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Rearview Mirror: Ye Olde Fashioned Power Rankings

Coach Alex got dirty to hand it to the Athenians in the mud.

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These are the boys.
Georgia Tech Archives/George C. Griffin Photograph Collection (

Welcome back to From the Rumble Seat’s PREMIER history column. Whoever puts out that swill about matchups on Fridays must not know anything. Oh. Wait. That guy is me. Anyways, I had forgotten where we were until I remembered. I was going to write about political wrangling and such but we’re switching it up. It’s bye week. We need some vigor to get through this week without football. What a great story. Anyways, without further adieu here’s your 1927 power rankings.

Since your friendly neighborhood history columnist is but a shill taking advantage of what was all the rage yesterday, we’re going to jump into some Rearview Mirror power rankings. How are we gonna rank these teams? You guessed it, I’m gonna let someone else do it. So here’s what some guy well after the fact thought about the 1927 season, using numbers and math and such. Crazy, right?

1927 Dickinson Rankings

Rank Team Record Rating
Rank Team Record Rating
1 Illinois Fighting Illini 7-0-1 21.5
2 Pittsburgh Panthers 8-0-1 21.42
3 Minnesota Gophers 6-0-2 20.88
4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 7-1-1 20.83
5 Yale Bulldogs 7-1 20
6 Army Cadets 9-1 18.75
7 Michigan Wolverines 6-2 18.33
8 Georgia Bulldogs 9-1 17.5
9 Nebraska Cornhuskers 6-2 17.42
10 USC Trojans 8-1-1 16.35
11 Texas A&M Aggies 8-0-1 15
via Wikipedia

There’s one super important takeaway to notice from this chart: the school out East is not at the top of it. You’d be understandably right to ask why the heck we’re even looking at these if Tech is nowhere near this list. And that’s a smart question. What else is a smart question? Asking where my own power rankings are. So, with even less adieu than the first time I said that, here’s the top ten list of smaller decisions that led to the most underrated, sly football move you’ve never heard of. Probably.

10) Restarting the series with the Athenians

Why is it important to play the school out east? Well, as discussed the last time we talked about history and not homecoming, Tech and that place that builds arches with three columns weren’t exactly on great terms for a while there. There was the whole calling-us-cowardly-draft-dodgers thing, after all. And how best to prove a point to a school that literally uses the government itself to make your school’s very existence an impossibility at best, in a time when conferences were about as loosely associated as divisions in intramural sports? Just don’t play them. So they didn’t. Tech went years without playing the school in Athens. Their pride was hurt. But, eventually, administrations change. Relationships thaw. Tech began playing the Athenians again in 1925, and barely won, 3-0. That’s how this makes this onto the top 10. What makes it tenth is that they turned around and had a middling season the next year that they finished up with a narrow 14-13 loss to the school out east.

9) Playing teams from the North

Coach Alex wasn’t afraid to schedule teams aggressively in those days. According to Wallace, “Alex had loaded his schedule in his first years as head coach. And although Navy, Notre Dame, and Penn State generally whipped the Tech teams, Alex staunchly defended his actions. ‘They will beat us nine times out of ten,’ he said, ‘but in losing we will learn a lot of football. We will gain prestige nationally. And when we win, it will be a mighty sweet victory. It means something to beat Notre Dame,’” (Wallace, 86). So Tech played great teams, but they often lost.

8) Losing to teams from the South

Why is this ranked higher than playing and losing to superior teams from the North? In those days, Tech was head and shoulders above the rest of the South. Or so the thought went. It took the rest of the South catching up to the Jackets for them to realize that they needed to change. An uninspiring 3-2-4 1923 slate was followed in 1926 by a lowly 4-5 record. Alex needed to change something, or he’d be in trouble.

7) Looking past VMI and Tulane to focus on Alabama

At the same time Tech was faltering, the school out east and Wallace Wade’s Alabama Crimson Tide were on the rise. In order to beat Alabama, it would take an extreme amount of focus and diligence. They were pretty good. Thankfully, Tech didn’t fall prey to the original version of the trap game and beat both opponents handily.

