MNC Wednesday is back for the 12th week in a row, and this is perhaps the most controversial season yet, as the Associated Press did a weird thing in 1947: It voted its champion as normal at the end of the regular season—and then experienced some buyer’s remorse after the bowl games and did a one-time “special” ballot to reassess.
The historical AP decision of record has always remained on the original vote, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of argument, debate, and venom about the mythical national champion for this one-of-a-kind situation.
We’ve settled it, though: Read on …
The 1947 MNC: A long-time debate is finally settled with sabermetrics!
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results.
1. Notre Dame: 9-0-0 — None
2. Michigan: 10-0-0 — W, Rose, 49-0
3. SMU: 9-0-2 — T, Cotton, 13-13
4. Penn State: 9-0-1 — T, Cotton, 13-13
5. Texas: 10-1-0 — W, Sugar, 27-7
6. Alabama: 8-3-0 — L, Sugar, 7-27
7. Penn: 7-0-1 — None
8. USC: 7-2-1 — L, Rose, 0-49
9. North Carolina: 8-2-0 — None
10. Georgia Tech: 10-1-0 — W, Orange, 20-14
The Fighting Irish won the AP title, as noted above, and the Wolverines’ Rose Bowl thrashing of the Trojans created the situation explained above. So we will focus on them later, but there is also the question of the other conference champions for 1947. Do they deserve in on the debate, too?
SMU won the Southwest Conference, not Texas, as the Mustangs’ 14-13 win over the Longhorns proves to be significant here. We also are going to throw Penn State into the mix right now, and see how the process shakes out for the Nittany Lions.
What about Penn? Its tie came against the two-time defending champions from Army (5-2-2), so there’s no shame in that. Ole Miss won the SEC with two losses overall, and thanks to uneven scheduling, Georgia Tech’s second-place finish in the conference takes them out of consideration here. Or does it?
Both teams finished with one loss in conference play without facing each other, and Ole Miss just played two more league contests than Georgia Tech did. Do we hold that against the Yellow Jackets? That would not be fair, really, but a closer look shows us that Georgia Tech lost to Alabama on the road. That is not a bad loss, really, so we will keep the Yellow Jackets in … for now.
(But why did Alabama get the Sugar Bowl bid? Ole Miss played in the Delta Bowl—right?—as a reward for “winning” the SEC. The Crimson Tide had two conference losses to finish third. That doesn’t make any sense? Why didn’t Ole Miss or Georgia Tech get the big bowl bid? Something smells fishy in the South, as always.)
Alright, now we are looking at six teams: Notre Dame, Michigan, SMU, Penn State, Penn, and Georgia Tech. But the Mustangs’ first tie came against Texas Christian, which finished the year 4-5-2, and that’s a dealbreaker. So SMU gets kicked to the curb.
Down to five teams, and nothing else exists that is damning to our five finalists. How do the five schedules compare? Here is the SOS, based on the Simple Rating System:
- Notre Dame: 9 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 40.89
- Michigan: 10 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 33.10
- Georgia Tech: 11 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 60.73
- Penn State: 9 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 71.33
- Penn: 7 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 38.00
This reveals a lot, surprising and not so surprising. First, the Nittany Lions and the Yellow Jackets are out due to weaker schedules. And who knew Penn belonged with the big boys in 1947? Nicely done, Quakers. The defense gave up 35 points total all season—not bad.
Michigan gets the edge on Notre Dame here, although the Wolverines’ SOS includes the bowl game. Take out that bowl game, and the SOS rises three points—making it very close between Notre Dame, Penn, and Michigan in terms of SOS. The AP final poll, if painstakingly accurate, should have been different, of course, even based on these SOS ratings.
The Associated Press made a mistake—which was not uncommon then, as this is our eighth reassignment of the MNC in this series. What was uncommon was the buyer’s-remorse vote after the Rose Bowl … even if it was the necessary correction.
Congratulations to the 1947 Michigan Wolverines, the mythical national champs!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.