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Fixing the Final 1959 AP College Football Poll

1) Syracuse 11-0
2) Mississippi 10-1
3) Louisiana State 9-2
4) Texas 9-2
5) Georgia 10-1
6) Wisconsin 7-3
7) Texas Christian 8-3
8) Washington 10-1

9) Arkansas 9-2
10) Alabama 7-2-2
11) Clemson 9-2
12) Penn State 9-2
13) Illinois 5-3-1
14) Southern Cal 8-2
15) Oklahoma 7-3
16) Wyoming 9-1
17) Notre Dame 5-5
18) Missouri 6-5
19) Florida 5-4-1
20) Pittsburgh 6-4
To the left is the final 1959 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.

This was a poor top 20, but it was less of a mess and much easier to fix than the 1960 AP poll was
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This poll's most overrated team, Wisconsin, was ranked #6 because back in those years, the Big 10 champion and Rose Bowl representative was an automatic top 10 team, regardless of how good or bad that team was. But it made no sense for Wisconsin to be rated almost as highly as some of the truly powerful teams that had won the conference in preceding years.

#13 Illinois, also overrated, was the only other top 20 Big 10 team in 1959. Wisconsin lost to them 9-6 and to unrated Purdue 21-0. They did not defeat a rated opponent, and repeatedly struggled to get by the weak teams they did beat. Yet the writers were shocked-- shocked I tell you-- when 10-1 Washington, ranked 2 places behind Wisconsin, beat the Badgers 44-8 in the Rose Bowl.
1959 Syracuse football team in action
#1 Syracuse was incredibly dominant. They had the #1 offense, the #1 defense, and they outgained their opponents on the ground by an astounding 3136 yards to 193 for the season.

Washington

Not much analysis needed here. #8 Washington (10-1) defeated #6 Wisconsin (7-3) 44-8 in the Rose Bowl, and of course they should be rated ahead of the Badgers. #7 TCU was upset by #11 Clemson in the Bluebonnet Bowl, so they should drop behind Washington too. Given the magnitude of their Rose Bowl win, Washington would probably have been ranked #3 in a post-bowl poll. #3 LSU and #4 Texas both lost their bowl games. However, those teams lost to the #1 and #2 teams, so if the AP poll thought they were #3 and #4 going in, their bowl results give no logical cause to change that.

Similarly, 10-1 Washington may have moved past 10-1 Georgia (#5) in a post-bowl poll, and I would be inclined to rank Washington higher myself, but if the AP poll thought Georgia was better than Washington before the bowls, the bowl results don't give enough reason to change that view. Yes, Washington stomped on #6 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and if Wisconsin really was a top 10 team, that might be reason enough to move Washington past Georgia. But Wisconsin was not at all a legitimate top 10 team to begin with, and they will drop to the bottom of the fixed top 20 (covered below).

Move Washington up to #6, dropping Wisconsin and Texas Christian 1 spot each. But that is only the beginning of Wisconsin's journey downward...

The Wisconsin Effect

Like 8-3 Duke in 1960, 7-3 Wisconsin is at the center of a host of repairs that need to be made to the 1959 AP poll. The Big 10 as a whole was down this season, going 14-8-1 against nonconference opponents (the SEC left them in the dust at 35-6-1), and Big 10 teams beat each other up with so little regard for any hierarchical order that they were difficult to untangle and properly rank. Certainly Wisconsin was vastly overrated at #6, as Washington's 44-8 stomping of them affirmed, but I would suggest that they were not quite even the best team in their own conference.

Purdue has once again been underrated, just as they always seemed to be 1956-1969. In fact, this time they were not rated at all. No matter what Purdue did, writers were apparently incapable of noticing or remembering them. Purdue finished 5-2-2, and while they were quite erratic, that was a significantly better record than 5-5 Notre Dame posted, and Purdue beat them 28-7, so how does it make any sense that Notre Dame was rated #17 and Purdue not rated at all? Furthermore, Purdue defeated Wisconsin by a convincing score of 21-0.

Purdue was upset by a pair of losing Big 10 teams, and they were tied by 5-4-1 UCLA, while Wisconsin lost to Illinois, whom Purdue tied. Add in Purdue's victory over Wisconsin, and whether 5-2-2 Purdue should be rated ahead of 7-3 Wisconsin depends on whether 5-4-1 UCLA should be rated ahead of Wisconsin. UCLA took one upset loss, to 5-4-1 Air Force, but they made up for that by beating 8-2 Southern Cal (#14). Wisconsin also took an upset loss (to Illinois), but they did not beat a ranked opponent. UCLA, of course, also tied Purdue, whom Wisconsin lost to, and that left UCLA with a relevant record that was effectively a game and a half better than Wisconsin's.

