National Champions: 1880-1889
Posted by Jimmy Atkinson
Continuing our Retrospective National Championship Project, here are our picks for the years 1880-1889. Yale wrested control from Princeton as the team of the decade, winning eight championships in these ten seasons. Yale and Princeton met late in the season, usually in the finale, each year during this decade. Amazingly, the teams battled to scoreless ties four times. Yale won the decade series 4-2-4.
1880: Yale (4-0-1) -- Yale and Princeton enter the final game of the season both with 4-0 records. They battle to a scoreless tie, but Yale is the pick for the national championship by performing better earlier in the season. While each team defeated Harvard by one point (Princeton 2-1; Yale 1-0), Yale gained the edge by soundly defeating Pennsylvania 8-0, a team that Princeton had defeated only 1-0 just three weeks earlier.
1881: Yale (5-0-1) -- Again Yale and Princeton play to a scoreless tie in the final game of the year, but Princeton's scoreless tie against Harvard the week before kills their shot at a title. Thus, Yale wins their second in a row.
1882: Yale (8-0) -- Yale defeats Harvard 1-0 and Princeton 2-1 in the final two weeks of the season to finish the year as the country's only undefeated team and secure their third consecutive national championship.
1883: Yale (9-0) -- Once again Yale finds a way to defeat Princeton 6-0 and Harvard 23-2 in the final two weeks of the season to go undefeated, the only team to do so in 1883, and win a fourth consecutive national championship.
1884: Yale (8-0-1) -- Yale's 25-game winning streak is ended by Princeton in a 0-0 tie in the final game of the year, but Yale's strong play earlier in the season is enough to give them a slight edge over Princeton for an unprecedented fifth straight national title. Yale defeated Wesleyan three times by a combined score of 140-0 and defeated Harvard once 52-0. Conversely, Princeton "struggled" against both teams, only defeating Wesleyan 22-2 and Harvard 36-6.
1885: Princeton (9-0) -- On Nov. 21, Princeton beats Yale for the first time since 1878, snapping Yale's 48-game unbeaten streak. The following week, on Thanksgiving Day, Princeton knocks off Penn 76-10 to clinch their first national championship since 1879.
1886: Yale (9-0-1) -- Princeton and Yale tie 0-0 in the season's final game. Neither team played a very rigorous schedule up until that point. Princeton had faced Stevens twice and Penn three times. Yale, on the other hand, padded their schedule with three games against Wesleyan, including one that they won 136-0. Yale gains the slight edge with their tenacious defense, which allowed only four points (all against Harvard in a 29-4 win) in ten games. Princeton's defense, on the other hand, allowed points in four of their games (27 points in all).
1887: Yale (9-0) -- Yale blanks Princeton 12-0 then knocks off Harvard 17-8 to finish the year as the nation's only undefeated team with more than four games on its slate.
1888: Yale (13-0) -- Yale finishes the season as the only undefeated team that played more than twice. Their 10-0 victory over previously undefeated Princeton on Nov. 24 clinched their third consecutive national title.
1889: Princeton (10-0) -- Princeton finishes 1889 as the nation's only undefeated squad. Five of the eleven consensus All-Americans are Princeton men, including three of the four backs.