Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller
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Fixing the Final 1961 AP College Football Poll

1) Alabama 11-0
2) Ohio State 8-0-1
3) Texas 10-1
4) Louisiana State 10-1
5) Mississippi 9-2
6) Minnesota 8-2
7) Colorado 9-2
8) Michigan State 7-2
9) Arkansas 8-3
10) Utah State 9-1-1
11) Missouri 7-2-1
12) Purdue 6-3
13) Georgia Tech 7-4
14) Syracuse 8-3
15) Rutgers 9-0
16) UCLA 7-4
17) Rice 7-4
       Penn State 8-3
       Arizona 8-1-1
20) Duke 7-3
To the left is the final 1961 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. 

Like 1962-1967, the AP poll published just a top 10 during the regular season in 1961, but thankfully they published a top 20 for their final edition, so in that regard, this one will be easier to fix and expand to a top 25 than the 1962-1967 final polls were. On the other hand, this was a very tough poll to fix because it was a tough season for which to rate teams in the first place, especially after the top 10.

But we'll start, as usual, with the top 10. Specifically #7 Colorado, who was 9-1 when rated that high, but then got plastered by #4 Louisiana State 25-7 in the Orange Bowl. Obviously they would have dropped in a final AP poll, but how far? For now, we'll drop them back behind #9 Arkansas. Arkansas also lost their bowl game, but it was a 10-3 decision against #1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Also, all 3 of Arkansas' losses came to top 5 teams, whereas Colorado dropped a game to unrated 6-4 Utah.

An easy fix. Michigan State moves up to #7, Arkansas to #8, and Colorado drops to #9.
1962 Sugar Bowl, Alabama quarterback Pat Trammell carrying the ball against Arkansas
Alabama quarterback Pat Trammell carrying the ball in a 10-3 win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. This was Bama coach Bear Bryant's first national championship.

Michigan

6-3 Michigan was unrated, and that has to be the worst rating job for any single team in AP poll history. Their losses came to #2 Ohio State, #6 Minnesota, and #8 Michigan State. They defeated #12 Purdue (6-3), #16 UCLA (7-4), and #20 Duke (7-3). Obviously, the logical place to put them was #9-#12. So how could the AP poll screw this one up so badly?

Lastgamitis

What happened to Michigan was a serious case of Lastgamitis, their last game being a 50-20 debacle against #2 Ohio State. OSU only led 21-12 going into the 4th quarter, but even after the game was decided, the Buckeyes poured it on and refused to stop. Taking over at their own 20 with 34 seconds left, OSU threw 4 passes to get into the end zone, then scored a 2-point conversion to make it an even 50. Questioned about his severe lack of sportsmanship after the game, Buckeye coach Woody Hayes had no apologies, explaining that "We were going for national recognition."

And it worked. 11-0 Alabama was not a slam dunk for #1 in the AP poll-- they got 26 first place votes to 20 for 8-0-1 Ohio State. And though Alabama was almost a unanimous choice among recognized selectors for national champion of 1961, one organization crowned Ohio State instead-- the Football Writers Association of America (they give the Grantland Rice Award). Naturally, OSU claims a national championship for 1961 based on that. And for that they can thank Woody Hayes running the score up on Michigan.

On the other hand, the FWAA may have voted OSU #1 regardless of the score in the Michigan game. I don't know who their voters were, but I wonder if they graduated from the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa. They awarded their "national championship" in 1957 to 9-1 Ohio State over AP poll champion 11-0 Auburn, and they are the only organization in existence that thinks 8-1-1 Iowa and not 11-0 LSU was the national champion in 1958. So 8-0-1 Ohio State over 11-0 Alabama? Coming from the FWAA, not a surprise.

Rating Michigan Properly

So Michigan belongs somewhere behind now-#7 Michigan State and ahead of #12 Purdue. Let's compare them to 8-3 Arkansas, who now sits at #8. Both teams took all 3 of their losses to higher-rated teams. Michigan, as noted, was stomped 50-20 by #2 Ohio State in their final game, while Arkansas lost just 10-3 to #1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. That comparison is huge for Arkansas. However, Michigan played 8 other games, and Arkansas played 10. And Arkansas had their own debacle, losing 33-7 to #3 Texas at home. Arkansas also slipped by 2-8 Tulsa 6-0 and 4-5-1 Texas A&M 15-8 (scoring a touchdown in the final minute to pull that one out), both at home. Michigan's only close win was 16-14 over #12 Purdue. Michigan also defeated 3 rated teams, while Arkansas defeated just 1-- #17 Rice (7-4).

Michigan played 6 AP-rated opponents in 9 games, and 8 winning opponents, while Arkansas played 4 rated and 5 winning teams in 11 games-- yet both ended up with 3 losses. This is no contest.

Move Michigan all the way up to #8, dropping Arkansas and everyone behind them 1 spot each.

