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Fixing the Final 1962 AP College Football Poll

1) Southern Cal 11-0
2) Wisconsin 8-2
3) Mississippi 10-0
4) Texas 9-1-1
5) Alabama 10-1
6) Arkansas 9-2
7) Louisiana State 9-1-1
8) Oklahoma 8-3
9) Penn State 9-2
10) Minnesota 6-2-1
To the left is the final 1962 AP college football top 10. That's right, 10. That's all the AP poll ranked 1962-1967. 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. 

When I originally fixed this AP poll a few years ago, I left 11-0 Southern Cal #1 and moved 10-0 Mississippi to #2, writing the following: "
I'd be inclined to rate Mississippi #1 and USC #2 myself. But either is a valid choice for #1, so the AP poll can keep USC #1."

However, when working on my national championship article for 1962, I looked at these 2 teams, and at the nation's teams as a whole, much more closely, and I no longer see Southern Cal's case for being ranked alone at #1.

I go over this issue in great detail in the linked MNC article, but I'll also give brief reasoning below.
1963 Rose Bowl, USC vs. Wisconsin
The Rose Bowl featured the first matchup of the AP poll's #1 and #2 teams since 1946. There was a much shorter wait for the next one, in 1963, and such matchups have never been so rare since.

Mississippi

8-2 Wisconsin took an upset loss to 6-3 Ohio State (coaches' poll #13), so the only way I can see them being ranked ahead of 10-0 Mississippi would be if Ole Miss played a weak schedule. But that is not the case. Mississippi defeated 8-1 Memphis (will be ranked in fixed and expanded AP top 25), 9-1-1 LSU (AP #7), and 9-2 Arkansas (#6), and none of those games were at home. Wisconsin defeated 7-2 Northwestern (coaches' #16) and 6-2-1 Minnesota (AP #10), and those were the only winning teams they beat. This ranking is simply ridiculous.

But that's not all. As I indicated above, I see no good reason for 11-0 Southern Cal to be ranked ahead of 10-0 Mississippi. Again, for more detail, see my 1962 MNC article, but the brief summary of this case is as follows:

1) Schedule. USC played AP #2 Wisconsin, but Mississippi played #6 Arkansas and #7 Louisiana State. In the fixed poll, USC will have played #3, #14, and #18, while Mississippi will have played #5, #7, and #25. That's 2 top 10 opponents for Mississippi and 1 for USC either way. But the more important fact is that USC played all 3 of their rated opponents at home (the Rose Bowl being essentially a home game for them), while Ole Miss played all 3 of their rated opponents on the road (one neutral site). USC's opponents were 51-55-2, and 3 of them had winning records, and Mississippi's opponents were 49-49-3, with 4 winners. Any way you slice it, Ole Miss played a slightly tougher schedule.

2) Performance. Mississippi's average score this year was 25-6, and USC's was 24-8, slightly better for the Rebs there, and remember that this was against a slightly tougher schedule. More importantly, Ole Miss had 1 close win (touchdown or less) over an unrated opponent, and USC had 2 such weak performances.

These 2 teams were far more alike than they were different, so putting both at #1 would be a viable option, and since the AP poll clearly prefers USC, that's what we'll do. The only other option would be putting Ole Miss alone at #1, as they hold any rational edge over USC that I can see, however slight that edge might be.

Move Mississippi up into a tie with Southern Cal for #1, dropping Wisconsin to #3.

Louisiana State and Texas

#7 Louisiana State defeated #4 Texas 13-0 in the Cotton Bowl. LSU will need to be moved ahead of Texas, of course, and we'll place them in the middle of where they are now, between #5 Alabama and #6 Arkansas.

Alabama moves to #4, Louisiana State to #5, Texas to #6, and Arkansas to #7. I would rate Alabama ahead of Wisconsin as well, since Alabama looked like a juggernaut outside of their one 7-6 loss at Georgia Tech (coaches' poll #11), but the 2 teams were close enough that the AP poll can keep their precious Big 10 champ rated higher. I scoff at that rating though
.

Penn State

#9 Penn State is one of the most overrated teams ever to appear in a final AP poll, and they make a perfect example of why it made no sense not to count the bowl games. They were 9-1 in the regular season, but they had not played a single team worthy of being ranked in a final top 25. So how could anyone really know how good they were? Their Gator Bowl opponent, 6-4 Florida, would not have been rated in a top 25 even if the AP poll ranked that many teams, but they were still a tougher team than anyone else PSU had played. The result? Florida drubbed Penn State 17-7, and there is no logical reason to conclude that it was an upset. It was merely the first and only time PSU faced a team of that caliber.

