in some detail in the Army section of
my 1924 Top 25 article. Guard Waldemar Breidster, quarterback George Smythe, and fullback William Wood were all nonconsensus AA this season.
West Virginia, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Southern Cal
Again we're just going to bring in the teams likely to have been rated next in a 1922 AP poll (in this order): 10-0-1 West Virginia, 7-1 Nebraska, 8-1-1 Notre Dame, 8-2 Pittsburgh, and 10-1 Southern Cal.
West Virginia's schedule was not impressive, and they were tied by
5-3-1 Washington & Lee, who would not come close to a top 25 for
this season, but the Mountaineers did win one big game, 9-6 at 8-2
Pittsburgh. Nebraska took an upset loss 9-6 at 6-1-2 Syracuse (will be
rated #20), so West Virginia was effectively half a game better.
beat Notre Dame 14-6 in their finale. Notre Dame vs. Nebraska is very
similar to Yale vs. Harvard, because Nebraska took an upset loss, and
Notre Dame tied #7 Army. Notre Dame was thus effectively half a game
better than Nebraska on the season despite the head-to-head result. But
similar to the Harvard-Yale case, Nebraska's win came in their finale,
and it was also by more than a touchdown, so we can give this one to
the hypothetical AP poll voters of 1922 and rate Nebraska higher.
beat 3 teams that will make this top 25, but they took an upset loss to
7-2 Lafayette (will fall just outside this top 25). 10-1 Southern Cal
lost only to #2 California, and they took no upset losses, but they
only beat one team that will be ranked, and they did not perform quite
as well as Pitt, so Pitt can be ranked higher.
West Virginia #11, Nebraska #12, Notre Dame #13, Pittsburgh #14, and Southern Cal #15.
Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Navy, Georgia Tech, and Syracuse
Yet again, these are simply the teams I think would have been most likely to be rated next in a 1922 AP poll (in this order): 4-2-1 Wisconsin, 6-3 Pennsylvania, 5-2 Navy, 7-2 Georgia Tech, and 6-1-2 Syracuse.
Wisconsin is overrated in my opinion. They took an upset loss to
2-5 Illinois and they didn't beat anyone of value. However, they did
tie #8 Chicago on the road in their finale, and they lost by just 7 to
#4 Michigan the game before that. Penn also took an upset loss to an
unrated team (6-3-1 Alabama), but unlike Wisconsin they didn't defeat
or tie a higher ranked team, so Wisconsin can be ranked higher. Penn's
other losses came to #2 Cornell and #14 Pitt.
Navy lost 13-7 at Penn, their other loss coming 17-14 to #7 Army in
their finale. They beat Georgia Tech 13-0, and they also beat 6-4-1
Penn State (will be #21) 14-0.
7-2 Georgia Tech's other loss came to #13 Notre Dame 13-3 at home. Their big win came 14-6 over 8-2 Auburn (#23) at home.
Syracuse gave 7-1 Nebraska (#12) their only loss 9-6 at home, but
they were also tied at 6-2-1 Brown (#22) and by 6-4-1 Penn State (#21)
in New York City. Their loss came 21-14 to #14 Pittsburgh at home.
Their other big win came 14-7 over 6-3 Colgate (#25) at home in their
finale. I think Georgia Tech being rated higher than Syracuse is rather
iffy, but I let the hypothetical AP poll voters of 1922 have this one.
Wisconsin #16, Pennsylvania #17, Navy #18, Georgia Tech #19, and Syracuse #20.
Penn State, Brown, Auburn, and Centre
And again, the teams I think likeliest to have been rated next in a 1922 AP poll (in this order): 6-4-1 Penn State, 6-2-1 Brown, 8-2 Auburn, and 8-2 Centre.
State hadn't lost since 1919, and they started this season 5-0, but
they went 1-4-1 down the stretch. All 4 of those losses came to higher
ranked teams (#18 Navy, #17 Penn, #14 Pitt, and #15 Southern Cal in the
Rose Bowl), and the tie came against #20 Syracuse, so PSU was obviously
still a good team. Just not a top 10 team.
