Let’s finish up the third round and take stock.
Catch up here:
- Day 1 (first round)
- Day 2 (first round)
- Day 3 (second round)
- Day 4 (second round)
- Day 5 (third round)
And once again, here’s how things are going down:
1. We’re going to pit national champions from the last 128 years against each other. In the many instances in which more than one team claims a title from a given year, I’ll use Estimated S&P+ to determine the participant — the highest-rated team gets in.
2. We’ll break them up into four ‘regions’ based on the year. Teams from 1889-1920 go in one region, from 1921-52 in another, from 1953-84 in another, and 1985-2016 in another.
3. Within each ‘region,’ we’ll seed the teams based on Estimated S&P+.
4. To simulate each game, we’ll determine win probability based on each team’s Estimated S&P+ rating, then use a random number generator to determine the winner.
Eight more spots in the round of 16 are available. Let’s see who gets them.
- (6) 1890 Harvard (win prob: 55.9%) def. (14) 1916 Army
- (2) 1908 LSU (win prob: 59.4%) def. (10) 1912 Harvard
LSU beats Harvard for the right to play Harvard.
Three fun things about the 1908 Bayou Bengals:
1. It was one of the first great Southern teams. John Heisman was still finding his way at Georgia Tech, and to be sure, the sport’s power base was still very much the East and Midwest. Edgar Wingard’s Tigers destroyed all comers.
They started the season by destroying two small teams (New Orleans Gym Club and Jackson Barracks-New Orleans) by a combined 122-5. They took down Texas A&M, 26-0, in front of 1,800 at Pelican Park in New Orleans. They obliterated Southwestern Presbyterian (later Rhodes) and Mississippi A&M (later Mississippi State) by a combined 105-0. They beat Baylor and Haskell by a combined 122-0. And after a more competitive 22-0 win at Louisiana Tech, they finished the season by romping over a decent Arkansas team, 36-4, in Little Rock.
Over 800 fans boarded a train with their Tigers to travel to Auburn. Meanwhile back home in Baton Rouge, there was a foreshadowing of the passion that is characteristic of LSU football today. A large crowd of Tiger faithful crowded into a telegraph office for updates on the game. The New Advocate, Baton Rouge’s daily newspaper, officially proclaimed “Baton Rouge is football crazy.” And it has been so ever since.
Auburn was one of the South’s top teams, sporting a stifling defense and potent offensive attack under head coach Mike Donahue. But Wingard had some tricks up his sleeve. The first four games of the season featured Fenton’s running prowess and an offense that used double and triple laterals at will. Little did Auburn know that LSU would come out throwing the football. The strategy took the hometown Tigers by surprise, highlighted by a 35-yard touchdown pass from Fenton to John J. Seip. It would be the only touchdown scored on Auburn in 1908, but it was enough to send LSU to a 10-2 victory.
3. The team, uh, wasn’t necessarily made up of Louisianans.
For the Tigers, 1908 was a season of glory and controversy. It would be referred to as "The Ringer Season," when imported players were paid to do a job, a time "ringers" came south in increasing numbers, a practice that would continue until 1920.
"One of the LSU players charged was from Scranton," Fenton said. "He was a singer in a nightclub back home. He also played baseball during the summer. When the team went out of town, he paid another singer to take his place. The player did it by endorsing the check he received over to the singing substitute. When this became known, the player was declared a professional and dropped from the LSU team."
In '08, the preseason talk centered on whether Auburn, Vanderbilt or Sewanee would win the Southern championship. When LSU went into Auburn and came away with a 10-2 victory, the fallout in the newspapers was: "Who are these LSU people?" The story named six players who were imported and paid to play football.
LSU denied the charges and played on.
Grantland Rice, not yet on the national stage, threw down.
The big game (in fact, to a large degree the only game of merit, rendering LSU an effective 1-0) was at 6-1 Auburn, the second best team in the South by virtue of a 6-0 win over 4-1-3 Sewanee (who tied usual Southern champ Vanderbilt). LSU won that game 10-2 (the closest anyone else got to them was Louisiana Tech, who fell 22-0). But Auburn went ahead and claimed themselves the 1908 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) champions anyway.
That is because of an article published by the not-yet-famous Grantland Rice in the Nashville Tennessean that charged LSU with paying 7 ringers to play for them. LSU denied it, but Grantland Rice did not back down, saying that he had proof. Unfortunately, LSU declined to sue for slander, so we'll never know what that "proof" was. 7-1 Tulane subsequently refused to play LSU (not that it would have mattered-- Tulane was weak despite the nice record). After the season, the SIAA investigated LSU and found no wrongdoing.
The more you know...
- (1) 1945 Army (win prob: 75.4%) def. (8) 1934 Alabama
The greatest team of all time rolls on with little resistance.
- (5) 1946 Notre Dame (win prob: 59.9%) def. (13) 1939 Texas A&M
Now that’s a dream matchup right there: 1945 Army against the team that brought Army’s winning streak to a close the next year. Granted, Notre Dame did so against a much weaker Army team, but ... aesthetics!
- (11) 1973 Alabama (win prob: 36.3%) def. (3) 1966 Notre Dame
Revenge! The 1973 Tide do what the 1966 Tide didn’t get a chance to do: Take down the Irish.
- (18) 1976 Pitt (win prob: 34.0%) def. (7) 1965 Michigan State
This region already has one Cinderella in 1953 Maryland; here’s an even bigger one. Tony Dorsett and the Pitt Panthers roll past Bubba Smith and an awesome Spartans team.
- (25) 1992 Alabama (win prob: 43.7%) def. (16) 1999 Florida State
Recent Alabama teams have had disappointing finishes in this tournament, but here’s Gene Stallings and his amazing defense to pick up the mantel.
- (12) 1987 Miami (win prob: 51.2%) def. (13) 2004 USC
Man, this one has some star power. And in the end, Michael Irvin, Melvin Bratton, and Steve Walsh outscore Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Lendale White, and Dwayne Jarrett.
Round of 16
Alright! So! Here’s what we’ve got left.
- (1) 1902 Michigan vs. (13) 1917 Georgia Tech
- (2) 1908 LSU vs. (6) 1890 Harvard
- (1) 1945 Army vs. (5) 1946 Notre Dame
- (7) 1943 Notre Dame vs. (11) 1924 Notre Dame
- (1) 1971 Nebraska vs. (13) 1953 Maryland
- (11) 1973 Alabama vs. (18) 1976 Pitt
- (12) 1987 Miami vs. (25) 1992 Alabama
- (2) 2005 Texas vs. (30) 1990 Colorado
This is impressive representation, actually. We’ve got three Notre Dames, two Alabamas, and 11 other programs represented just once. And somehow, none of them are USC.
Going by seeding, we’re looking at a semifinal of 1902 Michigan vs. 1945 Army and 1971 Nebraska vs. 2005 Texas. We’ll see if the random number generator has other ideas.