This is the 16th edition of MNC Wednesdays on the Daily McPlay, and so far, we have confirmed just 6 of 15 Associated Press poll champions in the modern era of college football (from 1936 on). The AP voters are batting .400, but unlike baseball, that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
What will happen this week? Read on to find out, as this was a crowded analysis!
The 1951 MNC: Common opponents really do matter, you know
Here is the Associated Press Top 10, including final record with key bowl results.
1. Tennessee: 10-1-0 — L, Sugar, 13-28
2. Michigan State: 9-0-0 — None
3. Maryland: 10-0-0 — W, Sugar, 28-13
4. Illinois: 9-0-1 — W, Rose, 40-7
5. Georgia Tech: 11-0-1 — W, Orange, 17-14
6. Princeton: 9-0-0 — None
7. Stanford: 9-2-0 — L, Rose, 7-40
8. Wisconsin: 7-1-1 — None
9. Baylor: 8-2-1 — L, Orange, 14-17
10. Oklahoma: 8-2-0 — None
First thing first: The Volunteers are out for getting trounced in the Sugar Bowl by another undefeated team, meaning the Terrapins are definitely in the finals here. The Spartans are in, too, even though they did not play in a bowl game. Can they defend their surprise MNC from 1950?
The Illini tie came against 4-3-2 Ohio State on the road, which isn’t a good tie … but it’s not a bad tie, either. Illinois, however, will need a distinct edge in SOS to overcome that blemish in comparison to Maryland and Michigan State.
What about the Yellowjackets? Very similarly, the tie came at home against 5-4-1 Duke. Again, not good—but not bad, either. Georgia Tech is in the discussion, and of course, the Tigers are in with their perfect record as well. That is five teams without a loss so far.
Are we missing any other team here? The University of San Francisco posted a 9-0 record, although two wins came over military-base teams. The Dons did, however, beat a Pacific Coast Conference team on the road. But it was just 2-7 Idaho, and we’re not sure about USF’s overall SOS. We will keep them for now.
Even though Maryland won the Southern Conference, Virginia went 8-1 against Southern opponents—and didn’t play any other teams. Does make the Cavaliers a de facto member of the league? In essence, as the Terps pounded the team (Washington & Lee) that beat Virginia, so we can close that loophole.
One final note on our six undefeated teams: Even though Tennessee went to the Sugar Bowl to present the SEC, the Yellowjackets also went undefeated in SEC play, thanks to that uneven scheduling issue. We therefore accept Georgia Tech as a conference winner.
Now, we have six teams, and new data indicators for strength of schedule, too, based on the Simple Rating System (a 0.00 SOS rating would mean an average schedule):
- San Francisco: 7 Division I-A opponents, -6.65 SOS rating, 97th of 116 teams
- Princeton: 9 Division I-A opponents, -4.03 SOS rating, 86th
- Georgia Tech: 12 Division I-A opponents, +4.35 SOS rating, 36th
- Maryland: 10 Division I-A opponents, +1.84 SOS rating, 53rd
- Michigan State: 9 Division I-A opponents, +8.05 SOS rating, 24th
- Illinois: 10 Division I-A opponents, +10.88 SOS rating, 6th
On the surface, we see the Illini with the best SOS, but there is the tie that Illinois suffered on the road to Ohio State. And guess which other team above played the Buckeyes? Michigan State, which was still an independent school in 1951.
The Spartans beat the Buckeyes, on the road, which does double damage to Illinois. The edge in SOS for the Illini probably was enough to erase the tie, but when another team under consideration beat that team Illinois tied, that’s an elimination element, folks.
MSU has the best remaining SOS and no blemishes on the record. The Spartans beat ranked Michigan and Notre Dame squads by a combined 60-0 score, in addition to beating that Buckeyes team on the road. Michigan State was a very good team.
SRS has the Illini as a one-point favorite on a neutral field over the Spartans, but that’s now irrelevant since MSU beat the team that Illinois merely tied. And using another comparative, the Illini barely beat Michigan at home (7-0), while MSU pounded the Wolverines on the road (25-0). This leaves no doubt in our minds.
Congratulations to the 1951 Michigan State Spartans, the mythical national champion!
Check in every Wednesday for a new feature on the mythical national championship in college football on The Daily McPlay.