8. 1896 Tennessee Volunteers
4-0 (0-0 SIAA)
Yes, we’re being facetious here. This Tennessee football team played four games, and it was a club sport at the time. To give you an idea of how disorganized this season was, the Vols played in the SIAA and managed to not play a conference game.
I’ll come right out and say there’s no way this team would have beaten the two national champions this year, the Lafayette Maroon and the Princeton Tigers, who were 11-0-1 and 10-0-1 respectively. Those were significantly better teams, as that was where the power of college football lied at the time. The Vols didn’t even have a head coach.
But I say who cares? Hey, the UCF Knights were able to declare themselves national champions by going undefeated on a smaller level this past year. They did it to expose a flawed system. Okay. Why not apply the same thing 100 years ago?
The system was flawed and didn’t deserve a true champion. So an undefeated team like the Vols should be able to stake any claim they want to the national title. If somebody has a problem with it, well, they should take it up with the system. This is the logic UCF uses now, right?
Under their captain, Strang Nicklin, the Vols shut out three of their four opponents. And they played all of their games in the state of Tennessee. No matter. Schools use ridiculous methods to claim national titles now, so we’re going to do the same here.