Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller
                                1965 National Championship
                                                    Home

Fixing the Final 1965 AP College Football Poll

1) Alabama 9-1-1
2) Michigan State 10-1
3) Arkansas 10-1
4) UCLA 8-2-1
5) Nebraska 10-1
6) Missouri 8-2-1
7) Tennessee 8-1-2
8) Louisiana State 8-3
9) Notre Dame 7-2-1
10) Southern Cal 7-2-1
To the left is the final 1965 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. 

With its top 3 teams all unbeaten and heading to bowl games, the AP poll decided to extend itself to a post-bowl ranking for the first time ever. This turned out to be quite fortunate for #4 Alabama, who had benefited from the AP poll ending in November in 1964, when they finished #1 but lost their bowl game.

This time, #1 Michigan State was upset by UCLA in the Rose Bowl, #2 Arkansas lost to LSU in the Cotton Bowl, and Alabama beat #3 Nebraska 39-28 in the Orange Bowl, all of which vaulted Alabama to #1 in the AP poll's post-bowl ranking.

Arkansas and Nebraska played weak schedules and weren't all that great to start with, but Michigan State presents a bit of a problem here. They may have lost the Rose Bowl, but they still finished with a better record than Alabama, played a slightly tougher schedule than Alabama, and performed better than Alabama over the course of the season. But can a team lose their bowl game and remain #1?

It can never happen in a poll of sportswriters, under any circumstances, but this is the one case in college football history when it should have happened.
Alabama receiver Ray Perkins
Alabama receiver Ray Perkins chasing down one of his 10 receptions for 159 yards in the Orange Bowl. He scored 2 touchdowns and a 2-point conversion, and Alabama defeated #3 Nebraska 39-28. The #1 and #2 teams lost on the same day, vaulting the incredibly fortunate Alabama to #1 in the AP poll's first-ever post-bowl rankings.

Alabama vs. Michigan State

No sportswriter poll would ever rank a team #1 after that team lost its bowl game, but the fact is that in the end, Michigan State was 10-1, and Alabama was 9-1-1. Now, bowl games deserve greater emphasis, so one could perhaps argue that that emphasis closes the half game gap between these 2 teams, but another problem is that their bowl games were not comparable. Even the AP poll itself ranks Michigan State's bowl opponent, UCLA, higher than Alabama's bowl opponent, Nebraska, but more importantly, Michigan State played their bowl game on UCLA's home field. Alabama did not face the same kind of hurdle at all.

One could also point out that Alabama tied #7 Tennessee, Tennessee beat UCLA, and UCLA beat Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. But look closer at that chain. Alabama tied Tennessee at home, Tennessee defeated UCLA 37-34 at home, UCLA defeated Michigan State 14-12 at home, and in the regular season, Michigan State defeated UCLA 13-3 at home. Given the standard 3.5 point statistical home field advantage, none of those games help Alabama's cause. Those games show that Tennessee was slightly better than Alabama when they played, UCLA was slightly better than Tennessee, and Michigan State was slightly better than UCLA in one game between the two and solidly better in the other.

Schedule

Let's compare the 2 teams overall. We know that Michigan State had the better record. Who played the tougher schedule? Both played 3 games against top 10 teams (the AP poll only rated 10 teams), and both played another 2 teams that the coaches' poll rated #11-20. But those other 2 teams were #11 Ohio State (7-2) and #13 Purdue (7-2-1) for Michigan State, and #15 Georgia (6-4) and #17 Mississippi (7-4) for Alabama, which makes Michigan State's schedule a bit tougher. Using the AP top 10 and the coaches' #11-20, Michigan State's rated opponents averaged #10.25 (counting UCLA twice, since they played them twice), while Alabama's averaged #13. This advantage will hold true in the fixed AP poll as well. The two teams played fairly comparable schedules, but even if we called it completely even, the fact is that Michigan State still had a better record against the same strength of schedule.

Performance

What about performance? Both played the same number of games, and Michigan State outscored their opponents 263-76, while Alabama scored fewer points and gave up more, 256-107. Furthermore, MSU won all of their games by more than a touchdown except the loss to UCLA and a 14-10 win at #13 Purdue. Alabama, on the other hand, lost to #15 Georgia, tied #7 Tennessee, and they beat #17 Mississippi by 1 point and 4-6 Mississippi State by 3. A clear performance advantage for Michigan State all the way around.

