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Fixing the Final 1951 AP College Football Poll

1) Tennessee 10-1
2) Michigan State 9-0
3) Maryland 10-0
4) Illinois 9-0-1
5) Georgia Tech 11-0-1
6) Princeton 9-0
7) Stanford 9-2
8) Wisconsin 7-1-1

9) Baylor 8-2-1
10) Oklahoma 8-2
11) Texas Christian 6-5
12) California 8-2
13) Virginia 8-1
14) San Francisco 9-0
15) Kentucky 8-4
16) Boston 6-4
17) UCLA 5-3-1
18) Washington State 7-3
19) Holy Cross 8-2
20) Clemson 7-3
To the left is the final 1951 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.

Here we have another case of a #1 team losing their bowl game, as #3 Maryland whipped #1 Tennessee 28-13 in the Sugar Bowl. Should Maryland leap over #2 Michigan State for #1? Well, given that Michigan State did not play in a bowl game, did not play a rated opponent, and had 4 close wins (touchdown or less) over that weak schedule, yes, Maryland should definitely be rated higher than Michigan State.

Tennessee won every game before the Sugar Bowl by more than a touchdown, including a 28-0 rout at #15 Kentucky, so they should remain ranked higher than Michigan State. With their weak schedule and performance, Michigan State is quite fortunate to be ranked as highly as #3.

Move Maryland to #1, dropping Tennessee and Michigan State 1 spot each.
Maryland quarterback Jack Scarbath scoring a touchdown in #3 Maryland's 28-13 win over #1 Tennessee in the 1952 Sugar Bowl
Maryland quarterback Jack Scarbath scoring a touchdown in #3 Maryland's 28-13 win over #1 Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl
.

Wisconsin and Stanford

#8 Wisconsin (7-1-1) has both a better straight record and relevant record than does #7 Stanford (9-2). Stanford was beaten 40-7 by #4 Illinois in the Rose Bowl, and would have definitely dropped behind Wisconsin (who lost 14-10 at Illinois) in a post-bowl poll, so let's move Wisconsin up ahead of them.

Switch 'em: Wisconsin to #7 and Stanford to #8.

Texas

7-3 Texas was unranked, but they defeated #10 Oklahoma (8-2), #11 Texas Christian (6-5), and #15 Kentucky (8-4), so they were badly misrated. In fact, they should have been rated ahead of all 3 of those teams. Accounting for the losses to Texas should drop #10 Oklahoma and #11 TCU behind #12 California, but #13 Virginia and #14 San Francisco beat no one, so let's put Texas, Oklahoma, and TCU ahead of them (though TCU will be taking a big fall later, as detailed below).

Texas did take 2 upset losses (16-14 at 5-5 Arkansas and 22-21 at 5-3-2 Texas A&M), while Oklahoma took just 1 (14-7 at Texas A&M), but Texas' 9-7 win over Oklahoma gives the 2 teams equal relevant records, with Texas getting the head-to-head tiebreaker. On top of that, Texas beat 3 rated teams, and Oklahoma beat none
.

Bring Texas in at #11. California moves up to #10, and Oklahoma and Texas Christian drop 2 spots each. Virginia and all the teams behind them drop 1 spot each.

California

8-2 California now sits right behind 8-2-1 Baylor. Baylor took an upset loss and a tie, while Cal took 2 upset losses, but Cal made up for one of those with a win over now-#8 Stanford in their finale, and Stanford is ranked ahead of Baylor. Both had 2 close wins, but Baylor's came against unranked opponents, whereas only 1 of Cal's close wins was over an unranked opponent. Finally, Cal defeated 2 ranked teams while Baylor defeated 1 (now that Texas is ranked). Baylor lost their bowl game, and would have likely dropped behind Cal in a post-bowl poll anyway.

Move California up to #9 and drop Baylor to #10. Cal now sits right behind Stanford, whom they defeated, but Stanford beat both teams that Cal lost to (UCLA and Southern Cal), and can therefore remain ranked higher.

Texas Christian

6-5 Texas Christian, originally rated #11, was as badly overrated as Texas was underrated. They lost 20-7 to Kentucky (originally #15) in the Cotton Bowl, but that is the least of their problems. They had originally lost to four unrated teams. Texas' move ahead of them drops that number to 3, but that's still not good. They made up for one of those with an upset win over #9 Baylor, but that still leaves them 2 games to the deficit.

The big problem here is that TCU lost 27-13 to 8-2 Kansas at home, and there's really no good reason for them to be ranked higher than the Jayhawks. Kansas was unrated, but #20 in the coaches' poll. They lost to 7-3 Colorado (unrated), who lost to 5-4 Northwestern (unrated), who lost to 4-3-2 Ohio State (unrated) and 5-4 Purdue (unrated, but #14 in the coaches' poll), and Purdue lost to 7-2-1 Notre Dame (unrated, but #13 in the coaches' poll). So I need to get all those teams in place before I can figure out where to put Texas Christian. And that's a lot of unrated teams that need to enter the rankings before TCU gets a slot.

