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Fixing the Final 1953 AP College Football Poll

1) Maryland 10-1
2) Notre Dame 9-0-1
3) Michigan State 9-1
4) Oklahoma 9-1-1
5) UCLA 8-2
6) Rice 9-2
7) Illinois 7-1-1
8) Georgia Tech 9-2-1

9) Iowa 5-3-1
10) West Virginia 8-2
11) Texas 7-3
12) Texas Tech 11-1
13) Alabama 6-3-3
14) Army 7-1-1
15) Wisconsin 6-2-1
16) Kentucky 7-2-1
17) Auburn 7-3-1
18) Duke 7-2-1
19) Stanford 6-3-1
20) Michigan 6-3
To the left is the final 1953 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.

#4 Oklahoma defeated #1 Maryland 7-0 in the Orange Bowl, and that makes #2 Notre Dame a no-brainer for a post-bowl #1, since they had the best record of any rated team, and they beat Oklahoma 28-21 in Norman. Maryland, of course, will have to drop back behind Oklahoma. But where do we put Oklahoma and Maryland in relation to #3 Michigan State?

They should be placed in the middle of where they had been ranked. The average ranking of #4 Oklahoma and #1 Maryland, of course, was 2.5, better than Michigan State's #3. That would put Oklahoma at #2, Maryland at #3, and Michigan State at #4. Is this logically viable? Yes, because Michigan State took an upset loss to 2-7 Purdue, while Oklahoma took just an upset tie, and Maryland suffered no upsets.

I would rank Michigan State #2 myself (impressive schedule), and it's possible that a post-bowl AP poll would have done so as well, but they declined to publish one. So our first logical repair to this pre-bowl AP poll is to move Notre Dame up to #1 and Oklahoma to #2, dropping Maryland to #3 and Michigan State to #4.
Oklahoma's touchdown to beat Maryland 7-0 in the 1954 Orange Bowl
#4 Oklahoma scoring the touchdown that beat #1 Maryland 7-0 in the Orange Bowl,
opening the door for Notre Dame.

Wisconsin

#15 Wisconsin (6-2-1) defeated #9 Iowa (5-3-1) 10-6 and #7 Illinois (7-1-1) 34-7, and the latter very decisive head-to-head win should have placed them ahead of Illinois in the rankings. They had 1 more loss than Illinois because they played and lost to #5 UCLA, which is irrelevant when comparing Wisconsin to Illinois, since the AP poll ranked UCLA higher than Illinois.

The average ranking of these 3 teams is just over 10, but since #10 West Virginia will be dropping in the fixed poll anyway (as detailed at the end of this article), we'll put these 3 teams where Iowa is ranked now.

Move Georgia Tech up to #7 and Wisconsin to #8, and drop Illinois to #9 and Iowa to #10. West Virginia, Texas, Texas Tech, Alabama, and Army all drop a spot as well.

Rice

#6 Rice (9-2) took 2 upset losses, to unranked Southern Methodist (5-5) and #16 Kentucky (7-2-1). That gave them a worse relevant record than everyone ranked behind them down to Texas, whom they beat 18-13 in Austin. That's where they should be moved-- to just ahead of Texas. West Virginia, who currently sits in front of Texas, will be dropping anyway, so let's compare 9-2 Rice to 5-3-1 Iowa, who sits in front of West Virginia.

Rice, as stated, took 2 upset losses, while Iowa took 1, at #20 Michigan (6-3). That effectively puts Iowa a game better than Rice. Iowa tied now-#1 Notre Dame 14-14 on the road in their finale, and that effectively puts them a game and a half better than Rice. The tie at Notre Dame was also a much more impressive result than any Rice win-- Oklahoma (now #2) was the only other team to come within a touchdown of Notre Dame.

Drop Rice to #11. Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and West Virginia all move up 1 spot.

Texas Tech

11-1 Texas Tech was very impressive, but they were in the little-respected Border Conference at this time, so they were ranked behind a couple of SWC teams that were less impressive, 9-2 Rice and 7-3 Texas. Texas Tech did play a schedule that was largely WAC-like, but they also defeated #17 Auburn 35-13 in the Gator Bowl, they won 27-20 at 5-2-3 Mississippi State (a good SEC team who will be rated in the fixed AP poll), they won 27-6 at 8-2 UTEP (who won 37-14 over 9-2 Southern Miss, who beat #13 Alabama), and they won 27-13 at 7-3 Oklahoma State (Missouri Valley champion). The Mississippi State game was their only close win. Their one blemish was a loss to 4-5-1 Texas A&M, but Rice took 2 upset losses, to 5-5 SMU and #16 Kentucky (the 2 SEC teams Texas Tech defeated will both be rated higher than Kentucky in the fixed poll).

