1921 Cal 0, Washington & Jefferson 0 Rose Bowl
Cornell ended up getting the national championship by the main historical outlets, but it didn’t beat anyone other than a decent Penn team on the road. Cal was in the midst of a 50-game streak without a loss, rolling through the 1921 season before dealing with an unbeaten Washington & Jefferson team in the Rose Bowl. The two battled to a scoreless tie; a winner would’ve likely been the national champ.
1922 Cal 12, USC 0
Cal and Cornell split the 1922 national championship, but the Big Red didn’t have any impressive wins. They had more decent wins than Cal came up with, but they didn’t have anything as close to as good as a 45-7 win at Washington or a 12-0 shutout over USC – the Trojans’ only loss of the season – in Pasadena.
1923 Illinois 7, Chicago 0
Illinois and Michigan shared the national championship with both teams going 8-0, but the Fighting Illini had the more deserving title season. The Wolverines were able to beat a good Minnesota team – the Gophers’ only loss on the 5-1-1 year – but Illinois handed a phenomenal Chicago squad its only loss in a 7-0 battle.
Key Game To Know
1924 Illinois 39, Michigan 14
On a 13-game winning streak and a 22-game unbeaten run, Michigan got walloped by Illinois thanks to an epic performance from Red Grange. The Fighting Illini missed out on the national title after later losing to Minnesota, allowing Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen 10-0 team to take the championship after handing Stanford its only loss of the year in the Rose Bowl.
1925 Alabama 20, Washington 19 Rose Bowl
The Crimson Tide were rising up after a few strong seasons, but they weren’t able to get over the hump until they took out an unbeaten Washington team in the Rose Bowl. It was the moment when college football became a really, really big thing in the southeast part of the country, and it was the unofficial launching of Alabama as a powerhouse.
1926 Alabama 7, Stanford 7
The Crimson Tide and the Cardinal shared the national title after both teams went unbeaten, but tied in the Rose Bowl. Alabama had the strong season overall – helped by a 19-7 win over Vanderbilt for the Commodores’ only loss – with this a part of a 24-game unbeaten streak.
1927 Georgia Tech 12, Georgia 0
Georgia was rolling through the season, going on the road and handing Yale and Furman their only losses, and beating Alabama on the way to a 9-0 start. Georgia Tech put an end to that with a shutout in Atlanta. The loss allowed Illinois to finish as the 1927 national champion despite a 12-12 tie against Iowa State.
1928 Georgia Tech 8, Cal 7 Rose Bowl
The Golden Tornado of Georgia Tech built off the great finish to the 1927 season – ruining Georgia’s national title hopes – by going on a 10-0 run that closed out with a wacky Rose Bowl win over Cal. It was a struggle, but Georgia Tech got the win – and the national title – helped by a safety after Cal’s Roy Riegels picked up a fumble and ran the wrong way for a safety.
1929 Notre Dame 13, USC 12
The season was the beginning of an amazing run by the Fighting Irish, taking care of USC in a 13-12 battle in Chicago on the way to a 9-0 season. An unbeaten Pitt was named the national champion by some outlets after the regular season, but got destroyed by the Trojans 47-14 in the Rose Bowl.
1930 Notre Dame 7, Army 6
Alabama is able to claim part of the national championship after going 10-0 with a few terrific wins – giving Tennessee and Washington State their only losses – but Notre Dame went on the road to hand Northwestern its only loss, took out USC in the season finale, and in between, held on to survive in an epic battle handing Army its only defeat.
1931 USC 31, Tulane 12 Rose Bowl
The Trojans started out the season with a 13-7 loss to St. Mary’s, but they overcame it to go on one of the greatest one-season runs in the history of college football. The Trojans managed to beat nine teams that finished with winning records including a 60-0 pasting of a great Georgia team, and a 16-14 win at Notre Dame. In the end, USC took on an unbeaten Tulane powerhouse in the Rose Bowl and took the national title.
Key Game To Know
1932 USC 35, Pitt 0 Rose Bowl
As a part of a 27-game unbeaten streak and 25-game winning run, USC steamrolled through the 1932 season that included a 13-0 win over Notre Dame and a thumping of Pitt in the Rose Bowl. Michigan also claimed a piece of the national title, but it didn’t go bowling, while USC gave Pitt its only loss.
1933 Michigan 0, Minnesota 0
1933 was when Minnesota kicked off a phenomenal run of over three seasons and 28 games without losing. There was one problem – actually, there were four. The Gophers ended up with four ties in ’33. On the flip side, this was a last hurrah run – for a while – for Michigan, going 1-7 the following year. But first, the Wolverines finished 7-0-1 – handing Ohio State its only loss – on the way to the national title.
1934 Minnesota 13, Pitt 7
Alabama likes to claim 1934 as a national championship season, but … not really. It went 10-0 and won the Rose Bowl over a good Stanford team, but it didn’t do anything as impressive as the Minnesota team that’s more widely acknowledged as the national champ. Pitt was a terrific team that finished 8-1, with that one loss at home to the Golden Gophers.
1935 Stanford 7, SMU 0 Rose Bowl
Bowl games didn’t matter in the national championship discussion, but it settled the argument in 1935. Minnesota won the national title for the second time in a row with an 8-0 season, but it didn’t beat anyone who was all that impressive. SMU went 12-0 including a great win over TCU – the Horned Frogs’ lone blip on the year – but was dropped by Stanford in Pasadena.