Football Outsiders Top 100 Teams

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

These weeks before media day are supposed to be the slow days. I expected all of the 2010 previews to be done with... I was wrong about that.

I had a bunch of yearbook entries queued up to auto post cool content© on Sundays... and in the meantime I came across even more and cooler content (patents pending).

Today I was very pleased with my output - a 2010 preview, a post looking at UConn's yearbook and some new links and things on the sidebar. I put my time in today and I'm happy.

I've been keeping up with Football Outsiders' top 100 all-time teams and I knew this one was coming, but I didn't know what kind finish Army's top teams would receive on the list. Full knowing that it is an honor just to have so many Army teams on the list, and being aware that the rankings are largely subjective - take a look at Football Outsiders' latest and final installment of the Top 100 College Football Teams of the Last 100 Years:


Three Army squads in the top 10.

Clocking in at #10... 1946 Army rightfully mentioned in the same breath as '46 Notre Dame.

11. 1946 Notre Dame

Record: 8-0-1
Conference: Independent
Best Wins: def. Illinois (8-2) 26-6, def. USC (6-4) 26-6
Blemishes: tied Army (9-0-1) 0-0
Point Differential: +247 (271-24)

10. 1946 Army

Record: 9-0-1
Conference: Independent
Best Wins: def. Michigan (6-2-1) 20-13, def. Oklahoma (8-3) 21-7
Blemishes: tied Notre Dame (9-0-1) 0-0
Point Differential: +183 (263-80)

For these two near-flawless teams, the 1946 season came down to but a single game: No. 1 Army vs. No. 2 Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium on November 9. This game, a slugfest between two of the top 11 teams of all-time (according to this list), might be the greatest ever played. The previous two seasons, Army had handed Notre Dame defeats by a combined score of 107-0. But in 1946, the Irish were getting some of their stars back from military service. Johnny Lujack, the savior of the 1943 squad, would not only return in 1946, but he would play All-American caliber football in advance of his 1947 Heisman run. With Lujack back on the field and Frank Leahy back on the sideline, the 1946 squad would be ready for the Black Knights. Of course, Army was not exactly going to back down, not with halfback Glenn Davis (Mr. Outside) and fullback Doc Blanchard (Mr. Inside) in the backfield. Quite likely the most talented backfield combination of all-time, they split both carries and the Heisman Trophy -- Blanchard won in 1945, Davis in 1946. In fact, this was the only time in college football history when three former or future Heisman winners would grace the field at the same time.


Both finished undefeated, with the tie as the only blemish (the first blemish of any type for Army since 1943). Notre Dame finished with the better scoring margin, but Army's tougher schedule gives them the slimmest of edges here.

Yeah, it gets better...

5. 1945 Army

Record: 9-0
Conference: Independent
Best Wins: def. Notre Dame (7-2-1) 48-0, def. Navy (7-1-1) 32-13, def. Michigan (7-3) 28-7
Blemishes: none
Point Differential: +366 (412-46)

4. 1944 Army

Record: 9-0
Conference: Independent
Best Wins: def. Notre Dame (8-2) 59-0, def. Navy (6-3) 23-7
Blemishes: none
Point Differential: +469 (504-35)

We won't spend a lot of time on these two teams, as we covered their greatness above. But we should probably spend another few moments explaining just how great these wartime teams were. The aforementioned "Mr. Inside" Doc Blanchard led the country in touchdowns in 1945, winning the Heisman and Maxwell Awards. "Mr. Outside" Glenn Davis won the Maxwell in 1944 and had to wait until 1946 to get his Heisman. The two would combine for 97 career touchdowns. With great depth (aided in part by high enlistment numbers, obviously) and the two best players in the country, the Cadets were unstoppable. They astoundingly won seven of their nine games in 1944 by at least 46 points; only good Duke (27-7) and Navy (23-7) teams were able to keep it even reasonably close. That season, they also beat 8-2 Notre Dame by 59, 5-3 Penn by 55 and 6-3 Coast Guard by 76. Unreal.

In 1945, their schedule was even tougher, at least in theory. A seven-win Michigan team gave it the old college try but fell 28-7 at Yankee Stadium. Duke went down by a 48-13 score, and Notre Dame improved to just a 48-0 defeat. The 1945 Army-Navy game was one of the most anticipated of all-time -- Army was an easy No. 1, while the 7-0-1 Midshipmen of Navy were No. 2. In front of over 100,000 fans in Philadelphia, Blanchard scored three times, twice on offense and once on a pick-six. The effort gave him a narrow win over Davis for the Heisman (Davis had also finished second in 1944).

It is almost boring to have three teams from the same school in the same three-year span in the top 10. But this series of Army teams -- even with a bit of an unfair recruiting advantage at the time -- was simply amazing. Their only blemish in the three-year span was the 1946 tie with Notre Dame.

Three of Army's most dominant teams were represented in the top 20. These teams could just as easily been rated #1, #2 and #3. The list speaks to the disparity in college football during the World War 2 era and also to the natural advantages that service academies held over most college football programs during that time.

The 1940s and World War 2 absolutely crushed some football programs, but in the case of Army, it proved to be their heyday. The mix of compulsory service, total wartime victory, the 1944 GI bill, and the revitalization of competitive athletics in America was the perfect storm to clear Army football's path to greatness.

A lot of today's college football fans speak out against looking back at a team's past successes. I'm not mentioning any names, but sentiments like, "Your team's only championships came before you were born," usually come from fans of teams without championships. Either that or it's fans of college football's newly rich that bash a team's football history. Well let me just say that someday every one of us will move on, and the championship teams and alma maters that we currently devote ourselves to will one day - probably sooner than later - be washed away by the tides of history. With that, I think it is important to look back and admire the accomplishments of the past and this list gives all of us a chance to do just that.

Represented in full, here's Football Outsiders' All-time Top 100 list.




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