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Fixing the Final 1979 AP College Football Poll

1) Alabama 12-0
2) Southern Cal 11-0-1
3) Oklahoma 11-1
4) Ohio State 11-1
5) Houston 11-1
6) Florida State 11-1
7) Pittsburgh 11-1
8) Arkansas 10-2
9) Nebraska 10-2
10) Purdue 10-2
11) Washington 9-3
12) Texas 9-3
13) Brigham Young 11-1
14) Baylor 8-4
15) North Carolina 8-3-1
16) Auburn 8-3
17) Temple 10-2
18) Michigan 8-4
19) Indiana 8-4
20) Penn State 8-4
To the left is the final 1979 AP college football top 20. 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. 

Let's start with #6 Florida State, who went 11-0 in the regular season before losing 24-7 to #3 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. FSU did not beat a single ranked opponent, nor did they defeat a team that will finish in the fixed and expanded top 25. Despite the weak schedule, they performed at a mediocre level, winning 4 close games, 2 of them over losing opponents.

The three teams behind FSU had better seasons. Take #9 Nebraska (10-2). They lost only to #5 Houston and to #3 Oklahoma, both of whom are rated higher than Florida State, and they lost both games by only 17-14, much better than FSU's 24-7 loss to Oklahoma. Unlike FSU, Nebraska defeated a ranked opponent (42-17 over #20 Penn State), and they only had 2 close wins, half as many as FSU had.

So for our first fix, let's drop Florida State back behind Nebraska, to #9, moving Pittsburgh, Arkansas, and Nebraska up one spot each.
1979 Alabama-LSU football game

Alabama quarterback Steadman Shealy's 16 yard run set up the field goal that gave the Tide a 3-0 win at LSU, enabling 12-0 Alabama to finish #1 over 11-0-1 Southern Cal.

Pittsburgh

11-1 Pittsburgh (now #6) is also a bit overrated, as they lost to #15 North Carolina, whereas Arkansas and Nebraska lost only to teams that are ranked ahead of Pitt. Arkansas and Nebraska also performed better than Pitt, who had 4 close wins, 3 of them over unranked opponents. So let's drop Pittsburgh behind Arkansas and Nebraska. Pitt should remain ahead of 11-1 Florida State, because although Pitt was upset and FSU wasn't, FSU did not beat anyone as highly ranked as #15 North Carolina, who upset Pitt. Of course, FSU did not beat anyone who finished ranked at all, while Pitt beat 3 ranked teams.

Drop Pitt to #8, moving Arkansas and Nebraska up one spot each
.

Texas, Washington, and Purdue

#12 Texas lost to #11 Washington 14-7  in the Sun Bowl, and both finished 9-3, so that's why Washington is rated higher. However, their records are not actually equal, because Texas played 5 ranked teams to Washington's 3, and the Longhorns played 7 teams that will make the fixed and expanded top 25, while Washington still played just 3. Both teams took one upset loss (Texas to 6-5 Texas A&M and Washington to 6-6 Arizona State), but Washington had no upset wins, while Texas defeated #3 Oklahoma 16-7 and #5 Houston 21-13 on the road. So Texas was effectively 2 games better than Washington before the Sun Bowl was even played. Washington's win in that bowl game was a terrific outcome for them, but it is still just one game. And it was Washington's only win over a ranked opponent this season (their next best win was 21-17 at 6-5 Oregon). Texas defeated 3 ranked teams, and a 4th that will make the fixed top 25 (7-5 Missouri).

So we'll move Texas ahead of Washington, putting the Longhorns one spot behind 10-2 Purdue. Purdue has a better straight record than Texas, but Texas has a relevant record that is effectively 2 games better than Purdue's. Texas also performed far better than Purdue. Purdue's 2 upset losses came 31-21 to 5-6 UCLA and 31-14 to 4-6-1 Minnesota, whereas Texas' 2 upset losses came 13-7 to 6-5 Texas A&M and 14-7 to 9-3 Washington. And Texas' wins over #3 Oklahoma and #5 Houston are well beyond anything Purdue accomplished, and it is those 2 wins that put Texas effectively 2 games better than Purdue. Furthermore, 7 of Purdue's wins were by a touchdown or less, compared to 3 for Texas.

So let's move Texas ahead of Purdue too, to #10. Purdue and Washington each drop one spot. I think Purdue is still vastly overrated at #11-- I would put them #16-20 myself. They barely won week after week, lost a couple of real ugly games, and the top team they played was #18 Michigan, whom they only beat 24-21. On the other hand, they defeated 4 teams who will make the fixed and expanded top 25 (7-5 Tennessee, 7-4 Notre Dame, 8-4 Michigan, and 8-4 Indiana), and though all 4 will end up #20-25, it's still an impressive number. Washington, like Texas, has a relevant record that is effectively 2 games better than Purdue's, but the Huskies defeated just one ranked opponent, even in the fixed top 25, 3 fewer than Purdue beat. So I suppose I can hold my nose and let the AP poll keep Purdue ranked ahead of Washington.

Baylor and Brigham Young

#14 Baylor was 8-4, #13 Brigham Young 11-1, but don't be fooled by those straight records. All 4 of Baylor's losses came to teams ranked higher than BYU (12-0 Alabama, 11-1 Houston, 10-2 Arkansas, and 9-3 Texas), while BYU's loss came to 8-4 Indiana, who is ranked #19. And BYU's "upset" loss to Indiana came in their bowl game, giving it extra weight. Furthermore, the top win by both teams came over 6-5 Texas A&M (who will make the fixed top 25, as discussed next), but Baylor beat them 17-7, BYU 18-17 on a late blocked punt and 2-point conversion. Baylor also defeated 8-4 Clemson, while BYU beat no other near-rated opponent.

