The 1957 NCAA University Division football season saw two different national champions. Auburn University was ranked first in the AP writers' poll taken at season's end, while Ohio State University was first in the UPI coaches' poll. Auburn was ineligible for a bowl game, however, having been placed on probation indefinitely by the Southeastern Conference, after having paid two high school players $500 apiece.
During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A. The NCAA did recognize a national champion based upon the final results of "wire service" (AP and UPI) polls. The extent of that recognition came in the form of acknowledgment in the annual NCAA Football Guide of the "unofficial" national champions. The AP poll in 1957 consisted of the votes of as many as 360 sportswriters. The UPI poll was taken of a panel of 35 coaches. In both cases, the voters would give their opinion of the ten best teams, and under a point system of 10 points for first place, 9 for second, etc., the "overall" ranking was determined. The top teams played on New Year's Day in the four major postseason bowl games: the Rose Bowl (near Los Angeles at Pasadena), the Sugar Bowl (New Orleans), the Orange Bowl (Miami), and the Cotton Bowl Classic (Dallas).
In the preseason poll released on September 16, the defending champion Sooners of the University of Oklahoma—who had won 40 consecutive games in '53, '54, '55, and '56 -- were the first place choice for 127 of 174 writers casting votes, followed by Texas A&M, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Tennessee. As the regular season progressed, a new poll would be issued on the Monday following the weekend's games.
September 20–21 The U.S. Air Force Academy, founded two years earlier played its first major college schedule in 1957. The Falcons made their debut at UCLA on Friday night and lost 47–0. They would finish their first season 3–6–1, but were undefeated the following year. On Saturday, #1 Oklahoma won at Pittsburgh 26–0. #2 Texas A&M beat Maryland 21–13 in a game at Dallas. #3 Michigan State, #4 Minnesota, and #5 Tennessee had not yet begun their seasons. #11 Georgia Tech beat Kentucky 13–0 and rose to third, while #12 Navy won 46–6 at Boston College and rose to fifth. The first AP poll was 1.Oklahoma, 2.Texas A&M, 3.Georgia Tech, 4.Michigan State, 5.Navy.
September 28 - #1 Oklahoma was idle. #2 Texas A&M won at Texas Tech 21–0 and #3 Georgia Tech played to a scoreless tie with SMU. #4 Michigan State beat Indiana 54–0. #5 Navy beat visiting William & Mary 33–6. #6 Minnesota, which beat Washington 46–7, and #7 Duke, which had beaten Virginia 40-0, rose to 3rd and 4th place. The poll was 1.Oklahoma, 2.Michigan State, 3.Minnesota, 4.Duke, and 5.Texas A&M.
October 5 - #1 Oklahoma beat Iowa State 40-14. #2 Michigan State won at California 19–0. #3 Minnesota beat visiting Purdue 21–17, #4 Duke beat Maryland 14–0, and #5 Texas A&M won at Missouri 28–0. The poll was 1.Oklahoma, 2.Michigan State, 3.Texas A & M, 4.Minnesota, and 5.Duke.
October 12 - A crowd of 75,504 watched in Dallas as #1 Oklahoma had a difficult time with unranked Texas; the Longhorns picked off four passes and the score was 7–7 at the half before the Sooners preserved their winning streak 21–7 in a game that wasn't pretty. At the same time, #2 Michigan State won 35–6 at Michigan, leading the AP voters to re-evaluate. #3 Texas A&M won 28–6 over Houston. #4 Minnesota won 41–6 at Northwestern. #5 Duke narrowly beat Rice in Houston, 7–6. The Spartans took over the top spot in the next poll: 1.Michigan State, 2.Oklahoma, 3.Texas A & M, 4.Minnesota, and 5.Duke.
October 19 - #1 Michigan State lost 20–13 to Purdue and fell out of the top five, and #2 Oklahoma beat Kansas 47–0 and reclaimed the top spot. #3 Texas A&M won 7–0 at TCU and #4 Minnesota lost at Illinois 34–14. #5 Duke beat Wake Forest 34-7, and #6 Iowa beat #13 Wisconsin 21–7, while #9 Auburn beat Georgia Tech 3–0 in Atlanta and rose to fifth place in the polls. The poll: 1.Oklahoma, 2.Texas A & M, 3.Iowa, 4.Duke, and 5.Auburn.
October 26 - #1 Oklahoma edged Colorado 14–13, and lost the top spot again, despite being 5–0. #2 Texas A&M beat Baylor 14–0, and replaced the Sooners in the next poll. #3 Iowa won 6–0 at Northwestern and rose to third. #4 Duke went to neighboring Raleigh to play North Carolina State, and ended with a 14–14 tie. #5 Auburn won at Houston 48–7. #7 Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh 13–7 and rose to fifth. The poll: 1.Texas A & M, 2.Oklahoma, 3.Iowa, 4.Auburn, and 5.Notre Dame.
