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Fixing the Final 1949 AP College Football Poll

1) Notre Dame 10-0
2) Oklahoma 11-0
3) California 10-1
4) Army 9-0
5) Rice 10-1
6) Ohio State 7-1-2
7) Michigan 6-2-1
8) Minnesota 7-2

9) Louisiana State 8-3
10) Pacific 11-0
11) Kentucky 9-3
12) Cornell 8-1
13) Villanova 8-1
14) Maryland 9-1
15) Santa Clara 8-2-1
16) North Carolina 7-4
17) Tennessee 7-2-1
18) Princeton 6-3
19) Michigan State 6-3
20) Baylor 8-2
       Missouri 7-4
To the left is the final 1949 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.

For 3 years in a row 1948-1950, California went unbeaten during the regular season, then lost in the Rose Bowl. This time, #6 Ohio State beat #3 California 17-14. Ohio State, in turn, lost 27-0 to #8 Minnesota, who lost 14-7 to #7 Michigan.

The victory chain looks like this: Michigan > Minnesota > Ohio State > California. And that's how these teams should be ranked.

Ohio State did tie Michigan, but their 27-0 home loss to Minnesota was simply too decisive to ignore. Michigan and Minnesota each took an upset loss, Ohio State took an upset tie, and Cal suffered no upsets, but their loss to OSU came in a bowl game, giving it extra weight
.

Drop Ohio State behind Minnesota and California behind OSU. That moves Michigan to #5, Minnesota to #6, Ohio State to #7, and California to #8. Army and Rice each move up 1 spot.
Notre Dame's first day of football practice, 1949

Notre Dame opens the first day of practice in 1949. They were on their way to their 3rd national championship in 4 years
.

Kentucky and Louisiana State

#9 Louisiana State (8-3) and #11 Kentucky (9-3) both lost their bowl games and would have dropped in a post-bowl poll. Kentucky won 19-0 at LSU, and should have been ranked ahead of them. But Kentucky also lost 20-7 to unranked 5-4-1 Southern Methodist, then 21-13 to #15 Santa Clara (8-2-1) in the Orange Bowl, and both of those teams should be ranked ahead of Kentucky. And SMU is just one of a pack of SWC teams that should be moved up...

Baylor, Texas, Texas Christian, and Southern Methodist

#20 Baylor (8-2) was 2nd in the SWC with a 4-2 conference record. Unrated Texas (6-4) and unrated TCU (6-3-1) were both 3-3 in conference play, but TCU was tied by unrated 4-4-2 Oklahoma State, so Texas was effectively a half game better overall (Texas' loss to #2 Oklahoma is irrelevant when comparing them to TCU). SMU was 2-3-1 in conference play. Since SMU defeated Kentucky, who defeated LSU, Baylor > Texas > TCU > SMU > Kentucky > LSU.

8-2 Baylor, of course, had a better straight record than Kentucky and LSU, and may have passed up both in a post-bowl poll anyway. They lost to now-#4 Rice and Texas, and they defeated 9-1 Wyoming, who won all the rest of their games by more than a touchdown, including a 103-0 win over Northern Colorado (Wyoming is the last major team to score over 100 in a game)
.

Texas lost to #2 Oklahoma by just 20-14, and to now-#4 Rice by just 17-15. Their other 2 losses came by 1 point each to SMU and TCU, and they upset Baylor 20-0. TCU dropped an upset tie to 4-4-2 Oklahoma State and a loss to 5-5 Arkansas early in the season, but they caught fire over their last 3 games, beating Texas and SMU, and losing to Rice by just 20-14. Their other loss was to Baylor.

SMU actually beat 2 rated teams. In addition to Kentucky, they beat #20 Missouri 28-27. They took an upset tie with 1-8-1 Texas A&M, but put up a magnificent effort in their finale with #1 Notre Dame, losing an exciting game by just 27-20. They were the only team to come within a touchdown of Notre Dame this season.

