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Fixing the Final 1937 AP College Football Poll

1) Pittsburgh 9-0-1
2) California 10-0-1
3) Fordham 7-0-1
4) Alabama 9-1
5) Minnesota 6-2
6) Villanova 8-0-1
7) Dartmouth 7-0-2
8)
Louisiana State 9-2
9) Notre Dame 6-2-1
    Santa Clara 9-0
11) Nebraska 6-1-2
12) Yale 6-1-1
13) Ohio State 6-2
14) Holy Cross 8-0-2
       Arkansas 6-2-2
16) Texas Christian 4-4-2
17) Colorado 8-1
18) Rice 6-3-2
19) North Carolina 7-1-1
20) Duke 7-2-1
To the left is the final 1937 AP college football top 20. You can access all of these teams' full schedules here: College Football Data Warehouse (amongst a number of other places). The fixed final AP poll, expanded to 25 teams, follows the article below.

#2 California defeated #4 Alabama (9-1) 13-0 in the Rose Bowl, which would have pushed them closer to #1 Pittsburgh in a post-bowl poll, as Pitt did not play in a bowl game. But the real issue with this poll is not California vs. Pittsburgh for #1, but California vs. Fordham for #2.

7-0-1 Fordham tied #1 Pittsburgh, whereas 10-0-1 California tied an unranked team (7-2-2 Washington). Cal was very impressive in their other 10 games, but it's hard to get past that central issue of who these teams took their ties against.

Pittsburgh halfback Marshall Goldberg's touchdown that was negated by a penalty in the 1937 Fordham game
Pittsburgh halfback Marshall Goldberg, on the right, scoring the only touchdown in the game at Fordham. Unfortunately, it was negated by a holding penalty, and for the 3rd year in a row these teams tied 0-0
.

California vs. Fordham

Because 7-0-1 Fordham tied a team that the AP poll ranked higher than California, and because 10-0-1 California tied a team that the AP poll ranked lower than Fordham (and in fact out of the top 20), Fordham had a relevant record that was effectively a full game better than California's. But outside of their ties, Cal was more impressive than Fordham was. Cal had that very compelling 13-0 win over Alabama, previously 9-0, in the Rose Bowl, and outside of their tie, no one came within a touchdown of Cal. Meanwhile, Fordham defeated #16 Texas Christian (4-4-2) 7-6 at home, and they edged unranked 4-3-2 St. Mary's (California) 6-0 at home. Cal beat St. Mary's 30-7.

But on the other hand, Alabama was the only rated team Cal defeated, whereas Fordham beat 2 rated teams (#16 TCU and #19 North Carolina), and they tied #1 Pittsburgh. TCU, at 4-4-2, will not be rated in the fixed poll, but that still leaves Fordham with 2 ranked opponents, twice as many as Cal played. And North Carolina, who took their only loss to Fordham, will be ranked higher (#14) in the fixed poll (detailed below), and Fordham beat them impressively, 14-0 on the road.

Cal played a weaker schedule, and their performance advantage was just not enough to make up for the fact that Fordham was effectively a game better on the season: in the end, Fordham had 2 weak performances (close wins over TCU and St. Mary's) and Cal had 1 (the tie with Washington), and that isn't much of a difference. In fact, given that Fordham actually won both games in which they performed weakly, Cal didn't really have an advantage here at all. And Cal's 13-0 Rose Bowl win
over #4 Alabama was not any more impressive than Fordham's tie with #1 Pittsburgh. Outside of those games, Cal had nothing but dominating wins over weak teams, whereas Fordham had the 14-0 win at 7-1-1 North Carolina in addition to dominating wins over weak teams.

I was close to compromising with the AP poll and placing these 2 teams into a tie with one another, but I just don't see a good enough reason to do so. If Cal's tie with Washington had come on the road, that would have been enough to tip me into the compromise. But there's just no excuse for taking such an upset at home. The team that tied Cal, 7-2-2 Washington, was not close to top 25 caliber, as they lost to 3-3-3 Oregon State and 4-3-2 Stanford, tied 3-3-3 Washington State, and the only winning team they beat was 4-3-1 Idaho.


