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Fixing the Final 1946 AP College Football Poll

1) Notre Dame 8-0-1
2) Army 9-0-1
3) Georgia 11-0
4) UCLA 10-1
5) Illinois 8-2
6) Michigan 6-2-1
7) Tennessee 9-2
8) Louisiana State 9-1-1

9) North Carolina 8-2-1
10) Rice 9-2
11) Georgia Tech 9-2
12) Yale 7-1-1
13) Pennsylvania 6-2
14) Oklahoma 8-3
15) Texas 8-2
16) Arkansas 6-3-2
17) Tulsa 9-1
18) North Carolina State 8-3
19) Delaware 10-0
20) Indiana 6-3
To the left is the final 1946 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.

Hyped as the Game of the Century, #1 Army met #2 Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. Army had won 25 straight games and the 1944 and 1945 national championships, and they had beaten Notre Dame 59-0 and 48-0 the previous 2 seasons. However, Notre Dame's players and coach, Frank Leahy, were back from the war in 1946, and they were a wholly different team. More like their 1943 MNC team..

This game featured 3 Heisman Trophy winners, 3 Outland Trophy winners, and 10 Hall of Famers, not counting the Hall of Fame coaches on each side. But for all the hype leading up to it, the game ended up being a 0-0 dud. The next game between the AP poll's #1 and #2 teams wouldn't take place until the 1963 Rose Bowl.

Army struggled to beat 1-8 Navy 21-18 in their finale, and Notre Dame passed them up for #1 in the final AP poll.
Notre Dame's Bill Gompers about to be stopped short on a 4th down run near the goal line in the 1946 game against Army
Pictured above is Notre Dame's Bill Gompers about to be stopped short of a first down near Army's goal line. 
Never before had a game been hyped as much as this "Game of the Century," but the two teams fought to a disappointing 0-0 tie.

Georgia Tech, LSU, Rice, Tennessee, and North Carolina

Here we have 4 teams that beat each other in a circle: #11 Georgia Tech (9-2) won 26-7 at #8 Louisiana State (9-1-1), who won 7-6 at #10 Rice (9-2), who won 8-0 in the Orange Bowl over #7 Tennessee (9-2), who beat Georgia Tech 13-9 at home. Georgia Tech was the lowest-ranked of these 4 teams, but as you can see, their win was by far the most impressive, and their loss to Tennessee was the least decisive (since it was at Tennessee) and came in their opener. Furthermore, Georgia Tech was the only one of these 4 teams that did not take an upset loss or tie (their 2nd loss came to #3 Georgia). So clearly, Georgia Tech should have been rated highest of the 4.

LSU was tied by #16 Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, but Rice actually lost to Arkansas during the regular season, so LSU had a relevant record that was effectively a half game better than Rice's even without their head-to-head win over Rice. And Rice's win over Tennessee came in a bowl game, so that much is a lock. Tennessee would have fallen back behind Rice in a post-bowl poll anyway. Georgia Tech > LSU > Rice > Tennessee.

#9 North Carolina (8-2-1) lost at Tennessee, and they did not beat a rated team, so they were overrated to begin with. They should definitely remain ranked behind Tennessee.

Move Georgia Tech up to #7 and Rice to #9, and drop Tennessee to #10 and North Carolina to #11.

UCLA

UCLA went 10-0 during the regular season against a bunch of mediocre to poor teams-- certainly none were top 25. They were ranked #4, but then they lost 45-14 to #5 Illinois in the Rose Bowl. I don't know how far UCLA would have fallen in a post-bowl poll, but clearly they were way overrated at #4. The best I can give the AP poll here is to keep UCLA rated ahead of North Carolina, who also didn't beat any ranked opponents, and who was tied by 3-4-3 Virginia Tech. At least UCLA didn't take any upsets.

Drop UCLA to #10. Illinois, Michigan, Georgia Tech, LSU, Rice, and Tennessee all move up a spot.

Columbia, Yale, and Cornell

#12 Yale (7-1-1) was at least as overrated as UCLA was, and I would say more so, since I would not rate Yale at all myself. Yale lost to unrated 6-3 Columbia 28-20 at home, and they tied at unrated 5-3-1 Cornell. 6-2 Penn was rated right behind Yale, presumably because their straight record was not as good, but that is because Penn played and lost to #2 Army, while Yale did not play a rated opponent at all. Penn lost to Princeton, whom Yale defeated, but Penn defeated Columbia and Cornell, the teams that beat and tied Yale, so Penn was effectively half a game better on the season, and should have been rated higher. But Yale's problem goes much deeper than that.

