1959 | Syracusefan.com

1959

SWC75

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USC had a role to play when Syracuse won the national championship in 1959. They were one of the other major national title contenders that year - the last team to be undefeated other than Syracuse- and they had to lose to clinch it for us. (One of their assistant coaches, by the way, was Al Davis.) If another team from a section of the country from which the writers and coaches were more used to picking national champions had won all their games they might have chosen that team rather than SU for #1.

In AP’s (the writer’s) preseason poll, Syracuse was ranked #20. Above them, in order from #19 to #1 were Michigan State, Clemson, Texas, Notre Dame, Air Force, South Carolina, Texas Christian, North Carolina, Purdue, Northwestern, Iowa, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Army, Southern Methodist, Auburn, Oklahoma and Louisiana State.

That first week, (9/19) defending national champion LSU crushed Rice 26-3, Mississippi shut out Houston 16-0. TCU beat Kansas 14-7, South Carolina topped Duke 12-7 and Texas stopped Nebraska 20-0. In the one game between ranked teams, Clemson beat North Carolina 20-18. Also, Purdue was tied by UCLA in a game where neither team scored, (yes they used to have those!).

But these results didn’t move the Orange up- we disappeared from the AP top 20 altogether on 9/21. The coach’s, (UPI) didn’t see us, either. The teams ranked in the two polls were Maryland, who had been West Virginia 27-7, Purdue, South Carolina, Florida, who had beaten Tulane 30-0, Penn State, who had handled Missouri 19-8, Georgia, winners over Bear Bryant’s second Alabama team, 17-3, Georgia Tech, who had beaten Kentucky 14-12, Texas, Navy, who had handled Boston College 24-8, Iowa, Ohio State, USC, who beat Oregon State 27-6, Northwestern, TCU , Wisconsin, Army, SMU, Clemson, Mississippi, Auburn, Oklahoma and LSU.

In the second week, Syracuse came back to beat Kansas 35-21. In battles of ranked teams, LSU beat TCU 10-0. Northwestern, aided by a case of food poisoning, crushed Oklahoma 45-13, Georgia Tech beat SMU 15-12 and Texas crushed Maryland 26-0. Auburn was upset by Tennessee 0-3. Mississippi beat Kentucky 16-0, Clemson destroyed Virginia 47-0, Army did the same to Boston College 44-8, Wisconsin topped Stanford 16-14, USC shut out Pitt 23-0, Ohio State survived Duke, 14-13, Iowa whipped California 42-12, Navy easily beat William and Mary 29-2, Georgia handled Vanderbilt 21-6, Penn State whitewashed VMI 21-0, Florida nipped Mississippi State 14-13 while South Carolina swamped Furman 30-0.

Syracuse reappeared in the AP poll at #14 and was #20 in the UPI poll on 9/28. Ahead of them were Florida, Air Force, who had opened their season with a 20-7 win over Wyoming, 20-7, Auburn, South Carolina, Navy, Ohio State, Georgia, Wisconsin, USC, Texas, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Georgia tech, Clemson, Iowa, Army, Mississippi. Northwestern and LSU.

On October 3rd, Syracuse crushed Maryland 29-0. The big game of the week was #2 Northwestern beating #5 Iowa 14-10. Georgia Tech beat Clemson 16-6. USC shut out Ohio State 17-0 in the Coliseum, (and Woody Hayes punched a Trojan but it wasn’t on national TV so he kept his job). South Carolina beat Georgia 30-14. Army was upset by Illinois 14-20. Notre Dame got clobbered by Purdue 7-28. Navy went down to SMU 7-20. LSU shut out Baylor 22-0, Mississippi did the same to Memphis State 43-0, Tennessee beat Mississippi State 22-6, Texas, taking no prisoners, beat Cal 33-0, Wisconsin badgered Marquette 44-6, Auburn beat Hardin-Simmons 35-12, Air Force won over Trinity (Tex.) 27-6 and Florida swamped poor Virginia 55-10, (the Cavs were in the midst of a 28 game losing streak).

On October 5th, Syracuse was #11 in the AP poll and #12 in the UPI. Ahead of them were South Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Purdue, USC, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia Tech, Northwestern and LSU.