And the main issue is this-- Michigan State lost to the #4 team, while Alabama lost to the #15 team (coaches' poll) and tied the #7 team on top of that. And of course, that means that while both teams played the same number of rated teams, MSU defeated 4 and Alabama just 3. As far as I am concerned, this isn't even much of a debate-- Michigan State should be #1. Better record, slightly stronger schedule, less embarrassing loss, more big wins, and better performance.

Late Season Performance

There is, however, one factor in Alabama's favor-- they were red hot down the stretch. Over their last 4 games, they beat #8 LSU 35-7, Auburn 30-3 (they were 5-5-1, but will be #16 in the fixed and expanded AP poll, as discussed below), and #5 Nebraska 39-28 in their bowl game. Their upset loss to Georgia came in their opener, their 1 point win over Mississippi was game 3, and the tie with Tennessee was game 5, and it makes sense to put less emphasis on early-season games. Combine all that with the fact that Michigan State, of course, took their upset loss in their bowl game, giving it greater emphasis, and Alabama's case gets closer to Michigan State's. I don't think it's enough to disregard the fact that Michigan State was better in every season-long regard, and there is still the problem of Alabama beating a losing team by only 3 points in game 7, but I suppose Alabama's hot closing stretch is enough for me to hold my nose and accept a compromise.

We'll have them share the #1 spot. But as I say, for myself, I strongly believe that Michigan State should be #1 alone.

Tennessee

8-1-2 Tennessee (#7) took an upset loss to 7-4 Mississippi, and they were tied by 5-5-1 Auburn, but they made up for each of those outings by beating #4 UCLA and tying #1 Alabama. That gives them a better relevant record than the team rated just ahead of them, 8-2-1 Missouri, and of course they had a better straight record too, so I don't know how sportswriters missed this. Tennessee should definitely be rated higher. And for a kicker, Missouri lost to 6-4 Kentucky, whom Tennessee beat 19-3.

#5 Nebraska (10-1) had a better straight record than Tennessee, but they had the same relevant record-- Tennessee took a loss and a tie to teams rated behind Nebraska, but they also earned a win and a tie against teams rated higher than Nebraska.
Nebraska had a better straight record because they played a vastly easier schedule. They played just 2 teams that will make the fixed and expanded AP top 25, and went 1-1 in those games. Tennessee played 7 and went 4-1-2 against them, a far cry better than 1-1. Nebraska also had a close win over a losing opponent (21-17 at 3-7 Oklahoma State), while Tennessee beat all of their losing and unrated opponents by more than a touchdown. In fact, the only close win Tennessee had was over #4 UCLA. Nebraska also lost to Alabama by more than a touchdown (Tennessee tied Alabama), and in their bowl game, giving it greater emphasis, while Tennessee's 1 loss was by 1 point. So Tennessee belongs ahead of Nebraska as well.

That brings us to #4 UCLA (8-2-1), whom Tennessee beat head-to-head, and who has a worse straight record than Tennessee as well. But the AP poll got this one right, because UCLA has the better relevant record. Tennessee took the upset loss to Mississippi, so that plus their win over UCLA makes the teams even, with Tennessee having the head-to-head edge. Both teams took an upset tie (UCLA to #6 Missouri and Tennessee to 5-5-1 Auburn), so they are "even" there (though UCLA's tie came to a far better team). Where they differ is the fact that UCLA defeated a higher ranked team, whereas Tennessee just tied a higher ranked team, leaving UCLA effectively a half game better. And anyway, Tennessee's head-to-head win was just 37-34 at home-- not decisive. So rating UCLA higher is definitely legitimate, and I think the correct choice.

Move Tennessee up to #5, dropping Nebraska and Missouri 1 spot each.