Brown also tied #20
Syracuse, and they upset #9 Harvard to boot, but they took an upset
loss to 6-3 Dartmouth (will fall just outside this top 25) in their
finale. Brown had a better straight record than PSU did, but I think
PSU would have been rated higher in a 1922 AP poll. The teams had the
same relevant record (both tied a higher-rated team, and Brown's upset
win is balanced out by an upset loss), but all of PSU's wins came by
more than a touchdown, while Brown only beat 3-5-1 Lehigh 6-2.
losses came to #7 Army and #19 Georgia Tech. Their one big win came 6-0
over 8-2 Centre at home. Centre's other loss came to #9 Harvard. Their
big win came 10-6 at 8-1-1 Virginia Tech.
Penn State #21, Brown #22, Auburn #23, and Centre #24.
was Hall of Fame coach Mike Donahue's (pictured) last season at Auburn.
He had played quarterback at Yale 1899-1903, and he went 105-35-5 at
Auburn 1904-1906 and 1908-1922 and won 5 conference titles. LSU hired
him away, but he didn't do so well there, 23-19-3 over 5 seasons.
Overall, he was 128-54-8.
Mike Donahue was one of the top
coaches in the South over the first decades of the 20th century. While
at Auburn, he went 3-5-1 against Vanderbilt's Dan McGugin, whom I would
say was the best, and he went 9-5 against Georgia Tech's John Heisman. All 3 coaches started at those schools in 1904.
#25: Lafayette vs. Dartmouth vs. Colgate
I think 7-2
Lafayette would have come next in a 1922 AP poll, but I can't let that
go. Lafayette did win 7-0 at #14 Pitt, but that was their only win of
any value, and they were upset 14-13 by 6-3-1 Washington &
Jefferson in New York City, and then upset again 13-7 at 6-3-1
Georgetown in their finale. 6-3 Dartmouth also upset a ranked team,
beating #22 Brown 7-0 in their finale, but they only took one upset
loss (to 6-3 Vermont). So Dartmouth should be ranked higher.
so should 6-3 Colgate. They did not beat a ranked team, but they also
did not take an upset loss. Their losses came to #1 Princeton, #2
Cornell, and #20 Syracuse. They won all of their games by more than a
touchdown (average score in their wins 48-4), while Dartmouth struggled
to get by 2-4-3 Boston 10-7. Dartmouth also lost to Cornell by 23 on a
neutral field, while Colgate lost at Cornell by 14. So Colgate gets the
are the teams closest to making this top 25.
As covered above, Dartmouth beat #22 Brown 7-0 in their finale, but they also took an upset loss to 6-3 Vermont.
above, Lafayette won 7-0 at #14 Pitt, but they took a pair of upset
losses to 6-3-1 Washington & Jefferson and to 6-3-1 Georgetown in
North Carolina 9-1
Carolina's loss came 18-0 at #10 Yale. They beat 7-2-1 Duke 20-0 and
7-2 VMI 9-7, but neither of those teams was particularly good, and UNC
struggled repeatedly to get by bad teams: 10-7 over 5-4 South Carolina, 14-9 at 4-6 North Carolina State, 19-12 at 4-4 Tulane, and 10-7 at 4-4-1 Virginia.
Carolina was coached by a pair of brothers, Bill and Bob Fetzer (Bill
pictured to the left, Bob to the right). They went 30-12-4 at UNC
1921-1925. Bill had gone 14-5 at North Carolina State the previous 2
seasons, and 17-11-3 at Davidson before that. Bob had coached just one
season at Davidson, going 5-1-1 the year before his brother took over
there. Bob Fetzer was North Carolina's athletic director for decades,
1923-1952. He oversaw a lot of success at this school in the 1930s and
came 20-0 to the Multnomah Athletic Club, and they tied 3-3 at 6-1-1
Washington (covered next). For all we know, Oregon and Washington were
both top 25 teams, but neither showed much. Oregon struggled to get by
Whitman and Idaho, and Washington had 3 weak performances.