6-3 Columbia should have been rated higher than Yale as well. They lost to #2 Army and to #13 Penn, but those losses are irrelevant when comparing them to Yale, since Yale did not play or defeat a rated opponent themselves. Columbia did lose to Cornell, whom Yale tied, but that half game difference is trumped by Columbia's head-to-head win over Yale. So if we drop Yale behind Columbia, where should we put them?

Behind #17 Tulsa (9-1). Neither Columbia nor Yale defeated a rated opponent (excepting Columbia's win over Yale of course). Tulsa, however, defeated #16 Arkansas.
But putting Columbia and Yale in front of #18 North Carolina State and #20 Indiana is fine, since those teams will be dropping behind unrated teams that beat them anyway. And #19 Delaware played a ridiculously "lower division" schedule, even compared to Yale and Columbia, so they're lucky to be ranked at all. Delaware's opponents: Widener, Randolph-Macon, McDaniel, Gettysburg, Drexel, Franklin & Marshall, Bucknell, Washington (Maryland), Muhlenberg, and Rollins. Today we would call that a division 3 schedule.

Then there is 5-3-1 Cornell. They defeated Columbia, but they were also upset by 4-5 Syracuse. They tied Yale at home, and that leaves them with the same relevant record as Yale. The AP poll rated Yale higher, obviously, and that is fine, but once Columbia and Yale are rated, Cornell should be too, given that defeated one and tied the other. Their one upset loss to Syracuse balances out the upset win, but there is still the tie with a rated team, giving them a better relevant record than North Carolina State has (or Indiana). As such, we'll bring Cornell in behind Yale and ahead of North Carolina State.

Bring Columbia in at #17, drop Yale down to #18, and bring Cornell in at #19. Penn, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Tulsa all move up a spot. North Carolina State, Delaware, and Indiana all drop 2 spots.

Texas and Oklahoma

8-2 Texas (originally ranked #15) defeated 8-3 Oklahoma (#14) 20-13, and they had a better straight record as well, so it's rather odd that the AP poll rated Oklahoma higher to begin with, but needless to say, these 2 teams need to be switched.

Texas to #13, Oklahoma to #14.

Tulsa and Arkansas

Same thing as Texas-Oklahoma: 9-1 Tulsa (originally ranked #17) defeated 6-3-2 Arkansas (#16) 14-13 in their finale. I'm mystified as to why the AP voters couldn't keep track of what just happened in the last game for these teams before they voted, especially since it involved a 9-1 team beating a 6-3-1 team (Arkansas then tied in their bowl game to finish 6-3-2), but once again we have 2 teams here that need to be switched.

Tulsa to #15, Arkansas to #16.

Alabama, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and North Carolina State

8-3 North Carolina State, originally ranked #18, lost to unranked 5-4 Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt lost to unranked 7-3 Kentucky and unranked 7-4 Alabama. Kentucky lost to Alabama. Alabama took 1 upset loss (13-7 at 6-3 Boston College), but their other 3 losses all came to top 10 teams (11-0 Georgia, 9-2 Tennessee, and 9-1-1 LSU). In addition to Kentucky and Vanderbilt, Alabama also defeated 8-2 Mississippi State 24-7.

NC State, however, did not beat anyone of value, and in fact they only beat 1 winning team (6-3 Wake Forest). They lost to Oklahoma 34-13 in their bowl game, and thus would have fallen out of a post-bowl poll ranking anyway. So Alabama > Kentucky > Vanderbilt > North Carolina State. Indiana needs to be dropped behind an unrated team who beat them as well, so we'll place these teams behind Delaware and ahead of Indiana.

Bring Alabama in at #21, Kentucky at #22, Vanderbilt at #23, and drop North Carolina State to #24. Delaware moves up to #20, and Indiana drops to #25. I have to say that I had a hard time allowing Delaware to be rated higher than Alabama, given their schedule, which was the equivalent of division 3 today. Really, it would be no different than rating an unbeaten Widener team in the top 20 today. But Delaware did win every game by more than a touchdown, and you can't ask for more than that. No one really knows how good they were, so I gave the AP poll the benefit of the doubt here. But let it be known that, in my personal opinion, rating Delaware in a top 20 for 1946 is moronic.

Cincinnati and Indiana

6-3 Indiana, originally rated #20, lost to unrated 9-2 Cincinnati. Obviously the AP poll voters of 1946 didn't care about head-to-head results. And we still see plenty of that today. But they also had a baffling disregard for straight records on top of that, and that's a problem we don't see much of today. What exactly were the AP poll voters of 1946 basing their votes on? Uniform colors? Childhood memories? Just random guessing? The deeper back in time I go fixing these polls, the better I appreciate the voters of today.