UCLA did lose at #20 Pittsburgh (6-4) 25-21, but Pitt was underrated as well. Similar to UCLA, they took one upset loss (at 3-7 West Virginia), but made up for it with a big 22-7 win over 9-2 Penn State (#12) in their finale. So Pitt also had a better relevant record than Wisconsin. Our chain should therefore look like this: 6-4 Pitt > 5-4-1 UCLA and 5-2-2 Purdue > 7-3 Wisconsin > 5-3-1 Illinois.

Pittsburgh

As stated, #20 Pittsburgh (6-4) took one upset loss, but made up for it with a dominating win over #12 Penn State in their finale. Pitt could be logically rated higher than Penn State, but PSU outperformed Pitt to a great enough degree that the AP poll can keep PSU ranked higher. However, Pitt had a better relevant record than every team ranked in front of them up to #14 Southern Cal (8-2), who beat them 23-0, and I think they need to be moved up behind USC.

#19 Florida (5-4-1) lost to unrated Vanderbilt (5-3-2), and should be dropped behind them (covered below). #18 Missouri (6-5) lost their bowl game, and would have dropped back behind Pitt in a post-bowl AP poll anyway. But they also lost to unrated SMU (5-4-1), and shouldn't have been rated ahead of the Mustangs in the first place (covered below).

Pitt won 28-13 over #17 Notre Dame, and the 5-5 Irish were highly overrated to begin with (their other four losses all came to unrated teams). #16 Wyoming (9-1) lost to unrated Air Force, and they did not defeat a rated or near-rated team, so Pitt's win over #12 Penn State was well beyond anything they accomplished. And #15 Oklahoma (7-3) lost to 2 unrated teams, 1 more than Pitt did, and unlike Pitt they did not beat a rated team. One of the Sooners' losses to unrated teams was by 45-13 to 6-3 Northwestern, and OU should be dropped back behind the Wildcats (covered below).

Move Pittsburgh up to #15, dropping Oklahoma and everyone behind them 1 spot each.

UCLA, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois

5-4-1 UCLA had something in common with 9-1 Wyoming (now ranked #17): both lost to unrated Air Force (5-4-1) by the same 20-7 score. UCLA beat #14 Southern Cal, while Wyoming did not beat a rated opponent, but UCLA was also tied by Purdue, who took a pair of losses to unrated (and losing) opponents. Wyoming performed very strongly, so the AP poll can keep the Cowboys ranked higher than UCLA.

Notre Dame (now rated #18), on the other hand, has no business being rated higher than UCLA or Purdue, given that Purdue beat the Irish 28-7. But Notre Dame, like #15 Oklahoma, also lost to unrated Northwestern (6-3), and will be dropping back behind the Wildcats. Northwestern, in turn, lost to Illinois 28-0. Therefore, UCLA, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois should all be placed behind now-#17 Wyoming and ahead of now-#18 Notre Dame.

5-4-1 UCLA and 5-2-2 Purdue tied each other, but UCLA took 1 upset loss and Purdue took 2. Purdue was also tied by Illinois, who will be ranked behind them. And UCLA defeated a higher ranked team (#14 Southern Cal), while Purdue did not, so UCLA had a far better relevant record than Purdue did. They should be ranked higher.

Purdue defeated Wisconsin 21-0, and with UCLA ranked higher, Purdue and Wisconsin now have the same relevant record, so that dominating head-to-head score should be respected.

Wisconsin lost to Illinois, but the game was close (9-6), and the Badgers had a better relevant record than the Illini, so the AP poll can keep Wisconsin ranked higher than Illinois.

UCLA and Purdue come in behind Wyoming, and Wisconsin and Illinois drop back behind Purdue. All of this leads to the following ratings shift: Texas Christian #7, Arkansas #8, Alabama #9, Clemson #10, Penn State #11, Southern Cal #12, Pittsburgh #13, Oklahoma #14, Wyoming #15, UCLA #16, Purdue #17, Wisconsin #18, Illinois #19, Notre Dame #20, Missouri #21, and Florida #22.

