Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller
                                1966 National Championship
                                                    Home

Fixing the Final 1966 AP College Football Poll

1) Notre Dame 9-0-1
2) Michigan State 9-0-1
3) Alabama 11-0
4) Georgia 10-1
5) UCLA 9-1
6) Nebraska 9-2
7) Purdue 9-2
8) Georgia Tech 9-2
9) Miami (Florida) 8-2-1
10) Southern Methodist 8-3
To the left is the final 1966 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. 

This was the year Notre Dame coach Ara Parsegian settled for the infamous tie with Michigan State. As a result, Dame and MSU, both 9-0-1, finished rated ahead of 11-0 Alabama, much to the continuing chagrin of Alabama fans. But it's a legitimate choice on the part of the AP voters, so I'll not be fixing that one.

Notre Dame is considered the sole national champion of 1966, and the real debate is whether or not Michigan State and Alabama should be considered co-champions for that season. But alas, that is not a question I'll be wrestling with for a long while yet. I'm next working on an article about the 1922 mythical national championship race, and at my current pace, I'll get to the 1966 "title" in about 4 years.

But my goal here is just to fix egregious errors in the 1966 AP poll and expand it to 25 teams, so let's get started with that...
The tying field goal in the 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State football game
The Notre Dame field goal that tied 1966's "Game of the Century," leaving both Notre Dame and Michigan State 9-0-1.

Purdue

Seems like Purdue was underrated every year in the 1960s. I guess no matter how good they were, there was no getting around the fact that their name was "Purdue." #7 Purdue's 2 losses came to #1 Notre Dame and #2 Michigan State, and the Boilermakers had a better relevant record than the 3 teams ranked ahead of them, as all 3 of those teams took an upset loss.

#6 Nebraska, of course, got trounced 36-7 by Alabama in the Orange Bowl, and would have dropped back behind Purdue anyway if the AP poll had voted after the bowls, so we can move Purdue past them without much discussion.

#5 UCLA (9-1) was upset 16-3 at 6-4 Washington, who will not make the fixed and expanded AP top 25, so that's ugly. UCLA and Purdue are fairly even other than that, but that one loss moves Purdue, who took no upsets, past UCLA.

#4 Georgia (10-1) is the tough case. Their upset loss came 7-6 at #9 Miami-Florida, which isn't a bad result, and in fact Purdue did not defeat a team as tough as Miami themselves. Georgia defeated 4 teams that will make the expanded AP top 25, Purdue just 2. Georgia did have some poor performances, close wins over 3 losing teams, while Purdue had just 1 such win. You could go either way on this one, so the AP poll can keep Georgia rated higher than Purdue.

Move Purdue up to #5, dropping UCLA and Nebraska 1 spot each.

Florida and Georgia Tech

9-2 Florida (coaches' #11) beat 9-2 Georgia Tech (AP #8) 27-12 in the Orange Bowl, so this is an easy fix. We'll move Florida in right behind Miami (who beat them) and drop GT behind Florida.

That moves Miami to #8, Florida to #9, Georgia Tech to #10, and Southern Methodist drops to #11.

Southern Cal

At the end of the regular season, Southern Cal was 7-3 and ranked #18 in the coaches' poll. Then they lost 14-13 to Purdue in the Rose Bowl and presumably would have fallen out of a post-bowl top 20 with 4 losses. However, they shouldn't have. USC's 4 losses came to #1 Notre Dame, now-#5 Purdue, now-#6 UCLA, and now-#8 Miami, and though they were stomped by #1 Notre Dame, the other 3 games were very close. In the Rose Bowl, the losing margin was a missed 2-point conversion attempt at the end-- they could have simply settled for the tie.

They have a better relevant record than Southern Methodist, who lost 22-0 to 8-2 Arkansas (yet who is lower rated-- I'll deal with this issue next), and the Trojans performed better than SMU as well. SMU was routed in all 3 of their losses, USC once, and SMU had 4 close wins, USC 2. As for Arkansas, they took 2 losses to poor teams (5-5 Baylor and 4-6 Texas Tech), so USC was effectively 2 games better than them.

Just ahead of SMU is 9-2 Georgia Tech. Like USC, GT did not take an upset loss, so the teams were even in that regard. However, they were not even in performance. Both of GT's losses were by more than a touchdown, while just 1 of USC's losses was, and GT had 3 close wins to USC's 2. USC beat 4 winning teams by an average of 15 points, and GT beat 3 by an average of 7 points-- and one of those opponents was 6-4 Clemson for both teams, USC beating them 30-0, GT 13-12. USC's big win came 10-6 at 7-4 Texas, and GT's was 6-3 at home over 8-3 Tennessee, and Texas will be rated higher than Tennessee in the fixed and expanded AP top 25 (as covered below). Everything lines up for Southern Cal here.

Move Southern Cal in at #10, dropping Georgia Tech and Southern Methodist 1 spot each.

