No. 1-ranked Alabama (13-0) and No. 2 ranked Clemson (13-0) enter the College Football Playoff looking to go a perfect 15-0 and win the national championship—a feat not achieved since the 1897 Penn Quakers.
Coached by Future Hall of Famer George Woodruff, the Red & Blue opened the 1897 season with a 46-0 thumping of Lafayette. The Quakers followed up with shutout wins over Bucknell (17-0) and Franklin & Marshall (33-0).
On Sept. 29, Penn faced off against Washington & Jefferson College and gave up their first points of the season in a 18-4 victory.
The Quakers goose-egged their next nine opponents, including defeats of Gettysburg (57-0), Lehigh (58-0), Virginia (42-0), and Penn State (24-0).
Carlisle on Nov. 6 gave Penn a game, but the Red & Blue triumphed 20-10. Close games against Harvard (15-6) and Cornell (4-0) closed out the Quakers’ undefeated season.
Penn averaged 29.5 points per game and only gave up 1.3.
Playing tackle for the Red & Blue was John Outland, who transferred to Penn from the University of Kansas in order to study medicine. He was an All-American tackle in 1897 and an All-American halfback in 1898. He is one of only a handful of players to earn All-American honors at two positions. The Outland Trophy, awarded annually to college football’s best interior lineman, is named in his honor. In 2001, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Also on the team was All-American Thomas Truxton “T.T.” Hare, who played the guardsback position. Hare was named an All-American during all four of his years at Penn. Football godfather Walter Camp once said Hare was the only player who could have made All-American at any position. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
The 1897 national championship was Penn’s third in four years. They were also the country’s top team in 1894 (12-0) and 1895 (14-0).