SU sank the Navy 32-6 on October 10th. Georgia Tech beat Tennessee 14-7. Texas topped Oklahoma 19-12. Purdue stopped Wisconsin 21-0. Iowa crushed #16 Michigan State 37-8. LSU, which still hadn’t given up a touchdown in four games, handled Miami 27-3. Northwestern beat Minnesota 6-0. Mississippi had yet to give up a point after beating Vandy 33-0. USC had the week off.

In the October 12th poll, SU was 8th in both polls. Ahead of them were USC, Purdue, Mississippi, Georgia Tech, Texas, Northwestern and LSU.

On October 17, the Orange showed no mercy at Holy Cross, 42-6. USC beat #18 Washington 22-15, (the Huskies only loss that year). Ohio State upset Purdue 15-0. Mississippi finally gave up a score but it didn’t help Tulane 53-7. #11 Auburn topped #4 Georgia Tech 7-6. Texas beat #12 Arkansas 13-12. Northwestern handled Michigan 20-7. LSU shut out Kentucky 9-0.

In the October 19th poll SU was up to #6 in both polls. USC was just ahead of them, then Mississippi, Texas, Northwestern, and LSU.

On October 24th, SU crushed West Virginia 44-0, (in Archbold Stadium- not in Morgantown like the movie). USC survived 30-28 against Stanford. Mississippi dominated #10 Arkansas, 28-0. Texas beat Rice 28-6. Northwestern outlasted Notre Dame 30-24. LSU got another shut-out over Florida 9-0.

In the October 26th poll, SU had slipped ahead of the Trojans to 5th with Texas, Mississippi, Northwestern and LSU still ahead of them.

On October 31st, SU rolled over Pittsburgh 35-0. USC beat California 14-7. Texas shut out SMU 21-0. Northwestern handled Indiana 30-13. But the big game of the year was the famous Halloween Night game between LSU and Mississippi, won by Billy Cannon’s 89 yard punt return, 7-3. The only other unbeaten teams were Penn State, who had climbed the rankings to #7 after beating West Virginia 28-10 and Yale.

In the November 2nd polls, SU was #3 in the AP and #4 in the UPI. LSU, Northwestern and Texas were ahead of them and Mississippi, USC and Penn State behind them.

On November 7th, SU won a classic duel with Penn State 20-18. USC crushed West Virginia 36-0. Texas squeaked by Baylor 13-12. But the top two teams went down. Wisconsin upset Northwestern 24-19 and Tennessee beat LSU 14-13 with a goal-line stand to clinch it.

In the November 9th poll, Syracuse was at the top of the heap for the first time in history, (they would also be #1 for a while in 1960 but have never reached that pinnacle since). Then came Texas, LSU, USC and Mississippi. There were eight other teams with only a single loss staining their records: Northwestern, Wisconsin, Auburn, Penn State, Clemson, Georgia, Washington and Oregon. But the only undefeated teams were Syracuse, Texas, USC and North Texas State.

On November 14th, SU annihilated Colgate 71-0 in their first ever game as a #1 ranked team. Texas was upset by TCU, 9-14. LSU beat Mississippi State 27-0. USC handled Baylor 17-8.Mississippi crushed Tennessee 32-7. Michigan State took down Northwestern 15-10. Illinois did the same to Wisconsin, 9-6. Georgia nipped Auburn 14-13. Penn State took out their frustrations on Holy Cross 46-0. Maryland knocked off Clemson 28-25. Washington shut out California 20-0 and Oregon beat Washington State 7-6.

That left Syracuse and USC as the only undefeated national championship contenders. The Trojans were #2 in the November 16 AP poll but UPI had Mississippi and LSU ranked ahead of them. (This is interesting as Mississippi and LSU were segregated teams who played only segregated teams, something the writers may have minded more than the coaches). Texas, Georgia and Penn State were one loss teams in the Top Ten. Washington was #8 in the AP poll but #14 in UPI and Oregon was #16/#15.

On November 21 Syracuse kept rolling over Boston U., 46-0. UCLA took down USC 10-3, eliminating the last unbeaten rival for the Orange. Pittsburgh upset Penn State 22-7. Oregon went down to Oregon State 7-15. Mississippi, Texas and Georgia had the week off. LSU beat Tulane 14-8 and Washington beat Washington State 20-0.