The only rated team Kentucky defeated was LSU. In addition to SMU and Santa Clara, they lost to lower-rated Tennessee. LSU beat now-#4 Rice 14-7 early in the season, but they lost that advantage with an upset loss to 4-6-1 Georgia. They beat #16 North Carolina 13-7, and they lost 35-0 to #2 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

The SWC had the best record against nonconference opponents this season, 21-7-1, and they went 4-2 against the SEC. But the PCC had almost the same record as the SWC (20-7-2), and Santa Clara also beat Kentucky and needs to be moved ahead of them. Santa Clara was not in the PCC, but they beat some good PCC teams, and several PCC teams had better relevant records than these SWC teams we're moving up, so let's look at Santa Clara and those PCC teams next.

Santa Clara, Stanford, Southern Cal, and UCLA

#15 Santa Clara was 8-2-1, losing 21-7 at now-#8 California and 28-21 at #2 Oklahoma. They took an upset tie at 7-3-1 Stanford, and in addition to beating Kentucky in the Orange Bowl, they won 14-0 at 6-3 UCLA. The AP poll rated them higher than Baylor to begin with, so there they shall remain. But a trio of unrated PCC teams had better relevant records than Baylor: 7-3-1 Stanford, 5-3-1 Southern Cal, and 6-3 UCLA.

Stanford beat USC, who beat UCLA, who beat Stanford, so those 3 teams make a circle. But Stanford's other losses came to top 10 teams (Michigan and California)
, and they tied Santa Clara, so that elevates them to the top of the circle. They also beat 7-3 Oregon State 27-7, and all 7 of their wins were by more than a touchdown (average score in their wins 47-7). Southern Cal's losses came to Stanford, now-#8 California, and #1 Notre Dame. They beat UCLA 21-7, and they tied now-#7 Ohio State. UCLA's losses came to Santa Clara, USC, and California, and they won 14-7 at Stanford and 35-13 over 7-3 Oregon State.

As a group, these 3 PCC teams tied 2 higher-ranked teams, and they took no upset losses or ties. As a group, Baylor, Texas, TCU, and SMU took a loss and 2 ties to unranked opponents, and they did not defeat or tie any higher-rated teams.

Ranking All These Teams

So what we have here is this long chain: Santa Clara > Stanford > Southern Cal > UCLA > Baylor > Texas > Texas Christian > Southern Methodist > Kentucky > Louisiana State. The only question now is where to put all these teams. #12 Cornell, #13 Villanova, and #14 Maryland were all overrated and will be dropping anyway, and #16 North Carolina lost to LSU, so let's put all these teams where Kentucky is now, behind 11-0 Pacific and ahead of 8-1 Cornell.

That gives us the following massive ratings shift: Pacific #9, Santa Clara #10, Stanford #11, Southern Cal #12, UCLA #13, Baylor #14, Texas #15, Texas Christian #16, Southern Methodist #17, Kentucky #18, Louisiana State #19, Cornell #20, Villanova #21, Maryland #22, North Carolina #23, Tennessee #24, Princeton #25, Michigan State #26, and Missouri #27. Obviously that drops Michigan State and Missouri out of the rankings, though the Spartans are about to come back in...

Oregon State, Michigan State, and Maryland

Unrated 7-3 Oregon State defeated 6-3 Michigan State (originally rated #19) 25-20, and should have been rated higher to begin with. That is even more clear after making the preceding logical fixes, as OSU's 3 losses all came to teams now ranked in the top 13. That gives them a better relevant record than all the teams currently ranked behind Louisiana State. 8-1 Cornell had a nice record, but they lost 16-7 to unrated Dartmouth, and of course they played a weak schedule. OSU took no upset losses, so they should be moved ahead of Cornell.

But then so should Michigan State. Their only losses came to Oregon State, now-#5 Michigan, and #1 Notre Dame. They also defeated 9-1 Maryland (originally ranked #14) 14-7, and should have been ranked higher than the Terrapins to begin with. Their other 5 wins came by an average score of 50-7. Like Oregon State, they took 1 less upset loss than did Cornell, and should be moved ahead of them.

Of course, once you move Michigan State ahead of Cornell, Maryland belongs ahead of them as well. Their only loss came to Michigan State, so they also had 1 less upset loss than Cornell took. They defeated Missouri (originally rated #20) 20-7 in the Gator Bowl, and may have passed Cornell up in a post-bowl poll anyway.

Bring Oregon State in at #20, and move Michigan State up to #21 and Maryland to #22. Cornell and Villanova drop 3 places each, and North Carolina drops 2 spots to #25. Tennessee and Princeton drop out, joining Missouri in oblivion.