Switch 'em: Baylor #13, Brigham Young #14.

Texas A&M

Unranked 6-5 Texas A&M took an upset loss 21-20 at 3-6-2 Texas Tech, but they balanced that out with a 27-14 win at #20 Penn State (8-4), and beat now-#10 Texas 13-7 in their finale for good measure. They won their other games by an average margin of 24 points, lost to #5 Houston by only 3, and as mentioned, they lost a razor-close 18-17 game to now-#14 Brigham Young. Looks like a top 25 team to me. In fact, it looks like they should be ranked right behind BYU. Let's compare them to 8-3-1 North Carolina, who currently sits right behind BYU.

UNC defeated now-#8 Pittsburgh (11-1) 17-7 in game 2, but then they proceeded to lose 3 games to unrated opponents (8-4 Wake Forest, 7-4 Maryland, 8-4 Clemson), and they tied another (7-3-1 East Carolina). That puts A&M effectively 2 1/2 games ahead of NC, a rather wide margin. The only reason NC merits being ranked at all is their 17-15 Gator Bowl win over #18 Michigan, but that's not as strong a win as A&M's 27-14 victory at #20 Penn State.

Move Texas A&M into the top 20 (now 21), ahead of North Carolina at #15, dropping UNC and everyone behind them one spot each.

Penn State

8-4 Penn State (now #21) won 22-7 over 10-2 Temple (now #18), and with Temple's very weak schedule, ranking PSU behind them was quite dubious to begin with. But with Texas A&M correctly moved up in the rankings where they belong, Penn State now has just one upset loss (to 5-6 Miami-Florida), and there is no longer any reason at all for Temple to be ranked higher. But Penn State should be moved up further than that-- let's look again at North Carolina. Again, UNC has one upset win and 3 1/2 upset losses, a net of -2 1/2. PSU has one upset loss, for a net of -1, a game and a half better than UNC. UNC beat a decent 5 winning teams, but PSU defeated 6 (8-3 Rutgers, 7-4 Maryland, 7-5 Syracuse, 7-4 North Carolina State, 10-2 Temple, 9-3 Tulane).

Move Penn State up to #16, dropping North Carolina and everyone behind them one spot each.

Rutgers, Tennessee, and Auburn

8-3 Auburn (now #19) lost 35-17 at 7-5 Tennessee (unranked), who lost 13-7 at home to 8-3 Rutgers (unranked), and I see no good reason why they should not be thusly ranked: Rutgers > Tennessee > Auburn. Auburn did not beat any ranked opponents, and their loss at Tennessee was quite decisive.

Rutgers lost to Temple, so we'll shift the ratings like so: Temple to #18, Rutgers to #19, Tennessee to #20, Auburn to #21, Michigan to #22, and Indiana to #23. Rutgers, Tennessee, and Auburn remain ahead of Michigan because Michigan lost to 7-4 Notre Dame, who will move in ahead of them, as discussed next. Tennessee beat ND 40-18.

Notre Dame and Michigan

7-4 Notre Dame won at 8-4 Michigan 12-10, and there isn't any more to say than that.

Move Notre Dame in at #22, dropping Michigan and Indiana one spot each.

Missouri

We now have 24 teams, so we've got just 1 more slot to fill. The choice of pollsters was 7-5 Missouri (and they were #20 in the coaches' poll). My preference is 8-4 South Carolina. Missouri beat SC 24-14 in the Hall of Fame Bowl, but it was the only good team Missouri beat (unless you count 8-3 San Diego State), and the Tigers lost to 2 unrated opponents (7-4 Oklahoma State and 3-8 Kansas). SC took no upset losses, and beat 6-5 Georgia, 7-4 Oklahoma State, 7-4 North Carolina State, 8-4 Wake Forest, and 8-4 Clemson. That is a huge difference in favor of SC. However, that Hall of Fame Bowl result was decisive, and Missouri was strong over their last 5 games (lost to #3 Oklahoma by 2 and to now-#7 Nebraska by 3), so I'll give this one to the voters.

Put Missouri in at #25.

Fixed AP Top 25

Yet again, no team falls out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25. The 5 new teams had a total of 7 losses to unrated opponents (discounting games against each other), and they had 4 wins against teams the AP poll had rated.

1) Alabama 12-0--
2) Southern Cal 11-0-1--
3) Oklahoma 11-1--
4) Ohio State 11-1--
5) Houston 11-1--
6) Arkansas 10-2+2
7) Nebraska 10-2+2
8) Pittsburgh 11-1-1
9) Florida State 11-1-3
10) Texas 9-3+2
11) Purdue 10-2-1
12) Washington 9-3-1
13) Baylor 8-4+1
14) Brigham Young 11-1-1
15) Texas A&M 6-5IN
16) Penn State 8-4+4
17) North Carolina 8-3-1-2
18) Temple 10-2-1
19) Rutgers 8-3IN
20) Tennessee 7-5IN
21) Auburn 8-3-5
22) Notre Dame 7-4IN
23) Michigan 8-4-5
24) Indiana 8-4-5
25) Missouri 7-5IN

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