So move Texas Tech up ahead of Rice, to #11, dropping Rice and Texas 1 spot each.

Michigan and Ohio State

6-3 Michigan (#20) and 6-3 Ohio State (unrated, but #20 in the coaches' poll) were both underrated. Michigan took an upset loss (22-0 at 4-4-1 Minnesota), but they made up for it with an upset win (14-13 over #9 Iowa). Ohio State lost only to rated teams (Michigan State, Illinois, and Michigan), and they won 20-19 at now-#7 Wisconsin. Both thus had better relevant records than quite a few teams ranked ahead of them-- all the teams up to #9 Iowa, in fact.

Rice, again, had 2 upset losses, and no upset wins to make up for them, so Michigan was effectively 2 games better, and once Michigan is rated higher than Rice, Ohio State is effectively 3 games better than Rice.

Both also had better relevant records than Texas Tech, who took 1 upset loss, but Texas Tech beat 4 good teams, Michigan 2, and Ohio State 1, and Tech also performed very impressively, so the AP poll can keep Texas Tech rated higher.

Move Michigan up to #12 and Ohio State to #13, dropping Rice and all the teams behind them 2 spots each.

Army, Duke, and Alabama

6-3-3 Alabama (originally rated #13) lost their bowl game 28-6 to now-#14 Rice, and certainly would have fallen behind 7-1-1 Army (originally #14) in a post-bowl poll. Neither was particularly impressive this season, and either could be ranked higher than the other. But Army beat 7-2-1 Duke (originally #18), and Duke certainly had a better relevant record than Alabama. Alabama beat now-#6 Georgia Tech, but they also took a loss and 3 ties to unrated opponents, while Duke took just 1 upset tie.

7-2-1 Kentucky (originally #16) lost to unrated 7-2-1 Mississippi, and needs to be dropped back behind them (as covered next), and 7-3-1 Auburn lost 35-13 to Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl, and definitely would have dropped behind Duke in a post-bowl poll, so let's move both Army and Duke up ahead of Alabama.

That puts Army at #16 and Duke at #17, dropping Alabama to #18, Kentucky to #19, and Auburn to #20.

Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Kentucky

7-3-1 Auburn was rated right behind 7-2-1 Kentucky, but Auburn suffered just 1 upset tie, while Kentucky took 2 losses and a tie to unrated opponents. Kentucky did defeat now-#14 Rice, but that only made up for 1 of the upset losses, leaving them still effectively 1 game back of Auburn. The main problem here was 7-2-1 Mississippi, who defeated Kentucky 22-6 and should have been rated higher to begin with. Mississippi, in turn, lost to Auburn, so Auburn > Mississippi > Kentucky, and that is the way these teams should be ranked.

But then there is the issue of 5-2-3 Mississippi State, which is much trickier. Kentucky had a better straight record, and they stomped on Mississippi State 32-13, but MSU had a better relevant record. Let's count it out. Kentucky's win over MSU gives them a game lead. Kentucky also beat a higher-ranked opponent, now-#14 Rice, while Mississippi State tied 2 higher-ranked opponents, Alabama and Auburn. A tie is half a win (and half a loss), so the 2 ties are equal to Kentucky's upset win. Kentucky still has a game lead. Kentucky lost to 4-5-1 Texas A&M, and they were tied by unranked LSU, while Mississippi State had no other upset losses or ties-- that puts Mississippi State half a game ahead. Finally, MSU tied Mississippi, so in the end they were effectively one game better than Kentucky on the season.

Kentucky's 32-13 win over MSU was very dominating, but MSU tied Mississippi, who beat Kentucky 22-6, and MSU won 26-13 at LSU, who tied Kentucky-- those scores were dominating as well, and there is more than 1 there. MSU's 32-13 loss at Kentucky was their only poor performance. They lost to now-#11 Texas Tech by just 7 (Tech beat Auburn 35-13). And MSU beat Tennessee 26-0 on the road, while Kentucky only beat them 27-21 at home. So every result but the one head-to-head game goes in Mississippi State's favor. MSU was not only effectively a game better than Kentucky, but they performed better too.

Mississippi and Mississippi State tied each other and had the same relevant record; you could go with either one ranked higher than the other. The AP poll would have gone with Mississippi's better straight record, and the main difference between them performance-wise was the fact that Mississippi romped on Kentucky, and Kentucky romped on Mississippi State, so let's rank Ole Miss higher. Their tie also came on Mississippi State's home field.