Cincinnati didn't even take an upset loss-- their losses came to Kentucky (now #22) and Tulsa (now #15). So there's just no reason to dismiss their 15-6 win at Indiana. Indiana did beat Illinois (now #4), but that upset win was balanced out with an upset loss to unranked 5-4 Iowa.

So Cincinnati belongs ahead of Indiana. I could bring them in at #25, dropping Indiana out, but both teams had better relevant records than did North Carolina State (now #24), so I'm thinking that it's North Carolina State who should get the boot. NC State took an upset loss at unranked Virginia Tech (whom Cincinnati defeated 18-6 in the Sun Bowl), but unlike Indiana, they did not make up for their upset loss by beating any ranked teams.

But why stop there? 5-4 Vanderbilt was unranked by the AP poll to begin with, while Indiana was #20. And I have to think that the AP poll would have ranked 9-2 Cincinnati higher than 5-4 Vanderbilt, given the choice, though with these guys, who knows? Vanderbilt ahead of Cinci and Indy would be a valid choice, but since the AP poll had Indiana ranked and not Vanderbilt, I'm going to put Cincinnati and Indiana ahead of Vanderbilt. That's as high as they can go, though, because Kentucky beat Cincinnati.

So, bring Cincinnati in at #23, move Indiana up to #24, drop Vanderbilt to #25, and boot North Carolina State out the door.

Hardin-Simmons

Hardin-Simmons went 11-0 against what I would call the equivalent of an FCS level schedule (though most of their opponents in 1946 are FBS level today). Normally, I would ignore an unrated unbeaten team like Hardin-Simmons when fixing an old AP poll, but I have a hard time doing that for this season since the AP poll saw fit to rate 10-0 Delaware. Hardin-Simmons played a schedule that I would deem to have been 2 divisions higher than that played by Delaware, and like Delaware, they won every game by more than a touchdown.

Should they be rated higher than #25 Vanderbilt? Probably not. Vandy played a real schedule, with actual major teams and all that. All 4 of their losses came to teams that are now rated, and they defeated 8-3 North Carolina State, whom the AP poll had originally rated. But if Delaware is going to be rated, Hardin-Simmons should be too, so we'll place Hardin-Simmons into a tie with Vanderbilt for the last slot.

Bring Hardin-Simmons in at #25, tied with Vanderbilt. I still find it silly that Delaware, equivalent to an unbeaten division 3 team today, is ranked #20, while Hardin-Simmons, equivalent to an unbeaten FCS team today, is ranked #25, but hey, it's possible that this is correct. Since neither Delaware nor Hardin-Simmons played anyone of note, we'll never know.

Fixed AP Top 25

Only one team drops out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25, and it's the same team that dropped out when I fixed the 1947 AP poll, North Carolina State (#18, 8-3). Maybe some of their players were journalism majors, and swung themselves AP poll voterships. They took 2 losses to unranked teams, and they defeated no AP-rated teams. Discounting games against each other, the 7 teams that come into the fixed poll took a total of 2 losses to unranked teams--the same number NC State took by themselves-- and they garnered 3 wins and 1 tie against AP-rated teams. Oh, and the new teams were 1-0 head-to-head against North Carolina State as well.

1) Notre Dame 8-0-1 --
2) Army 9-0-1 --
3) Georgia 11-0 --
4) Illinois 8-2 +1
5) Michigan 6-2-1 +1
6) Georgia Tech 9-2 +5
7) Louisiana State 9-1-1 +1
8) Rice 9-2 +2
9) Tennessee 9-2 -2
10) UCLA 10-1 -6
11) North Carolina 8-2-1 -2
12) Pennsylvania 6-2 +1
13) Texas 8-2 +2
14) Oklahoma 8-3 --
15) Tulsa 9-1 +2
16) Arkansas 6-3-2 --
17) Columbia 6-3 IN
18) Yale 7-1-1 -6
19) Cornell 5-3-1 IN
20) Delaware 10-0 -1
21) Alabama 7-4 IN
22) Kentucky 7-3 IN
23) Cincinnati 9-2 IN
24) Indiana 6-3 -4
25) Vanderbilt 5-4
       Hardin-Simmons 11-0
IN
IN

OUT: #18 North Carolina State 8-3

Fixed AP Polls
1946 National Championship
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