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Fixing the Final 1980 AP College Football Poll

1) Georgia 12-0
2) Pittsburgh 11-1
3) Oklahoma 10-2
4) Michigan 10-2
5) Florida State 10-2
6) Alabama 10-2
7) Nebraska 10-2
8) Penn State 10-2
9) Notre Dame 9-2-1
10) North Carolina 11-1
11) Southern Cal 8-2-1
12) Brigham Young 12-1
13) UCLA 9-2
14) Baylor 10-2
15) Washington 9-3
16) Ohio State 9-3
17) Purdue 9-3
18) Miami-Florida 9-3
19) Mississippi State 9-3
20) Southern Methodist 8-4
To the left is the final 1980 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. In addition, after the fixed top 25 I have added a summary of the most overrated and underrated teams and conferences of the 1980s (and of all time thus far).

Let's start with the fact that #5 Florida State defeated #2 Pittsburgh 36-22. Pitt posted strong performances in 1980, but against a weak schedule, and they only defeated one ranked team, 14-9 at #8 Penn State. That gives no reason for considering their loss to FSU an upset. So our first move will be to place Pitt behind FSU, resulting in the following ratings shift: Oklahoma #2, Florida State #3 (they lost 18-17 to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl), Pittsburgh #4, Michigan #5.

Michigan and Alabama both lost to #9 Notre Dame, and will be dropping (as covered next), so let's compare #7 Nebraska to Pittsburgh. Nebraska lost to Florida State 18-14, while Pitt lost to them 36-22. Nebraska beat Penn State 21-7, Pitt 14-9. Nebraska beat Kansas 54-0, Pitt 18-3. Nebraska routed their opponents in all 10 wins, while Pitt had one close win over an unrated opponent (14-6 over 7-4 Boston College). Finally, Nebraska beat 2 ranked opponents, Pitt just 1.

It's a slam dunk. Nebraska #4, Pittsburgh #5.
Georgia's Herschel Walker
Often considered the greatest running back of all time, Herschel Walker led Georgia to their first major poll national championship in 1980.

Notre Dame, Michigan, and Alabama

#9 Notre Dame defeated Michigan (originally ranked #4) 29-27 and Alabama (#6) 7-0, and I don't see a good enough reason for the Irish to be ranked behind either team, especially since ND lost only 17-10 to #1 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Drop Michigan and Alabama behind Notre Dame. We'll place them behind Penn State, who has a better relevant record than all three. That results in the following:
Penn State #6, Notre Dame #7, Michigan #8, Alabama #9.

UCLA and Brigham Young

#13 UCLA (9-2) had 2 upset losses to unranked teams, and #12 Brigham Young (12-1) had only 1, but UCLA made up for one of their losses with a win over #11 Southern Cal, who is rated higher than BYU. In addition, BYU's only win over a rated team came 46-45 over #20 Southern Methodist (8-4) in the Holiday Bowl, while UCLA defeated #16 Ohio State 17-0 and #17 Purdue 23-14. UCLA also beat a couple more teams that will make the fixed and expanded top 25, both by more than a touchdown.

Switch 'em: UCLA #12, Brigham Young #13.

North Carolina

#10 North Carolina has a very nice 11-1 record, but like 12-1 Brigham Young, they played a weak schedule. They took no upset loss, but also defeated no rated team (in either the original AP top 20 or the fixed and expanded top 25). Like BYU, they should be dropped behind UCLA, who may have taken 2 upset losses, but also defeated 5 teams that will finish ranked in the fixed top 25, and outperformed North Carolina as well.

That moves Southern Cal to #10, UCLA to #11, and North Carolina to #12.

Miami-Florida

9-3 Miami-Florida took a close upset loss to #19 Mississippi State, but they also won a close game over now-#3 Florida State, so they should ideally be placed somewhere between the two. The AP poll did so, but only barely, placing them #18, just in front of Mississippi State. This looks like a severe underrating to me, as several teams in front of them didn't beat a rated team at all, or took upset losses to unranked opponents. Take North Carolina. UNC may not have taken an upset loss, but then they did not themselves defeat a team as highly ranked as Mississippi State, or ranked at all. And in addition to beating #3 Florida State, Miami also won 31-7 at 8-4 Florida, who will finish ranked in the fixed top 25.

So let's shoot Miami up ahead of North Carolina, to #12, dropping UNC and all the teams that had been ranked between them down one spot. That places Miami much nearer the middle between Florida State and Mississippi State, which seems apt.

Ohio State

Ohio State has been the most overrated team of the 1980s, but the bleeding stops here, because this Buckeye team is heading up, not down. All 3 of their losses came to top 10 opponents, and while they did not defeat a rated team (yet), they did win 38-21 over 7-4 Arizona State, who will finish ranked in the fixed top 25. That gives them a better relevant record than the three teams that are currently ranked just ahead of them. The highest rated of those is 12-1 Brigham Young, who lost to 4-7 New Mexico. That makes Ohio State effectively a game better right there. Furthermore, BYU's best win, 46-45 over 8-4 Southern Methodist, is far weaker than OSU's 38-21 win over 7-4 ASU. And BYU's schedule was otherwise a complete joke.

Move Ohio State up ahead of Brigham Young, to #14, dropping BYU, Baylor, and Washington one spot each.