6) Forcing turnovers in the red zone

A tale as old as time! Tech had played Alabama to a draw in the first quarter, extending their scoreless drought against the Crimson Tide to its seventeenth quarter. Leading by a score, Tech stripped Alabama on the one yard line and marched the ball all the way down the field to put Wade and his boys away. Alabama would not be heading to their third straight Rose Bowl.

5) Not losing to UNC. Or tying.

This is something we can all get behind. We have a knack for losing to North Carolina - or tying them - when we really have no business not winning. Nothing to see here, just taking care of business, but with the added bonus of not having had to stare right through two opponents in order to make it happen.

4) Losing to Notre Dame, 1927 Edition

If there’s such a thing as a moral victory in football, and this writer isn’t totally convinced there is, then this is probably the dictionary definition of it. Alex, who was clearly all over the place this season, was still looking ahead. Knowing the vast gulf of talent between his team and the Fighting Irish, especially on the road in South Bend, he figured he couldn’t win both the Notre Dame game and the Vanderbilt game without running his team into the ground before facing the school in Athens. So they retreated to move forward. They lost by three scores. After the game, though, Alex knew they had more left than he had given them credit for.

3) Psych, Alex was just getting them ready for Vanderbilt

A character building segment capped with a victory over the Commodores. The Jackets set into motion the final piece of Alex’s wild plot with a convincing win over Vanderbilt.

2) Double psych, Alex hired one of the Four Horseman and plotted against LSU and Auburn, also Oglethorpe

So, all along, Alex had been worried about his team’s depth and ability to sustain the full brunt of a ten game season. With a victory against Vanderbilt under their belt, Tech went to work implementing the plan Alex had been sitting on all season. He knew the significance of beating the school out east in a regular year. However, this was no ordinary season. Rather, the “Dream and Wonder” team from Athens would be rolling onto the field in four weeks, full of hope and promise. It became the starters’ duty to train solely for this contest. In the meantime, the rest of the Jackets would take care of nonentity Oglethorpe, a bad LSU team, and a legendarily awful winless Auburn team. The schedule played right into the Old Man’s hands. Tech had their Notre Dame game in the rearview mirror, which was helpful in more ways than one. The experience of playing a good team was great. Seeing their offense, however, was better, especially considering Tech had one of the legendary Four Horsemen on staff. Conveniently, the school in Athens had ripped off Notre Dame’s offense, already possessing Yale’s stadium design and mascot, marching band uniforms from the British, a fight song from the Union Army, hedges from literally everywhere, and, later on, a logo sourced from a bunch of Wisconsinite meatpackers. It makes sense their schemes weren’t any more original than putting both peanut butter and jelly on a sandwich. After Tech pocketed three straight wins with only sparing play by just two or three of the starters, that practice time would prove very useful to the Jackets.

1) Beating the Athenians to spoil their undefeated season which surely would have seen them going to the Rose Bowl otherwise

When the day finally game, the playing surface at Grant Field was not looking great. It had rained for ages straight, turning the field to a muddy mess. The guests’ heavy reliance on several things, most notably their passing, would be hindered by the weather. Tech’s boys were ready. The were rested. They were prepared. The won, 12-0. Neither the mud, nor the collective pigskin hopes and dreams of the denizens of Clarke County hitched to the wagon of the greatest team that had ever come their way could stop the Jackets. They were too good. And, in the end, they did just that - they won.

If you’ve made it this far, you probably have come to realize I’m even more of an opportunist than you thought in the first place. You see, those are all in chronological order. In my defense, every decision directly impacted the one after it. But no matter. The important thing is, in the end, the good guys won and Coach Alex was right. The Plan was executed to a T. The Jackets won. The Athenians lost. And the Old Man made some good choices.

A special thanks to Dress Her in White and Gold, Engineering the New South, and the Georgia Tech Archives for the background information and images used in writing this column.

If you have any events or ideas you would like to see investigated, leave a comment below. Until next time, go Jackets!