|1951 college football season|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Tennessee|
|Number of bowls||8|
|Champion(s)|| Tennessee (AP, Coaches)|
Michigan State (various)
Georgia Tech (various)
|Heisman||Dick Kazmaier (halfback, Princeton)|
The 1951 college football season finished with seven unbeaten major college teams, of which five were unbeaten and untied. Ultimately, the Tennessee Volunteers were voted the best team by the Associated Press, followed by the Michigan State Spartans, with the Vols having a plurality of first place votes (139 to 104). Tennessee lost in the Sugar Bowl to the equally undefeated and untied No. 3 Maryland Terrapins, but the postseason games were not taken into account by the major polls. Tennessee, Michigan State, and Illinois all claim national championships for 1951.
During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the college football teams that would later be described as "Division I-A". The NCAA did recognize a national champion based upon the final results of "wire service" (AP and UPI) polls. The extent of that recognition came in the form of acknowledgment in the annual NCAA Football Guide of the "unofficial" national champions. The AP poll in 1951 consisted of the votes of as many as 307 sportswriters.
Though not all writers voted in every poll, each would give their opinion of the ten best teams. Under a point system of 10 points for first place, 9 for second, etc., the "overall" ranking was determined. Although the rankings were based on the collective opinion of the representative sportswriters, the teams that remained "unbeaten and untied" were generally ranked higher than those that had not. A defeat, even against a strong opponent, tended to cause a team to drop in the rankings, and a team with two or more defeats was unlikely to remain in the Top 20. Generally, the top teams played on New Year's Day in the four major postseason bowl games: the Rose Bowl (near Los Angeles at Pasadena), the Sugar Bowl (New Orleans), the Orange Bowl (Miami), and the Cotton Bowl (Dallas).
|School||1950 Conference||1951 Conference|
|High Point Panthers||Independent||Dropped Program|
|Houston Cougars||Gulf Coast||Missouri Valley|
|Kent State Golden Flashes||Independent||MAC|
|Montana Grizzlies||Independent||Skyline (Mountain States)|
|New Mexico Lobos||Border||Skyline (Mountain States)|
|Niagara Purple Eagles||Western New York Little Three||Dropped Program|
In the preseason poll released on September 24, 1951, Tennessee and Michigan State were ranked first and second, with Tennessee having 60 of the 115 first place votes. MSU had opened its season on the 22nd with a 6–0 win over Oregon State. They were followed by No. 3 Ohio State, defending champion No. 4 Oklahoma, and No. 5 California (which had won its opener against Santa Clara, 34–0). As the regular season progressed, a new poll would be issued on the Monday following the weekend's games.
On September 14, the Central Missouri Jules played the Southwestern Moundbuilders in the rejected touchdown game where Southwestern's head coach Harold Hunt "rejected" a touchdown awarded by officials because his player stepped out of bounds.
On September 29 No. 1 Tennessee beat Mississippi State 14–0. No. 2 Michigan State won at Michigan, 25–0, to take the top spot from the Vols. No. 3 Ohio State beat visiting SMU 7–0 in a win not deemed good enough to stay in the top five. No. 4 Oklahoma beat William & Mary 49–7. No. 5 California won in Philadelphia against Penn, 35–0, and rose to second in the next poll. The game was broadcast in New York in a test for color televisionNotre Dame, which had beaten Indiana 48–6, rose to fifth. The poll: 1.Michigan State 2.California 3.Tennessee 4.Oklahoma 5.Notre Dame
October 6 No. 1 Michigan State won at Ohio State, 24–20. No. 2 California beat Minnesota, 55–14. No. 3 Tennessee beat Duke 26–0. No. 4 Oklahoma lost at No. 10 Texas A&M, 14–7 and fell out of the top bracket, and the Aggies took their place. No. 5 Notre Dame had beaten Mercy College of Detroit, 40–6, the night before. The poll: 1.Michigan State 2.California 3.Tennessee 4.Texas A&M 5.Notre Dame