Arkansas

10-1 Arkansas (#3) blew their chance at a second straight MNC when they lost 14-7 to 8-3 Louisiana State (#8) in the Cotton Bowl. That upset loss, given greater emphasis because it was a bowl game, leaves them with a worse relevant record than the 4 teams ranked right behind them. Of course, it is questionable whether their bowl result was an upset at all-- Arkansas played an incredibly weak schedule, their 2 best wins coming over 8-3 Tulsa and 8-3 Texas Tech, teams that will finish in the bottom of this fixed and expanded AP poll. Compare them to Nebraska: both teams were 10-1, but Nebraska lost to #1 Alabama in their bowl game, and Arkansas lost to #8 LSU-- ranked behind both teams-- in their bowl game. Nebraska also beat a top 10 team (Missouri), which Arkansas did not come close to doing. I just don't even know what the voters were thinking here-- obviously they weren't thinking at all.

8-2-1 Missouri is a tougher case. Arkansas and Missouri each took 1 upset loss, Arkansas to 8-3 LSU and Missouri to 6-4 Kentucky. Arkansas took theirs to a better team, but they also took that loss in their bowl game, giving it that greater emphasis I keep talking about, while Missouri's loss to Kentucky came in their opener, giving it less emphasis. Missouri tied #4 UCLA, and that is a better accomplishment, by far, than anything Arkansas did. As far as performance goes, Arkansas had 2 close wins (over 8-3 Tulsa and 6-4 Texas, both games at home), and Missouri had 1 (20-18 over 7-4 Florida in the Sugar Bowl). I just don't see a legitimate argument for Arkansas here.

What about #8 LSU (8-3), who beat Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl? Well, LSU took a pair of upset losses to 7-4 Florida and 7-4 Mississippi, leaving them effectively a game back of Arkansas even with the bowl win, so the AP poll can freely rate Arkansas higher than LSU.

Drop Arkansas to #7, moving UCLA, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Missouri up 1 spot each.

Purdue and Ohio State

The AP poll's top 10 is now fully repaired. Time to start adding the 15 teams we'll need to get it to 25. We'll start with the #11 and #13 teams in the coaches' poll, 7-2 Ohio State and 7-2-1 Purdue (that poll's #10 and #12 teams, 8-3 Texas Tech and 7-4 Florida, both lost their bowl games, and would have dropped in a post-bowl poll). But I think the coaches got the order wrong on Ohio State and Purdue: Purdue should be rated higher.

The teams did not play each other. Purdue took an upset loss (6-4 Illinois) and tie (4-5-1 Southern Methodist), and Ohio State took just 1 upset loss (4-6 North Carolina), but Purdue defeated #9 Notre Dame, who is of course rated higher than Ohio State, so in the end Purdue was effectively a half game better than Ohio State. The 2 teams performed similarly, but Purdue had the edge, the difference coming down to the fact that Ohio State lost to Michigan State 32-7, while Purdue lost to MSU 14-10.

Bring Purdue in at #11 and Ohio State at #12.

A Muddled Pack of Good Southern Teams

Now we have a bunch of Southern teams that were all pretty equal, making it difficult to untangle them into a proper order. Here's how the coaches' poll ordered them (unlike AP poll voters, the coaches stopped voting in November):

#10 Texas Tech 8-3: Lost their bowl game 31-21 to Georgia Tech.
#12 Florida 7-4: Lost their bowl game 20-18 to #6 Missouri.
#15 Georgia 6-4
#17 Mississippi 7-4: Beat Auburn 13-7 in their bowl game.
#18 Kentucky 6-4
--     Georgia Tech 7-3-1: Beat Texas Tech 31-21 in their bowl game.
--     Auburn 5-5-1: Lost to Mississippi 13-7 in their bowl game.

Instead of jumping straight to how I would order these teams, I'll demonstrate how to untangle a mess like this step by step. Let's start by addressing the bowl results-- since Georgia Tech beat Texas Tech, we'll need to move GT ahead of TT. And since Georgia beat Georgia Tech 17-7 in their regular season finale, we'll put both teams behind Georgia. Florida's bowl loss is irrelevant, since they lost a close game to a top 10 team. So now we have Florida > Georgia > Georgia Tech > Texas Tech > Mississippi > Kentucky > Auburn.

Higher and Lower Rated Opponents

What matters now is not these teams' straight records, since that does not account for strength of schedule, but how many higher rated opponents they defeated and how many lower-rated opponents they lost to (a tie is half a win and half a loss). We'll do this with a simple point system: +1 for a win over a higher rated team and -1 for a loss to a lower rated team. We'll ignore their games against each other for now.

