We haven’t gotten to the 1950s yet in our MNC Wednesday series, but that doesn’t mean our Pac-12 Friday series has to slow down and wait for its brethren to catch up. No way! This decade represents a shift in the Conference of Champions, due to some corruption and resulting reorganization, but there are plenty of great gridiron teams to discuss.
For most of the 1950s, the conference fielded nine football teams, except for the 1959 season when just five teams were part of the initial reorganization. That means there were a lot of contenders for this list … just saying.
Honorable Mention: 1956 Oregon State Beavers (7-3-1)
This team started out with three road games, losing two of them to ranked teams. After that, however, the Beavers won six straight games before settling for a home tie against Oregon in the Civil War and then losing the Rose Bowl. Oregon State finished the season ranked No. 10 in Associated Press poll, nonetheless.
10. 1956 USC Trojans (8-2)
One of those teams the above squad lost to on the road early in the year was this Trojans gang. A late-season road loss to the Ducks cost USC its shot at the conference title. It was the only game all year that the Trojans offense didn’t score in double digits, and of course, only one team from the conference could go to a bowl game.
9. 1959 USC Trojans (8-2)
In the augural, five-team season for the Athletic Association of Western Universities, there was a three-way tie for conference title. This USC team started the season 8-0 before dropping a 10-3 decision at home to UCLA to lose its grip on a solo championship. The following week, the Trojans lost on the road to Notre Dame to finish on a down note.
8. 1959 Washington Huskies (10-1)
Despite losing to the above USC squad at home, the Huskies won every other game on their schedule, including the Rose Bowl, where they hammered Wisconsin, 44-8. The defense held four opponents scoreless in a year where Washington allowed just 73 points total in 11 games. The Trojans were the only team to score more than 12 points on them.
7. 1950 California Golden Bears (9-1-1)
Here we go again with the Rose Bowl letdown. Just like a few teams from the late 1940s, these Golden Bears went undefeated through their schedule before losing in Pasadena. In fact, Cal started 9-0 before struggling to a tie at home against Stanford. The defense coughed up just 90 points the whole season, as nine opponents didn’t reach double digits.
6. 1953 UCLA Bruins (8-2)
There was a mini-dynasty in L.A. during the 1950s, and it wasn’t dressed in maroon. A one-point loss on the road to Stanford was all that kept the Bruins from a perfect record heading into the Rose Bowl. UCLA’s defense surrendered just 48 points in its first nine games before losing to Michigan State, 28-20, to end the season.
5. 1951 California Golden Bears (8-2)
At least this team didn’t have a chance to lose the Rose Bowl. But these Golden Bears beat Stanford and nationally ranked Pennsylvania on the road to put together one of the best offensive seasons in the country, averaging over 30 points per game. The two losses came against the conference’s Southern California schools when the offense struggled.
4. 1954 UCLA Bruins (9-0)
The rule was a team couldn’t go to the Rose Bowl twice in a row; otherwise, this Bruins group could have won it. They led the nation in both scoring offense (40.8 points per game) and scoring defense (4.4 ppg), which is a tough trick to pull off. UCLA beat Washington, 21-20, on the road in the only close game it played all year to finish No. 2.
3. 1955 UCLA Bruins (9-2)
See what we mean by a mini-dynasty? The Bruins went 34-5 over a four-year span, and this team lost its two games by a combined 10 points to Top 5 teams—including another Rose Bowl loss to Michigan State. The defense held five opponents scoreless, however, and allowed just 74 points all season (and just 24 points in the two losses, incidentally).
2. 1952 UCLA Bruins (8-1)
This was the first year of UCLA’s incredible run of dominance in the league. The Bruins allowed just 55 points all season as the team started the year 8-0 to set up a No. 3 vs. No. 4 matchup against USC for all the marbles. The Trojans won, 14-12, but UCLA would go on to win the next three league championships as reflected above.
1. 1952 USC Trojans (10-1)
The only loss came to Notre Dame, on the road, a week after beating UCLA in that aforementioned marquee matchup. The Trojans then recovered to shutout Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The USC defense was stellar, allowing a mere 47 points all season. The offense scored in double digits every game until the loss to the Fighting Irish.