October 13 No. 1 Michigan State had trouble in defeating Marquette 20–14. No. 2 California beat Washington State 42–35 and took over the top spot from the Spartans in the next poll. No. 3 Tennessee beat the University of Chattanooga (now UT Chattanooga, but athletically branded simply as "Chattanooga") 42–13. No. 4 Texas A&M beat Trinity College 53–14 and fell from the top five. No. 5 Notre Dame lost to visiting SMU, 27–20. Taking the places of the Aggies and the Irish were No. 6 Texas (which had beaten Oklahoma in Dallas, 9–7) and No. 8 Georgia Tech (which had beaten LSU 25–7). The poll: 1.California 2.Tennessee 3.Michigan State 4.Texas 5.Georgia Tech
October 20 In Los Angeles, No. 1 California and USC, both unbeaten at 4–0–0, faced off, and the Golden Bears lost the game, along with the top spot in the poll, 21–14. Earlier, in Birmingham, No. 2 Tennessee defeated Alabama 27–13. No. 3 Michigan State won at Penn State, 32–21. No. 4 Texas lost at Arkansas, 16–14. No. 5 Georgia Tech defeated Auburn 27–7. Appearing in the top five were No. 8 Illinois (which had a 27–20 win over Washington) and No. 7 Maryland (which had beaten North Carolina 14–7). The poll: 1.Tennessee 2.Michigan State 3.Georgia Tech 4.Illinois 5.Maryland
Another significant game on this date, though for a far different reason, was the Drake–Oklahoma A&M matchup. Then-unbeaten Drake was led by quarterback Johnny Bright, who was leading the nation in total offense at the time and had been touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Two years earlier, he had been the first black player to appear in a game at A&M's home field, without incident. The same could not be said about this game. Bright was forced to leave the game in the first quarter after suffering three concussions and a broken jaw as the result of a racially motivated attack by white A&M player Wilbanks Smith, and A&M ultimately won 27–14. The attack was immortalized in a photo sequence in the Des Moines Register that won the photographers a Pulitzer Prize. It also had an enduring legacy on the sport:
October 27 No. 1 Tennessee beat Tennessee Tech 68–0. No. 3 Michigan State beat visiting Pitt, 53–26. No. 3 Georgia Tech won narrowly at Vanderbilt, 8–7. No. 4 Illinois won at Indiana, 21–0. Unbeaten (4–0–0) and No. 5 Maryland visited once-beaten (4–1–0) LSU, and won convincingly, 27–0. With all five teams staying unbeaten, the poll changed slightly: 1.Tennessee 2.Michigan State 3.Illinois 4.Maryland 5.Georgia Tech
November 3 No. 1 Tennessee won at North Carolina, 27–0 for its fourth shutout. In six games, the Vols had outscored their opponents, 207–14. No. 2 Michigan State was idle and dropped to fifth in the next poll. No. 3 Illinois beat Michigan 7–0. No. 4 Maryland shut out Missouri 35–0. No. 5 Georgia Tech was tied by Duke, 14–14. No. 6 Princeton, which rose to 5–0–0 after a 12–0 win over Brown, gave an Ivy League addition to the Top Five. Michigan State came back to the five after a 53–26 win over Pitt. The poll: 1.Tennessee 2.Illinois 3.Maryland 4.Princeton 5.Michigan State.
November 10 No. 1 Tennessee beat Washington & Lee, 60–14. No. 2 Illinois beat Iowa 40–13. In Baltimore, No. 3 Maryland beat Navy, 40–21. No. 4 Princeton won at Harvard, 54–13, and left the top five. No. 5 Michigan State (6–0–0) hosted Notre Dame (5–1–0) and shut out the Irish, 35–0, and returned to No. 1 spot in the poll. In Los Angeles, two unbeaten and untied (7–0–0) powers faced off, as No. 7 Stanford and USC met. The Stanford Indians (they would later be called the Cardinal) beat the Trojans 27–20. The poll: 1.Michigan State 2.Tennessee 3.Illinois 4.Stanford 5.Maryland
November 17 No. 1 Michigan State won at Indiana, 30–26. No. 2 Tennessee won at Mississippi, 46–21. No. 3 Illinois got a blemish on its record with a 0–0 tie at Ohio State. No. 4 Stanford beat Oregon State 35–14. No. 5 Maryland overwhelmed N.C. State 53–0. Princeton, which had shut out Yale 27–0, came back to the top five. The poll: 1.Tennessee 2.Michigan State 3.Stanford 4.Maryland 5.Princeton
November 24 No. 1 Tennessee beat Kentucky 28–0. No. 2 Michigan State beat Colorado 45–7 to finish its season at 9–0–0. No. 3 Stanford suffered its first defeat, falling to California, 20–7. No. 4 Maryland stayed unbeaten, over West Virginia 54–7. No. 5 Princeton closed its season with a 13–0 win over Dartmouth. Illinois, which won at Northwestern 3–0, returned to the top five. The penultimate poll: 1.Tennessee 2.Michigan State 3.Maryland 4.Illinois 5.Princeton. On December 1 No. 1 Tennessee closed its season unbeaten with a 35–27 win over Vanderbilt.
