It’s the Baker’s Dozen Day for MNC Wednesdays, as we move to the 1948 season. After the controversy of 1947, this year has to be easier to analyze, right? Not so fast, our friends—as the field of contenders got large!
Read on, as we see if the voters got it right this time … They’ve only been “right” one third of the time so far, after all.
The 1948 MNC: Seems like it comes down to SOS more often than not
Here is the Associated Press Top 11, including final record with key bowl results.
1. Michigan: 9-0-0 — None
2. Notre Dame: 9-0-1 — None
3. North Carolina: 9-1-1 — L, Sugar, 6-14
4. California: 10-1-0 — L, Rose, 14-20
5. Oklahoma: 10-1-0 — W, Sugar, 14-6
6. Army: 8-0-1 — None
7. Northwestern: 8-2-0 — W, Rose, 20-14
8. Georgia: 9-2-0 — L, Orange, 28-41
9. Oregon: 9-2-0 — L, Cotton, 13-21
10. SMU: 9-1-1 — W, Cotton, 21-13
11. Clemson: 11-0-0 — W, Gator, 24-23
We went deeper into the AP poll this year for obvious reasons. The Wolverines ran the table in defense of the 1947 MNC crown, and the Fighting Irish once again did pretty well, too, with a tie against USC in the final game of the season on the road keeping Notre Dame from a perfect season.
The Tar Heels were eliminated from the discussion by losing the Sugar Bowl to the Sooners, who are definitely in the fray, and UNC didn’t win its conference, anyway—Clemson did. Oklahoma lost its opener to Santa Clara on the road and then swept the rest of its schedule, readily.
The Golden Bears also dropped the ball by losing the Rose Bowl, but the Wildcats can’t claim anything, since they lost to Michigan, 28-0. What about the Black Knights? Army’s tie came against Navy in its final game, too. But this was that famous game where the winless Midshipmen came up with the effort of the year to earn that deadlock.
That knocks Army out of the discussion with such a bad tie. What about the Mustangs? SMU tied Texas Christian in the final game of the season, and the Horned Frogs finished under .500 on the year—not acceptable at all!
(Think about how many teams “choked” in their final games here: Notre Dame, North Carolina, Cal, Army, SMU … It takes a lot of luck to win the mythical national championship, you know?)
The Tigers ran the table for 11 games, so they’re in the conversation. Anyone else we’re forgetting? Penn State went 7-1-1 with a loss to Pitt and a tie against Michigan State, both respectable, but in general, their independent schedule can’t match Notre Dame’s slate of opponents—especially with the defeat against the Panthers. Cornell went 8-1, but the loss was to Army, so that drops the Big Red, too.
Down to four teams, then—and how do the schedules rate out? Here is the SOS, based on the Simple Rating System:
- Notre Dame: 10 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 44.00
- Michigan: 9 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 28.56
- Clemson: 10 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 69.30
- Oklahoma: 11 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 51.91
This is a hands-down situation for the Wolverines, obviously. What is more intriguing, perhaps, is why the AP voters kept flipping Michigan and Notre Dame in the top spot all season: On October 9, the Irish were No. 1, but a 26-7 victory over Michigan State dropped them to No. 2 the following week.
The Wolverines first reached No. 1 on October 18, but then after a 28-20 grind against Illinois on October 30, they dropped to No. 2 behind Notre Dame. After the games on November 6—the Irish beat Indiana, 42-6, while the Wolverines topped winless Navy, 35-0—the voters flipped them again. That makes no sense, of course.
Either way, Michigan was the better team in 1948, and that’s pretty clear. The Wolverines repeat as MNCs, just the third school to do so, and this represents the fifth time in 13 seasons that the AP got it “right”—although it seems accidental here.
Congratulations to the 1948 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.