Link to Recaps of the 1940s


1936 College Football Season Recap

The first national championship chosen by the Associated Press sportswriters’ poll was a controversial one.Minnesota, winner in seven of eight regular season games, was named No.1 but AP ranked Northwestern, the only team to beat the Gophers, a distant seventh. The Wildcats, who also went 7–1, ended Minnesota’s 28–game unbeaten streak in late October and won the Western Conference (Big Ten) championship. They moved up to the top of the poll but three weeks later were trounced, 26–6, by No.11 Notre Dame.

LSU and Pittsburgh placed second and third in the voting. The Tigers were 9–0–1 through the regular season, but lost toSanta Claraby a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl. Pitt went 7–1–1 then shut outWashington, 21–0, for its first Rose Bowl victory in four attempts.Arkansaswon the Southwest Conference, but Texas Christian was invited to the first Cotton Bowl. Why? It was Horned Frog quarterback Sammy Baugh’s final college game. Baugh went out a winner, beating Marquette, 16–6.

In New York, Yale end Larry Kelley was named the outstanding player in the nation and given the second Downtown Athletic Club Trophy. The DAC renamed the award the “Heisman Trophy” in October following the death of former college coach and club athletic director John W. Heisman.

 1936 College Football Poll


1937 College Football Season Recap

Defending national champion Minnesota lost two games in 1937, to Nebraska and Notre Dame, and fell to fifth in the final AP poll.

Pittsburgh beat both the Cornhuskers and Irish on the way to an undefeated season and succeeded the Gophers as the country’s top team. The one blemish on the Panthers’ record was a scoreless tie with No.3 Fordham in October. It was hardly a surprise, however, considering it was the third year in a row the two had shut each other out.

Second-ranked California had the same 9–0–1 record as Pitt and its tie game was also scoreless. Playing at home, the Bears fought unranked Washingtonto a standstill in November. Later, they became the country’s only 10–game winner, wrapping up the season with a 13–0 victory over No.4 Alabama in the Rose Bowl. The loss was the first for the Crimson Tide in five trips toPasadena.

Halfback Clint Frank of Yale won the Heisman Trophy as the country’s outstanding player, but runner-up Whizzer White of Colorado, a Rhodes Scholar and future Supreme Court Justice, turned in the season’s most impressive stats. White led the nation in scoring, rushing, all-purpose running and total offense. The unbeaten Buffaloes, the first Rocky Mountain team to crack the Top 20, were invited to the Cotton Bowl but lost to Rice, 28–14.

Meanwhile, it was an outstanding season for Top 20 head coaches’ nicknames.

1937 College Football Poll


1938 College Football Season Recap

Texas Christian won both the national championship and the Heisman Trophy in 1938. The Horned Frogs were undefeated and untied through 10 regular season games and they had little Davey O’Brien at quarterback.

At just 5-foot-7 and 150 lbs., O’Brien didn’t look anything like predecessor Sammy Baugh. But he threw the football like Baugh, leading the nation in passing yardage for the second year in a row. O’Brien capped the season with a second half touchdown pass and field goal to spark the TCU to a come-from-behind 15–7 victory over 6th ranked Carnegie Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

Although bowl games would not count in AP’s final Top 20 selections until 1965, theOrangeand Rose bowls featured four of 1938’s top seven teams in two of the more memorable frays of the season.

Tennessee and Oklahoma were both 11–0 and ranked 2nd and 4th, respectively, when they collided inMiami. The Vols won, 17–0, but play was so rough and penalties so numerous (a combined 220 yards stepped off against both sides) that it became known as the ’39 “Orange Brawl”.

No.3 Duke faced No.7 Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl. The Blue Devils were undefeated, untied and unscored upon in nine games. USC was 8–2. The Trojans won, 7–3, with less than a minute to play when reserve quarterback Doyle Nave and reserve end Al Krueger combined for 14–yard touchdown pass.

1938 College Football Poll


1939 College Football Season Recap

The national championship changed hands in 1939 but stayed in the Lone Star state as Texas A&M followed Texas Christian to the top of the AP heap. A&M won all 10 of its regular season games, including a 20–6 drubbing of TCU, whose record dropped to 3–7.

Led by halfback Jim Kimbrough and a defense that held opponents to less than two points a game, the Aggies nipped No.5 Tulane, 14–13, in the Sugar Bowl to finish the campaign unbeaten and untied.

For the second straight year a team that went through the regular season undefeated, untied and unscored upon fell toSouthern Calin the Rose Bowl. This time, the 4th-ranked Trojans turned the tables on No.2 Tennessee, shutting the Vols out, 14–0, to snap a 23–game winning streak.

In the Midwest, halfbacks Nile Kinnick of Iowa and Tom Harmon of Michigan led their teams to Top 20 finishes and placed 1–2 in the Heisman vote. Kinnick won, but Harmon, a junior, would get the trophy in 1940.

That decade ended with six-time Western Conference (Big 10) champion Chicago giving up football. The Maroons had been coached for 41 years (1892–1932) by living legend Amos Alonzo Stagg and boasted the first Heisman winner—halfback Jay Berwanger—as recently as 1935. But those days seemed like distant memories by ’39 when Chicago found itself getting clobbered by Illinois (46–0), Ohio State (61–0)  and Michigan (85–0).

1939 College Football Poll