Drop Texas Christian out of the rankings for now. Move Virginia and everyone behind them up 1 spot each. I'll come back to TCU when I have Kansas in place.

Kentucky

8-4 Kentucky (#15) took 1 upset loss, 21-17 at 6-3-1 Mississippi (unrated). Their wins were all by more than a touchdown, including 32-0 over 8-3 Miami-Florida (unrated, but a bowl winner over #20 Clemson) and 20-7 over 6-5 Texas Christian in the Cotton Bowl (TCU was originally rated #11, 4 places higher than Kentucky). They accomplished more than the 2 teams ranked ahead of them, 8-1 Virginia and 9-0 San Francisco. Virginia also took an upset loss, 42-14 at 6-4 Washington & Lee, and while San Francisco was not upset, Kentucky's upset loss came to a team that was substantially better than anyone San Francisco played. Neither Virginia nor San Francisco defeated a rated opponent, and both had a close win over an unrated opponent.

After their "upset" bowl win, Kentucky might well have passed up both teams in a post-bowl poll anyway, so let's go ahead and move them up.

Move Kentucky up to #13, dropping Virginia and San Francisco 1 spot each.

Boston, Holy Cross, and Clemson

At the risk of being unkind, it's time to take out the trash. When fixing the 1956 AP poll, I said that 8-1-1 George Washington was possibly the worst AP-rated team of all time. Well, I was wrong. That dubious distinction now belongs to the 1951 poll's #16 team, 6-4 Boston University, and while I have 15 more polls to fix, it's going to be tough to beat Boston for worst ever. They beat no one, and they lost to four unrated teams: 34-25 at 7-3 William & Mary, 40-34 at 5-4 Penn State, 20-13 at 6-4 Temple, and 26-19 at 5-4 Syracuse. I am simply baffled by this team's #16 ranking, but needless to say, they need to be shown the door.

#19 Holy Cross (8-2) and #20 Clemson (7-3) were not so bad, but both also need to be dropped out, as neither merits a place in a top 25. Holy Cross lost to a pair of unrated teams, 20-14 at 4-6 Tulane and 19-14 to 3-6 Boston College, and they beat no one of value. Only 1 of their 8 wins came over a team that is FBS level today (6-4 Temple). Clemson lost to 3 unrated teams, and the last came 14-0 to 8-3 Miami-Florida in the Gator Bowl, so they would have dropped out of a post-bowl poll's ranking anyway. Their other losses were 21-7 at 6-5 Pacific and 20-0 at 5-4 South Carolina. They played a better schedule than Holy Cross did, but they did not beat a team that was close to ranked.

Drop Boston, Holy Cross, and Clemson from the rankings. UCLA and Washington State each move up 1 spot, and we now have just 17 teams on our list. Time to start adding teams.

Southern Cal

7-3 Southern Cal (unrated) defeated 7-3 Washington State (originally rated #18) 31-21, and that makes this a no-brainer. USC did take a loss to unrated Notre Dame (7-2-1), but they balanced that out with a win over now-#9 California. WSU, on the other hand, did not beat a team that was close to rated.

Bring Southern Cal in at #17, dropping Washington State 1 spot.

Notre Dame, Purdue, and Ohio State

The coaches had 7-2-1 Notre Dame ranked #13 and 5-4 Purdue #14, and these teams sit atop a victory chain that has the AP poll's beloved Texas Christian pinned at the bottom, so let's bring them in next. Notre Dame won 19-12 at Southern Cal in their finale, but they lost to 3-6-1 Southern Methodist and they were tied by 2-5-2 Iowa, so USC should be ranked higher. Washington State, now #18, took no upset losses (now that USC is correctly ranked ahead of them), so they can be rated higher than Notre Dame as well.

Notre Dame defeated Purdue 30-9, and Purdue won at Northwestern 35-14 (pertinent because Northwestern beat Colorado, who beat Kansas, who beat Texas Christian).

Then there is 4-3-2 Ohio State. OSU was quite erratic. They took upset losses to 2-7 Indiana and 4-5 Michigan, but they tied 7-1-1 Wisconsin and 9-0-1 Illinois, a pair of top 10 teams. They also edged Northwestern 3-0. Purdue and Ohio State had essentially the same record (5-4 = 4-3-2), as well as the same relevant record, and I think either one is an option to be ranked higher than the other here, but let's go with the coaches and put Purdue ahead of Ohio State.

Bring Notre Dame in at #19, Purdue at #20, and Ohio State at #21.