All 4 of Florida's losses came to teams that will be ranked in the top 25 (7-3-1 Georgia Tech, 8-2 Duke, 9-1-1 LSU, and 7-4 Miami-Florida), and Penn State should definitely be ranked behind the Gators. So we can't rate PSU until we get Florida situated. As such, we'll just remove them from the list, and come back to them later.

That moves Minnesota up to #9.

Northwestern and Minnesota

7-2 Northwestern (coaches' poll #16) won 34-22 at 6-2-1 Minnesota (originally AP #10), and should be ranked ahead of them. Northwestern had a trio of strong road wins, also beating 6-3 Ohio State 18-14 and 7-4 Miami-Florida 29-7 in their finale, and they were simply underrated, so we'll just move them up ahead of Minnesota, where they belong.

Put Northwestern at #9, dropping Minnesota back to #10.

Missouri and Georgia Tech

8-1-2 Missouri (coaches' poll #12) beat 7-3-1 Georgia Tech (coaches' poll #11) 14-10 in the Bluebonnet Bowl, so we'll switch the rankings the coaches had for them and bring them in next. Missouri tied Minnesota 0-0 in Minneapolis, and could be ranked ahead of both Northwestern and Minnesota if not for a 3-3 tie with Kansas in their regular season finale. I would still rate them ahead of Minnesota at the least, but Minnesota did not suffer an upset, so the AP poll keep them ahead of Missouri.

Bring Missouri in at #11 and Georgia Tech at #12.

Ohio State, Duke, and Washington

The coaches had 6-3 Ohio State #13, and 8-2 Duke and 7-1-2 Washington tied at #14. Duke took no upset losses, while Ohio State took 2 upset losses (to 4-6 UCLA and 4-5 Iowa), making up for one of them with a 14-7 win over now-#3 Wisconsin, and Washington took 2 upset ties (to 4-4-1 Purdue and 6-3-1 Oregon). Duke's relevant record was therefore a game better than Ohio State and Washington's. OSU and Washington had the same relevant record, since a tie is half a loss, and thus 2 ties equal a loss.

Bring Duke in at #13, Ohio State at #14, and Washington at #15. I don't know if the AP poll would have actually rated Ohio State higher than Washington, but OSU slightly outperformed Washington, and the coaches had OSU higher, so we'll just go with that.

Nebraska

9-2 Nebraska was unrated in the coaches' top 20 and received no AP votes, but they would have moved into a post-bowl poll after beating Miami-Florida (coaches' #18) in the Gotham Bowl. How highly they would have been ranked is impossible to know, but like 8-2 Duke, they took no upset losses, and thus had a better relevant record than did Ohio State and Washington. Let's compare them to Duke. Duke had a close loss to #1 Southern Cal (14-7), while Nebraska lost handily to both Oklahoma (#8) and Missouri (#11). But Nebraska had just 2 close wins (touchdown or less), while Duke had 4. That gives Nebraska a slight performance advantage overall. Nebraska also defeated 2 teams that will be rated in the fixed top 25 (6-3-1 Kansas and 7-4 Miami-Florida), while Duke beat just 1 (7-4 Florida). Frankly, I can't find a reason for Duke to be rated higher than Nebraska.

Moving Nebraska ahead of Duke puts them right behind 7-3-1 Georgia Tech, and Nebraska has a better relevant record than GT, but GT performed much better than Nebraska did, so they can stay ahead.

Bring Nebraska in at #13, dropping Duke, Ohio State, and Washington 1 spot each.

Miami-Florida and Florida

7-4 Miami-Florida (coaches' #18) and 7-4 Florida (who lost to Miami) also took no upset losses, so they also had better relevant records than Ohio State and Washington. However, Miami had just enough performance problems that their case against Ohio State is very close. Close enough that I can let the AP poll have Ohio State ranked higher.

That is not quite the case with Washington, who did not perform as strongly as Ohio State. As such, there is no reason to dismiss Washington's 2 ties to lower-ranked teams when comparing them to Miami.

Bring Miami-Florida in at #16, Florida at #17, and drop Washington to #18.

Oregon and Oregon State

Up next we have Oregon State, who had a nice looking 9-2 record and was ranked #16 in the coaches' poll. However, they have a problem. Despite the fact that they beat Oregon, and they were 9-2 and Oregon just 6-3-1, they should actually be ranked behind Oregon. How is this possible, you ask? Well, let me tell you. And this is an excellent example of how deceiving straight records can be. Oregon was 6-3-1 because they played nonconference games against Ohio State and Texas, both of whom were rated higher than Oregon State. OSU did not play any nonconference opponents of that caliber. Look at it this way, if Oregon had played a couple of cupcakes rather than Texas and Ohio State, they would have finished 8-1-1 rather than 6-3-1, which is a better record than OSU had.