Florida -1 (defeated #8 LSU, lost to 4-6 Mississippi State and 5-4-1 Miami-Florida)
Georgia 0 (defeated #1 Alabama, lost to 4-5-1 Florida State)
Georgia Tech -1.5 (tied 2-7-1 Vanderbilt and lost to 3-7 Texas A&M)
Texas Tech -1 (lost to 6-4 Texas)
Mississippi +1 (defeated #8 LSU and #4 Tennessee, lost to 4-5-1 Houston)
Kentucky 0 (defeated #6 Missouri, lost to 4-5-1 Houston)
Auburn -1.5 (tied #4 Tennessee, lost to 5-5 Baylor and 7-2 Southern Miss)

We still need to look at how they did against each other, but let's first go ahead and reorder them according to the above point values, with one exception: Texas Tech is a half point ahead of Georgia Tech in the list above, but we have already considered their bowl result, and that win puts Georgia Tech a half game ahead of Texas Tech. So we'll leave Texas Tech behind Georgia Tech. Our new order: Mississippi +1 > Georgia 0 > Kentucky 0 > Florida -1 > Georgia Tech -1.5 > Texas Tech -1 > Auburn -1.5.

Head to Head

Now we'll consider their games against each other:

Mississippi (+1)  1-2 (beat Auburn; lost to Kentucky and Florida)
Georgia (0)  1-3 (beat Georgia Tech; lost to Kentucky, Florida, and Auburn)
Kentucky (0)  2-1 (beat Mississippi and Georgia; lost to Auburn)
Florida (-1)  2-1 (beat Mississippi and Georgia; lost to Auburn)
Georgia Tech (-1.5)  2-1 (beat Auburn and Texas Tech; lost to Georgia)
Texas Tech (-1)  0-1 (lost to Georgia Tech)
Auburn (-1.5)  3-2 (beat Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia; lost to Georgia Tech and Mississippi)

You can now see that Mississippi and Kentucky are the top two teams-- Mississippi is +1 and 1-2, Kentucky 0 and 2-1, so Mississippi is a game ahead in one regard, Kentucky a game ahead in the other. That makes them even, but since they played each other, we can turn to that head-to-head result to break the tie. Kentucky beat Mississippi, and the score was 16-7, which was decisive, so Kentucky moves to the top of this list. Kentucky also beat the next highest team, Georgia.

Mississippi also lost a head-to-head result to Florida, but Mississippi is at +1 and 1-2, Florida -1 and 2-1, so Mississippi is 2 games ahead in one regard and 1 game back in the other, leaving them 1 game ahead of Florida overall-- they are not even. Furthermore, one of Mississippi's losses in that 1-2 record came to Kentucky, whom we have moved to the top of the list, and Florida did not play Kentucky, so we should no longer consider that loss when comparing Mississippi to Florida.

We now have 1) Kentucky, 2) Mississippi. Who's next? The teams fall into place pretty well from this point on. Florida had a better record than Georgia (-1 and 2-1 compared to 0 and 1-3), and they beat Georgia 14-10. Georgia beat Georgia Tech 17-7. And Georgia Tech beat Texas Tech 31-21 in the Gator Bowl. The only problem now is erratic Auburn.

Auburn

Here is the order we have now, and how Auburn did against these teams:

Kentucky: Auburn beat them 23-18 at home.
Mississippi: Auburn lost to them 13-7 in the Liberty Bowl.
Florida: Auburn beat them 28-17 at home.
Georgia: Auburn beat them on the road 21-19.
Georgia Tech: Auburn lost to them 23-14 on the road.
Texas Tech: No game.

You'll notice that they played a very tough schedule, facing 5 of these teams, and that helps explain their 5-5-1 straight record. Where should they go? Between Mississippi and Florida looks like a good spot, since they beat both Florida and Georgia. And that would give them one upset win (Kentucky) and one upset loss (Georgia Tech), which balances out. But they also lost to Baylor and Southern Miss, 2 teams that will remain unrated in the fixed poll, so let's compare them to Florida more closely.