November 2 - #1 Texas A&M got past host Arkansas 7–6, and #2 Oklahoma won at Kansas State 13–0. #3 Iowa played Michigan to a 21–21 tie, and #4 Auburn beat Florida 13–0. #5 Notre Dame lost 20–6 to visiting Navy, and #6 Michigan State won 21–7 at Wisconsin and rose to fifth. The poll: 1.Texas A & M, 2.Oklahoma, 3.Auburn, 4.Michigan State, and 5.Iowa.
November 9 - #1 Texas A&M beat SMU 19–6 and #2 Oklahoma won at Missouri 39–14. #3 Auburn beat Mississippi State 15–7 in Birmingham, #4 Michigan State beat Notre Dame 34–6, and #5 Iowa beat Minnesota 44–20. The poll remained unchanged.
November 16 - #1 Texas A&M lost 7–6 to Rice in Houston. #2 Oklahoma had not lost a game since early in 1953, had won 47 consecutive games, when they hosted Notre Dame. The Irish, 4–2 and on a losing streak, were an 18-point underdog coming into Norman. The Sooners, who had scored in 123 consecutive games (dating back to 1945), were unable to reach the end zone, but had held off the Irish on two goal line stands. In the final minutes, Notre Dame was on the 3-yard line on fourth down, when Dick Lynch "crossed up the Sooners" and ran around right end for a touchdown. Oklahoma's desperate passing drive at game's end was stopped by a Notre Dame interception, and the crowd of 62,000 was stunned into silence... and then stood up and applauded for both the Sooners and the Irish. The previous defeat, more than four years earlier, had been at the hands of Notre Dame as well. Final score: Notre Dame 7, Oklahoma 0. #3 Auburn beat Georgia 6-0 at Columbus, Georgia while #4 Michigan State beat Minnesota 42–13. #5 Iowa lost 17–13 at #6 Ohio State; the 7–1 Buckeyes rose to third, while the 6–1–1 Hawkeyes fell to eighth. #8 Mississippi, which beat Tennessee 14–7 in Memphis, rose to fifth. The poll: 1.Michigan State, 2.Auburn, 3.Ohio State, 4.Texas A&M, and 5.Mississippi.
November 23 - #1 Michigan State closed its season with a 27–0 win over Kansas State, but fell to third. #2 Auburn, on probation, won at Florida State 29–7. As the only unbeaten (9–0) school among the majors, Auburn was voted #1 in the AP poll. #3 Ohio State wrapped up its season with a win 31–14 at Michigan and was first in the UPI poll. #4 Texas A&M lost 9–7 to Texas, #5 Mississippi was idle, and #6 Oklahoma won 53–6 at Nebraska and returned to the top five. The poll: 1.Auburn, 2.Ohio State, 3.Michigan State, 4.Texas A&M, and 5.Oklahoma.
November 28–30 - Thanksgiving Day saw Bear Bryant's #4 Texas A&M team lose 9–7 to Texas. On Saturday, #1 Auburn shut out rival Alabama 40–0 at their annual meeting in Birmingham to close its season 10–0, while the Crimson Tide finished at 2–7–1. Bryant, who had transformed the Aggies from a 1–9 team in 1953 to a contender, would accept the job as head coach at his alma mater Alabama at season's end. #2 Ohio State and #3 Michigan State were both 8–1 in the regular season, but Ohio State was 7–0 in Big Ten play, compared to the 5–1 Spartans, and got the Rose Bowl bid. #5 Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State 53-6. #8 Navy, which won the Army-Navy game 14–0 in Philadelphia, finished with an 8–1–1 record, a bid to meet Rice in the Cotton Bowl, and a fifth-place finish in the final poll.
The services were split as to the national champion. The AP Trophy went to Auburn, the choice of a majority of writers for #1, and the only major college program to finish unbeaten (Arizona State, then a lesser power, also finished 10–0). Auburn, however, was on probation and was ineligible for a bowl, and the UPI coaches poll awarded #1 to the Ohio State Buckeyes (8–1). Both Auburn and Ohio State are recognized in the NCAA Football Guidebook as unofficial national champions for 1957. The final AP poll was: 1.Auburn, 2.Ohio State, 3.Michigan State, 4.Oklahoma, and 5.Navy, while the UPI poll was 1.Ohio State, 2.Auburn, 3.Michigan State, 4.Oklahoma, and 5.Iowa.