The 1939 college football season concluded with the Aggies of The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (Texas A&M) being named as the national champions by the voters in the Associated Press writers' poll.
The Volunteers of the University of Tennessee were unbeaten and untied, and unscored upon, shutting out all of their opponents in ten games; but for the second straight year, they finished second in the poll. The final AP Poll in this era came out before postseason bowl games and, in the 1940 Rose Bowl, the Volunteers were unable to hold everyone scoreless, with the University of Southern California registering two touchdowns and beating them 14–0. As a consequence, the Dickinson System named USC, which had been ranked No. 3 in the final AP Poll before the bowl games, the national champion. As a result, the USC Trojans now claim a share of the 1939 title. However, USC did not begin recognizing 1939 as a national championship until 2004.
The first AP Poll of the season was taken after four weeks of play, starting with October 16. 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.
October 7 Tennessee beat Sewanee 40–0. Duke defeated Colgate 37–0. Notre Dame beat Georgia Tech 17–14. Tulane beat Auburn 12–0. Oklahoma won at Northwestern, 23–0.
October 14 Pittsburgh beat Duke 14–13.
Tennessee won at Chattanooga, 28–0.
Notre Dame edged SMU, 20–19.
Tulane beat Fordham 7–0.
Oklahoma beat Texas 24–12.
October 21 No. 1 Pittsburgh lost to cross-town rival Duquesne, 21–13. In Cleveland, No. 2 Notre Dame defeated Navy, 14–7. No. 3 Oklahoma beat Kansas 27–7. No. 4 Tulane and visiting No. 14 North Carolina played to a 14–14 tie. No. 5 Tennessee continued shutting out its opponents, beating No. 8 Alabama 21–0, and was voted No. 1 in the next poll. No. 6 Michigan visited the Windy City and handed the University of Chicago an 85–0 defeat. No. 9 Texas A&M reached 5–0–0 with a 20–6 win over TCU, and rose to fifth in the next poll. No. 10 Ohio State won at Minnesota, 23–20.
No. 1 Tennessee defeated Mercer, 17–0. In Pittsburgh, No. 2 Notre Dame edged Carnegie Tech, 7–6. No. 3 Michigan beat Yale 27–7. No. 4 Ohio State lost to No. 7 Cornell, 23–14. No. 5 Texas A&M beat Baylor 20–0. Nebraska defeated Kansas State in the second televised football game 25–9.
November 4 No. 1 Tennessee won at No. 18 LSU, 20–0. No. 2 Michigan lost at unranked Illinois, 16–7. No. 3 Cornell beat Columbia 13–7. At Yankee Stadium, No. 4 Notre Dame beat Army 14–0. No. 5 Texas A&M won at Arkansas 27–0. No. 7 USC beat No. 11 Oregon State 19–7 in Portland.
November 11 No. 1 Tennessee shut out the Citadel, 34–0
No. 2 Texas A&M defeated No. 13 SMU 6–2. No. 3 Notre Dame, victor by one point in previous games, lost at unranked Iowa, 7–6. No. 4 USC beat Stanford 20–12. No. 5 Cornell narrowly beat Colgate 14–12. No. 6 Oklahoma won at Kansas State 13–10.
November 18 No. 1 Tennessee extended its shutout streak, beating Vanderbilt 13–0. Having outscored its opposition, 186–0, Tennessee had a record of 8–0–0, but fell to second in the poll that followed.
No. 2 Texas A&M won at Rice 19–0, and was No. 1 in the next poll. No. 3 USC was idle. No. 4 Cornell won at No. 20 Dartmouth, 35–6, to stay unbeaten. No. 5 Oklahoma lost at No. 12 Missouri, 7–6. No. 6 Tulane beat Columbia 25–0.
In the next poll, Texas A&M-- which had gotten none of the first place votes the week before—was first, with 38 votes. Tennessee, which had had 66 of the 85 No. 1 votes the week before, had 33 on the new round of ballots, and finished second. There were 20 for Cornell, and 11 for USC.
No. 1 Texas A&M and
No. 2 Tennessee were idle. In Philadelphia, No. 3 Cornell closed its season with a 26–0 over Penn, to finish unbeaten and untied at 8–0–0. No. 4 USC won at No. 7 Notre Dame, 20–12. No. 5 Tulane beat Sewanee 52–0. In the next round of voting, Texas A&M tied for first place, with 939 points apiece. A&M had more first place votes (27 to 25), but Cornell, with 34 votes, had more. Cornell had 909 points overall.
On Thanksgiving Day, which fell on November 30 in 1939, No. 1 Texas A&M beat Texas 20–0, to complete a 10–0–0 season, and No. 4 Tennessee won at Kentucky, 19–0. Two days later,
December 2, No. 1 USC beat Washington 9–7. No. 5 Tulane beat LSU 33–20.
No. 1 Texas A&M had finished its season and accepted a bid to the Sugar Bowl. No. 2 Tennessee beat Auburn 7–0. No. 3 USC and No. 9 UCLA played to a 0–0 tie.
No. 4 Cornell and No. 5 Tulane had both completed their seasons.