Arkansas and Texas Christian

#7 Texas Christian (8-3) was upset by now-#10 Clemson 23-7 in the Bluebonnet Bowl, and would have fallen back behind #9 Arkansas (9-2) in a post-bowl AP poll, but Arkansas also defeated TCU 3-0, and the Razorbacks lost only to #2 Mississippi and to #4 Texas, so TCU definitely belongs ranked behind Arkansas.

At 9-2, Clemson had a better straight record than 8-3 TCU, and their win over the Frogs was decisive, but TCU can and should remain rated higher than Clemson. That was TCU's only upset loss, and they had an upset win over #4 Texas. Clemson lost to a pair of unrated teams, Georgia Tech and Maryland, and TCU was their only win of value.


Move Arkansas up to #7 and drop Texas Christian to #8.

Penn State and Alabama

9-2 Penn State (originally rated #12) defeated 7-2-2 Alabama (#10) 7-0 in the Liberty Bowl in Philadelphia, so the Tide obviously needs to recede back behind PSU. I would definitely rate PSU higher than Clemson as well. Clemson had the one big win over TCU in the Bluebonnet Bowl, but they did nothing else, taking 2 upset losses and struggling to win 3 games over weak opponents. PSU took one upset loss and struggled to defeat just 1 weak opponent, and they defeated 3 rated opponents. However, Clemson's big win did come in their bowl game, giving it greater emphasis, and it was a much better win than any of PSU's, so the AP poll can keep Clemson rated higher than PSU.

Drop Alabama back to #11, moving Clemson and Penn State up 1 spot each.

Auburn and Georgia Tech

Auburn is perennially underrated. This time they were 7-3 and left unrated (except by the coaches, who had them #15), behind 5 teams with worse straight records, though the SEC was easily the best conference this season at 35-6-1 against nonconference opponents. Auburn was upset by 5-4-1 Tennessee in their opener, but their other 2 losses came to #5 Georgia and to now-#11 Alabama, and they defeated #19 Florida (5-4-1). Certainly there was no reason at all for Florida to be rated and not Auburn.

Auburn also defeated 6-5 Georgia Tech, another team that should have been rated, though their straight record was not so impressive as Auburn's. Still, they only took 1 upset loss (to 4-6 Duke)-- their other 4 losses came to 7-3 Auburn, 7-2-2 Alabama, 10-1 Georgia, and 9-2 Arkansas-- and all 5 of their losses were close (touchdown or less). More importantly, GT defeated now-#9 Clemson and now-#20 Notre Dame. Certainly there was no reason at all for 5-5 Notre Dame to be rated and not 6-5 Georgia Tech.

So where do Auburn and Georgia Tech belong? They had better relevant records than most of the teams now in the bottom half of the poll. Both accomplished more than now-#15 Wyoming. Like Auburn, Wyoming took an upset loss to an unrated team, but unlike Auburn, Wyoming did not beat a team that was even nearly worthy of making the top 25. Georgia Tech's victories over now-#9 Clemson, #20 Notre Dame, 5-4-1 Tennessee, and 5-4-1 Southern Methodist (who beat now-#21 Missouri 23-2) blow Wyoming's accomplishments away.

Auburn and Georgia Tech belong ahead of now-#14 Oklahoma as well, since the Sooners will be dropping (as handled next). #13 Pitt, however, had a better relevant record than Auburn, so the AP poll can keep them ranked higher.

Move Auburn in at #14 and Georgia Tech at #15, dropping Oklahoma and everyone behind them 2 spots each.

Northwestern and Oklahoma

6-3 Northwestern (unrated) routed 7-3 Oklahoma (now #14) 45-13, and I don't know how that didn't convince sportswriters when they both ended up with 3 losses. I guess it was the food poisoning thing (legend has it that the mob poisoned key Oklahoma players at a Chicago restaurant before the game). But it was officially a loss, so there was no good reason for OU to be rated ahead of Northwestern. Northwestern also won 30-24 at 5-5 Notre Dame (now #22), so the writers ignored 2 of their wins. It is clear that NW belonged behind now-#21 Illinois, whom they lost to, and ahead of #22 Notre Dame, whom they defeated.

Oklahoma needs to be dropped behind Northwestern. But should they remain ahead of 5-5 Notre Dame? At this point, with Northwestern moved ahead of Notre Dame, the Irish have just 1 upset loss (to 5-4 Michigan State), much like Oklahoma (to 4-6 Nebraska). But Notre Dame defeated now-#12 Southern Cal (8-2), and Oklahoma's only win of value came over now-#23 Missouri (6-5), who should not have been rated, and will not be rated in the fixed and expanded AP top 25 (covered later). And Notre Dame gave Northwestern a better game than Oklahoma did. I know, I know, the Sooners were poisoned... bad break there.

