1. 1920 California. Defeated Utah 63-0. Finished 9-0. Defeated Ohio State in the Rose Bowl 28-0. Outscored the opposition 510-14.
What was said: "Fighting gamely to the last whistle but outclassed and out weighed, the University of Utah gridiron eleven went down to defeat before the onslaught of the husky California Bruins Saturday, the final score being 63-0," Utah Eleven is Swamped by Cal Bruins Who Run Up 63-0 Score, The Deseret News, Oct. 25, 1920. Don't be confused by the reference to UCLA's mascot -- the story uses Bruins and Bears (today's Cal mascot) interchangeably throughout the story, much like Utah did with Redskins and Utes for several decades.
Front-page competition: In an eight-page section, sports took up one page. And the Deseret News didn't cheat its readers, putting six stories above the fold, laid out in a vertical format common for the day. Among the stories were Utah State's scoreless tie with Montana State, a couple of boxing stories -- one of which featured the possibility of Jack Dempsey scheduling his next fight against George Carpenter -- and East High's 83-0 victory against Ogden High at Cummings Field, which was the home of the Utes before Ute Stadium was built. The coach of East High was none other than U. alum Ott Romney, who would later go on to coach basketball at Montana State and football at BYU.
Utah's fate: Hands down, 1920 was the worst year to date in Utah's short football history. It went 1-5-1, notching a 7-0 win against Colorado and a scoreless tie against Wyoming. Without spending an inordinate amount of time on the matter, we'll presume the 1920 season was a result of graduation (the 1919 team went 5-2 and won the Rocky Mountain AC title) and having not built up enough depth following the influenza pandemic that forced Utah (and other schools) to cancel the 1918 season. In 1922, Utah went 7-1 and won the RMAC title. That said, Thomas Fitzgerald, Utah's head coach, was never seen as being up to snuff to his predecessors, most notably Joe Maddock. There some good stuff in "100 Things Utah" from the deep archives that the sentiment toward Fitzgerald wasn't much different than a struggling coach would endure in today's age. As for the 1920 season, not until World War II would a Utah squad fare so poorly
What puts Cal here: Total. Uncompromising. Dominance. Andy Smith took over the Cal program in 1916, and slowly built the Bears into a West Coast monster unlike anything that side of the country had ever seen. Smith's first years featured many games against Bay Area teams that wouldn't raise anyone's eyebrow today -- mostly military teams -- but that didn't stop Cal from claiming its first Pacific Coast Conference title in 1918. In 1920, Cal had a three-week run in which it beat St. Mary's 127-0, Nevada 79-7 and Utah 63-0. Cal's next four games against respected programs that carry a name today were by a 132-7 aggregate against Oregon State, Washington State, Stanford and Ohio State -- the latter a 28-0 victory in the Rose Bowl. For the season, Cal outscored the opposition 510-14.
The next year saw more of the same against a similar schedule. Cal outscored its foes 312-33 in going 9-0-1 -- the only misstep being a scoreless tie against Washington & Jefferson in the Rose Bowl in what has to be one of the biggest pre-WWII upsets ever. Again, Cal is and was recognized as national champions, by many of the era's official voters, as well as retroactively by computer rankings gurus like Jeff Sagarin. Cal three-peated as national champs in 1922, outscoring its foes by a 398-34 margin in going 9-0.
Cal's black mark: This has nothing to do with either the team or the 1920 season, but Cal's student government voted to turn down a bid in 1922, and USC -- which had actually finished fourth in the Pacific Coast Conference -- earned the Rose Bowl bid by process of a complicated tiebreaker. Cal's national title run ended in 1924 -- but not its unbeaten streak -- as the Bears finished 8-0-2. Cal slipped to 6-3 in 1925 before the tragic happened -- Smith died of pnuemonia and per his request, his ashes were scattered over the field at Memorial Stadium, still known today as "The House that Andy Built." In 17 years at Penn, Purdue and Cal, Smith went 116-32-13, and to date is still Cal's winningest football coach.