Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller

Fixing the Final 1974 AP College Football Poll

1) Oklahoma 11-0
2) Southern Cal 10-1-1
3) Michigan 10-1
4) Ohio State 10-2
5) Alabama 11-1
6) Notre Dame 10-2
7) Penn State 10-2
8) Auburn 10-2
9) Nebraska 9-3
10) Miami-Ohio 10-0-1
11) North Carolina State 9-2-1
12) Michigan State 7-3-1
13) Maryland 8-4
14) Baylor 8-4
15) Florida 8-4
16) Texas A&M 8-3
17) Mississippi State 9-3
       Texas 8-4
19) Houston 8-3-1
20) Tennessee 7-3-2
To the left is the final 1974 AP college football top 20. The fixed final AP poll, expanded to 25 teams, follows the article below. 

Let's get right to it. #3 Michigan and #4 Ohio State both went 7-1 in Big 10 play, but Ohio State won the head-to-head matchup 12-10. It was a close home win, but OSU outperformed Michigan as well. Their 16-13 upset loss to Michigan State was their only other close game in conference play, whereas Michigan won close games over Illinois and Wisconsin, teams OSU romped 49-7 and 52-7.

Ohio State has one more loss than Michigan because they went to the Rose Bowl, where they lost 18-17 on a late 2-point conversion to #2 Southern Cal. Needless to say, that effort should not have dropped them back behind Michigan unless Michigan was rated ahead of Southern Cal.

So this is the first fix: Ohio State to #3, Michigan to #4.
Oklahoma running back Joe Washington
Oklahoma had an amazing 8 All Americans in both 1974 and 1975, who delivered back-to-back #1 finishes in the AP poll. Running back Joe Washington was 3rd in the Heisman vote in 1974 and 5th in 1975, finishing his hall of fame career with 4071 rushing yards.

Alabama vs. Notre Dame

#6 Notre Dame (10-2) defeated #5 Alabama (11-1) 13-11 in the Orange Bowl, and I would therefore rate Notre Dame higher. However, Alabama played a tougher schedule (beating 4 ranked opponents, ND 2) and performed much better as well. Bama had just 1 close win over an unranked opponent, while ND had 3, and Dame was stomped 55-24 by #2 Southern Cal in their regular season finale, and they lost 31-20 to 4-6-1 Purdue. It's a tough call, because hey, it was a bowl game, and close or not, Notre Dame won. But I suppose I can give the AP voters this one.

No fix here.

Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska

9-3 Nebraska took 2 upset losses to unranked teams, 7-4 Wisconsin and 7-4 Missouri, and they defeated but one rated opponent, edging #15 Florida (8-4) 13-10 in the Sugar Bowl, so they look to be overrated at #9. But what if their 21-20 loss at Wisconsin wasn't actually an "upset"? Wisconsin did lose 24-21 at 5-6 Colorado, where Nebraska won 31-15, but on the other hand, Wisconsin beat Missouri 59-20, and Missouri beat Nebraska 21-10. Wisconsin's other losses came to now-#3 Ohio State, #4 Michigan, and #12 Michigan State (7-3-1).

And what about Michigan State? They wound up #12, 3 places behind Nebraska, but they have a better
relevant record than Nebraska, as they took an upset loss and tie to unranked opponents, compared to Nebraska's 2 such losses. MSU also defeated #3 Ohio State, which blows away Nebraska's 1 win over a ranked opponent, and they beat Wisconsin, who beat Nebraska. It's starting to look a whole lot like Michigan State > Wisconsin > Nebraska.

The teams behind Nebraska are very weak, so we'll just move Michigan State and Wisconsin all the way up. That puts Michigan State at #9, Wisconsin #10, and Nebraska #11. Miami-Ohio and North Carolina State drop 2 spots each, and all the teams behind them drop1 slot as Wisconsin comes roaring up. Wisconsin may not look like a top 10 team, but then, neither did Nebraska. Wisconsin beat Nebraska, and their other 6 wins all came by more than a touchdown. And with Michigan State properly rated, they have one upset loss, just like Nebraska. They had a 3-time All Big 10 running back and 4 linemen who played at least 5 years in the NFL, so I don't think their win over Nebraska and other strong results (59-20 over Missouri, 23 point average margin in their other wins) were flukes.

