If we think the process by which we select a National Champion in college football is convoluted now, just take a quick glance back at the past. I mean way back, like the 30s, 40s, and 50s. It seems like so many schools claim so many national championships from those decades, and everyone has their own reasoning to help them justify their crown. And many of these early championships are actually claimed later, when the players that earned the titles have not seen action on a football field in decades. The latest to add their name to the list of schools claiming championships after the fact is Auburn, whose AD now wants to claim up to seven more championships for a school that already has two. The timing for this seems to be perfect - the Tigers just missed out on another championship this January -, and the reasoning seems to be more than clear; Why not?
Auburn could also be claiming additional championships because its in-state rival, Alabama, is the undisputed king of this process. The Tide claim 15 national championships, and while no one will argue the impressive history of their dynasty in college football, many do dispute the basis by which they claim some of those 15.
But that's a tired argument to dispute; no, I'm not here to argue against away any Alabama championships claimed (well, except for maybe one). What I am here to do is pose this question - why not MSU? If other schools are going to go back and retroactively claim national titles, then why should Mississippi State not do the same? I'm speaking specifically about two seasons - 1940 and 1941.
First up is 1940, when Mississippi State went 10-0-1 and won the Orange Bowl over Georgetown. The Bulldogs finished 9th in the AP Poll that season, but according to the Howell Power Ratings, State tied with Stanford for the #1 overall spot that year. You may be saying, "who really counts a random rating system like that when claiming championships?" Well, Auburn does, as they base at least one championship (1914) off the Howell system alone, and several others use Howell as one of several ways they finished #1. Hooray! We're champions after all! It feels so great, even though most of us now celebrating in our cubicles weren't even close to being born then. With that championship claimed, let's move on to take a look at 1941.
In the 1941 season, the Bulldogs went 8-1-1 with only a loss to Duquense and a tie with LSU besmirching their perfect record. MSU won the SEC that season and claimed a spot inside the final AP Top 20. While that hardly seems worthy of a national championship, take into consideration the fact that Alabama claims a championship for that year. The Tide finished 9-2, with one of those losses coming at the hands of the Bulldogs. Despite two losses, the Houlgate System, which I can find almost zero information on, selected the Tide as well as Texas, to be the national champions. Texas does not claim this year as a championship, but Alabama does.
So, which system or ratings index or poll chose MSU as a champion that season? None did, actually. There were numerous teams in front of MSU that finished with perfect records, including Duquense, who handed State their only loss that year. But if we worked off the transitive property - that is to say that if Alabama claims a championship and MSU beat them, then we can claim one as well -, should we just go ahead and claim that season as a NC for ourselves? I don't see why not. We may not have much of an argument when Minnesota, Duquense, or other fanbases come calling, but we will for Alabama fans.
I say go for it, MSU Athletics Department. What do you have to lose? It's not like those who ruled over college football during that time are going to call us up and dispute our claims. Besides, like we used to claim so many times when we were children, everyone else is doing it.
Man does it feel good to be a (sort of) champion!
[NOTE:] This post was mostly written in jest, but if you are up for it Athletics Department I would totally support it as a fan