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Fixing the Final 1968 AP College Football Poll

1) Ohio State 10-0
2) Penn State 11-0
3) Texas 9-1-1
4) Southern Cal 9-1-1
5) Notre Dame 7-2-1
6) Arkansas 10-1
7) Kansas 9-2
8) Georgia 8-1-2
9) Missouri 8-3
10) Purdue 8-2
11) Oklahoma 7-4
12) Michigan 8-2
13) Tennessee 8-2-1
14) Southern Methodist 8-3
15) Oregon State 7-3
16) Auburn 7-4
17) Alabama 8-3
18) Houston 6-2-2
19) Louisiana State 8-3
20) Ohio 10-1
To the left is the final 1968 AP college football top 20. The fixed final AP poll, expanded to 25 teams, follows the article below. 

Like 1969, Penn State finished this season unbeaten, untied, and uncrowned. But also like 1969, there isn't much controversy here over who should have been ranked #1. Ohio State defeated 4 ranked teams by 21, 13, 36, and 11 points, while PSU defeated 1 by 1 point.

The best team of 1968 may well have been 1969 champion Texas, who opened the season with a tie to 6-2-2 Houston and a loss to 5-3-2 Texas Tech, then proceeded to win their next 9 games-- and indeed their next 30 over 3 seasons-- on the strength of college football's original wishbone offense. The AP poll rightly ranked them #3.

However, 10-1 Arkansas, whose only loss came to Texas, was ranked behind 9-1-1 Southern Cal and 7-2-1 Notre Dame, and that is our first error to repair here.
OJ Simpson fumble in the 1969 Rose Bowl
Southern Cal running back OJ Simpson coughing up the ball in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State scored en route to a 27-16 win. This marked the end of an era, because the PAC 8/10 won 10 of the next 11 Rose Bowls.

Arkansas

While Arkansas lost only to #3 Texas, capping their season with a 16-2 win over SEC champion Georgia (#8, 8-1-2) in the Sugar Bowl, Notre Dame lost 37-22 to #10 Purdue and 21-17 to unranked Michigan State (5-5). Notre Dame's ranking ahead of Arkansas is therefore quite baffling. Southern Cal was tied by Notre Dame, and their performance was weak this season: 4 close wins, 3 over unranked teams. Arkansas had 3 close wins, 2 over unranked teams.

Move Arkansas to #4, dropping Southern Cal and Notre Dame 1 spot each.

Southern Methodist, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri

The AP poll really made a mess of things with these 4 teams, despite the fact that the teams followed a rather simple head-to-head progression: Southern Methodist beat Oklahoma, who beat Kansas and Missouri, and Kansas beat Missouri. Yet the AP poll ranked SMU lowest of the 4 teams (#14), and Oklahoma next lowest (#11).

Let's start with SMU. They finished 8-3, their 3 losses coming to #1 Ohio State, #3 Texas, and now-#4 Arkansas. They beat Oklahoma 28-27 in the Bluebonnet Bowl.
And on top of that Oklahoma finished 7-4, a game worse than SMU, and they took one loss 41-27 to unranked Colorado (4-6). I have no idea how in the world AP voters could possibly conclude that SMU was #14 and Oklahoma #11. Monumental ineptitude there.

It is rather shocking that the AP poll voted a 7-4 team #11 in the first place, but the AP poll was on to something here-- Oklahoma actually was stronger than their record looked. They played a very tough schedule, losing to Notre Dame, Texas, and SMU, all of whom were or should have been rated in the top 10. Despite the 1 upset loss to Colorado, they shared the Big 8 title with Kansas. But they beat the Jayhawks on the road 27-23, and they should therefore be ranked ahead of Kansas.

So #14 SMU needs to be moved ahead of #11 Oklahoma, and #7 Kansas and #9 Missouri need to drop behind the Sooners-- but where do we put them? Their average ranking (10.25) is slightly worse than Purdue's #10, so we'll move them right behind Purdue.

That gives us the following ratings shift: Georgia #7, Purdue #8, Southern Methodist #9, Oklahoma #10, Kansas #11, Missouri #12, Michigan #13, and Tennessee #14. I would be inclined to rank SMU at #5 myself, but decided the AP poll had a case for not doing so.

Tennessee

Tennessee (now #14, 8-2-1) took an upset loss to #16 Auburn, but they halfway made up for that with a tie to now-#7 Georgia. The 2 teams ahead of them, 8-2 Michigan and 8-3 Missouri, also took upset losses, but to unranked opponents, and neither made up for those losses with a win or tie against a higher-ranked team. Missouri's high ranking compared to Tennessee is particularly odd, because they had a worse straight record, and their upset loss came 12-6 to Kentucky, whom Tennessee beat 24-7.

Move Tennessee ahead of both, to #12, dropping Missouri and Michigan 1 spot each.

Oregon State

7-3 Oregon State was gifted with a #15 ranking despite losses to a pair of unranked teams, 5-5 Iowa and 3-7 Kentucky, and no wins over rated teams. Auburn and Alabama, who sit right behind them, suffered just 1 upset loss each, and both defeated rated opponents. In fact, Alabama beat 4 who will finish ranked in the fixed and expanded top 25, and Auburn beat 3. Oregon State beat 1.

6-2-2 Houston, rated #18, matched Oregon State's 2 losses to unranked teams, but Houston also tied #3 Texas and now-#7 Georgia, blowing away OSU's thin accomplishments. Houston also beat 7-3-1 Mississippi, themselves better than Oregon State (I'll cover them next).

Drop Oregon State to #18, moving Auburn, Alabama, and Houston up 1 slot each. Louisiana State, #19 and 8-3, was rather weak, so Oregon State can remain in front of them. It should also be noted that Alabama beat Auburn, but their relevant records are the same, and Auburn outperformed Alabama by a wide margin, so the AP poll can viably rank Auburn higher.

Mississippi

7-3-1 Mississippi (unranked) lost only to rated teams Georgia, Houston, and Tennessee. They were embarrassed in a tie with 0-8-2 Mississippi State, but they also won an upset over now-#16 Alabama, and they defeated #19 Louisiana State 27-24 on the road. There is no question that they should be rated ahead of LSU, but they also belong in front of Oregon State, as their relevant record is effectively a whopping 2 1/2 games better than that of OSU.

Move Mississippi into the ratings at #18, dropping Oregon State and everyone behind them 1 place each.

Miami-Florida

5-5 Miami-Florida steamrolled now-#20 Louisiana State (8-3) 30-0, and that score leaves little room for debate. Miami did lose 14-10 to 6-3-1 Florida (unranked), but Florida is better than any team LSU defeated, and the rest of Miami's losses came to teams ranked higher than LSU.

Move Miami into the ratings at #20, dropping Louisiana State and Ohio 1 spot each.

Arizona State

Arizona State 1968 is a good example of the importance of bowl games in the final AP poll, because they were ranked #17 in the final regular season poll, but did not play in a bowl game, so the writers had largely forgotten the WAC champions come January, leaving them out of the final top 20. Meanwhile, 10-1 MAC champion Ohio held on to the last spot in the final AP poll, despite the fact that they lost their bowl game to unrated 8-3 Richmond. ASU also took an upset loss (at 7-3 Wyoming), but it wasn't in their bowl game. Their other loss came to now-#19 Oregon State, irrelevant when comparing them to Ohio.

ASU's performance was very strong-- they romped in all 8 of their wins (average margin 36 points), while Ohio struggled to beat unranked opponents Western Michigan and Bowling Green.

Move Arizona State back in at #22, dropping Ohio to #23.

Florida and Florida State

6-3-1 Florida took an upset loss to unrated North Carolina and they were tied by unrated Vanderbilt, but they defeated now-#20 Miami-Florida, so that gives them a relevant record that is effectively half a game better than that of Ohio. Florida also defeated 8-3 Florida State, who finished all the way up at #14 in the coaches' poll (they voted before the bowls, and FSU lost 31-27 to LSU in the Peach Bowl). FSU took an upset loss to unrated Virginia Tech (7-4), but they defeated now-#17 Houston, so their relevant record is a game and a half better than that of Ohio. Ohio accomplished nothing at all.

Move Florida and Florida State into the ratings at #23 and #24, dropping Ohio to #25. That leaves the Bobcats on the precipice of oblivion. One more push and...

Virginia Tech and Ohio

7-4 Virginia Tech defeated now-#24 Florida State 40-22, but they were upset by 4-6 Kansas State 34-19, which is why FSU can be rated higher. Ohio, on the other hand, makes no sense ahead of Virginia Tech. Ohio also took an upset loss, but it came in their bowl game, and to a team that Virginia Tech beat 31-18. I wouldn't even call that win over Richmond relevant, so lowly was Richmond, but in addition to FSU, Virginia Tech also beat 7-3 West Virginia. This is not even a contest: again, Ohio accomplished nothing at all.

Give Virginia Tech the #25 spot and send Ohio packing.

Fixed AP Top 25

Only 10-1 Ohio falls out of this fixed and expanded AP poll. They had 1 loss to an unranked opponent, and no wins over rated teams. Discounting games against each other, the 6 teams that come in ahead of them took 3 losses and a tie to unranked opponents, and they scored an impressive 4 wins against teams the AP poll had rated.

Curiously, the AP poll failed to rank 11-0 MAC champion Toledo in 1969, which makes their inclusion of 10-1 Ohio in 1968 look all the more inane.

6-4 Minnesota finished #18 in the coaches' poll, but they lost to 6-4 Nebraska, and should not have been rated ahead of the Cornhuskers in the first place.

Finally, I find 7-2-1 Notre Dame to still be overrated at #6, and I myself would drop them behind 8-2 Purdue, who beat them 37-22, but Dame performed extremely well on the season as a whole, and finished strong (tying 9-1-1 Southern Cal on the road), so I let the AP poll retain their gift of undying devotion to Our Lady of Indiana.

1) Ohio State 10-0 --
2) Penn State 11-0 --
3) Texas 9-1-1 --
4) Arkansas 10-1 +2
5) Southern Cal 9-1-1 -1
6) Notre Dame 7-2-1 -1
7) Georgia 8-1-2 +1
8) Purdue 8-2 +2
9) Southern Methodist 8-3 +5
10) Oklahoma 7-4 +1
11) Kansas 9-2 -4
12) Tennessee 8-2-1 +1
13) Missouri 8-3 -4
14) Michigan 8-2 -2
15) Auburn 7-4 +1
16) Alabama 8-3 +1
17) Houston 6-2-2 +1
18) Mississippi 7-3-1 IN
19) Oregon State 7-3 -4
20) Miami (Florida) 5-5 IN
21) Louisiana State 8-3 -2
22) Arizona State 8-2 IN
23) Florida 6-3-1 IN
24) Florida State 8-3 IN
25) Virginia Tech 7-4 IN

OUT: #20 Ohio 10-1