In the November 23rd poll, SU was the only undefeated team and ranked #1. Mississippi, LSU and Texas followed them. Wisconsin had slipped into #5 despite two losses. Georgia and USC were #6-7. TCU at 7-2 shared #8/#9 with Washington at 9-1.

SU had November 25th off and LSU’s regular season was over. So was Washington’s. Mississippi crushed in-state rival Mississippi State 42-0. Texas beat Texas A&M 20-17. Georgia beat Georgia Tech 21-14. USC went down again to Notre Dame 6-16.

In the November 30 poll, SU was #1. Mississippi and LSU were #2-3 with Texas #4 and Georgia #5. Washington was #7-8. Everybody else had at least two losses. Originally, SU had scheduled only 9 games so their regular season could have been over at this point with the national title in the bag, as there were no polls after the bowls in 1959. But they’d scheduled a 10ths game- a trip to the coast, (their first since the 1924 game vs. USC), to play the same UCLA who had eliminated their last undefeated rival, USC. The Bruins who had been UPI’s national champions in 1954, had won their last four games and anticipated knocking off the Orange. Western writers looked on with interest, wondering of the Orange could handle the Bruins’ speed. They could, 36-8. It was the only game that week, (December 5th) involving ranked teams. The rankings in the final poll were unchanged.

Syracuse agreed to play Texas in the Cotton Bowl . Mississippi and LSU agreed to a rematch in the, (all white), Sugar Bowl. Georgia would play Big 8 champion Missouri in the orange Bowl. Washington was matched with Big Ten champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

The Orange handled Texas 23-14. Georgia beat Missouri 14-0. But the eye-openers were Mississippi dominating LSU 21-0, (they out-gained them 363-74) and Washington crushing Wisconsin 44-8 in the Rose Bowl. I think that if there had been a bowl after the polls Syracuse would have held on to #1 with Mississippi #2 and Washington #3 and Georgia #4. Syracuse actually was already the 1959 national champions when they played Texas but winning that game and the UCLA game made their championship seem valid all over the country and to modern eyes.
 
 
 
 

Scooch

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Very cool, thanks SWC!

I must say, it blows my mind that people I know actually witnessed SU win a football national championship. I simply cannot conceive of seeing one in my own lifetime.
 

cliftonparksufan

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Very cool, thanks SWC!

I must say, it blows my mind that people I know actually witnessed SU win a football national championship. I simply cannot conceive of seeing one in my own lifetime.
Not sure why you say that. I feel very fortunate to have seen the Giants win three Super Bowls and the Cuse win the 2003 basketball title. It wasn't that long ago that we had very good football teams. Since there is a very good chance that Boise State will be playing for a NC this year, there is no reason that it can't happen to the Cuse also.

Yes, thanks SWC. That's a great timeline. It's always piqued my curiousity on how long it would take you to come up with all that info. Trust me when I say that people definitely appreciate it.
 

mantonio

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The problem with Syracuse winning a National Championship under present circumstances is:

The Big East gets only slightly more respect than the Mountain West and WAC Conferences. Just like the Super Smurfs, any undefeated Big East team would not necessarily be a shoo-in for the Title Game, even if an SEC team has one loss... Before the Big East was a Football Conference, we ran into the same problem with Northeastern schools, excluding Penn State, who had a legendary reputation.

Syracuse is undefeated in the 1987 season, & they were not even considered a championship contender, regardless of their tie with Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. Their schedule was decent, but certainly not SEC caliber, & TODAY we are running into the same issue... Had Syracuse beaten Auburn outright, they STILL would not have taken the National Title.

There is a silver lining within this dilemna. As Syracuse builds itself back to power, they can take advantage of their easier schedule to win more games & bring in better players. Now that we can see a different conference alignment coming soon, it might be just in time to usher this improved program into a more respectable football conference, giving them a legitimate shot at a National Title.

It's also possible that the Big East will build its power with other great programs, giving it just enough to make the grade.
 

SWC75

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Not sure why you say that. I feel very fortunate to have seen the Giants win three Super Bowls and the Cuse win the 2003 basketball title. It wasn't that long ago that we had very good football teams. Since there is a very good chance that Boise State will be playing for a NC this year, there is no reason that it can't happen to the Cuse also.