The University of San Francisco Dons closed their season—and their football program—with a perfect record of 9 wins, 0 losses and 0 ties. After their November 24 game against in-state Jesuit rival Loyola University (since merged into Loyola Marymount University), a 20–2 win, USF stopped playing football.
|California Collegiate Athletic Association||San Diego State||4–0|
|Central Church College Conference||Concordia (NE)||3–0|
|Central Intercollegiate Athletics Association||West Virginia State||5–0–1|
|Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference|| Kansas State Teachers |
|College Conference of Illinois||Illinois Wesleyan||5–0|
|Evergreen Conference|| Pacific Lutheran |
Western Washington College
|Far Western Conference||NBCA||3–1|
|Gulf Coast Conference||North Texas State||2–0|
|Indiana Collegiate Conference||Valparaiso||4–0|
|Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Saint Ambrose||5–0|
|Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference||College of Emporia||6–0|
|Lone Star Conference||East Texas State Teachers||5–0|
|Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association|| Alma |
|Midwest Collegiate Athletic Conference||Lawrence||7–0|
|Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Gustavus Adolphus||6–0|
|Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association|| Northeast Missouri State |
Southwest Missouri State
|Nebraska College Conference|| Doane |
|New Mexico Intercollegiate Conference||Eastern New Mexico||5–0|
|North Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||South Dakota||6–0|
|North Dakota College Athletic Conference|| Dickinson State |
Valley City State
|Ohio Athletic Conference||Ohio Wesleyan||6–0|
|Ohio Valley Conference||Murray State College||5–1|
|Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference||Northeastern State College (OK)||5–0|
|Oregon Collegiate Conference||Oregon College||—|
|Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference||Bloomsburg State Teachers||7–0|
|Pacific Northwest Conference|| Lewis & Clark |
|Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference||Colorado Mines||4–0|
|South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference||South Dakota Mines||6–0|
|Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Occidental||4–0|
|Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Morris Brown||8–0|
|Southwestern Athletic Conference||Prairie View A&M College||6–1|
|State Teacher's College Conference of Minnesota||St. Cloud State Teachers||4–0|
|Texas Collegiate Athletic Conference|| Abilene Christian |
|Wisconsin State Teachers College Conference||La Crosse State Teachers||6–0|
All six games played were on Tuesday, January 1, 1952.
|Bowl game||Winning team||Losing team|
|Cotton Bowl Classic||No. 15 Kentucky||20||No. 11 TCU||7|
|Sugar Bowl||No. 3 Maryland||28||No. 1 Tennessee||13|
|Rose Bowl||No. 4 Illinois||40||No. 7 Stanford||7|
|Orange Bowl||No. 5 Georgia Tech||17||No. 9 Baylor||14|
|Gator Bowl||Miami (FL)||14||No. 20 Clemson||0|
|Sun Bowl||Texas Tech||25||Pacific (CA)||14|
The NCAA was without a playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A, during the 20th century. The NCAA recognizes Division I-A national champions based on the final results of polls including the "wire service", FWAA and NFF. The 1964 AP poll continued to rank only ten teams, compiling the votes of 55 sportswriters, each of whom would give their opinion of the ten best. Under a point system of 10 points for first place, 9 for second, etc., the "overall" ranking was determined.
The 1966 University Division football season was marked by some controversy as the year of "The Tie", a famous 10–10 game between the two top-ranked teams, Michigan State and Notre Dame on November 19. Both teams were crowned national champions by various organizations after the regular season concluded, and neither participated in bowl game. Alabama finished the regular season undefeated and was third in the AP poll, while Georgia was fourth. Alabama went on to win the Sugar Bowl in dominant fashion. During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A.
In the 1968 NCAA University Division football season, the system of "polls and bowls" changed. The Associated Press returned to its pre-1961 system of ranking the Top 20 rather than the Top 10, and voted on the national champion after the bowl games, rather than before. During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A.
The 1969 college football season was celebrated as the centennial of college football.
The 1957 NCAA University Division football season saw two different national champions. Auburn was ranked first in the AP writers' poll taken at season's end, while Ohio State was first in the UPI coaches' poll. Auburn was ineligible for a bowl game, however, having been placed on probation indefinitely by the Southeastern Conference, after having paid two high school players $500 apiece.
The 1973 NCAA Division I football season was the first for the NCAA's current three-division structure. Effective with the 1973–74 academic year, schools formerly in the NCAA "University Division" were classified as Division I. Schools in the former "College Division" were classified into Division II, which allowed fewer athletic scholarships than Division I, and Division III, in which athletic scholarships were prohibited.
The 1932 college football season saw the Michigan Wolverines win the Knute Rockne Memorial Trophy as national champion under the Dickinson System. Because the "Big Nine" conference didn't permit its teams to play in the postseason, however, the Wolverines were not able to accept a bid to the Rose Bowl. As such, the Pasadena game matched the No. 2 and No. 3 teams, USC and Pittsburgh, with the USC Trojans winning the East-West matchup 35–0.
The 1923 college football season saw several teams finish their seasons unbeaten and untied. As such, numerous schools claim a national championship for the 1923 season. Illinois and Michigan, both members of what is now the Big Ten Conference, finished with records of 8–0 and were selected as national champion by multiple selectors. Illinois featured break-out star Red Grange. Ivy League teams Yale and Cornell also had undefeated seasons.
