Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller
                                1952 National Championship

Fixing the Final 1952 AP College Football Poll

1) Michigan State 9-0
2) Georgia Tech 12-0
3) Notre Dame 7-2-1
4) Oklahoma 8-1-1
5) Southern Cal 10-1
6) UCLA 8-1
7) Mississippi 8-1-2
8) Tennessee 8-2-1

9) Alabama 10-2
10) Texas 9-2
11) Wisconsin 6-3-1
12) Tulsa 8-2-1
13) Maryland 7-2
14) Syracuse 7-3
15) Florida 8-3
16) Duke 8-2
17) Ohio State 6-3
18) Purdue 4-3-2
19) Princeton 8-1
20) Kentucky 5-4-2
To the left is the final 1952 AP college football top 20. The fixed final AP poll, expanded to 25 teams, follows the article below.

The AP and coaches' polls had 9-0 Michigan State #1, while the International News Service poll had Georgia Tech #1. I'd go with Georgia Tech myself, as they played a deeper schedule and performed better, but Michigan State's 21-3 win over #3 Notre Dame was much better than any GT win, so you could go with either team at #1.

Our first fix to this poll is therefore further down the list-- #10 Texas. They defeated #8 Tennessee 16-0 in the Cotton Bowl, and obviously need to be moved up ahead of the Volunteers. But why stop there?

9-2 Texas lost only to #3 Notre Dame and #4 Oklahoma, while 8-1-2 Mississippi (#7) took upset ties to 5-4-2 Kentucky (#20) and 3-5-2 Vanderbilt. Ole Miss lost their bowl game 24-7 to Georgia Tech, and obviously would have dropped back behind Texas in a post-bowl poll anyway.

So move Texas up to #7, dropping Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama 1 spot each.
Michigan State halfback Billy Wells carries for Michigan State at Purdue in 1952
Michigan State halfback Billy Wells carries for Michigan State in a 14-7 win at Purdue

Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi

#9 Alabama (10-2) won their bowl game 61-6 over #14 Syracuse, while #7 Mississippi (8-1-2) and #8 Tennessee (8-2-1) each got drubbed in their bowl games, so needless to say, Alabama would have easily passed up Mississippi and Tennessee in a post-bowl poll, but they should have been rated higher than both to begin with. Tennessee did beat Alabama 20-9, but they also took a loss to #16 Duke and a tie to #20 Kentucky, so Alabama was effectively a half game better. Alabama and Mississippi had the same relevant record, but Alabama performed much better. Alabama had 1 close win (at unrated Louisiana State), while Mississippi had 4 close wins, 3 of them over unrated opponents (Tulane, Houston, and Mississippi State).

Once we move Alabama up ahead of Mississippi, Tennessee should be moved ahead of them as well. With Alabama rated higher than Mississippi, Tennessee's win over Alabama gives them a relevant record that is effectively half a game better than Mississippi's, and like Alabama, Tennessee performed much better than Ole Miss (Tennessee also had just 1 close win, over unrated Mississippi State).

Move Alabama to #8, Tennessee to #9, and Mississippi to #10.

Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Purdue

#11 Wisconsin (6-3-1) lost to #17 Ohio State (6-3), and should be ranked behind the Buckeyes. Ohio State, in turn, lost to both #18 Purdue (4-3-2) and unrated Pittsburgh (6-3, rated #15 in the coaches' poll). Pittsburgh lost to unrated Penn State (7-2-1), and PSU lost to #14 Syracuse (7-3). Pitt had both a better relevant record and straight record than did Purdue, so what we have here is the following long chain: #14 Syracuse 7-3 > Penn State 7-2-1 > Pittsburgh 6-3 > #18 Purdue 4-3-2 > #17 Ohio State 6-3 > #11 Wisconsin 6-3-1. And that is indeed the way these teams should have been ranked.