Arkansas

8-2 Arkansas would have passed 8-3 SMU up in a post-bowl AP poll, since SMU lost the Cotton Bowl 24-9 to #4 Georgia. But they shouldn't have. Georgia was supposed to win that game. Arkansas did beat SMU 22-0, but they lost that advantage when they were upset by both 5-5 Baylor and 4-6 Texas Tech. Those results left SMU effectively 1 game ahead of Arkansas. SMU's 3rd loss came to now-#5 Purdue, and both that and the Georgia games are irrelevant when comparing SMU to Arkansas, since Arkansas did not play, let alone defeat, any teams ranked that highly themselves.

But we'll bring Arkansas in right behind SMU, at #13, where they were ranked in the coaches' poll.

Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, and Tennessee

Mississippi was ranked #12 in the coaches' poll, and Tennessee, whom they defeated 14-7 on the road, was #14. But then Mississippi lost by a convincing 19-0 to previously unrated Texas in the Bluebonnet Bowl, and that result shakes things up quite a bit. Texas lost to Oklahoma, who lost to Colorado, and that gives us the following victory chain: 7-3 Colorado > 6-4 Oklahoma > 7-4 Texas > 8-3 Mississippi > 8-3 Tennessee.

Colorado lost to Miami-Florida and Nebraska, now rated #7 and #8, and they took one upset loss 11-10 at 4-5-1 Oklahoma State. They defeated Oklahoma 24-21, 6-3-1 Missouri 26-0 on the road, and 5-5 Baylor 13-7 on the road (Baylor, of course, beat now-#13 Arkansas). Oklahoma took 2 upset losses, 10-7 at home to 6-3-1 Missouri and 15-14 at 4-5-1 Oklahoma State (missing a late 2-point conversion going for the win). However, the Sooners made up for one of those losses with a 10-9 home win over now-#7 Nebraska. They defeated Texas 18-9.

Texas took no upset losses-- their 4 defeats came to Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Southern Methodist, and all but the Oklahoma game were very close. Their 19-0 win over Mississippi was dominating, and came in a bowl game, giving it greater emphasis, and as such there is no good reason why they should not be rated higher than Mississippi.

Mississippi also took no upset losses, their defeats coming to Alabama, Georgia, and Texas. They won 13-0 at 7-2 Memphis (will be unrated), 14-7 over 6-4 Southern Miss (unrated), 27-6 over 8-2 Houston in Memphis (Houston will be rated), 17-0 at 5-4-1 Louisiana State (will be rated, barely), and 14-7 at 8-3 Tennessee.

Tennessee lost to Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Mississippi, so they also suffered no upsets. They beat 8-2 Army 38-7 and 8-3 Syracuse 18-12 in the Gator Bowl, and both of those teams will finish ranked in this fixed and expanded AP top 25.

Bring Colorado in at #14, Oklahoma at #15, Texas at #16, Mississippi at #17, and Tennessee at #18.

Wyoming, Syracuse, and Houston

The coaches had 10-1 Wyoming #15, 8-3 Syracuse #16, and 8-2 Houston #17, and those teams look fine, so we'll bring them in next. Syracuse did lose their bowl game 18-12 to Tennessee, but the Volunteers were higher-ranked, and though Syracuse and Houston look pretty equal, and you could go either way in ranking one higher than the other, let's just make it easy and go with the coaches' pre-bowl thoughts. As for WAC champion Wyoming, they were upset 12-10 at 7-3 Colorado State on a late fumbled punt that set up CSU's winning field goal, but they won the rest by very impressive scores, and Syracuse and Houston suffered upset losses to unranked teams as well.

Bring Wyoming in at #19, Syracuse at #20, and Houston at #21.

Oregon State and Army

The coaches rated 7-3 Oregon State at #19, but the Beavers shouldn't have been ranked anywhere. Nice record, but they didn't beat anyone, and lost a pair of games to unranked opponents, 41-0 at 6-4 Michigan and 14-6 at home to 3-6-1 Northwestern. No reason for them to be rated ahead of Michigan, who was mediocre this season. OSU also edged 4-6 Idaho 14-7, 5-5 Arizona State 18-17, and 3-7 Oregon 20-15.

I've got a better alternative: 8-2 Army. They didn't beat anyone either, but they took no upset losses (their defeats came 35-0 at Notre Dame and 38-7 to Tennessee in Memphis), and they had but 2 close wins to OSU's 3. I doubt that Army was actually one of the best 25 teams of 1966, but I suspect that this is about where the AP poll would have put them had they ranked 25 teams at the time, and it is a legitimate choice.

Bring Army in at #22.

Virginia Tech, Louisiana State, and Tulane

The coaches had 8-2-1 Virginia Tech at #20, but then the Hokies lost to Miami-Florida in the Liberty Bowl, and presumably would have fallen out of the rankings. They belong behind 5-4-1 Tulane, who defeated them, anyway. And 5-4-1 Louisiana State defeated Tulane.

