I want to lay out my criteria so that no one expects something other than what I'm doing with this article. I'm not directing my efforts at the AP or Coaches Poll champions, teams that lost bowl games after they were awarded titles at the end of the regular season. That's not the focus of this article. I'll do a separate article on that subject later. The focus of this article is explicitly directed at 1936 to 2021. I will be going after a select ten claims from teams that failed to capture one of the two gold standard trophies and lack a credible argument as to why they should have.
10.) 1940 Boston College Eagles (Self Awarded)
There's not much I can say here except that Boston College awarded themselves this " title." This BC team was good, 11-0. They were #5 in the final AP poll at the end of the season and defeated #4 Tennessee 19-13 in the Sugar Bowl. But, again, I reiterate, there's absolutely no selector proclaiming them champs.
9.) 1981 SMU Mustangs (NCF Co-Champs)
The '81 Mustangs were very good, but they were on probation. They finished #5 in the AP; nevertheless, they claim the NCF Co-championship, a title they co-hold with Clemson, Nebraska, Pitt, and Texas. Subsequently, SMU is the only one of the five co-NCFs that claim the title. Clemson was the 1981 consensus national champion.
8.) 1940 Tennessee Volunteers (Dunkel, Williamson Champs)
The '40 Vols finished #4 in the AP before they got beat by Boston College in the Sugar Bowl. I don't know what the rationale behind this 1940 Tennessee claim is. The claim has no basis in the poll era and should be classified 'ill-legit' by any severe college football fan.
7.) 1983 Auburn Tigers (Billingsley, FR, The New York Times, Rothman, Sagarin Champs)
So close. Perhaps they should have gotten a share of the title in 1983 (AP or Coaches), but they didn't. '83 Auburn is the only team on my list that I feel has a valid argument. I include them for one reason; the glaring discrepancy on whether Auburn ACTUALLY claims this "title" or not. Officially, they say they only claim 1957 and 2010. But on their website, they seem to be following a different narrative.
I think it's pretty weak for them to ride the fence with this. The claim is alive and well from the official athletics website, but they have nothing commemorating it at their stadium. It's almost like they're considering this title claim as "legit" in the future. Nothing can change the facts here; Auburn failed to win a legitimate title for the '83 season. Having 'a compelling argument' is not the same as having a title.
6.) 1950 Princeton Tigers (Poling System, Boand System Champs)
This one probably gets lost in the shuffle of the 27 other titles claimed by Princeton. But this one is different than the others; this claim is within the poll era and easily debunked. '50 Princeton (9-0) was a good team; I'm not arguing they weren't. They finished #8 in the Coaches Poll and #6 in the AP, beating a #10 Cornell team on the path to doing so. Congrats on a good season, but the title claim is bogus.
5.) 1970 Ohio State Buckeyes (NFF Champs)
This is one I don't understand at all. We're not talking about a program starving for relevancy in 1970. This is one of those close but no cigar seasons. The Buckeyes were #2 in the AP Poll going into their Rose Bowl against #12 Stanford; if they win, they take the AP trophy IF Texas loses. Texas lost, but so did the Buckeyes. Nebraska jumped to #1 In the AP; Texas had already bagged the Coaches Trophy, which they awarded at the end of the regular season. So, I guess the Buckeyes decided to grab a consolation prize by claiming the 1970 NFF "National Championship."
4.) 2017 UCF Knights (Colley Matrix Champs)
I can sum this up with one acronym. CFP! You were not invited because your schedule was weak. The Knights defeated only one below .500, the power-five team in their regular season schedule. Furthermore, all their arguments came after they defeated #7 Auburn in the Peach Bowl. The problem is; that win came a month after the CFP was seeded. I always say, schedule for success or plan to be rejected.
3.) 1967 Tennessee Volunteers (Litkenhous Champs)
Here's another close but no trophy moment. The 1967 Vols made it into the Sugar Bowl at #2 to face #3 Oklahoma. A win probably still gets them no higher than #2 in the final AP poll. USC had already taken the Coaches trophy at the end of the regular season. Tennessee went down and lost in the Orange Bowl to Oklahoma yet still claimed the Litkenhous trophy, sporting two losses.
2.) 1941 Alabama Crimson Tide (Houlgate Champs)
This one baffles me. It's a retro claim from a season in which Bama finished only 3rd in the SEC. If they wanted to pad up their title count, the undefeated, #2 AP, Rose Bowl champion team in 1945 would have been a much easier sell. This claim is as bogus as they come. Houlgate selected them for whatever reason, but that is not a good reason for them to claim it.
1.) 1945 Oklahoma State Cowboys (Coaches Poll "Champs")
So, let's talk about this 1945 "Coaches Poll Title," retroactively awarded for a season in which a Coaches Poll did not even exist. That's all I can say here. There's no value whatsoever to a 1945 Coaches Poll "Title." Kudos to Okie Lite; this is the ridiculous title claim of the poll era.
"The Coaches Poll has been ranking institutional gridiron squads since 1950." (bleacherreport.com)