Move Fordham to #2 and drop California to #3. This was a tough case, but the bottom line was that 7-0-1 Fordham's only "blemish," a tie with 9-0-1 Pittsburgh, wasn't actually a blemish at all.

Santa Clara

#9 Santa Clara "upset" #8 Louisiana State in the Sugar Bowl for the 2nd year in a row, completing a perfect 9-0 season in which they outscored their opponents 163-9. It need hardly be said that Santa Clara should be moved ahead of LSU, but that is the least of it. They had a better record (relevant and straight record) than did every team ranked ahead of them up to Alabama.

#6 Villanova, for example, was 8-0-1, taking an upset tie to unranked 6-2-3 Auburn (who lost to Santa Clara victim LSU), and unlike Santa Clara, Villanova did not defeat a rated opponent. #5 Minnesota lost to 2 lower-ranked teams, and they also did not defeat a rated opponent. They will be dropping anyway, as handled next.

Move Santa Clara up to #5, dropping Minnesota, Villanova, Dartmouth, and Louisiana State 1 spot each. Notre Dame, who had been tied with Santa Clara, drops half a spot.

Nebraska, Minnesota, and Notre Dame

As indicated, 6-2 Minnesota (originally ranked #5) lost to 2 lower-rated teams, 6-2-1 Notre Dame (originally #9) and 6-1-2 Nebraska (#11), and they did not defeat a rated team, so clearly they were overrated. Nebraska lost to #1 Pittsburgh, and they took 2 upset ties to unrated teams. Notre Dame also lost to #1 Pittsburgh, and they took a loss and a tie to unranked teams. Nebraska was therefore a half game better than Notre Dame on the season.

If we move Nebraska ahead of Minnesota (they beat the Gophers 14-9), that leaves Minnesota with a more palatable 1 upset loss rather than 2. Minnesota can then be viably ranked ahead of Notre Dame, since Notre Dame took a loss and a tie to unranked teams, thereby leaving them a half game back of Minnesota (in both their straight and relevant records). So Nebraska > Minnesota > Notre Dame. The average ranking of these 3 teams was 8.3, and since Louisiana State will be dropping anyway (as handled next), we'll place all 3 ahead of LSU.

Move Nebraska up to #8, drop Minnesota to #9, and pencil Notre Dame in at #10. Villanova and Dartmouth move up 1 spot each, while Louisiana State drops 2 slots. But they've got a bit more dropping to do...

Vanderbilt and Louisiana State

7-2 Vanderbilt (unranked) beat 9-2 Louisiana State (originally #8) 7-6, and while it was a razor-close home win, I don't see enough here to dismiss it. LSU slightly outperformed Vanderbilt, and Vandy took an upset loss to unranked 6-3-1 Georgia Tech, but the head-to-head win trumps that, and the performance difference isn't relevant enough to ignore it.

#13 Ohio State (6-2) took 2 losses to unrated teams, and they will be dropping anyway (covered later), and the teams behind them had problems of their own, so we'll put Vandy and LSU ahead of Ohio State.

Bring Vanderbilt in at #12 and drop Louisiana State to #13. Yale moves up 1 spot, and Ohio State and all the teams behind them drop 1 spot each.

North Carolina and Duke

7-1-1 North Carolina (originally rated #19) and 7-2-1 Duke (originally #20) were both underrated. Each took an upset tie to an unranked opponent, but that still left them with better relevant records than several teams ahead of them had. Ohio State, as indicated above, took 2 losses to unranked opponents, so they were effectively a game and a half worse than UNC and Duke were on the season. 8-0-2 Holy Cross, rated right behind Ohio State, took 2 upset ties to unrated teams, so they were effectively a half a game worse than UNC and Duke were on the season.

Move North Carolina up to #14 and Duke to #15, dropping Ohio State and all the teams behind them 2 spots each.

Rice, Baylor, Arkansas, Texas Christian, and Colorado

The SWC was a mess this year, very difficult to rate. The AP poll went with 6-2-2 Arkansas at #14, 4-4-2 Texas Christian at #16, and 6-3-2 Rice at #18, but that is not quite correct. Let's untangle the SWC.