Yes, thanks SWC. That's a great timeline. It's always piqued my curiousity on how long it would take you to come up with all that info. Trust me when I say that people definitely appreciate it.

Actually, that was very easy with the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia. They have all the weekly rankings and what the ranked team the following weekend for every season there's been a poll. All that info was on two pages.
 

SWC75

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The problem with Syracuse winning a National Championship under present circumstances is:

The Big East gets only slightly more respect than the Mountain West and WAC Conferences. Just like the Super Smurfs, any undefeated Big East team would not necessarily be a shoo-in for the Title Game, even if an SEC team has one loss... Before the Big East was a Football Conference, we ran into the same problem with Northeastern schools, excluding Penn State, who had a legendary reputation.

Syracuse is undefeated in the 1987 season, & they were not even considered a championship contender, regardless of their tie with Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. Their schedule was decent, but certainly not SEC caliber, & TODAY we are running into the same issue... Had Syracuse beaten Auburn outright, they STILL would not have taken the National Title.

There is a silver lining within this dilemna. As Syracuse builds itself back to power, they can take advantage of their easier schedule to win more games & bring in better players. Now that we can see a different conference alignment coming soon, it might be just in time to usher this improved program into a more respectable football conference, giving them a legitimate shot at a National Title.

It's also possible that the Big East will build its power with other great programs, giving it just enough to make the grade.

If West Vriginia had beaten a 4-7 Pittsbrugh team in their own backyard in 2007 and if Texas had not been awarded a second chance at a field goal vs. Nebraska in the Big 12 title game in 2009, the Big East would have put two teams in the national title game in three years. Cincinnati would have gotten killed by Alabama but West Virginia would have been playing Ohio State, not LSU in 2007 and I think they might have won. Also Virignia Tech in 1999, West Virignia in 1988 and Pittsburgh in 1976 all played for the national title with teams comperable to the 1987 Syracuse team and Pitt won.

We are in a good situation if get really good and have a dream season again. But the situation seems about to change.
 

SWC75

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Very cool, thanks SWC!

I must say, it blows my mind that people I know actually witnessed SU win a football national championship. I simply cannot conceive of seeing one in my own lifetime.

I didn't witness it. I was 6 years old at the time and not yet into football. The first season I remember followoing is 1961. But there are people on the board, CTO, for example), who have vivid memories of that season.
 

StillJimPA

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I didn't witness it. I was 6 years old at the time and not yet into football. The first season I remember followoing is 1961. But there are people on the board, CTO, for example), who have vivid memories of that season.

A relic speaks...let's say vivid is not the write term. I think zi have every play of that season memorized. I can still hear the thrilling radio broadcast of the Penn State game, the huge west coast game against UCLA, where the Orange quickly destroyed a strong UCLA squad on TV. I can still see Ernie scoring the long pass TD in the Cotton Bowl on a 17 inch Philco bw tv screaming my head off. Really, folks it was not much different than today as far as being a fan goes.

I think it is age dependent but my view of SU is it is a football school that has a great BB program...not a BB school first. Contrary to many on the board I firmly believe SU can again contend for national honors. I see to much defeatism and negativity from some posters regarding the future. Marrone reminds me of Ben and Mac. And his guys play their asses off. The future is bright so go to the games , support this team like he'll....it is going to get better.

While I am at it. The Nebraska game was huge in rebuilding the program.it was this win that put SU back in the top 25 after years of football horror. Think of that game as if Alabama was in the dome on Sat and SU physically beat them up in a big way to win. That is how it was.

As for USC.....I am not saying we will but would an Orange win surprise me?...no.
 

Scooch

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Thanks Jim, I love reading stuff like that. For the other 3 teams I'm a huge fan of (Sox, Pats, Celts) I have family rooting interests that go back generations, so even though team history preceded my arrival on Earth, it's somehow still a part of the experience because I was raised to know it and appreciate it. But for SU, since I didn't grow up in NY nor did I have any SU fans in my family, I only came to it when I got to the Hill in '91, so I have a hard time connecting with the great (and bad) moments from decades ago.

FWIW, I'm not defeatist about SU winning a title in my lifetime, I'm just a realist. More importantly, it allows me to accurately set my expectations. I think people who expect SU to be a consistent top 10 team and contend for national titles are going to end being really miserable.
 

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