Purdue, Iowa, and Wisconsin

The Big 10 was the top conference this season, going 20-6-1 against nonconference opponents, so Michigan is not the only Big 10 team looking to move up in the rankings. 6-3 Purdue, originally rated #12, had a better relevant record than the next 3 teams currently ranked in front of them. Compare them to 9-2 Colorado. Purdue took an upset loss to unrated 5-5 Notre Dame, while Colorado took an upset loss to 6-4 Utah. But Notre Dame was a good team (they also beat #14 Syracuse), and will make the final fixed and expanded top 25 (as detailed below), while Utah will not come close to the top 25. And Purdue lost to Notre Dame by 2, while Colorado lost to Utah by 9. Purdue also made up for their loss by beating now-#7 Michigan State, and Colorado did not defeat a higher-rated team. Finally, Colorado had 2 close wins over unrated opponents, and Purdue had 1. So Purdue should be moved up ahead of Colorado.

It's pretty much the same story for 5-4 Iowa and 6-3 Wisconsin, both unrated (though Wisconsin was #18 in the coaches' poll). Iowa took all 4 of their losses to teams now rated higher than Colorado (assuming Purdue is moved ahead of them, as they should be), and they defeated 6-3 Wisconsin 47-15 and 5-5 Notre Dame 42-21. Wisconsin took all 3 of their losses to teams rated higher than Colorado (if Iowa is placed ahead of them, as they should be), and they defeated #6 Minnesota 23-21 on the road in their finale. Wisconsin had some poor performances, so they are closer to Colorado in that regard. For example, Wisconsin only beat 6-4 Utah 7-0. But then again, Utah beat Colorado 21-12. Wisconsin's relevant record puts them an effective 2 games better than Colorado on the season
.

Move Purdue up to #10, Iowa to #11, and Wisconsin to #12. That drops Colorado, Utah State, and Missouri 3 spots each, while everyone that was ranked behind Purdue drops 2 spots each. The FWAA's crowning of 8-0-1 Ohio State as national champion no longer looks quite so ridiculous.

Utah State and Arizona

Utah State was originally ranked #10, and they did look very strong at the end of the regular season. They had taken one upset tie to a nearly-rated 6-1-2 Wyoming team (#17 in coaches' poll), and while the rest of their schedule was incredibly weak, they destroyed those teams like a rated team should (average score 42-8 in their 9 wins). But then they played in the Gotham Bowl, where they were embarrassed 24-9 by 6-5 Baylor. Sorry, Utah State, you may have been a top 25 team in ability (they had some good future pros on this team), but when you don't play a single rated team, you simply cannot afford to get stomped by a 6-5 team in your bowl game. Utah State needs to drop-- all the way out of the rankings.

8-1-1 Arizona, originally rated #17, did not get embarrassed in a bowl game (they did not play in one), but they should not have been ranked in the first place. They were tied by 3-6-1 Nebraska, they lost to 6-4 West Texas A&M, and they did not beat a rated team, so I am puzzled as to why they were rated. Since I can't find a good reason for it, we'll toss them out too.

Evict Utah State and Arizona. The following teams move up 1 spot each: Missouri, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Rutgers, and UCLA. Rice and Penn State are now tied at #19, and Duke is #20.

Kansas

7-3-1 Kansas was unrated (though #15 in the coaches' poll), but won 33-7 over 7-4 Rice (#17 in AP poll) in the Bluebonnet Bowl, so they certainly belong ranked ahead of Rice. But they can go higher than that. UCLA and Georgia Tech lost their bowl games (and both would have thus dropped behind Kansas in a post-bowl AP poll anyway), Rutgers played no one (FCS level team and schedule), and 8-3 Syracuse? They lost to 3 teams ranked behind them and did not beat a rated team.

Move Kansas in at #15, dropping Georgia Tech and everyone behind them 1 spot each.

Rice

As ugly as their 33-7 bowl loss was, Rice should actually be rated higher than the AP poll had them. Their losses came to #3 Texas, now-#9 Arkansas, now-#15 Kansas, and now-#16 Georgia Tech, and they gave #4 Louisiana State their only loss 16-3. Their relevant record was a whole lot better than Syracuse's, so let's move them up right behind Georgia Tech, who beat them 24-0. They could be validly ranked higher than GT, but they had enough performance problems (including that awful bowl result) that the AP poll can keep GT higher.

Move Rice up to #17, dropping Syracuse, Rutgers, and UCLA 1 spot each. Penn State is now #21 and Duke is #22.

Penn State and Syracuse

Penn State (8-3, originally rated #17) beat Syracuse (8-3, #14) 14-0, so the AP poll did a poor job in rating Syracuse higher. The Lambert Trophy was awarded to PSU over Syracuse and Rutgers (both of whom the AP poll rated ahead of PSU), so at least the Lamberts got it right.