Rice was the SWC champion, 4-1-1 in conference play, which is why they went to the Cotton Bowl. TCU was 2nd at 3-1-2, Arkansas 3rd at 3-2-1, and 7-3 Baylor and 5-2-2 Texas A&M (both unranked) were tied for 4th (Baylor 3-3, A&M 2-2-2). However, Rice took an upset loss and tie to unranked teams, negating their game and half lead over Baylor and Texas A&M for the season as a whole, and similarly, TCU took an upset loss and Arkansas took an upset tie. So for all games, these 5 teams were even. Quite the mess.

The difference comes in their nonconference wins. All but Rice had just 1 notable nonconference win, TCU and Arkansas beating 6-2-2 Tulsa, Baylor over 6-3-3 Centenary, and Texas A&M winning at 6-3-1 Manhattan. None of those wins were impressive for a top 25 hopeful. Rice, however, defeated 8-1 Colorado (originally rated #17) 28-14 in the Cotton Bowl, and they also defeated 6-2-3 Auburn. The Auburn win was particularly significant, as they will be entering the fixed top 25, and in fact they will be ranked higher than all these SWC teams. This was therefore an upset win for Rice, meaning that they were effectively a game better than the other 4 SWC contenders. But even if Auburn was just a near-rated team, it was a better win for Rice than the other SWC contenders had, and it was a 2nd such win for Rice.

So Rice goes to the top of this group. After their 28-14 win over a higher-ranked team in the Cotton Bowl, they almost certainly would have passed up Arkansas and TCU in a post-bowl poll anyway. Baylor should come in behind Rice, as they defeated TCU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M head-to-head. Their season finale at Rice was for the SWC championship, and they only lost 13-7. You could then go with either Arkansas or TCU next, but since the AP poll rated Arkansas higher than TCU, we'll stick with that. Texas A&M, who went 0-2-2 against this group, stays at the back of the bus.

So now what do we do with Colorado, who lost the Cotton Bowl to Rice? Well, obviously they belong behind Rice, and since the AP poll originally ranked them behind Arkansas and TCU, we'll leave them behind those teams as well. Colorado played a very weak Rocky Mountain schedule, beating just 1 major team (14-6 over 3-6-1 Missouri). They would have dropped out of a post-bowl poll anyway.

Holy Cross, who had been tied with Arkansas, stays at #17, Rice moves up to #18, Baylor comes in at #19, Arkansas drops to #20, Texas Christian to #21, and Colorado to #22. Texas A&M belongs ahead of Colorado as well, but it doesn't matter, as Colorado won't be ranked when I'm finished anyway, and neither will most of these SWC teams.

Indiana and Ohio State

6-2 Ohio State (originally ranked #13) took 2 upset losses to unranked teams, but it should have been just 1, because 5-3 Indiana should have been ranked ahead of them. Indiana defeated OSU 10-0 on the road. Indiana took 1 upset loss, to 4-3-1 Purdue, but OSU also took an upset loss, at 4-4-2 Southern Methodist. Indiana's other losses came by 6 points to now-#9 Minnesota and by 7 to now-#8 Nebraska.

Holy Cross performed very weakly, and their ties were embarrassing (3-2-4 Temple and 2-5-1 Carnegie), so we'll leave Ohio State ranked ahead of them and bring Indiana in ahead of OSU.

Indiana comes in at #16, and Ohio State and all the teams behind them drop 1 spot each.

Tennessee, Auburn, and Georgia Tech

6-3-1 Tennessee, 6-2-3 Auburn, and 6-3-1 Georgia Tech all had better relevant records than did quite a few teams currently sitting at the bottom of the rankings, including Indiana, Ohio State, Holy Cross, Rice, Baylor, and Arkansas. I'm thinking all 3 need to be moved in ahead of Indiana.

Auburn beat Tennessee, but Tennessee took no other upset loss or tie, and they tied now-#15 Duke, a higher rated team. Auburn also tied a higher-rated team (8-0-1 Villanova), but they took 2 ties to unranked teams, and they lost to Rice, who I am proposing to be ranked behind these teams (Rice took 2 losses and 2 ties to lower-ranked teams, and they did not beat or tie a higher-ranked team). In the end, Tennessee's relevant record was half a game better than Auburn's, so Tennessee should be ranked higher.

