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Fixing the Final 1954 AP College Football Poll

1) Ohio State 10-0
2) UCLA 9-0
3) Oklahoma 10-0
4) Notre Dame 9-1
5) Navy 8-2
6) Mississippi 9-2
7) Army 7-2
8) Maryland 7-2-1

9) Wisconsin 7-2
10) Arkansas 8-3
11) Miami (Florida) 8-1
12) West Virginia 8-1
13) Auburn 8-3
14) Duke 8-2-1
15) Michigan 6-3
16) Virginia Tech 8-0-1
17) Southern Cal 8-4
18) Baylor 7-4
19) Rice 7-3
20) Penn State 7-2
To the left is the final 1954 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.

#9 Wisconsin (7-2) and #7 Army (7-2) both look better than #6 Mississippi (9-2), who lost 21-0 to #5 Navy (8-2) in the Sugar Bowl, and would have dropped behind both in a post-bowl poll anyway.

All 3 took an upset loss, but Mississippi is the only 1 of the 3 that did not defeat a rated opponent. They did defeat a team that will make the fixed and expanded AP top 25 (7-3 Kentucky), but Army defeated 2 such teams and Wisconsin beat 3. Army's schedule is thus closer, but Army lost to Navy by 7 in their finale, and Navy, of course, routed Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl.

Move Army up to #6 and Wisconsin to #7, and drop Mississippi to #8 and Maryland to #9. 7-2-1 Maryland lost to 8-1 Miami-Florida (#11), and should be dropped behind them, as covered next.
Ohio State back Howard "Hopalong" Cassady

Ohio State back Howard "Hopalong" Cassady was a consensus All American in 1954 and 1955, and he won the Heisman in '55. He set school records in rushing, all-purpose yards, and scoring
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Miami-Florida and Maryland

8-1 Miami-Florida beat 7-2-1 Maryland by a mere safety, 9-7, but Maryland scored a late touchdown, so the game was not as close as the score would seem to indicate. Miami outgained them 327 yards to 165, and they ran 76 plays to Maryland's 41.

Move Miami-Florida up to #9, dropping Maryland and Arkansas 1 spot each. 8-3 Arkansas, however, lost to unrated 8-3 Georgia Tech in the Cotton Bowl, so they have quite a bit further to drop...

Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Arkansas, and Auburn

8-3 Georgia Tech was highly underrated even before the bowl games. When the final AP poll vote was taken, GT was 7-3, and they had beaten 7-3 Auburn 14-7, yet Auburn was #13 and Tech wasn't rated at all (except by the coaches, who had them #11). The coaches were right-- Georgia Tech should have been rated ahead of Auburn to begin with, and GT's 14-6 Cotton Bowl victory over 8-3 Arkansas should move them ahead of the Razorbacks as well. Georgia Tech, in turn, should be rated behind 7-3 Kentucky (unrated), who beat them 13-6 on the road.

2 of these teams were rated highly (#10 and #13), and 2 not rated at all, so we'll place the 4 teams in the middle of the bottom 10-- behind Michigan and ahead of Virginia Tech. The Big 10 finished with a better record against nonconference teams this season (Big 10 was 17-9-1, SEC 27-15-2), and a trio of Big 10 teams will be coming into the rankings with better relevant records than these Southern teams had (as covered next). Virginia Tech, however, was very poor, despite the 8-0-1 record. They are headed for a precipitous ratings drop (covered below).

The AP poll had 8-3 Arkansas rated higher than 8-3 Auburn, but Arkansas' bowl loss would have dropped them back behind Auburn, and Auburn had a better relevant record, so we'll drop Arkansas behind Auburn. They key difference between them is that Auburn defeated a higher ranked team (8-1 Miami-Florida), and Arkansas did not. Also, Auburn's 3 losses came in their 1st 3 games, whereas Arkansas lost 3 of their last 4 games.

Move Kentucky into the ratings at #14, Georgia Tech at #15, and drop Auburn to #16 and Arkansas to #17. West Virginia moves up 1 spot, Duke and Michigan move up 2 spots each, and Virginia Tech and all the teams behind them drop 2 spots each.

Minnesota, Iowa, and Purdue

7-2 Minnesota, 5-4 Iowa, and 5-3-1 Purdue were all unrated (though Minnesota was #20 in the coaches' poll), but as I mentioned, this group of Big 10 teams had strong relevant records. Minnesota lost only to now-#7 Wisconsin and now-#13 Michigan. Iowa took their 4 losses to Michigan, Minnesota, #1 Ohio State, and #4 Notre Dame, and they defeated now-#7 Wisconsin. Purdue took their 3 losses to Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State, and they defeated #4 Notre Dame and tied now-#12 Duke.

These teams have better relevant records than the 4 Southern teams we just placed behind Michigan (all 4 took an upset loss, whereas none of these Big 10 teams did), so we'll put them behind Michigan and ahead of Kentucky.

Bring Minnesota in at #14, Iowa at #15, and Purdue at #16. Kentucky and all the teams behind them drop 3 slots each.