The 1956 NCAA University Division football season saw the University of Oklahoma Sooners finish a third consecutive season unbeaten and untied to again win the national championship.
The 1955 college football season saw the Oklahoma Sooners win the national championship after going 10–0–0. Although the final poll was taken before the postseason bowl games, Oklahoma played against the nation's other unbeaten and untied (10–0–0) team, the Maryland Terrapins, at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and won 20–6.
The 1954 college football season saw three teams finish unbeaten and untied, with Ohio State Buckeyes and the UCLA Bruins sharing the national championship as the No. 1 picks of the AP Poll and the UPI Poll, respectively. Although the winners of the Big Ten and the Pacific conferences normally met in the Rose Bowl, a "no repeat" prevented the two champions from meeting. UCLA, which had been in the Rose Bowl earlier in the year, was replaced by conference runner-up USC.
The 1953 college football season finished with the Maryland Terrapins capturing the AP, INS, and UPI national championship after Notre Dame held the top spot for the first nine weeks. The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners defeated Maryland in the Orange Bowl, but there was no further polling after the November 30 results were released. However, Notre Dame was selected as the National Champions by 10 other polls and the Oklahoma Sooners received first in two polls. However, despite the team receiving National Championship rings, the University of Notre Dame does not recognize this title due to their policy of only recognizing AP or coaches' poll titles during the polling era (1936–present). Maryland was also the first champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which had been formed earlier in 1953 by seven colleges formerly with the Southern Conference. The year 1953 also saw the Michigan State Spartans, previously an independent, join the Big Nine Conference, which then became the Big Ten; MSU won the conference title in that first year and was the conference representative to the Rose Bowl, which it won 28–20 over UCLA.
The 1952 college football season ended with the unbeaten Michigan State Spartans (9–0) and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12–0) each claiming a national championship from different polls. Michigan State finished first according to two of the "wire service" polls, which both placed Georgia Tech second. Georgia Tech was first in the International News Service poll. UP and INS merged in 1958 to form UPI. Although the Spartans became members of the Big Ten Conference in 1950, full participation did not come until 1953, and under the terms of their entry into the conference, they were not allowed to participate in postseason play. Georgia Tech won the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day in New Orleans.
The 1950 college football season finished with the unbeaten and untied Oklahoma Sooners (9–0) being the consensus choice for national champion. On New Year's Day, however, the Sooners were upset by the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sugar Bowl. The Army Cadets, ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll, had been defeated in its final regular season game by 2–6 Navy, 14–2. However, the final poll had been issued on November 27, and the bowl games had no effect on Oklahoma's status as the No. 1 team.
The 1949 college football season finished with four teams that were unbeaten and untied-- Notre Dame, Oklahoma, California, and Army had won all their games at season's end. Notre Dame, however, was the overwhelming choice for national champion in the AP Poll, with 172 of 208 first place votes. The Fighting Irish did not participate in the New Year's Day bowl games, which were played on January 2, 1950.
The 1948 college football season finished with two unbeaten and untied teams; Michigan and Clemson. Michigan was the first place choice for the majority voters in the AP Poll, but didn't play in the postseason because of a no-repeat rule for Big Nine schools. Notre Dame, second in the AP Poll, tied USC 14–14 at the end of the regular season, but did not participate in any bowl per university policy at the time. Northwestern beat California 20–14 in the Rose Bowl, and Clemson defeated Missouri by a point in the Gator Bowl.
The 1947 college football season finished with Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State all unbeaten and untied, but the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame were the first place choice for 107 of the 142 voters in the AP Poll, and repeated as national champions. Michigan went on to meet USC in the Rose Bowl and won 49–0, while Penn State was tied 13–13 by SMU in the Cotton Bowl Classic, and Notre Dame didn't participate in the postseason. An unofficial post bowl AP poll was conducted with Michigan and Notre Dame as the only options and Michigan won by a vote of 226 to 119.
The 1946 college football season finished with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish crowned as the national champion in the AP Poll, the Georgia Bulldogs recognized as national champion by the Williamson poll and United States Military Academy named as national champion in various other polls and rankings. The Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens were recognized by the AP as the small college national champion. Notre Dame and Army both won all of their games, with the exception of their November 9 meeting at New York's Yankee Stadium, where they had played to a 0–0 tie in a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup regarded as a "Game of the Century". Neither team played in bowl game that season.
The 1938 college football season ended with the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University (TCU) being named the nation's No. 1 team by 55 of the 77 voters in the final Associated Press writers' poll in early December. Tennessee is also recognized as a national champion; both teams won every game.
The 1939 college football season concluded with the Aggies of The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas being named as the national champions by the voters in the Associated Press writers' poll.