Penn State

Another overrated top 10 team, 10-2 Penn State (#7) had 2 losses to lower-rated opponents, 4-7 Navy and 9-2-1 North Carolina State (now #13), though they did defeat now-#14 Maryland and #15 Baylor, crushing the latter 41-20 in the Cotton Bowl.

They may have gone 10-2, but Penn State had a worse relevant record than several teams ranked behind them. I just said that Wisconsin may not have looked like a top 10 team, but let's compare the 7-4 Badgers to 10-2 Penn State. Both teams were upset early by a losing team, but Penn State has the extra upset loss to NC State, whereas Wisconsin took no other upset losses. Wisconsin's other 3 losses all came to teams that were stronger and rated higher than anyone PSU even played. PSU's big 41-20 bowl win over 8-4 Baylor is not more impressive than Wisconsin's 59-20 win over 7-4 Missouri, especially since Missouri beat Baylor this season and will be ranked in the fixed poll (I'll get to them later), and Wisconsin victim Nebraska is rated higher than anyone PSU played. Finally, PSU had 2 close wins over unrated opponents, and Wisconsin had none.

10-2 Penn State vs. 9-3 Nebraska is a closer case, as the teams performed about the same overall, but the difference here is again the fact that Penn State had 2 upset losses and Nebraska had just 1.

So let's drop Penn State back behind Nebraska, putting them at #11 and moving Auburn, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska up one spot each. PSU can remain ahead of 10-0-1 Miami-Ohio due to Miami's incredibly weak schedule (they did not play a rated team).

Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina State

Florida beat Maryland 17-10, and Maryland beat North Carolina State 20-10, so I'm thinking Florida > Maryland > NC State. The AP poll, however, ranked them in the opposite order (original ratings: Florida #15, Maryland #13, and NC State #11).

The most confusing element here for AP voters was the fact that NC State was 9-2-1 and Maryland 8-4. But let's compare the two. Maryland won 20-10 head-to-head, so that puts them up a game. NC State was upset by North Carolina 33-14, whom Maryland beat 24-12, but NC State upset Penn State 12-7, who beat Maryland 24-17. Maryland is still up 1 game. Maryland lost to now-#21 Tennessee in the Liberty Bowl, while NC State was tied by #20 Houston in the Bluebonnet Bowl. NC State's half game advantage in those bowl games still leaves them a half game back of Maryland in the end. Furthermore, NC State performed poorly, edging Syracuse by 6, East Carolina by 4, and Virginia by 1, whereas all 8 of Maryland's wins were by more than a touchdown. They played 7 common opponents, and Maryland did better against 6 of them, outscoring the 7 by a total of 177 points compared to 46 for NC State. Maryland won the ACC outright, 2 games ahead of NC State.

Florida struggled in SEC play, but the SEC was the top conference this year at 43-11-3, and as Maryland learned in their upset bowl loss to Tennessee, the SEC was deep in dangerous teams. Florida's 13-10 bowl loss to now-#10 Nebraska was a much more impressive outing.

Move Florida to #13, Maryland to #14, and North Carolina State to #15.

Texas and Texas A&M

8-4 Texas (now rated #18) demolished 8-3 Texas A&M (#17) 32-3 in their regular season finale, and it was thoughtless for the AP poll to drop them behind the Aggies in the final poll. Texas has one more loss, but that is because they played top 10 teams Oklahoma and Auburn, while Texas A&M did not play a ranked nonconference opponent at all.

Move Texas to #17, Texas A&M to #18, and Mississippi State to #19. The AP poll had originally rated Texas and 9-3 Mississippi State in a tie at #17, but MSU beat no one, performed consistently poorly, and are lucky to be rated at all.


Missouri was very erratic in the 1970s, beating top 10 opponents and getting routed by unranked teams nearly every year, and this season was no exception, as they played like a #10 team in half their games and like a #40 team in the other half, finishing 7-4 and unranked. They had 2 upset losses, 10-0 at 3-8 Mississippi and 31-7 at 7-5 Oklahoma State, and they had 2 upset wins, 21-10 at now-#10 Nebraska and 28-21 over now-#16 Baylor. I would have rated them ahead of Baylor myself, but Missouri had enough lousy performances that the AP poll can keep Baylor higher, as well as Texas, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State.

However, 8-3-1 Houston, who was not in the SWC at this time, took 3 losses to unranked opponents and had only a tie with now-#15 North Carolina State on the plus side, and that puts Missouri effectively 2 1/2 games ahead of the Cougars.

Bring Missouri in at #20, dropping Houston and Tennessee 1 spot each. But Houston, as should be obvious, has much further to drop...

Arkansas, Tulsa, and Houston

8-3-1 Houston lost 30-14 at 8-3 Tulsa in their regular season finale, and should be rated behind Tulsa. Tulsa, who was #19 in the coaches' poll, lost 60-0 at 6-4-1 Arkansas, who absolutely belongs ranked ahead of Tulsa. So Arkansas > Tulsa > Houston.

And Arkansas has a better relevant record than Tennessee, so let's move the Razorbacks ahead of the Volunteers. Both teams upset a ranked opponent, Tennessee beating now-#14 Maryland 7-3 in the Liberty Bowl and Arkansas beating #2 Southern Cal 22-7. But Tennessee took an upset loss (Louisiana State) and 2 upset ties (UCLA and Vanderbilt), while Arkansas took an upset loss (Oklahoma State) and 1 upset tie (Southern Methodist), leaving Arkansas effectively a half game better. Arkansas' 60-0 win over Tulsa also looks a bit better than Tennessee's 17-10 win over Tulsa.

Arkansas' relevant record is half a game back of Missouri's (as is their straight record), so we'll put Arkansas in at #21, moving Tennessee to #22, Tulsa to #23, and Houston to #24.

Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Vanderbilt

We have just 1 more slot to fill, but given the weakness of Tulsa and Houston, we really have 3 more slots to fill, for which I am nominating 7-5 Oklahoma State, 6-4-2 Texas Tech, and 7-3-2 Vanderbilt, all of whom have better relevant records than Tulsa and Houston.

Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech all defeated each other in a circle, but they can be separated by their upset losses/ties. Arkansas took an upset tie to Southern Methodist, OSU took a loss to 5-6 Colorado, and Texas Tech lost to 2-8-1 Rice and was tied by 4-6-1 New Mexico and 7-3-2 Vanderbilt in their bowl game. Texas Tech's relevant record is effectively a game better than Vanderbilt's, though they tied each other in the Peach Bowl.

Let's compare Vanderbilt to Tulsa. Tulsa beat no one but Houston, and lost to a bad Kansas State team. Vanderbilt took 2 upset losses, but to decent teams 6-6 Georgia and 6-5 Kentucky, and Vandy beat now-#13 Florida and tied now-#22 Tennessee (who beat Tulsa), leaving them a half game better than Tulsa. Similarly, Texas Tech took an upset loss and a tie to bad teams, but defeated now-#17 Texas, 7-5 Oklahoma State, 9-2 Arizona, and 6-4-1 Southern Methodist.

Put Oklahoma State at #23, Texas Tech at #24, and Vanderbilt at #25. This marks the last year Vanderbilt finished in a fixed AP poll. The last time they finished in the actual AP poll was 1948, but sadly I expect that team to fall out of the 1948 fixed AP poll when I get to it. On the bright side, though, I believe that Vandy will make their way into 3-4 fixed and expanded AP polls in the 1950s.

Fixed AP Top 25

Houston falls out of this fixed and expanded AP poll, and good riddance. They took 3 losses to unranked opponents and had 1 tie with a rated team. Discounting games against each other, the 6 teams that pass them up and enter the top 25 had a combined 6 losses and 2 ties to unranked opponents and 6 wins and a tie against teams the AP poll had rated.

1) Oklahoma 11-0 --
2) Southern Cal 10-1-1 --
3) Ohio State 10-2 +1
4) Michigan 10-1 -1
5) Alabama 11-1 --
6) Notre Dame 10-2 --
7) Auburn 10-2 +1
8) Michigan State 7-3-1 +4
9) Wisconsin 7-4 IN
10) Nebraska 9-3 -1
11) Penn State 10-2 -4
12) Miami-Ohio 10-0-1 -2
13) Florida 8-4 +2
14) Maryland 8-4 -1
15) North Carolina State 9-2-1 -4
16) Baylor 8-4 -2
17) Texas 8-4 +0.5
18) Texas A&M 8-3 -2
19) Mississippi State 9-3 -1.5
20) Missouri 7-4 IN
21) Arkansas 6-4-1 IN
22) Tennessee 7-3-2 -2
23) Oklahoma State 7-5 IN
24) Texas Tech 6-4-2 IN
25) Vanderbilt 7-3-2 IN

OUT: #19 Houston 8-3-1