First of all, Auburn beat Florida 28-17, putting them a game ahead to start. Auburn and Florida both beat a higher rated team on this list, Florida over Mississippi (who beat Auburn in the Gator Bowl) and Auburn over Kentucky. Both lost to 2 unrated teams, Florida to Mississippi State and Miami-Florida, and Auburn to Baylor and Southern Miss. But Auburn also took a loss to lower-rated Georgia Tech, and Florida had no other upset loss, so that makes these teams even, with Auburn still holding the head-to-head tie-breaker. Finally, both had an upset over a top 10 team, but this is where Florida pulls away-- Florida beat #8 LSU, while Auburn tied #4 Tennessee, leaving Florida a half game ahead.

So let's compare Auburn to Georgia. Auburn won this game in Athens 21-19, putting them a game ahead to start. At this spot, Auburn has 2 wins over higher rated teams (Kentucky and Florida, both of whom beat Georgia) and a tie with #4 Tennessee. They also have 3 losses to lower rated teams (Baylor, Southern Miss, and Georgia Tech), which puts them at -1/2. Georgia has 1 win over a higher rated team (#1 Alabama in their opener) and 1 loss to a lower-rated team (4-5-1 Florida State), and those games balance out to 0. All of that leaves Auburn a half game ahead of Georgia (Auburn at -1/2 and Georgia at 0, and Auburn beat Georgia).

So yes, Auburn goes ahead of Georgia. We are set: 6-4 Kentucky > 7-4 Mississippi > 7-4 Florida > 5-5-1 Auburn > 6-4 Georgia > 7-3-1 Georgia Tech > 8-3 Texas Tech.

Kentucky

Notice that at the start, the coaches rated Kentucky as the 5th best of these 7 teams, behind 2 teams they defeated decisively: Mississippi 16-7 and Georgia 28-10. But as I have shown, they should have been rated at the top of this list. I don't normally discuss teams' players and coaches when fixing these polls, but Kentucky is an interesting story, so let's take a look at them. Their coach was Charlie Bradshaw, who went 25-41-4 at Kentucky 1962-1968, and 66-68-6 for his career. He had been an assistant coach to Bear Bryant at Alabama, and when he came to Kentucky in 1962, he applied Bryant's notoriously tough approach to whipping the team into shape, magnified by, oh, about a thousand times the punishment Bryant dished out. In that Summer of 1962, he thinned the 88 player roster down to 30 survivors through brutal attrition.

This has been chronicled in a recent book I recommend called The Thin Thirty by Shannon Ragland. The writing is somewhat subpar, but the research and interviews with players are terrifically assiduous, and believe me, the lurid details of what was going on at Kentucky during Bradshaw's tenure will shock you. Or maybe, given the recent Penn State scandals, they won't. Still worth reading.

Bradshaw was not much of a coach, but his practices made military boot camp a cakewalk in later years for some of his players (read the book), so his team was at least tough. And he had some solid assistants (Charlie Pell, later the head coach at Clemson and Florida, and Homer Rice, later the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals). He had collected, by 1965, some solid talent as well, particularly on the line, where 3 starters went on to play in the pros for at least 5 seasons. In all, 7 Kentucky starters played a total of 45 years in the pros.

Conclusion

So we're bringing these Southern teams in as follows: #13 Kentucky, #14 Mississippi, #15 Florida, #16 Auburn, #17 Georgia, #18 Georgia Tech, and #19 Texas Tech. Don't be fooled by Georgia Tech's 7-3-1 and Texas Tech's 8-3 records-- both teams played much easier schedules than did 5-5-1 Auburn and 6-4 Georgia. Georgia Tech beat Auburn, but lost to Georgia and 3-7 Texas A&M, and they were tied by 2-7-1 Vanderbilt. They were busy playing no-count ACC teams the rest of the time. Texas Tech was worse. They did not beat any team of any real value at all. They were stomped by unrated Texas 33-7, and barely got by 4 other unrated opponents. They are lucky to be rated at all.

