For the 1942 college football season, Ohio State was named national champion in the final AP Poll at the end of November and did not make a bowl appearance. Georgia defeated UCLA in the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1943. Four contemporary math systems ("major selectors" according to the NCAA records book) listed the Bulldogs as No. 1. At the time, the AP did not conduct a post-bowl poll.
In 1942, as many as 156 sportswriters participated in the AP poll (which did not take into account bowl games). Each writer listed his choice for the top ten teams, and points were tallied based on 10 for first place, 9 for second, etc., and the AP then ranked the twenty teams with the highest number of points.
The United States had entered World War II, and able-bodied men of college age had volunteered for, or been drafted into, the armed forces. "Service teams," many of which had former collegiate or professional players who had entered the Army or the Navy, played games against the college programs. In 1942, teams were fielded by Georgia Pre-Flight, the Great Lakes Naval Station, Iowa Pre-Flight, Jacksonville NAS, and St. Mary's Preflight.
On September 19, in Louisville, Georgia defeated Kentucky, 7–6. The following Friday, Georgia defeated the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, 14–0, in Macon. The soldiers at the Flight School at the University of Iowa, organized as the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks, overwhelmed Kansas, 61–0.
Most schools got their seasons underway on September 26. Defending champion Minnesota beat Pittsburgh, 50–7. Duke beat Davidson 21–0. Notre Dame and Wisconsin played to a 7–7 tie in Madison. Illinois beat South Dakota 46–0. In Montgomery, Alabama beat South Louisiana Institute (later University of Louisiana at Lafayette), 54–0. Texas beat the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, 18–7. Michigan beat the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, 9–0. Before its smallest crowd since 1933 (22,555) Ohio State defeated a service team, the Fort Knox Armoraiders, 59–0. Iowa Pre-Flight won again, at Northwestern, 20–12.
Minnesota's winning streak ended when the defending national champs lost their first game in almost four years, to the Seahawks of Iowa Pre-Flight (who just happened to be coached that season by "former" Minnesota head coach Bernie Bierman who had taken leave from Minnesota to serve as an officer in the military during World War II), 7–6. Ohio State beat Indiana 32–21. Michigan beat Michigan State 20–0. Illinois defeated Butler 67–0. Texas beat LSU 27–14. Notre Dame lost to Georgia Tech 13–6. Georgia defeated Furman 40–7. Alabama beat Mississippi State 21–6. Duke lost at Wake Forest, 20–7.
Minnesota lost at Illinois, 20–13. Ohio State beat visiting USC, 28–12. Michigan lost to Iowa Pre-Flight, 26–14. Georgia beat Ole Miss, 48–13, at Memphis. In Mobile, Alabama defeated the Pensacola NAS, 27–0. Texas lost at Tulane, 18–7. In the poll that followed, the Top Five consisted of three teams from the Big Nine (No. 1 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan, and No. 5 Illinois) and two from the SEC (No. 2 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama).
No. 1 Ohio State beat Purdue 26–0. No. 2 Georgia beat Tulane 40–0. No. 3 Michigan defeated Northwestern 34–16. In Birmingham, No. 4 Alabama beat No. 15 Tennessee, 8–0. No. 5 Illinois won at No. 19 Iowa, 12–7. Losing also that day was Iowa Pre-Flight, which sustained its first loss at Notre Dame, 28–0.
In the next poll, the Top Five shuffled slightly, with Alabama and Michigan trading places: Ohio State (No. 1), Georgia (No. 2), Alabama (No. 3), Michigan (No. 4), Illinois (No. 5).
No. 1 Ohio State won at Northwestern 20–6. No. 2 Georgia won at Cincinnati 35–13. No. 3 Alabama won at Kentucky, 14–0. No. 4 Michigan lost at No. 13 Minnesota, 16–14. No. 5 Illinois lost to No. 8 Notre Dame, 21–14. No. 6 Georgia Tech won at Navy, 21–0.
In the poll that followed, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech replaced Michigan and Illinois: Ohio State (No. 1), Georgia (No. 2), Alabama (No. 3), Notre Dame (No. 4), Georgia Tech (No. 5).
No. 1 Ohio State lost at No. 6 Wisconsin, 17–7. In Atlanta, No. 2 Georgia beat No. 3 Alabama, 21–10. No. 4 Notre Dame beat Navy in Cleveland, 9–0. No. 5 Georgia Tech won at Duke, 26–7. No. 7 Boston College beat Georgetown, 47–0. The Georgia Bulldogs took over first place in the poll that followed, and Wisconsin and Boston College moved in while Ohio State and Alabama fell out: 1. Georgia 2. Wisconsin 3. Georgia Tech 4. Notre Dame 5. Boston College.
In Jacksonville, No. 1 Georgia beat Florida, 75–0. No. 2 Wisconsin lost at unranked Iowa, 6–0. No. 3 Georgia Tech beat Kentucky 47–7. No. 4 Notre Dame beat Army 13–0 at Yankee Stadium. No. 5 Boston College beat Temple, 28–0. No. 8 Alabama beat South Carolina 29–0 and moved into the Top Five as Wisconsin dropped out. The nation's top two teams were Georgia and Georgia Tech: Georgia (No. 1), Georgia Tech (No. 2), Boston College (No. 3), Notre Dame (No. 4), Alabama (No. 5).
No. 1 Georgia won at Chattanooga, 40–0. In Atlanta, No. 2 Georgia Tech beat No. 5 Alabama 7–0. No. 3 Boston College beat Fordham at home, 56–6. No. 4 Notre Dame lost to No. 6 Michigan, 32–20, while in Cleveland, No. 10 Ohio State beat No. 13 Illinois 44–20. The poll: Georgia (No. 1), Georgia Tech (No. 2), Boston College (No. 3), Michigan (No. 4), Ohio State (No. 5).
In Columbus, Georgia, No. 1 Georgia lost to unranked Auburn, 27–13. No. 2 Georgia Tech beat Florida 20–7. No. 3 Boston College defeated Boston University, 37–0. No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 Ohio State met in Columbus, with OSU winning 21–7, capturing the Big Nine championship. No. 7 Wisconsin beat No. 10 Minnesota 21–6 to finish its season at 8–1–1. In the next poll, the Boston College Eagles were No. 1: Boston College (No. 1), Georgia Tech (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3), Wisconsin (No. 4), Georgia (No. 5).
No. 1 Boston College lost to unranked Holy Cross, 55–12. No. 2 Georgia Tech visited No. 5 Georgia, and lost 34–0. No. 3 Ohio State defeated the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks, 41–12, finishing 9–1–0 and capturing the No. 1 ranking in the final AP poll, ahead of No. 2 Georgia, No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 4 Tulsa, and No. 5 Georgia Tech.