Wyoming, UCLA, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois each move up 1 spot with Oklahoma's fall. Northwestern comes in at #21, Oklahoma drops behind Notre Dame to #23, and Missouri and Florida each drop 1 spot.

Iowa

5-4 Iowa was unrated, but they too outperformed 7-3 Oklahoma. All 4 of their losses came to teams currently rated higher than Oklahoma, whereas Oklahoma was upset by 4-6 Nebraska. All 5 of Iowa's wins were by more than a touchdown, whereas Oklahoma had 2 close wins, neither of them over a winning team. And Iowa lost to Northwestern 14-10, whereas Oklahoma lost to NW 45-13. The food poisoning incident again. For the cherry on top, Iowa even piled up more points on Kansas State (53) than Oklahoma did (36). I don't see a single point in Oklahoma's favor here.

Move Iowa in at #23, dropping Oklahoma to #24, Missouri to #25, and Florida out of the ratings. But not for long...

Missouri

6-5 Missouri was originally ranked #18, but I don't know what they were doing there. They lost to 2 unranked teams, and didn't beat anyone who was rated or nearly rated. They lost 23-2 at unrated Southern Methodist (5-4-1), and they should have been ranked behind SMU, out of the top 25.

Drop Missouri out. Florida comes back in at #25. But not for long...

Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee

Originally ranked #19, 5-4-1 Florida's rating was as much a mystery as Missouri's. They did not beat a rated team, and they were tied by 1-7-2 Rice. Most importantly, they lost to unrated Vanderbilt (5-3-2), and should have been rated behind Vandy. That would put Vanderbilt in at #25 in place of Florida, but then there's the difficult case of 5-4-1 Tennessee.

Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 14-0, but Tennessee defeated #3 LSU and now-#14 Auburn. Vandy and Tennessee both tied now-#11 Alabama. Tennessee took an upset loss to 4-6 Kentucky, but Vanderbilt took a loss at 2-7 Minnesota, and they were tied by 3-6-1 Tulane. In the end, even with their loss to Vanderbilt, Tennessee's relevant record was still a game and a half better than Vandy's.

Tennessee also had a better relevant record than Oklahoma (now rated #24), but their finish was so awful (3 straight losses, all by more than a touchdown, and the last 2 to unrated teams) that I'll let the AP poll have this one-- Oklahoma can remain rated higher.

Drop Florida out, and bring Tennessee in at #25.

Fixed AP Top 25

6-5 Missouri, originally rated #18, and 5-4-1 Florida, #19, drop out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25. They totaled 4 losses and a tie against unrated teams, and neither of them defeated or tied a rated opponent. The 7 teams that replace them in the fixed poll totaled 5 losses to unranked teams, but they amassed a big 9 wins and a tie against teams the AP poll had rated, and they were 1-0 against the teams falling out (Auburn beating Florida).

5-4 Michigan State had been rated #16 by the coaches' poll. They were as crazily erratic as 5-4-1 Tennessee, but Tennessee holds them off for #25 in this fixed poll by half a game. MSU had 3 upset wins over now-rated opponents, balanced out by 3 upset losses to unranked opponents. Tennessee had 2 wins and a tie against now-rated opponents, and 2 losses to unranked opponents. The tie puts them a half game up on MSU.

1) Syracuse 11-0 --
2) Mississippi 10-1 --
3) Louisiana State 9-2 --
4) Texas 9-2 --
5) Georgia 10-1 --
6) Washington 10-1 +2
7) Arkansas 9-2 +2
8) Texas Christian 8-3 -1
9) Clemson 9-2 +2
10) Penn State 9-2 +2
11) Alabama 7-2-2 -1
12) Southern Cal 8-2 +2
13) Pittsburgh 6-4 +7
14) Auburn 7-3 IN
15) Georgia Tech 6-5 IN
16) Wyoming 9-1 --
17) UCLA 5-4-1 IN
18) Purdue 5-2-2 IN
19) Wisconsin 7-3 -13
20) Illinois 5-3-1 -7
21) Northwestern 6-3 IN
22) Notre Dame 5-5 -5
23) Iowa 5-4 IN
24) Oklahoma 7-3 -9
25) Tennessee 5-4-1 IN

OUT: #18 Missouri 6-5
#19 Florida 5-4-1