Wyoming

For all the "Little Big" teams the AP poll ranks that shouldn't be ranked, it is always surprising when they miss a legitimate little big powerhouse. 9-1 Wyoming was unranked, but lost only to 8-2 Baylor. They outscored their other 9 opponents by a total of 368-33 (average score 41-4), and no one else came within a touchdown of them. They are the last major team to score over 100 in a game, beating Northern Colorado 103-0, and they won 8-0 at 9-1 Colorado State. Why in the name of all that is good and Holy would you rank 8-1 Cornell and 8-1 Villanova, who were not nearly so impressive, and not Wyoming?

Back in these days, though society had telephones and newspapers aplenty, writers often took a year to get football news from far-flung places. As such, Wyoming would be rewarded for this season the next year, with a high ranking in the 1950 AP poll.

But since Cornell took an upset loss and Wyoming did not, let's reward them for 1949 in the 1949 rankings.

Bring Wyoming in at #23, dropping Cornell and Villanova 1 spot each. 7-4 North Carolina drops out, but they lost their bowl game and would have dropped out of the rankings in a post-bowl poll anyway.

Tulane

Unrated 7-2-1 Tulane lost to #1 Notre Dame and now-#19 Louisiana State, and they took an upset tie with 3-5-1 Navy. That gave them a relevant record that was effectively half a game better than the relevant records of Cornell and Villanova, each of whom lost to an unrated team. All of Tulane's wins were by more than a touchdown, including 28-14 over 6-3-1 Alabama, 18-0 over 7-3 Georgia Tech, and 28-14 at 7-2 Virginia. Far more impressive than Cornell and Villanova's wins.

Bring Tulane in at #24, dropping Cornell to #25 and Villanova out of the rankings. Villanova's performance this season was pretty impressive, but their schedule was lousy, and they lost to 5-5-1 Tulsa.

Wisconsin and Cornell

Unrated 5-3-1 Wisconsin took their losses to now-#8 California, now-#7 Ohio State, and now-#6 Minnesota. They took an upset tie at 3-4-2 Illinois, so like Tulane their relevant record was effectively a half game better than Cornell's. However, unlike Tulane, they did not defeat any good teams. As such, I can offer the AP poll a compromise here-- we can put Wisconsin and Cornell at #25 in a tie.

Bring Wisconsin in at #25, tied with Cornell.

Fixed AP Top 25

Huge changes were made to this AP poll. As I go back in time, I am finding the AP poll's rankings to be more and more haphazard (i.e., half-assed). Five teams dropped out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25: #13 Villanova (8-1), #16 North Carolina (7-4), #17 Tennessee (7-2-1), #18 Princeton (6-3), and #20 Missouri (7-4). Those teams took a combined 6 losses and 1 tie to unranked teams, and they defeated 1 AP-rated team. Discounting games against each other, the 10 teams that come into the fixed poll took a total of just 1 loss and 4 ties to unranked teams, and they brought home 4 wins and 2 ties against AP-rated teams.

1) Notre Dame 10-0 --
2) Oklahoma 11-0 --
3) Army 9-0 +1
4) Rice 10-1 +1
5) Michigan 6-2-1 +2
6) Minnesota 7-2 +2
7) Ohio State 7-1-2 -1
8) California 10-1 -5
9) Pacific 11-0 +1
10) Santa Clara 8-2-1 +5
11) Stanford 7-3-1 IN
12) Southern Cal 5-3-1 IN
13) UCLA 6-3 IN
14) Baylor 8-2 +6.5
15) Texas 6-4 IN
16) Texas Christian 6-3-1 IN
17) Southern Methodist 5-4-1 IN
18) Kentucky 9-3 -7
19) Louisiana State 8-3 -10
20) Oregon State 7-3 IN
21) Michigan State 6-3 -2
22) Maryland 9-1 -8
23) Wyoming 9-1 IN
24) Tulane 7-2-1 IN
25) Cornell 8-1
       Wisconsin 5-3-1
-13
IN

OUT: #13 Villanova 8-1
#16 North Carolina 7-4
#17 Tennessee 7-2-1
#18 Princeton 6-3
#20 Missouri 7-4