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Fixing the Final 1940 AP College Football Poll

1) Minnesota 8-0
2) Stanford 10-0
3) Michigan 7-1
4) Tennessee 10-1
5) Boston College 11-0
6) Texas A&M 9-1
7) Nebraska 8-2
8)
Northwestern 6-2
9) Mississippi State 10-0-1
10) Washington 7-2
11) Santa Clara 6-1-1
12) Fordham 7-2
13) Georgetown 8-2
14) Pennsylvania 6-1-1
15) Cornell 6-2
16) Southern Methodist 8-1-1
17) Hardin-Simmons 9-0
18) Duke 7-2
19) Lafayette 9-0
To the left is the final 1940 AP college football top 20. Or top 19 in this case. 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.

One problem with the AP poll that persisted through most of the 1960s was that voters just submitted a top 10, so the AP top 20 was built from top 10 lists. That is one reason the #11-20 rankings tended to look senseless and random. And in 1940, those top 10 lists did not even produce 20 different teams, which is why there was just a top 19 for that season. So for this season we'll need to add 6 teams to get it to 25.

Other than that hiccup, this was an excellent list, and required far less fixing than most AP polls, even modern ones. This is not how I would rank these teams, but most of it is logically viable, so there isn't much movement in the fixed poll.

Minnesota football team's bench during a 1940 game
This is the 3rd consecutive article I've written about a season when Minnesota was the consensus national champion. This time they were 8-0.

Boston College and Tennessee

#5 Boston College (11-0) defeated #4 Tennessee (10-1) 19-13 in the Sugar Bowl. That's a simple fix.

Switch 'em, Boston College to #4 and Tennessee to #5. It's possible that BC would have passed up 7-1 Michigan for #3 in a post-bowl poll, but Michigan's loss came by a single point to #1 Minnesota, and Tennessee had already been ranked behind Michigan when they were 10-0, so I'll leave Michigan ahead of BC.

Texas A&M, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Mississippi State

#6 Texas A&M (9-1) took an upset loss to unrated 8-2 Texas in their regular season finale. #7 Nebraska (8-2) and #8 Northwestern (6-2) were not upset, taking their losses to top 3 teams. I suppose the rationale for rating A&M higher could be that Texas A&M defeated a couple of rated teams (#16 Southern Methodist and #12 Fordham), but then what about 10-0-1 Mississippi State being ranked behind Nebraska and Northwestern? They took an upset tie, so they were effectively a half game better than Texas A&M, they performed much better than A&M, and they defeated 9-2 Mississippi, 7-2 Alabama, and 8-2 Georgetown (#13) in the Orange Bowl.

Mississippi State ought to be ranked ahead of Texas A&M, but where should the 2 teams be placed? Ahead of Nebraska and Northwestern or behind them?

Well, first of all, Nebraska shouldn't be rated ahead of Northwestern. Nebraska had 2 close wins (touchdown or less), Northwestern 1. That's not much of a difference, but it's the only difference I see-- I cannot find a good reason for Nebraska to be ranked higher. But Nebraska lost their bowl game, so they would have certainly fallen behind Northwestern-- and Mississippi State-- in a post-bowl poll anyway. So let's drop them behind Mississippi State. Now the question is, should Texas A&M and Mississippi State be ranked ahead of Northwestern or behind them?

I have to say that they should be placed behind Northwestern. Northwestern may not have beaten a rated team, but they beat a near-rated team (7-2 Notre Dame) and another team that will make the fixed and expanded top 25 (4-4 Ohio State), and their performance was rather strong. They lost to #1 Minnesota by just 1 point.

Move Northwestern up to #6 and Mississippi State to #7, and drop Texas A&M to #8 and Nebraska to #9. This makes a nice compromise, because Mississippi State and Texas A&M end up between Northwestern and Nebraska, in the middle of where they were originally ranked.

Texas and Rice

It's hard to take #17 Hardin-Simmons and #19 Lafayette seriously. Both were 9-0, but both were equivalent to lower-division teams today (and both are lower-division teams today). Now, I suppose I can largely give these teams the benefit of the doubt, but not when comparing them to 8-2 Texas and 7-3 Rice, both of whom were unranked.

Texas, as previously noted, defeated 9-1 Texas A&M in their regular season finale. They lost to #16 Southern Methodist and to Rice. Rice lost to unranked 5-5 Tulane, Texas A&M, and SMU. Tulane was, as usual for this time period, better than their straight record indicated-- better than anyone Hardin-Simmons or Lafayette played. Rice beat Centenary 25-0, and Hardin-Simmons beat them 15-13. More importantly, Rice got that upset win over Texas, which is far more than either Hardin-Simmons or Lafayette accomplished.

Bring Texas in at #17 and Rice at #18. Hardin-Simmons, Duke, and Lafayette drop 1 spot each. Duke took an upset loss to an unranked opponent, and they did not defeat a ranked team, so they had a worse relevant record than did Texas and Rice. The SWC, by the way, had the nation's best record against nonconference opponents this season, 22-5-1.

Alabama, Mississippi, and Duquesne

I think 7-2 Alabama and 9-2 Mississippi, both unranked, belong ahead of Hardin-Simmons and Lafayette as well, but that I can let go. Alabama had some weak performances, and the only decent team they beat was 5-5 Tulane, who will not make the fixed and expanded top 25. Mississippi took an upset loss to 3-7 Arkansas. We'll bring these teams in behind Lafayette. And behind Mississippi we'll bring in 7-1 Duquesne, who took their loss to Ole Miss.

Bring Alabama in at #22, Mississippi at #23, and Duquesne at #24. One more slot left to fill.

#25

We have several candidates for #25: 6-3 Oklahoma, 5-3 St. Mary's, 6-4 Louisiana State, and 4-4 Ohio State. Normally, I select the one with the best straight record, since that's the way the AP poll voters tend to rate teams. However, while these teams had the same relevant record, they were not all equal.

Ohio State had just one close win, and they lost to now-#6 Northwestern by 3 points and to #1 Minnesota by 7 points, so they performed well. And all of their wins came over major teams. St. Mary's, however, defeated just 1 major team. Oklahoma had 3 close wins, and only came close in 1 of their losses. LSU had 1 close win, like Ohio State, but they were blown out in all 4 of their losses.

So Ohio State gets the last slot.

Fixed AP Top 25

No team falls out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25. The 6 new teams that enter the fixed poll combined for 1 win over an AP-rated team, and they took 2 losses to unrated teams (discounting games against each other).

1) Minnesota 8-0 --
2) Stanford 10-0 --
3) Michigan 7-1 --
4) Boston College 11-0 +1
5) Tennessee 10-1 -1
6) Northwestern 6-2 +2
7) Mississippi State 10-0-1 +2
8) Texas A&M 9-1 -2
9) Nebraska 8-2 -2
10) Washington 7-2 --
11) Santa Clara 6-1-1 --
12) Fordham 7-2 --
13) Georgetown 8-2 --
14) Pennsylvania 6-1-1 --
15) Cornell 6-2 --
16) Southern Methodist 8-1-1 --
17) Texas 8-2 IN
18) Rice 7-3 IN
19) Hardin-Simmons 9-0 -2
20) Duke 7-2 -2
21) Lafayette 9-0 -2
22) Alabama 7-2 IN
23) Mississippi 9-2 IN
24) Duquesne 7-1 IN
25) Ohio State 4-4 IN

Fixed AP Polls
1940 National Championship
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