Move Auburn up to #19, and bring Mississippi in at #20 and Mississippi State at #21. Kentucky drops to #22 and Stanford to #23. But Stanford needs to be dropped back behind Southern Cal, as discussed next.

Southern Cal and Stanford

6-3-1 Stanford was originally ranked #19, which is odd because they lost to 6-3-1 Southern Cal, who was unrated. I suppose the culprit behind this misranking was Lastgamitis-- Southern Cal's last game being a 48-14 loss to now-#1 Notre Dame. But I don't see how Stanford's season-ending tie with 4-4-2 Cal was a better result. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Bring Southern Cal in ahead of Stanford, at #23, dropping Stanford to #24.

Minnesota

Similar to the case of Kentucky vs. Mississippi State, 6-3-1 Southern Cal beat 4-4-1 Minnesota 17-7, and they obviously had a better straight record, but Minnesota had the better relevant record. Minnesota's other 3 losses all came to teams ranked in the top 10, and they tied now-#7 Wisconsin in their finale. On top of that, they defeated now-#12 Michigan 22-0, giving them a win and a tie against much higher-rated teams, thus putting them effectively a half game better than Southern Cal despite the head-to-head result. But that is not all-- USC took an upset loss (at 4-5-1 Oregon) and tie (at 3-6-1 Washington), leaving them an effective 2 games back of Minnesota on the season.

Bring Minnesota in at #23, dropping Southern Cal and Stanford 1 spot each. We're now at 25 teams, but unfortunately USC and Stanford are not done dropping.

Louisiana State

5-3-3 Louisiana State also had a better relevant record than Southern Cal (as well as Stanford). They took an upset loss to unrated Tennessee (6-4-1), but they made up for that with a big 20-7 win over now-#15 Texas. They were tied by unrated Florida (3-5-2), but they made up for that by tying now-#18 Alabama. Lastly, they tied now-#22 Kentucky. Southern Cal took a loss and a tie to unrated teams, just like LSU did, but they had just 1 upset win (over Minnesota) to make up for it, leaving LSU effectively 1 game better on the season (their ties with higher-rated Alabama and Kentucky).

LSU had the same relevant record as Minnesota, but Minnesota performed better (the main problem for LSU being a 9-8 win over unrated Arkansas), so we'll leave Minnesota rated higher.

Bring Louisiana State in at #24, dropping Southern Cal to #25 and Stanford out the trap door. But USC will soon be following them...

South Carolina and West Virginia

8-2 West Virginia was this season's most overrated team, originally ranked #10. They lost 42-19 to Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, and surely would have plummeted in a post-bowl poll, but they never should have been rated higher than 7-3 South Carolina (unrated) to begin with. Neither team really accomplished much-- West Virginia did nothing but beat a decent 6-3 Penn State, and South Carolina did nothing but beat West Virginia. The best I can do for the AP poll here is to place these teams behind Louisiana State and ahead of Southern Cal, since the Trojans didn't accomplish much either.

Bring South Carolina in at #24 and drop West Virginia all the way down to #25. Southern Cal drops out of the top 25, while all the other teams that had been rated behind West Virginia move up 1 spot each.

Fixed AP Top 25

Stanford (6-3-1, originally rated #19) drops out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25. They took 2 losses and a tie to unranked teams, and they defeated 1 AP-rated team. Discounting games against each other, the 6 teams that come into the fixed poll took a total of 3 losses and a tie to unranked teams, and they had 5 wins and 5 ties against AP-rated teams.

1) Notre Dame 9-0-1 +1
2) Oklahoma 9-1-1 +2
3) Maryland 10-1 -2
4) Michigan State 9-1 -1
5) UCLA 8-2 --
6) Georgia Tech 9-2-1 +2
7) Wisconsin 6-2-1 +8
8) Illinois 7-1-1 -1
9) Iowa 5-3-1 --
10) Texas Tech 11-1 +2
11) Michigan 6-3 +9
12) Ohio State 6-3 IN
13) Rice 9-2 -7
14) Texas 7-3 -3
15) Army 7-1-1 -1
16) Duke 7-2-1 +2
17) Alabama 6-3-3 -4
18) Auburn 7-3-1 -1
19) Mississippi 7-2-1 IN
20) Mississippi State 5-2-3 IN
21) Kentucky 7-2-1 -5
22) Minnesota 4-4-1 IN
23) Louisiana State 5-3-3 IN
24) South Carolina 7-3 IN
25) West Virginia 8-2 -15

OUT: #19 Stanford 6-3-1