Wisconsin and Purdue actually shared the Big 10 title this season, each taking a loss and tie in conference play. But Purdue defeated 6-3 Ohio State, a team Wisconsin did not play. Wisconsin, in fact, did not beat a single winning opponent. Purdue also tied 7-2-1 Penn State, giving them 2 accomplishments to Wisconsin's none. So Purdue should be rated higher. Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 23-14, and they also belong ahead of the Badgers. They were a half game back of Wisconsin in conference play, but that is because they played and lost to Purdue, whom Wisconsin did not play. Ohio State also defeated 5-4 Michigan, giving them 2 victories over winning opponents to Wisconsin's none. Frankly, Wisconsin is lucky to be ranked at all.

Syracuse, Penn State, and Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh won 21-14 at Ohio State. They took an upset loss to unrated 7-2 West Virginia, but they made up for it with a huge 22-19 win at #3 Notre Dame. Purdue took an upset loss to unrated 5-4 Michigan and a tie with unrated 4-3-2 Minnesota, and they just made up for the tie-- tying 7-2-1 Penn State (who beat Pitt 17-0). That leaves Pitt effectively a game better than Purdue on the season.

As stated, Penn State defeated Pitt 17-0, and Syracuse beat PSU 25-7.

So where do we rank all these teams? The average ranking of Penn State, Pitt, Purdue, Ohio State, and Wisconsin would be about where Ohio State was ranked, so let's put them there. Syracuse could stay where they were ranked before, except that they lost their bowl game 61-6 to Alabama, and no doubt would have plummeted in a post-bowl poll. So let's just drop them back with the others, and move #15 Florida (8-3) and #16 Duke (8-2) past them.

All of that leads to the following ratings shift: Tulsa #11, Maryland #12, Florida #13, Duke #14, Syracuse #15, Penn State #16, Pittsburgh #17, Purdue #18, Ohio State #19, Wisconsin #20, Princeton #21, and Kentucky #22.


Unrated Navy (6-2-1, rated #17 in the coaches' poll) was undervalued. They took an upset tie to unrated 4-3-2 Pennsylvania, but they also defeated now-#14 Duke, and that gives them a better relevant record than every team currently ranked behind Duke. That's where I would rate them-- right behind Duke (Duke beat now-#9 Tennessee, which is why they belong rated ahead of Navy despite losing to them).

However, in a very tough case, I can give the AP poll Syracuse. Duke is now rated right in front of Syracuse, but nothing indicates that they were clearly better than Syracuse, and so Navy's win over Duke isn't worth much more than Syracuse's win over Penn State. And Navy was tied by an unranked team, while Syracuse took no upsets (unless you count their opening loss to Bolling Field, but it is hard to know what to do with games against military teams).

Move Navy in at #16, dropping Penn State and everyone behind them 1 spot each.


7-4 Georgia was unrated, but all 4 of their losses came to top 15 teams (Maryland, Florida, Alabama, Georgia Tech), giving them a better relevant record than every team up to Pittsburgh. Purdue, who sits behind Pitt, took an upset loss to unrated 5-4 Michigan. So we'll slide Georgia in between Pitt and Purdue.

Bring Georgia in at #19, dropping Purdue and everyone behind them 1 spot each. It should also be noted that the SEC was the top conference this season, 39-8-1 against nonconference opponents, while the Big 10 was a disastrous 8-14-2.


This year's token Ivy team was 8-1 Princeton, originally rated #19. Princeton's loss came to 4-3-2 Pennsylvania, but don't be fooled by the huge difference in their straight records. Princeton played an all-Ivy schedule except for a game with Rutgers, who was playing an FCS-level schedule themselves at this time. Penn, on the other hand, played Notre Dame, Navy, Penn State, Georgia, and Army in addition to 4 Ivy opponents, and they tied #3 Notre Dame and now-#16 Navy. There is simply no question that Penn should be rated higher than Princeton.