Penn State also routed now-#16 Georgia Tech 30-15 in the Gator Bowl, but GT still belongs ranked ahead of Penn State because PSU had a worse relevant record for the season-- they lost to a big 3 unranked opponents.

Move Penn State ahead of Syracuse, to #18, dropping Syracuse, Rutgers, and UCLA 1 spot each.

Duke

7-3 Duke (originally rated #20) took 1 upset loss (to 5-5 Clemson), while 8-3 Syracuse took 2 (to 5-5 Notre Dame and 7-3 Maryland), so Duke was effectively 1 game better on the season. Duke also beat 5-5 Notre Dame 37-13 and 7-3 Navy 30-9, and both teams will make the fixed and expanded top 25 (as detailed below).

Duke also had a better relevant record than Penn State, but PSU performed better enough that they can remain ranked higher.

Move Duke up to #19, dropping
Syracuse, Rutgers, and UCLA 1 spot each.

Navy, Miami-Florida, and Rutgers

9-0 Rutgers served as this year's token Ivy team in the AP poll. An Ivy wannabe, Rutgers defeated 3 actual Ivy teams (Princeton, Penn, Columbia) and 4 fellow Ivy wannabes (Bucknell, Lehigh, Lafayette, Colgate). Which is to say, they accomplished nothing at all. 7-3 Navy, on the other hand, did accomplish something, beating 7-4 Miami-Florida, 5-5 Notre Dame, and 6-4 Army, and they did not play a single home game this season.

7-4 Miami-Florida (#19 in coaches' poll) took an upset loss to 3-7 Pittsburgh in their opener, but they also upset now-#18 Penn State 25-8. Their schedule was just too far beyond Rutgers', which isn't saying much.


Move Navy in at #21 and Miami-Florida at #22, dropping Rutgers to #23 and UCLA to #24.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame was 5-5, but they beat now-#10 Purdue and now-#20 Syracuse, and all 5 of their losses came to currently rated opponents. Needless to say, they accomplished far more than Rutgers, as even their few unrated opponents (Oklahoma, Southern Cal, and Pittsburgh) were major teams who would have been very tough for Rutgers to beat. So we'll move the Irish ahead of Rutgers.

Notre Dame
had a better relevant record than Miami-Florida, but the Irish had a poor finish, and their win over Syracuse was controversial to say the least. Syracuse had blocked Notre Dame's final field goal, but they were called for roughing the kicker, gifting Notre Dame with a second chance, which they used to kick the game winner. Needless to say, the entire country was aghast at Syracuse being called for roughing the kicker on a play where they blocked the field goal, so I think many writers were counting that game as a Syracuse win and a Notre Dame loss-- which may be why they rated Syracuse higher than Penn State. But alas, unfair as it was, that game officially goes down as a Notre Dame win. Still, it was a bit of a joke, which is part of the reason why it is fine for Miami-Florida to be rated higher.

On the other hand, beating Syracuse under even the iffiest of circumstances is more than Rutgers did, so...

Move Notre Dame in at #23, dropping Rutgers to #24 and UCLA to #25.

Fixed AP Top 25

I would not have rated Rutgers at all, but I think they can stay at #24. 7-4 UCLA wasn't much to write home about. Oh, I am certain that they would have beaten Rutgers, probably in a rout, but that's just my opinion. I think 6-4 Army, 5-5 North Carolina, 7-3 Maryland, 6-4 Tennessee, 5-5 Mississippi State, 6-4 Auburn, and even 4-5 Northwestern were more deserving than Rutgers too, to name just a few. But Rutgers was 9-0, so no one really knows what they could have done had they played a relevant opponent.

9-1-1 Utah State (originally #10) and 8-1-1 Arizona (#17) fall out of this fixed and expanded top 25. They took a total of 2 losses and 2 ties to unrated opponents, and defeated no rated teams. Discounting games against each other, the 7 teams that come in to the top 25 took a total of 4 losses and a tie to unrated opponents, and they defeated a massive 8 teams the AP poll had rated!

1) Alabama 11-0 --
2) Ohio State 8-0-1 --
3) Texas 10-1 --
4) Louisiana State 10-1 --
5) Mississippi 9-2 --
6) Minnesota 8-2 --
7) Michigan State 7-2 +1
8) Michigan 6-3 IN
9) Arkansas 8-3 --
10) Purdue 6-3 +2
11) Iowa 5-4 IN
12) Wisconsin 6-3 IN
13) Colorado 9-2 -6
14) Missouri 7-2-1 -3
15) Kansas 7-3-1 IN
16) Georgia Tech 7-4 -3
17) Rice 7-4 +1
18) Penn State 8-3 --
19) Duke 7-3 +1
20) Syracuse 8-3 -6
21) Navy 7-3 IN
22) Miami (Florida) 7-4 IN
23) Notre Dame 5-5 IN
24) Rutgers 9-0 -9
25) UCLA 7-4 -9

OUT: #10 Utah State 9-1-1
#17 Arizona 8-1-1