Oregon's losses to Texas and Ohio State are irrelevant when comparing them to Oregon State, since OSU did not play comparable opponents. So let's ignore those games and compare the rest of their seasons. Oregon State beat Oregon, putting them one game ahead. But OSU was upset 28-8 by 4-5 Iowa, while Oregon did not have an upset loss. That makes them even, with OSU still having the head-to-head edge. Finally, Oregon tied Washington (in Seattle), while OSU lost to Washington (at home), leaving Oregon a half game better than OSU on the season. On top of that, Oregon State had 4 close wins, while all of Oregon's wins were by more than a touchdown, so Oregon outperformed OSU as well. And OSU's head-to-head win over Oregon wasn't decisive in the first place-- a 20-17 home win.

Bring Oregon in at #19, Oregon State at #20.

Penn State Revisited

Time to look at 9-2 Penn State again. Originally ranked #9, PSU lost to now-#17 Florida (7-4) 17-7 in their bowl game, and as I said earlier, they need to be ranked behind the Gators. And they actually need to be rated lower than that. Let's compare them to Oregon State, who was also 9-2. Both teams took one upset loss, but the big difference is that Oregon State posted a win over a top 25 team (Oregon), while Penn State did not. PSU did stomp on 8-2 West Virginia 34-6, but WV was rather poor. And anyway, Oregon State also stomped on WV, 51-22. So we'll bring PSU in behind OSU. It's quite possible, since PSU lost their bowl game and Oregon State won theirs, that a post-bowl poll would have ranked 9-2 OSU higher than 9-2 PSU anyway.

Penn State #21. But not for long...

Texas Christian and Kansas

6-4 Texas Christian and 6-3-1 Kansas (who lost to TCU) both have better relevant records than 9-2 Penn State. TCU's 4 losses all came to teams ranked higher than PSU, as did Kansas' 3 losses, and Kansas tied now-#11 Missouri. PSU lost to unranked Army, and beat no rated opponent.

Bring TCU in at #21, Kansas at #22, and drop Penn State to #23.

Dartmouth and Memphis

Two more spots to fill. The first will go to this year's token Ivy team, 9-0 Dartmouth, who didn't play anyone that matters, but was among the AP poll's "Others Receiving Votes." They make one team Penn State looks good next to.

And the last slot simply must go to 8-1 Memphis, whose only loss came 21-7 to now-#1 Mississippi. Memphis defeated 9-1 Southern Miss by the thin score of 8-6-- impressive because Southern Miss won all the rest of their games by more than a touchdown each.

8-2 West Virginia is not an option-- they beat no winning teams, barely got by 3-7 George Washington and 2-7 Boston, and they were stomped 34-6 by now-#23 Penn State and 51-22 by now-#20 Oregon State. 6-3-1 Auburn is a better candidate, and they did upset now-#12 Georgia Tech, but they lost to 3-4-3 Georgia, and they were tied by 4-3-3 Florida State, so they had a worse relevant record than Memphis and performed very poorly as well.

The coaches' poll had 7-2-1 Arizona State and 2-7 Illinois (no joke!) tied at the bottom of their top 20. But ASU beat no one, they lost to 9-2 West Texas A&M and 5-5 Arizona, and they were tied by 5-4-1 Washington State. I don't think I need to comment on 2-7 Illinois, except to say that there were of course several other losing Big 10 teams who should have been ranked higher than them.

Fixed and Expanded AP Top 25

So here it is, the 1962 AP poll fixed and expanded to 25. This is Nebraska's first top 25 ranking in 22 seasons-- quite a serious drought there between 1940 and 1962. Penn State's 14-place drop in this fixed poll is the biggest drop any team has had in any poll I've fixed thus far (1963-2012).

1) Southern Cal 11-0
     Mississippi 10-0
-0.5
+1.5
3) Wisconsin 8-2 -1
4) Alabama 10-1 +1
5) Louisiana State 9-1-1 +2
6) Texas 9-1-1 -2
7) Arkansas 9-2 -1
8) Oklahoma 8-3 --
9) Northwestern 7-2 IN
10) Minnesota 6-2-1 --
11) Missouri 8-1-2 IN
12) Georgia Tech 7-3-1 IN
13) Nebraska 9-2 IN
14) Duke 8-2 IN
15) Ohio State 6-3 IN
16) Miami (Florida) 7-4 IN
17) Florida 7-4 IN
18) Washington 7-1-2 IN
19) Oregon 6-3-1 IN
20) Oregon State 9-2 IN
21) Texas Christian 6-4 IN
22) Kansas 6-3-1 IN
23) Penn State 9-2 -14
24) Dartmouth 9-0 IN
25) Memphis 8-1 IN