LSU took an upset loss 17-15 at 2-8 Rice, and they were tied by 4-5-1 Texas A&M at home, but they made up for the loss with a big 10-8 home win over now-#8 Miami-Florida. Their other wins were dominating, including the 21-7 victory at Tulane.

Tulane was upset 33-14 at 5-5 Stanford, but it was their only upset, and they tied #8 Miami-Florida 10-10 at home (the state of Louisiana was rough on Miami this season). They beat Virginia Tech 13-0 at home.

Virginia Tech took a 13-13 home tie with 3-5-2 West Virginia, and performed weakly against a weak schedule, but they got one big win, a 23-21 home decision over 6-5 Florida State, who will make the fixed and expanded AP top 25 (as covered next). They also gave #8 Miami a good game before falling 14-7 in the Liberty Bowl.


Bring Louisiana State in at #23, Tulane at #24, and Virginia Tech at #25.

Florida State

Virginia Tech may have been 8-2-1, and Florida State 6-5, and VT may have beaten FSU 23-21, but FSU should actually be rated higher than VT. As stated, that was VT's only win of significance, and it was a very close home win. FSU defeated #8 Miami-Florida 23-20 on the road, and VT lost to Miami 14-7 in the Liberty Bowl, so that makes them even, with VT still having the head-to-head edge. But VT's tie with 3-5-2 West Virginia drops them an effective half game back of FSU, because FSU's other 4 losses all came to teams currently rated higher than Virginia Tech: 9-2 Florida (now #9), 10-1 Wyoming (#19), 8-3 Syracuse (#20), and 8-2 Houston (#21). And 3 of those losses were close (touchdown or less).

FSU also performed better than VT did. Tech beat Kentucky 7-0 and William & Mary 20-18, while the only close win FSU had among their 6 victories was their upset of #8 Miami. So Florida State belongs ranked ahead of Virginia Tech.

But why stop there? Florida State also had a better relevant record than 5-4-1 Louisiana State and 5-4-1 Tulane. Like FSU, LSU upset Miami, but LSU took an upset loss and a tie, whereas FSU just took 1 upset loss-- to Virginia Tech, a much better team than the 2 who upset LSU.

Then there is 8-2 Army. Army took no upset losses, while FSU did, but Virginia Tech was a much better team than anyone Army defeated. And FSU made up for it with their upset win over #8 Miami, while Army beat no one of value at all. Army was slaughtered in their 2 losses, 35-0 to #1 Notre Dame and 38-7 to now-#18 Tennessee, while FSU came within a touchdown of 4 of the 5 teams that beat them. And Army had 2 close wins over bad teams, while FSU had just 1 close win, and over the #8 team. FSU was clearly better.

Move Florida State in at #22, right behind Houston, who beat them 21-13. That drops Army and everyone behind them 1 spot each, which pushes poor old Virginia Tech right out of the top 25.

San Diego State

San Diego State was ignored by pretty much everyone outside their own town this season, but they went 11-0, and if the AP poll was voting for 25 teams rather than 10, they may have included them, but I think it is highly unlikely. They were not a major team at the time, playing in the California Collegiate Athletic Association and facing opponents such as Weber State, San Luis Obispo, Long Beach, North Dakota State, Northern Arizona, Cal-State Northridge, and Montana State in the Camellia Bowl on December 10th. They only played 2 teams who are FBS level today, San Jose State and Fresno State. Their performance was not impressive either, as they barely beat 4 of those opponents.

San Diego State was on their way up, though, and they did make the fixed and expanded AP poll for 1969.

Fixed and Expanded AP Top 25

Changes to the AP poll's top 10 were relatively light this season, so most of the work for this one was adding the 15 teams to get it to 25. #8 Miami-Florida played 7 top 25 teams, and they defeated #26 Virginia Tech in their bowl game-- quite the schedule.

1) Notre Dame 9-0-1 --
2) Michigan State 9-0-1 --
3) Alabama 11-0 --
4) Georgia 10-1 --
5) Purdue 9-2 +2
6) UCLA 9-1 -1
7) Nebraska 9-2 -1
8) Miami (Florida) 8-2-1 +1
9) Florida 9-2 IN
10) Southern Cal 7-4 IN
11) Georgia Tech 9-2 -3
12) Southern Methodist 8-3 -2
13) Arkansas 8-2 IN
14) Colorado 7-3 IN
15) Oklahoma 6-4 IN
16) Texas 7-4 IN
17) Mississippi 8-3 IN
18) Tennessee 8-3 IN
19) Wyoming 10-1 IN
20) Syracuse 8-3 IN
21) Houston 8-2 IN
22) Florida State 6-5 IN
23) Army 8-2 IN
24) Louisiana State 5-4-1 IN
25) Tulane 5-4-1 IN