Dartmouth

The coaches did not bother to rate 9-0 Dartmouth, who of course played an FCS level schedule, but Dartmouth was one of the AP poll's "others receiving votes" teams. I assume that the AP poll would have rated Dartmouth ahead of Texas Tech, who lost their bowl game, and that is a fair option, since Texas Tech didn't beat anyone, and got stomped in one upset loss. And perhaps the AP poll would have rated Dartmouth ahead of Georgia Tech as well, but Georgia Tech at least beat a couple of rated teams, and Dartmouth did not even play any, so that is not a fair option. Same goes for Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Mississippi, and Kentucky, of course.

Bring Dartmouth in at #19, dropping Texas Tech to #20.

Miami-Florida and Syracuse

7-3 Syracuse was also one of the AP poll's "others receiving votes" teams, and the coaches rated them #19, but they lost to 5-4-1 Miami-Florida 24-0 at home, and should be rated behind the Hurricanes. Like Auburn, Miami was quite erratic. They took 3 upset losses, to 4-5-1 Southern Methodist, 2-8 Tulane, and 3-7 Pittsburgh, but they also beat now-#15 Florida 16-13 and they tied #9 Notre Dame. That leaves them at -1.5. Syracuse took an upset loss to 5-5 Oregon State and beat no one, leaving them at -1. So Miami's rather decisive win over Syracuse puts them a half game ahead overall.

Bring Miami-Florida in at #21 and Syracuse at #22.

Tulsa

8-3 Tulsa was rated #16 in the coaches' poll, but the AP poll was not so enamored, and Tulsa did not appear on a single ballot in that poll. Still, it is safe to assume that the AP voters would have preferred them to 5-4-1 Miami, and Tulsa had a better relevant record than Miami as well.

So we'll bring Tulsa in at #21, dropping Miami and Syracuse 1 spot each.

Minnesota and Illinois

5-4-1 Minnesota and 6-4 Illinois got no love from any poll voter, but they deserved a little. Minnesota took a 14-13 upset loss to 7-3 Washington State (who was otherwise poor, and should not be rated), but their other losses came to #6 Missouri, #11 Purdue, and #12 Ohio State, and they tied #10 Southern Cal on the road. They could be rated as high as #13, but they didn't accomplish much other than tying USC, so we needn't go that far. However, they have a better relevant record than the current bottom 4 teams in the fixed AP poll, and tying USC was far more than Dartmouth accomplished, so they can and should be ranked ahead of Dartmouth.

Illinois is a similar story, but they took 2 upset losses (5-5 Oregon State and 4-6 Michigan), and they defeated #11 Purdue 21-0. That gives them the same relevant record as Texas Tech and Tulsa (all 3 are -1), but they performed better than those teams-- all 6 of their wins were routs (including 42-0 over Southern Methodist, whom Texas Tech only beat 26-24). Illinois also accomplished more than Dartmouth, so they should come in ahead of Dartmouth with Minnesota. They are, however, a half game back of Minnesota, and so should be ranked behind the Gophers.

Move Minnesota in at #19 and Illinois at #20. That drops Dartmouth and everyone behind them 2 spots each.

Fixed and Expanded AP Top 25

So here it is, the 1965 AP poll fixed and expanded to 25. It should be noted that 6-2-2 Colorado was #20 in the coaches' poll, but they did not appear on any AP poll voter's ballot, they took a pair of upset ties to unrated teams, and they did not beat anyone of value.

1) Michigan State 10-1
     Alabama 9-1-1
+0.5
-0.5
3) UCLA 8-2-1 +1
4) Tennessee 8-1-2 +3
5) Nebraska 10-1 --
6) Missouri 8-2-1 --
7) Arkansas 10-1 -4
8) Louisiana State 8-3 --
9) Notre Dame 7-2-1 --
10) Southern Cal 7-2-1 --
11) Purdue 7-2-1 IN
12) Ohio State 7-2 IN
13) Kentucky 6-4 IN
14) Mississippi 7-4 IN
15) Florida 7-4 IN
16) Auburn 5-5-1 IN
17) Georgia 6-4 IN
18) Georgia Tech 7-3-1 IN
19) Minnesota 5-4-1 IN
20) Illinois 6-4 IN
21) Dartmouth 9-0 IN
22) Texas Tech 8-3 IN
23) Tulsa 8-3 IN
24) Miami (Florida) 5-4-1 IN
25) Syracuse 7-3 IN