Southern Methodist, Rice, and Baylor

Here's another one the coaches did a better job on. The AP poll had 7-4 Baylor at #18, 7-3 Rice #19, and 6-3-1 Southern Methodist unrated, whereas the coaches had these 3 in the opposite order, SMU #17, Rice #19, and Baylor unrated. The coaches had the order right-- SMU was 4-1-1 in SWC play, while Rice and Baylor were each 4-2, and Rice won 20-14 at Baylor in their finale.

Bring Southern Methodist in at #23 and drop Baylor to #25. That drops Penn State to #26, but they need to drop even further, as covered next...

Texas, Texas Christian, Southern Cal, and Penn State

Texas was 4-5-1, but their losses all came to currently rated teams (including #3 Oklahoma and #4 Notre Dame in nonconference play), and they tied now-#23 Southern Methodist. Texas Christian was 4-6, and their 6 losses came to currently ranked teams and to Texas. But TCU defeated 8-4 Southern Cal (originally rated #17) and 7-2 Penn State (#20), both by the score of 20-7. It may seem impossible to believe that a 4-6 team could be better than 8-4 and 7-2 teams, but that is the magic of scheduling. Give TCU Penn State's schedule, and they likely go 9-0. PSU did not beat a winning team. The teams they defeated were 18-45 overall. Southern Cal defeated 1 winning opponent, 6-4 Oregon. Neither PSU nor USC accomplished anything TCU didn't, and neither defeated any team on the level of the 6 teams that defeated TCU.

TCU should be rated ahead of both.

Bring Texas and Texas Christian in behind Baylor, at #25 and #26, and drop Southern Cal back to #27. Penn State drops to #28. It may seem like that is the end of the road for TCU and USC, let alone Penn State, but there are 2 bad teams we need to boot out of the ratings...

West Virginia

West Virginia (originally rated #12) had a nice 8-1 record, but they lost to 4-5 Pittsburgh, and their only decent win came at now-#28 Penn State 19-14. They edged 1-7-1 George Washington 13-7 and 3-6 Virginia 14-10. 8-4 Southern Cal, now #27, did not take an upset loss, and in fact they defeated Pittsburgh 27-7. So we'll drop West Virginia behind USC and ahead of Penn State... which is to say, out of the top 25.

Toss West Virginia out. That moves Duke and everyone behind them up 1 spot each. Texas Christian moves in at #25, and Southern Cal is now #26. One more team to boot out...

Virginia Tech

8-0-1 Virginia Tech (originally rated #16) had an even nicer-looking record than West Virginia, but they accomplished even less, as WV beat Penn State, while VT didn't beat anyone. Tech was tied by 4-4-2 William & Mary (whom West Virginia beat 20-6), and they struggled to get by 5-4 Richmond 19-12, 3-6 Virginia 6-0, and 1-7-1 George Washington 20-13. Most of their 1954 opponents are not FBS level today. The coaches rated 9-1 Denver instead, and while Denver should not be rated, they make for a better choice than Virginia Tech. The coaches had a much better year rating teams in 1954 than the writers did-- they also did not rate West Virginia.

Toss Virginia Tech out. Southern Methodist and all the teams behind them move up 1 spot each. That nudges Southern Cal into the fixed and expanded AP top 25.

Fixed AP Top 25

3 teams fall out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25: #12 West Virginia 8-1, #16 Virginia Tech 8-0-1, and #20 Penn State 7-2. Discounting games against each other, these 3 teams took 2 losses and a tie against unrated opponents, and they did not beat or tie any rated teams. The 8 teams that come into the fixed top 25, on the other hand, crushed that showing:  a total of 2 losses to unranked opponents and 9 wins and a tie against teams the AP poll had rated (discounting games against each other). That's a massive difference.

The coaches' poll wasn't usually better than the AP poll, but the coaches sure did do a better job than the writers in 1954. The coaches had UCLA at #1 rather than Ohio State, though that didn't matter-- either is a valid choice. But the coaches were more logical than the writers in regards to all of the following:
1) Ohio State 10-0 --
2) UCLA 9-0 --
3) Oklahoma 10-0 --
4) Notre Dame 9-1 --
5) Navy 8-2 --
6) Army 7-2 +1
7) Wisconsin 7-2 +2
8) Mississippi 9-2 -2
9) Miami (Florida) 8-1 +2
10) Maryland 7-2-1 -2
11) Duke 8-2-1 +3
12) Michigan 6-3 +3
13) Minnesota 7-2 IN
14) Iowa 5-4 IN
15) Purdue 5-3-1 IN
16) Kentucky 7-3 IN
17) Georgia Tech 8-3 IN
18) Auburn 8-3 -5
19) Arkansas 8-3 -9
20) Southern Methodist 6-3-1 IN
21) Rice 7-3 -2
22) Baylor 7-4 -4
23) Texas 4-5-1 IN
24) Texas Christian 4-6 IN
25) Southern Cal 8-4 -8

OUT: #12 West Virginia 8-1
#16 Virginia Tech 8-0-1
#20 Penn State 7-2