Northwestern, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas Christian

And here is the other half of this long victory chain. 5-4 Northwestern lost to both Purdue and Ohio State, and they beat 7-3 Colorado 35-14. Colorado beat 8-2 Kansas 35-27, and Kansas won at 6-5 Texas Christian 27-13. Northwestern, Colorado, and Kansas took no upset losses or ties.

Bring Northwestern in at #22, Colorado at #23, Kansas at #24, and Texas Christian at #25. That's a big drop from #11 for TCU, and they were lucky to hang on at all, as they were down to the last slot.

Other Rating Options

We're done here, but for this fixed poll I wanted to discuss a few other rating options I considered when fixing and expanding this AP top 20.

Princeton

9-0 Princeton did not beat a rated team, and they struggled to win a couple of their games, so they seem way overrated at #6. I would drop them about 10 places in my own rating. However, 7-1-1 Wisconsin, who sits just behind them, didn't necessarily perform better. They had 1 close game over an unrated opponent to Princeton's 2, but they also beat 5-4 Penn 16-7 at home, which isn't really a better performance than Princeton's 13-7 win at Penn. Wisconsin did beat a couple of teams that made the fixed poll, #20 Purdue and #22 Northwestern, but they were also tied by #21 Ohio State. Princeton beat a pair of (arguably) near-rated teams, 5-4 Penn and 6-3 Cornell, which isn't as impressive, but they also did not take an upset.

I would certainly rate Wisconsin higher, but in the end I decided there was enough leeway here to give the AP poll its way.

Xavier-Ohio and Cincinnati

9-0-1 Xavier-Ohio was tied by a military team, Camp Lejeune. They rolled up some big scores, and they defeated 10-1 Cincinnati 26-0. Cincinnati also rolled up some big scores, and they beat 7-3 Virginia Military Institute 26-7 and 9-2 Tulsa 47-35. I would have rated both of these teams in a top 20. It's too bad the AP poll wasted its space on teams like Boston and Holy Cross rather than actual good "Little Big" teams like Xavier and Cincinnati. I wish I could have fit these teams into a top 25, but the fact that the AP poll rated Texas Christian #11 doomed them, because TCU ended up #25 in the fixed poll, leaving no place for Xavier and Cincinnati.

Texas A&M

5-3-2 Texas A&M was crazy-erratic, and the source of most of my trouble when trying to fix this AP poll. On the negative side, they lost to 5-5 Arkansas and 5-5 Rice, and they were tied by 3-6-1 Southern Methodist. On the positive side, they defeated now-#11 Texas, now-#12 Oklahoma, now-#16 UCLA, and they tied now-#9 Baylor. That gives them one game to the positive, but they also lost 20-14 at Texas Christian, who now sits at #25. And that leaves Texas A&M stuck outside the rankings at #26.

But ranking Texas A&M ahead of TCU would be a valid option. In fact, the following chain would be valid: Texas A&M > UCLA > California. Texas A&M won 21-14 at UCLA, and UCLA beat Cal 21-7. But the AP poll's choice of Cal > UCLA > Texas A&M works too, due to a myriad of factors I'm feeling too lazy to get into at the moment.

But Texas A&M could also be ranked behind UCLA and still ahead of TCU. One place I considered for a while was behind Washington State and ahead of Notre Dame. But in the end, there wasn't a compelling enough reason to do that. The AP poll obviously felt that TCU was better than Texas A&M, and ranking Texas A&M behind TCU is a valid option, so in the end I bowed to the wishes of the AP poll here.

Fixed AP Top 25

Three teams dropped out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25: #16 Boston (6-4), #19 Holy Cross (8-2), and #20 Clemson (7-3). Those teams took a combined 9 losses to unranked teams, and they did not defeat or tie any AP-rated team. Discounting games against each other, the 8 teams that come into the fixed poll took a total of 5 losses and 1 tie to unranked teams, and they attained 6 wins and 2 ties against AP-rated teams. Quite a stark difference there.

1) Maryland 10-0 +2
2) Tennessee 10-1 -1
3) Michigan State 9-0 -1
4) Illinois 9-0-1 --
5) Georgia Tech 11-0-1 --
6) Princeton 9-0 --
7) Wisconsin 7-1-1 +1
8) Stanford 9-2 -1
9) California 8-2 +3
10) Baylor 8-2-1 -1
11) Texas 7-3 IN
12) Oklahoma 8-2 -2
13) Kentucky 8-4 +2
14) Virginia 8-1 -1
15) San Francisco 9-0 -1
16) UCLA 5-3-1 +1
17) Southern Cal 7-3 IN
18) Washington State 7-3 --
19) Notre Dame 7-2-1 IN
20) Purdue 5-4 IN
21) Ohio State 4-3-2 IN
22) Northwestern 5-4 IN
23) Colorado 7-3 IN
24) Kansas 8-2 IN
25) Texas Christian 6-5 -14

OUT: #16 Boston 6-4
#19 Holy Cross 8-2
#20 Clemson 7-3