The 1943 NCAA football season concluded with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame crowned as the nation’s #1 team by a majority of the voters in the AP Poll, followed by the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks as the runner-up. For the third time in the history of the AP Poll, a team that had lost a game was named mythical national champion; (Minnesota 1936 and Ohio State 1942). Notre Dame lost its final game of the season, a Chicago contest against the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Along the way, however, the Fighting Irish had played one of the toughest college schedules ever, beating two #2 ranked teams (Michigan and Iowa Pre-Flight) and two #3 ranked teams (Navy and Army).
In 1943, as many as 131 sportswriters participated in the AP poll, which included, for the first time, “service teams“. Drawn from flight schools and training centers for participants in World War II, the service teams played against the colleges. At the same time, a number of universities suspended their football programs. Most of the members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) -- Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt -- did not field teams in 1943. In addition, Pacific Coast Conference teams Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, and Stanford, did not play, nor did Boston College, the Citadel, Duquesne, Fordham, Harvard, Michigan State, Syracuse, and William & Mary.
Conference and program changes
On September 17, Georgia beat Presbyterian College 25-7. The next day, September 18, Michigan won at Camp Grant, 26-0. Wisconsin lost to Marquette, 33-7, on its way to a 1-9-0 finish.
Ohio State lost to Iowa Pre-Flight 28-13. Michigan beat Western Michigan 57-6. Notre Dame won at Pitt, 42-0.
Army beat Villanova 27-0 and Navy beat North Carolina Pre-Flight, 31-0. Georgia lost at LSU, 34-27. Tulsa beat SMU 20-7, Georgia Tech beat North Carolina 20-7.
October 2 Michigan won at Northwestern 21-7. Notre Dame beat Georgia Tech 55-13. Army defeated Colgate 42-0 and Navy beat Cornell 46-7.
October 9 #1 Notre Dame beat #2 Michigan, 35-21. #3 Army registered another shutout, defeating Temple 51-0. In Baltimore, #4 Navy edged #5 Duke, 14-13. #6 Penn edged Dartmouth 7-6. #7 Purdue went to 4-0-0 with a 19-0 win over Camp Grant.
October 16 #1 Notre Dame won at Wisconsin 50-0. #2 Army won at Columbia, 52-0. In four games, the Cadets had outscored their opponents 172-0. #3 Navy beat Penn State 14-6. #4 Penn beat the Lakehurst Naval Air Station 74-6. #5 Purdue beat Ohio State 30-7 at a game in Cleveland.
October 23 #1 Notre Dame beat Illinois 47-0. #2 Army yielded its first points, but won at Yale, 39-7. #3 Navy beat Georgia Tech 28-14 in Baltimore. #4 Purdue beat Iowa 28-7. #5 Penn won at Columbia, 33-0, but dropped from the Top Five. #7 USC stayed unbeaten, untied, and unscored upon with a 6-0 win over Pacific.
October 30 In Cleveland, #1 Notre Dame beat #3 Navy, 33-6. In Philadelphia, #2 Army and #6 Pennsylvania played to a 13-13 tie. #4 Purdue won at Wisconsin, 32-0. #5 USC beat California, 13-0, for its sixth straight shutout.
November 6 At Yankee Stadium in New York, #1 Notre Dame beat #3 Army, 26-0. #2 Purdue won at Minnesota, 14-7. #4 USC lost at San Diego to the San Diego Navy team. #5 Penn lost to #7 Navy, 24-7. #6 Michigan beat Indiana 23-6. #8 Iowa Pre-Flight continued its unbeaten streak with a 46-19 win at Marquette on November 7, and became the first “service team” to ever reach the AP’s Top Five.
November 13 #1 Notre Dame won at Northwestern 25-6. #2 Purdue was idle. #3 Navy won at Columbia 61-0. #4 Michigan beat Wisconsin 27-0. #5 Iowa Pre-Flight beat Camp Grant 28-13.
November 20 #1 Notre Dame edged #2 Iowa Pre-Flight, 14-13. #3 Purdue closed its season undefeated (9-0-0) with a 7-0 win at Indiana. #4 Michigan closed its season at 8-1-0 with a 45-7 win over Ohio State. #5 Navy was idle. The following week, it closed its season with a 13-0 win over Army in the Army–Navy Game, which took place at West Point. Duke closed its season at 8-1-0 with a 27-6 win over North Carolina.
November 27 #1 Notre Dame closed its season with a 19-14 loss to Great Lakes NTC, 19-14, but still finished #1 in the final rankings. #2 Iowa Pre-Flight beat Minnesota, 32-0, to finish at 9-1-0. #3 Michigan, #4 Purdue, and #5 Duke had finished their seasons, as had #6 Navy, which rose to fourth place in the final poll.
The following is a potentially incomplete list of conference standings: