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Fixing the Final 1970 AP College Football Poll

1) Nebraska 11-0-1
2) Notre Dame 10-1
3) Texas 10-1
4) Tennessee 11-1
5) Ohio State 9-1
6) Arizona State 11-0
7) Louisiana State 9-3
8) Stanford 9-3
9) Michigan 9-1
10) Auburn 9-2
11) Arkansas 9-2
12) Toledo 12-0
13) Georgia Tech 9-3
14) Dartmouth 9-0
15) Southern Cal 6-4-1
16) Air Force 9-3
17) Tulane 8-4
18) Penn State 7-3
19) Houston 8-3
20) Oklahoma 7-4-1
       Mississippi 7-4
To the left is the final 1970 AP college football top 20 (or 21 in this year's case). The fixed final AP poll, expanded to 25 teams, follows the article below. 

The 1970 AP top 20 (or 21) featured 3 "little big teams" that went unbeaten, untied, and played no rated opponents: #6 Arizona State, #12 Toledo, and #14 Dartmouth. I would rate all 3 much lower, but Toledo and Dartmouth, at least, have a case for staying where they are. WAC champion Arizona State, on the other hand, makes for a rather ridiculous #6 team, especially since Toledo and Dartmouth are rated so much lower.

It is difficult to compare ASU to #7 Louisiana State and #8 Stanford. Both of those teams lost to bad, unrated opponents, but both also played far tougher schedules and defeated at least 3 rated opponents. The real issue, however, is #9 Michigan, #10 Auburn, and #11 Arkansas, because it is easy to compare ASU to those teams, and the comparison does not favor the Sun Devils.

Let's take a closer look.
1971 Orange Bowl, Nebraska's winning touchdown to beat LSU 17-12
#1 Texas and #2 Ohio State were both upset, opening the door for #3 Nebraska to vault to its first MNC later that evening. Quarterback Jerry Tagge thrust the ball over the goal line in the closing minutes of the Orange Bowl for a 17-12 win over LSU.

Arizona State

9-1 Michigan and 9-2 Arkansas lost only to top 10 teams. 9-2 Auburn took 1 upset loss, but they made up for that by defeating #4 Tennessee (11-1). So none of those teams' losses hurt them in comparison to 11-0 ASU, who played no top 10 teams, or even top 20 teams. Michigan and Arkansas did not play particularly tough schedules, but their schedules were tougher than ASU's, and both performed better than ASU did-- Arkansas had no close wins, Michigan 1, ASU 2. And Arkansas and Michigan each defeated a team that will make the fixed and expanded top 25, while ASU did not.

As for Auburn, there is no contest here. The SEC was the top conference, as usual, going 34-13-1 against nonconference opponents. In addition to #4 Tennessee, Auburn defeated #13 Georgia Tech, #20 Mississippi, 7-4 Florida, 6-5 Mississippi State, and 6-5-1 Alabama-- and they beat those 6 teams by an average of 26 points per game. Auburn, as usual, was underrated anyway, but I'll handle their case next.

Drop ASU back behind Arkansas, to #11, moving Louisiana State, Stanford, Michigan, Auburn, and Arkansas up 1 spot each. ASU can remain ahead of Toledo because, well, Toledo didn't play anyone either. I'd drop ASU and Toledo behind #13 Georgia Tech (9-3) myself, but GT had at least 3 rather poor performances, so I'll let the AP poll have this much.

Auburn

9-2 Auburn (now #9) has the same relevant record as 9-1 Michigan (now #8). They took an upset loss, while Michigan did not, but they made up for it by handing #4 Tennessee their only loss. The big difference between them is the fact that Auburn defeated 2 other rated opponents, Michigan none, and Auburn defeated 3 teams, aside from Tennessee, that will make the fixed and expanded top 25, Michigan just 1. Auburn slaughtered all of their opponents who will not make the fixed top 25, while Michigan did not, and in fact they only beat 2-9 Texas A&M 14-10 at home.

Auburn also belongs in front of now-#7 Stanford (9-3), who took a huge 3 upset losses (4-6 Purdue, #16 Air Force, and 6-5 Cal). They made up for one of those with a big 27-17 upset of #5 Ohio State (9-1) in the Rose Bowl, much like Auburn's upset win over #4 Tennessee, but that still leaves Stanford with a couple of extra upset losses that Auburn did not suffer. Auburn was thus effectively 2 games better than
Stanford, and they had a better straight record too.

Michigan also has a better relevant record than Stanford, but Stanford defeated a whopping 7 rated or near-rated teams, Michigan just 1, so the AP voters can certainly keep Stanford rated higher than the Wolverines (Auburn defeated 6 rated or near-rated teams).

Move Auburn up behind Louisiana State (who beat Auburn 17-9), to #7, dropping Stanford and Michigan 1 spot each.

Arkansas

9-2 Arkansas and 9-1 Michigan are pretty similar. Both took their losses to top 10 teams, neither beat a rated opponent, and both beat 1 team that will make the fixed top 25. The difference? The closest anyone else got to Arkansas was 16 points. Michigan beat 4 unrated teams by less than that, the most damaging case a 14-10 home win over 2-9 Texas A&M, whom Arkansas beat 45-6 on the road.

Switch 'em. Arkansas #9, Michigan #10.

Texas Tech and Tulane

8-4 Texas Tech was unranked, while 8-4 Tulane finished #17, despite the fact that Texas Tech beat Tulane 21-14. Now that was a close home win, and it came in the opener, and Texas Tech took an upset loss to unranked Mississippi State, while Tulane's other losses all came to ranked opponents. But I don't think those factors are enough to ignore the head-to-head result. And I might be willing to look at this a little more closely if it weren't for the fact that the last regular season AP poll had Texas Tech at #19 and Tulane unranked.

In their bowls, Texas Tech lost 17-9 to #13 Georgia Tech (9-3), and Tulane won 17-3 over unranked Colorado (6-5). That's why the AP voters switched them around, but they shouldn't have. Georgia Tech is ranked ahead of Tulane anyway, and in fact they beat Tulane 20-6-- so Texas Tech actually performed better against GT than Tulane did. And 6-5 Colorado was not even close to ranked. They lost to 6-5 Kansas State, who lost to 7-4 Florida State, and none of those teams will threaten to make the fixed top 25. So Tulane's bowl win holds little value.

The teams behind Tulane-- Penn State, Houston, Oklahoma, and Mississippi-- are all overrated as well, and will have to drop behind other teams that beat them, so we can leave Tulane where they are and simply move Texas Tech into the rankings ahead of them. That puts Texas Tech at #17, dropping Tulane and all the teams behind them 1 spot each.

Washington and UCLA

A pair of unrated teams should be rated ahead of the bottom 4 in the AP poll-- 6-4 Washington and 6-5 UCLA. Washington took 1 upset loss (to 6-5 Cal), and they defeated UCLA. UCLA also took 1 upset loss (to 6-4-1 Oregon), but they made up for that one with a big 45-20 win over #15 Southern Cal. By contrast, 7-3 Penn State and 8-3 Houston each took 3 upset losses, Oklahoma took 2 and a tie, and Mississippi took 2, and none of them defeated a top 15 team.

So move Washington in at #19 and UCLA at #20, dropping Penn State, Houston, Oklahoma, and Mississippi 2 spots each.

Alabama and Mississippi

Now to start untangling that bottom 4. First of all, 7-4 Mississippi, originally rated #20 in a tie with Oklahoma, defeated 8-3 Houston (#19) 24-13, and they should be rated ahead of the Cougars. Furthermore, unranked 6-5-1 Alabama won at Houston 30-21, and they should be rated ahead of the Cougars as well. Alabama's 6-5-1 record may not look all that great, but all of their losses came to ranked teams, whereas Houston was upset by 4-7 Oklahoma State, so Houston has no case at all for being rated ahead of Alabama.

A trickier case is 7-4 Mississippi vs. 6-5-1 Alabama. Ole Miss had the better straight record, and they also routed Alabama 48-23, and that may seem simple enough, but look closer. Mississippi lost to 5-6 Southern Miss 30-14, and to 6-5 Mississippi State 19-14, both at home, while Alabama did not lose to any unrated opponents (they beat Mississippi State 35-6). Mississippi also performed rather poorly outside those 2 upset losses, edging Kentucky 20-17 and losing to Louisiana State 61-17 (Alabama lost to LSU 14-9).

Alabama finished 6-5-1 because they played a tougher schedule than Mississippi did. Had they played a pair of patsies rather than #15 Southern Cal and #4 Tennessee (whom Ole Miss did not play), they would have finished 8-3-1 against a schedule similar to Mississippi's. And that 8-3-1 to 7-4 difference-- a half game for Alabama-- is a true measure of the difference between these teams. Mississippi's big 48-23 win over Alabama was impressive, but it gets lost in the terrible performances Ole Miss suffered in the rest of their season.

So Alabama > Mississippi > Houston. Move Alabama in at #22 and put Mississippi at #23, leaving Houston at #24 and Oklahoma at #25. We have a top 25, but we're not done yet.

Penn State

With a huge 3 upset losses and no wins over AP-rated teams, obviously 7-3 Penn State should not have been ranked in the top 25. They originally looked okay rated ahead of 8-3 Houston, who also had 3 upset losses, but now that Alabama and Mississippi have been moved ahead of Houston, where they belong, Houston has but 1 upset loss, and Penn State, now #21, compares very poorly to every team behind them. Now-#22 Alabama, for example, took an upset loss to now-#23 Mississippi and a tie with now-#25 Oklahoma in their bowl game, but both of those teams are at least rated, and it is still half the upset losses Penn State took. Alabama also defeated a rated opponent (Houston), and Penn State did not.

But this is really a head-to-head issue. Penn State lost to 6-5 Colorado 41-13, and they should be ranked behind them, out of the top 25. Colorado lost to 6-5 Kansas State, who lost to 7-4 Florida State, so Penn State is left well back of meriting a top 25 slot.

Drop 'em out, leaving us with 24 teams. But that is easily remedied, thanks to another ignored head-to-head result...

Oregon State

Unranked Oregon State (6-5) won 23-14 at now-#24 Oklahoma (7-4-1). Furthermore, all 5 of the teams Oregon State lost to are now ranked (UCLA, Southern Cal, Houston, Washington, and Stanford), while Oklahoma took an upset loss to unranked Kansas State (6-5). This is an easy one.

Move Oregon State in at #24, dropping Oklahoma to #25.

Fixed AP Top 25

Penn State drops out of this fixed and expanded top 25. They took 3 upset losses to unranked opponents, and they beat no rated teams. Discounting games against each other, the 5 new teams who replace them took a total of 3 losses to unranked opponents, and they notched 4 wins and a tie against teams the AP poll had rated.

1) Nebraska 11-0-1 --
2) Notre Dame 10-1 --
3) Texas 10-1 --
4) Tennessee 11-1 --
5) Ohio State 9-1 --
6) Louisiana State 9-3 +1
7) Auburn 9-2 +3
8) Stanford 9-3 --
9) Arkansas 9-2 +2
10) Michigan 9-1 -1
11) Arizona State 11-0 -5
12) Toledo 12-0 --
13) Georgia Tech 9-3 --
14) Dartmouth 9-0 --
15) Southern Cal 6-4-1 --
16) Air Force 9-3 --
17) Texas Tech 8-4 IN
18) Tulane 8-4 -1
19) Washington 6-4 IN
20) UCLA 6-5 IN
21) Alabama 6-5-1 IN
22) Mississippi 7-4 -1.5
23) Houston 8-3 -4
24) Oregon State 6-5 IN
25) Oklahoma 7-4-1 -4.5

OUT: #18 Penn State 7-3