As we start the 14th edition of MNC Wednesdays, it’s now 1949 in the sports-history machine we fired up three months ago. Five times we have confirmed the Associated Press poll’s pick as the mythical national champion, and eight times we’ve discovered a better team deserved the honor.
What will happen this time around?!
The 1949 MNC: SOS stands for “same old story” … or does it?
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results.
1. Notre Dame: 10-0-0 — None
2. Oklahoma: 11-0-0 — W, Sugar, 35-0
3. California: 10-1-0 — L, Rose, 14-17
4. Army: 9-0-0 — None
5. Rice: 10-1-0 — W, Cotton, 27-13
6. Ohio State: 7-1-2 — W, Rose, 17-14
7. Michigan: 6-2-1 — None
8. Minnesota: 7-2-0 — None
9. LSU: 8-3-0 — L, Sugar, 0-35
10. Pacific: 11-0-0 — None
Well, the Buckeyes saved us the issue of having to examine five undefeated teams, that’s for sure. Two years in a row, the Golden Bears went into the Rose Bowl with a chance at the mythical title, and both times they lost. That sucks for Cal, and this is why bowl games count—for better or for worse—in our analyses.
Also, Pacific was a small-college school in 1949, playing a regional schedule of mostly small schools. The Tigers also played just one road game, against Loyola Marymount. We can just call Pacific the small-school champs for this year, but the team has no place in our legit MNC conversation.
So, what teams do we have beyond Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Army? Rice won the Southwest Conference, but the Owls lost to LSU—which lost to the Sooners. Maryland won the Southern Conference and the Gator Bowl with a 9-1 record, but the Terrapins lost to Michigan State—which lost to Notre Dame.
Independent Villanova posted an 8-1 record, but the Wildcats lost to 5-5-1 Tulsa, so that’s a bad loss. Cornell got off to a 7-0 start and reached No. 6 in the poll, but a loss to Dartmouth derailed that momentum, and the overall schedule strength for the Big Red is not going to be there with the one loss.
Therefore, we really just have the power trio noted above, undefeated and untied. Here is the SOS, based on the Simple Rating System:
- Notre Dame: 10 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 27.20
- Oklahoma: 11 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 48.18
- Army: 9 Division I-A opponents, average SRS rank 63.89
The Sooners finished the year having won 21 straight games, after dropping their opener in 1948 and then running the table. Of course, Oklahoma would go on to win its first 10 games in 1950 as well, meaning this squad was in the middle of a 31-game winning streak—with no MNC to show for it, either. Timing is everything, as we learned in 1948.
Also, competition level counts, and that’s why it’s easy to confirm the AP’s choice of the Fighting Irish as the title team for the final season of the 1940s. After we stripped Notre Dame of its AP titles in 1943, 1946, and 1947, the sabermetrics finally have confirmed the Irish as legit champs.
Congratulations to the 1949 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the mythical national champion!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.