45-7 to #2 California at home, and they tied Oregon at home in their
finale. They barely beat 3-5 Idaho, 2-5 Washington State, and 4-5
Stanford. Neither Washington nor Oregon had a win to write home about
is the only season Drake has ever managed a perfect record! They didn't
beat anyone of value as far as a top 25 is concerned, but they did beat
some major teams: 14-7 over Iowa State, 6-0 over Kansas, 19-6 over Colorado State (5-2-1), and a 48-6 whipping at Mississippi State.
The head coach was Ossie Solem (pictured above), who had played for Minnesota 1910-1912 (including an MNC team in 1911).
Solem had then coached a pro team, the Minneapolis Marines, to a 44-7-3
record 1913-1920. He went 54-35-2 at Drake 1921-1931 and won 4 straight
Missouri Valley titles 1928-1931. Then he moved on to Iowa and
Syracuse. Overall, he was 162-117-20 as a college coach.
star player was halfback Bill Boelter (pictured at left). He scored 5
touchdowns against Mississippi State, all on runs of 35 yards or more
(the longest was 70), and he scored another 5 against Grinnell in 1923.
That's still a school record. He was named All-Western in 1923, and he
was all-conference in both football and basketball 3 straight years. He
is in the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.
is actually some dispute as to Tulsa's record this season. The school
itself puts its 1922 record as 9-0, with a win by forfeit over Oklahoma
State. However, Oklahoma State's media guide says the "game" was a
Tulsa forfeit and a "win" for OSU, which would leave Tulsa 8-1. The
College Football Data Warehouse goes with 8-1 due to a forfeit to OSU,
but since no game actually took place, I am going to ignore it and the
dispute over it, and just put Tulsa at 8-0. Point is, no team actually
beat them on the field this year.
Not that Tulsa was all that
good. They barely got by teams like Southwest Oklahoma and Arkansas
Tech. Better, but still not good, were close wins over 4-5 Arkansas and
5-4 Texas A&M.
Tulsa's coach was Howard Acher, in his first
season following the departure of Hall of Fame coach Francis Schmidt,
who had gone 24-3-2 at Tulsa 1919-1921. Acher obviously had a great
start, including a 13-6 win over Francis Schmidt's new team, Arkansas,
but Acher went 2-5-1 and 1-7-1 over his next 2 seasons and was fired.
He was replaced by Gus Henderson, who had been fired by Southern Cal
despite a stellar 45-7 record there. Henderson was a big-splash hire,
and he went 70-25-5 at Tulsa and won 5 conference titles. But neither
Schmidt nor Henderson ever accomplished a perfect season, so Acher had
that going for him.
Acher was also responsible for Tulsa's
current nickname. They had been through a bunch of names over the
years, and by 1922 they were the "Yellow Jackets." Acher wanted to
change it to "Golden Tornadoes," but that name was taken by Georgia
Tech. So he suggested "Golden Hurricane" and put the name to a team
vote. They gave it the thumbs up, and the name has remained ever since.
1) Princeton 8-0
2) California 9-0
4) Michigan 6-0-1
5) Vanderbilt 8-0-1
6) Iowa 7-0
7) Army 8-0-2
8) Chicago 5-1-1
9) Harvard 7-2
10) Yale 6-3-1
West Virginia 10-0-1
12) Nebraska 7-1
13) Notre Dame 8-1-1
14) Pittsburgh 8-2
15) Southern Cal 10-1
16) Wisconsin 4-2-1
17) Pennsylvania 6-3
18) Navy 5-2
19) Georgia Tech 7-2
20) Syracuse 6-1-2
21) Penn State 6-4-1
22) Brown 6-2-1
23) Auburn 8-2
24) Centre 8-2
25) Colgate 6-3
North Carolina 9-1