Excerpt from article on Wikipedia...
Michigan and Notre Dame had traded the top spot in the polls through much of the season. Michigan took the #1 spot in the AP poll on November 16, 1947, and Notre Dame moved into the #1 spot on November 23, 1947, by a margin of 1,410 points to 1,289 points. This last regular season poll determined the recipient of the AP's national championship trophy.
After the final AP poll, Michigan went on to beat USC, 49-0, in the 1948 Rose Bowl, a greater margin that by which Notre Dame had beaten USC, and the most points scored, and greatest margin of victory, in Rose Bowl history.
Football writer Pete Rozelle reported the day after the Rose Bowl on the reaction of the assembled writers in the Rose Bowl press box. "From Grantland Rice down through the ranks of the nation's top sports writers assembled in the Rose Bowl press box yesterday there was nothing but glowing expletives for the synchronized Michigan Wolverine wrecking crew that powered over Southern California, 49-0. While for the most part hedging from a comparison of Michigan with Notre Dame, the consensus of the scribes was that the offensive-minded Ann Arbor squad deserved no less than a co-rating with the Irish as America's Number One Collegiate eleven."
Grantland Rice, the dean of the nation's sports writers, lauded the Wolverines, saying, "It is the best all-around college football team I've seen this year. The backfield's brilliant passing and running skill gives Michigan the most powerful offense in the country." Red Smith of the New York Herald-Tribune said, "No other team that I have seen this season did things with so little effort. Crisler has so many that do so much."
Notre Dame supporters argued that the post-season AP poll was final and should not be revisited. They contended that Michigan had run up the score on USC, noted that Notre Dame had not had an opportunity to play in a bowl game, and asserted that Michigan and other Big Nine schools were unwilling to schedule Notre Dame in the regular season.
Detroit Free Press sports editor, Lyall Smith, argued the debate should be answered by comparing the two team's performance against common opponents. Smith noted: "They played three common foes. Notre Dame beat Pitt, 40-6, a margin of 34 points: Michigan beat Pitt 59-0. Notre Dame defeated Northwestern, 26 to 19, a margin of seven points: Michigan beat the 'Cats 49 to 21, for a 28-point advantage. Notre Dame dropped USC, 36 to 7, in what Coach Frank Leahy termed his team's 'greatest game of the year,' while Michigan slaughtered the same Trojans, 49 to 0. Against those three common opponents the Irish scored 104 points to 32. Michigan's margin was 167 to 21."
Smith also pointed to Michigan's tougher strength of schedule: "The teams Michigan played won 42 games, lost 48 and tied fie. Notre Dame's adversaries won only 30, lost 45, and tied 6."
In response to the debate over which team truly deserved to be recognized as the nation's best, the Associated Press decided to hold a post-bowl poll. The AP reported on the rationale for the special poll this way:
"The Associated Press is polling sports editors of its member papers throughout the country to help settle the argument as to which is the better football team -- Michigan or Notre Dame. The AP's final poll of the top ten teams, relased Dec. 8 at the conclusion of the regulation season, resulted in Notre Dame winning first place with 1,410 points. MIchigan was second with 1,289. . .Returns so far received indicate that voting in this latest poll is likely to be the heaviest ever recorded."Another AP report indicated the special poll was "conducted by popular demand" to answer "the burning sports question of the day" and to do so "at the ballot box."
Michigan was voted #1 in the special poll by a vote of 226 to 119. The Associated Press reported on the results of its poll as follows: "The nation's sports writers gave the final answer Tuesday to the raging controversy on the relative strength of the Notre Dame and Michigan football teams, and it was the Wolverines over the Irish by almost two to one -- including those who saw both powerhouses perform. . .In the over-all total, 226 writers in 48 states and the District of Columbia picked Michigan, 119 balloted for Notre Dame, and 12 called it a draw. Opinion of the 54 writers who saw both in action last fall coincided at almost the same ratio, with 33 giving the nod to Michigan, 17 to Notre Dame, and four voting for a tie." The 357 votes cast in the special post-bowl poll represented "the largest ever to take part in such an AP voting."
Commenting on the special poll, Michigan coach Fritz Crisler said "the men who voted couldn't have made a mistake if they had picked either team." He described Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy as a "superb coach. "Notre Dame President, Father John Cavanagh said, "We at Notre Dame feel grateful for the magnanimous statement of Coach Crisler. I listened to Michigan against Southern California and have only praise for the skill and accomplishment of your fine team."
Despite the magnanimous statements of Coach Crisler and Father Cavanagh, the reversed decision in the post-bowl poll only stoked the debate over which team was best. Said one columnist: "Hottest argument of the moment is the one over which had the better football team, Michigan or Notre Dame. To settle it the Associated Press polled better than 350 sports writers in 48 states. . .with a two to one nod for the Wolverines."
Forty years later, the debate was still ongoing. In 1988, Michigan All-American Dan Dworsky noted: "Notre Dame still claims that national championship and so do we."