The 1938 NCAA football season ended with the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University (TCU) being named the nation’s #1 team by 55 of the 77 voters in the Associated Press writers' poll. Tennessee is also recognized as a national champion, going undefeated and shutting out every opponent that season.
September 24 Defending champion Pittsburgh beat West Virginia, 19-0. California defeated St. Mary’s 12-7. In Los Angeles, Alabama beat USC 19-7. Minnesota defeated Washington 15-0, and Dartmouth beat Bates 46-0.
October 1 Alabama defeated Samford 34-0, Fordham beat Upsala 47-0, Dartmouth beat St Lawrence 51-0, and Notre Dame beat Kansas 52-0. Pitt defeated Temple 28-6, California beat Washington State 27-3, and Minnesota beat Nebraska 16-7.
October 8 Minnesota defeated Purdue 7-0. Alabama beat North Carolina State 14-0. Dartmouth stayed unscored upon, winning at Princeton 22-0. Pittsburgh beat cross-town rival Duquesne 27-0. Fordham beat Waynesburg College 53-0. California played a double-header for the fans, with the reserves beating the California Agricultural school (lager UC-Davis) 48-0, and the varsity and reserves beating College of the Pacific 39-0. In Atlanta, Notre Dame beat Georgia Tech 14-6
October 15 Pittsburgh won at Wisconsin 26-6. California defeated UCLA 20-7. Dartmouth beat Brown 34-13, and Notre Dame beat Illinois 14-6. Minnesota edged Michigan, 7-6. Fordham was tied by Purdue 6-6, and in Birmingham, Alabama was shut out by Tennessee, 13-0. When the first round of balloting was finished, the defending champion Panthers were again #1, followed by Minnesota, California, Dartmouth and Notre Dame.
October 22#1 Pittsburgh beat SMU 34-7. #2 Minnesota was idle. #3 California won at Seattle over Washington 14-7. #4 Dartmouth won at Harvard 13-7. #5 Notre Dame beat #13 Carnegie Tech 7-0. In San Francisco, #6 Santa Clara beat Arkansas 21-6 in San Francisco, while in Milwaukee, #7 TCU beat Marquette 21-0, and the two winners replaced Dartmouth and Notre Dame in the Top Five: 1.Pittsburgh 2.Minnesota 3.California 4.TCU 5. Santa Clara.
October 29#1 Pittsburgh beat #9 Fordham, 24-13. #2 Minnesota fell to #12 Northwestern, 6-3. #3 California beat Oregon State 13-7. #4 TCU beat Baylor 39-7, and #5 Santa Clara won at Michigan State 7-6. #6 Dartmouth won at Yale 24-6 and #7 Notre Dame beat Army in Yankee Stadium, 19-7, and both returned to the Top Five: 1.Pittsburgh 2.TCU 3.California 4.Notre Dame 5.Dartmouth
November 5 In Pittsburgh, the #1 Panthers lost to #19 Carnegie Tech, 20-10. #2 TCU won at Tulsa 21-0. #3 California lost at #13, USC 13-7. In Baltimore, #4 Notre Dame beat Navy 15-0. #5 Dartmouth beat Dickinson College, 44-6. #6 Tennessee beat Chattanooga 45-0 to extend its record to 7-0-0. The Horned Frogs of TCU leaped into the top spot: 1.TCU 2.Notre Dame 3.Pittsburgh 4.Tennessee 5.Dartmouth
November 12#1 TCU beat Texas 28-6. #2 Notre Dame beat #12 Minnesota 19-0. #3 Pittsburgh beat Nebraska 19-0. #4 Tennessee won at Vanderbilt 14-0. #5 Dartmouth lost at #20 Cornell 14-7. #7 Duke remained unbeaten (7-0-0), untied, and unscored upon with a 21-0 win at Syracuse. In the next poll, the Irish moved up to the top rung: 1.Notre Dame 2.TCU 3.Tennessee 4.Duke 5.Pittsburgh
November 19#1 Notre Dame won at #16 Northwestern 9-7. #2 TCU won at Rice 29-7. #3 Tennessee was idle as it prepared for a holiday game. #4 Duke beat N.C. State, 7-0. #5 Pittsburgh beat Penn State 26-0. The rankings shuffled to 1.Notre Dame 2.TCU 3.Duke 4.Pittsburgh 5.Tennessee.
On Thanksgiving Day#5 Tennessee beat Kentucky 46-0, while #6 Oklahoma beat OK State. Two days later, November 26, #1 Notre Dame remained idle. #2 TCU beat SMU in Dallas, 20-7. #3 Duke and #4 Pittsburgh met at Durham, with the hosts winning 7-0. With a record of 9-0-0, Duke had outscored its opponents 114-0, but stayed in third in the final rankings: 1.Notre Dame 2.TCU 3.Duke 4.Pittsburgh 5.Tennessee.
On December 3, #1 Notre Dame lost in Los Angeles to #7 USC, 13-0, and fell from grace to fifth place. #2 TCU received 55 first place votes and, as national champion, accepted a bid to the Sugar Bowl. #4 Tennessee beat Ole Miss 47-0 in Memphis, and moved up to second place. Though the SEC champion would be Sugar Bowl bound in later years, a #1 vs. #2 match was not to be had, as Tennessee instead took a bid for the Orange Bowl. #3 Duke stayed in third place, despite having never been scored upon in 1938, and accepted an invitation to the Rose Bowl. #5 Oklahoma, which beat Washington State 28-0, and moved up to fourth place. Both unbeaten and untied at 10-0-0, Tennessee and Oklahoma would meet in Miami, but the title had been awarded to 10-0-0 TCU.