1. 1914 Tennessee Volunteers
9-0 (6-0 SIAA)
The elite world of college football was still concentrated in the Northeast and the Ivy League during this time, and it was particularly not relevant in the South. That’s why it’s understandable that this undefeated Tennessee football team did not receive a national championship declaration from a major source.
However, the national media opened the door years before. The 10-0 LSU Tigers in 1908 and the 8-0 Auburn Tigers in 1913 both achieved national championship recognition. So with that door open, it’s only right that Tennessee football get to claim the title in 1914.
This was peak Vols before Robert Neyland took over. The 1914 season was one of the most special on Rocky Top. Tennessee beat the Vanderbilt Commodores for the first time and won its first official conference championship, dominating the SIAA with a 6-0 record en route to a 9-0 record overall.
Led by Zora G. Clevenger, this team was dominant, shutting out four opponents and winning by margins of 89-0, 55-3, 27-0, 66-0 and 67-0. Their only close games were against in-state rivals Vanderbilt and the Sewanee Tigers. But the Vols still won both games.
1st-N-Goal has retroactively awarded this team a national championship, but it’s not recognized. Tennessee football needs to change that. They went 9-0 and won the SIAA, which had two national champions within the six years before. So there’s no reason they don’t have a right to claim a title as well.
Of the nine teams the Vols beat in 1914, five were in the SIAA and finished with winning records. They had a quality resume, and it was more than worthy of title recognition. After southern teams in the past were able to get recognition, Tennessee football can have no season where it’s more clear-cut to declare a national champion than one in which they went undefeated. That’s why this is No. 1 on the list.