Penn's 4-3-2 record may not look pretty, but the AP poll saw fit to rate 4-3-2 Purdue at #18-- in fact, let's compare Purdue to Penn. Purdue took an upset loss to unrated 5-4 Michigan and a tie to unrated 4-3-2 Minnesota, while Penn suffered just 1 upset loss to 4-4-1 Army (and they lost by 1 point, whereas Purdue lost to Michigan 21-10). That gives Penn an effective half game lead. Purdue tied a higher-rated opponent, 7-2-1 Penn State, but Penn, again, tied 2 such opponents, 6-2-1 Navy and 7-2-1 Notre Dame, who is rated #3. This is no contest-- Penn should be rated ahead of Purdue as well as Princeton.

In their desire to get a token Ivy team onto the list, the sportswriters unfairly overlooked an Ivy team that actually merits being ranked. And once you rank Penn, Princeton looks better too, since they no longer have an upset loss on their ledger.

Bring Pennsylvania in at #20, dropping Purdue and everyone behind them 1 spot each.

Houston and Tulsa

8-2-1 Tulsa, originally ranked #12, was vastly overrated. The big problem here is that they lost 33-7 to unrated 8-2 Houston (#19 in the coaches' poll), thereby losing the Missouri Valley title to Houston as well. How conference champion Houston could pound them like that, but end up unrated while Tulsa was ranked #12, is a great mystery to me. But needless to say, it needs to be fixed. Houston took an upset loss to 3-6-1 Texas A&M, and Tulsa took an upset tie to 8-1-1 Cincinnati (who lost to 5-4-2 Kentucky), and neither team defeated a rated opponent. Not very impressive. Where can we put them?

Well, 5-4-2 Kentucky, currently rated #25, took 3 losses to unranked opponents, so Houston and Tulsa can certainly be rated higher than them. Kentucky did defeat Cincinnati, who tied Tulsa, but Tulsa defeated Villanova 42-6, and Villanova beat Kentucky 25-6. I don't know what Kentucky was doing in the top 20 to begin with.

Then there's 8-1 Princeton at #24. Tulsa had originally been rated 7 places higher than Princeton, and Houston had been rated #19 in the coaches' poll, so I'd say the average rating of Tulsa and Houston outpaced Princeton's rating. Princeton beat nobody, so Houston and Tulsa can be rated higher than them. But that's it. Wisconsin, now #23, was rated higher than Tulsa to begin with.

Bring Houston in at #23, drop Tulsa all the way back to #24, and drop Princeton to #25. Kentucky falls out of the top 25, and everyone that had been rated between Tulsa and Princeton moves up 1 spot.

Fixed AP Top 25

Kentucky (5-4-2, originally rated #20) drops out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25. They took an ugly 3 losses to unranked teams, and they tied 2 AP-rated teams. Discounting games against each other, the 6 teams that come into the fixed poll took a total of 3 losses to unranked teams, the same as Kentucky suffered alone, and they totaled 5 wins and 2 ties against AP-rated teams.

1) Michigan State 9-0 --
2) Georgia Tech 12-0 --
3) Notre Dame 7-2-1 --
4) Oklahoma 8-1-1 --
5) Southern Cal 10-1 --
6) UCLA 8-1 --
7) Texas 9-2 +3
8) Alabama 10-2 +1
9) Tennessee 8-2-1 -1
10) Mississippi 8-1-2 -3
11) Maryland 7-2 +2
12) Florida 8-3 +3
13) Duke 8-2 +3
14) Syracuse 7-3 --
15) Navy 6-2-1 IN
16) Penn State 7-2-1 IN
17) Pittsburgh 6-3 IN
18) Georgia 7-4 IN
19) Pennsylvania 4-3-2 IN
20) Purdue 4-3-2 -2
21) Ohio State 6-3 -4
22) Wisconsin 6-3-1 -11
23) Houston 8-2 IN
24) Tulsa 8-2-1 -12
25) Princeton 8-1 -6

OUT: #20 Kentucky 5-4-2