Tennessee and Indiana each had an upset loss, but Tennessee's came to a soon-to-be-ranked Auburn team, and they halfway made up for it with a tie to a higher-ranked team. Auburn had an upset win (Tennessee) balanced by an upset loss (Rice), and 1 of their ties to a lower-ranked team was balanced out with a tie against a higher-ranked team, leaving them with one tie to a lower-ranked team, half a game better than Indiana's upset loss.

As for Georgia Tech, their losses came to #4 Alabama, now-#15 Duke, and Auburn. They took an upset tie to unranked Georgia, but they more than made up for that by beating now-#12 Vanderbilt 14-0. With Auburn ranked ahead of Indiana, Georgia Tech was effectively a game and a half better than Indiana on the season.

Bring Tennessee in at #16, Auburn at #17, and Georgia Tech at #18. Indiana and all the teams behind them drop 3 slots each. Colorado falls out of the rankings.

Georgia

6-3-2 Georgia was not quite as strong as the SEC trio we just brought into the rankings, but they were close and deserve to be ranked. They lost to now-#21 Holy Cross, and they took an upset loss to 4-7 Florida, but they tied now-#17 Auburn and now-#18 Georgia Tech. 6-3-2 Rice had a worse relevant record than Georgia did, but Rice played such a vastly tougher schedule than Georgia did that the AP poll can keep Rice rated higher than Georgia. All 11 of Rice's opponents probably merited a top 50 ranking (even 2-6-1 Texas beat 8-4 Texas Tech and 7-3 Baylor, and they tied 5-2-2 Oklahoma), while Georgia played just 5 top 50 caliber teams.

Baylor, on the other hand, who took 2 upset losses to losing teams, and who did not beat or tie a higher-ranked team, played a schedule that was at best comparable to Georgia's. Therefore there is no reason to dismiss Georgia's relevant record being effectively 2 games better than Baylor's.

Bring Georgia in at #23, dropping Baylor and all the teams behind them 1 spot each. 4-4-2 Texas Christian falls out of the rankings.

Army and Harvard

7-2 Army lost only to now-#11 Yale and to now-#10 Notre Dame, and they won 7-6 at 5-2-1 Harvard. Harvard's other loss came to #7 Dartmouth. They took an upset tie at unranked 4-4-1 Navy, but they more than made up for it with a 13-6 upset win at now-#11 Yale in their finale. Baylor, who took 2 upset losses, was effectively 2 and a half games worse on the season than Harvard was. Enough said.

Bring Army in at #24 and Harvard at #25. 7-3 Baylor and 6-2-2 Arkansas fall out of the final top 25.

Fixed AP Top 25

Three teams fall out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25: #14 Arkansas (6-2-2), #16 Texas Christian (4-4-2), and #17 Colorado (8-1). Discounting their games against each other, they took 3 losses and 2 ties against unrated teams, and they defeated 1 team the AP poll had rated. The 8 new teams that enter the fixed poll combined for 2 losses and 2 ties against unrated teams, and they collected 3 wins and 2 ties against AP-rated teams (discounting games against each other).

1) Pittsburgh 9-0-1 --
2) Fordham 7-0-1+1
3) California 10-0-1 -1
4) Alabama 9-1 --
5) Santa Clara 9-0 +4.5
6) Villanova  8-0-1 --
7) Dartmouth 7-0-2 --
8) Nebraska 6-1-2 +3
9) Minnesota 6-2 -4
10) Notre Dame 6-2-1 -0.5
11) Yale 6-1-1 +1
12) Vanderbilt 7-2 IN
13) Louisiana State 9-2 -5
14) North Carolina 7-1-1 +5
15) Duke 7-2-1 +5
16) Tennessee 6-3-1 IN
17) Auburn 6-2-3 IN
18) Georgia Tech 6-3-1 IN
19) Indiana 5-3 IN
20) Ohio State 6-2 -7
21) Holy Cross 8-0-2 -6.5
22) Rice 6-3-2 -4
23) Georgia 6-3-2 IN
24) Army 7-2 IN
25) Harvard 5-2-1 IN

OUT: #14 Arkansas 6-2-2
#16 Texas Christian 4-4-2
#17 Colorado 8-1

Fixed AP Polls
1937 National Championship
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