Florida and Southern Methodist

#20 Southern Methodist (8-4) has some dropping to do, as they lost to 2 unrated opponents and defeated no rated ones. There are a bunch of teams with better relevant records than that, starting with 8-4 Florida, who finished #19 in the coaches' poll. Florida has just one upset loss, and they defeated #19 Mississippi State, so that makes them effectively 2 games better than SMU.

Although #19 Mississippi State lost to Florida, their upset wins over now-#12 Miami and now-#9 Alabama give them a better relevant record, and they can and should remain ranked ahead of Florida.

Florida takes over the #20 spot, and Southern Methodist drops to #21.

Arizona State

7-4 Arizona State took all four of their losses to rated teams (Ohio State, Southern Cal, Washington, UCLA), and they won 29-13 over 7-5 Houston, who upset Southern Methodist.

No-brainer. Arizona State #21, Southern Methodist #22.

South Carolina

8-4 South Carolina took 1 upset loss (to 6-5 Clemson), while 8-4 Southern Methodist took 2, and SC also won 17-14 at now-#8 Michigan, while SMU beat no rated opponent.

South Carolina #22, Southern Methodist #23.

Oregon

6-3-2 Oregon was as erratic a team as you'll find. They took upset losses to 6-5 Stanford and 3-8 Cal, and they were tied by 4-5-2 Kansas. But they also defeated 9-3 Washington (now #17) and 9-2 UCLA (#11), both on the road, and they tied 8-2-1 Southern Cal (#10). So they balanced out 2.5 upset losses with 2.5 upset wins. Southern Methodist, on the other hand, did not balance out their 2 upset losses with any upset wins.

Oregon #23, Southern Methodist #24. But SMU's freefall mercifully ends there.

Stanford and Texas

We now have 24 teams, so there's one more spot to fill. 8-4 Southern Methodist actually tied 7-5 Texas and 7-5 Houston for 3rd place in the SWC, and the three teams defeated each other in a circle. The AP poll's choice of SMU as best of the 3 is valid, and Texas would then fall next in line, as they lost to SMU and defeated Houston.

So 7-5 Texas is the first candidate for #25, and a very similar 6-5 Stanford team is their rival for the last spot. Texas and Stanford both have 2 losses to unranked teams (Texas to 5-6 Texas Tech and 4-7 Texas A&M, Stanford to 7-4 Boston College and 3-8 Cal), and both teams took one of those losses in a rivalry game in their finale. Both also had a huge upset win over now-#2 Oklahoma.

The difference between the two teams comes down to performance. Only 1 of Texas' 5 losses was close (touchdown or less), while 2 of Stanford's 5 losses were close.
Stanford won 31-14 at Oklahoma, while Texas beat Oklahoma 20-13 in Dallas. Stanford's next best win was 35-25 at 6-3-2 Oregon (now #23), while Texas' next best win was 15-13 at home over 7-5 Houston (about #28). That's a 3-game performance advantage for Stanford.

So #25 is Stanford. Stanford actually has a better relevant record than #24 Southern Methodist, and I would rate them higher than SMU, but SMU performed better than Stanford to a great enough degree that I think the Mustangs are a valid choice to be ranked higher. So I'll let the AP poll have that one.

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 6 losses and a tie to unrated opponents (discounting games against each other), and they had 5 wins and a tie against teams the AP poll had rated.

1) Georgia 12-0--
2) Oklahoma 10-2+1
3) Florida State 10-2+2
4) Nebraska 10-2+3
5) Pittsburgh 11-1-3
6) Penn State 10-2+2
7) Notre Dame 9-2-1+2
8) Michigan 10-2-4
9) Alabama 10-2-3
10) Southern Cal 8-2-1+1
11) UCLA 9-2+2
12) Miami-Florida 9-3+6
13) North Carolina 11-1-3
14) Ohio State 9-3+2
15) Brigham Young 12-1-3
16) Baylor 10-2-2
17) Washington 9-3-2
18) Purdue 9-3-1
19) Mississippi State 9-3--
20) Florida 8-4IN
21) Arizona State 7-4IN
22) South Carolina 8-4IN
23) Oregon 6-3-2IN
24) Southern Methodist 8-4-4
25) Stanford 6-5IN

Most Overrated and Underrated Teams of the 1980s

Well, it's no surprise that Ohio State was the most overrated team of the 1980s. They were underrated once, in 1980, then overrated 6 straight seasons 1981-1986. For the decade they fell a net 29 ranking places in the fixed polls. No team in this decade was as consistently and relentlessly ranked ahead of teams that beat them. I have no theory as to why AP writers loved Earle Bruce's OSU teams so much, but it's no surprise that writers nationwide pitched a fit when OSU fired Bruce-- they had thought he was a much better coach than he was. Southern Methodist was the next most overrated, 4 times for 19 ranking places. Air Force was at -18 (overrated twice), Brigham Young -15 (5 times), Baylor -11 (3 times), and Michigan and Iowa were each -10 (Michigan overrated 6 times, Iowa overrated 4 times and underrated twice).

The most underrated team of the 1980s was, as usual, Florida. They were underrated 6 times for a gain of +17.5 ranking places in the fixed polls. Southern Cal was +16 (overrated once and underrated 6 times), Auburn +14 (overrated twice and underrated 4 times), Miami-Florida +13 (3 times), and Notre Dame +10 (3 times).

The most overrated conference was the Big 10, at -54. The SWC was -43, the WAC -33 (thanks to just 2 teams, BYU and Air Force). The most underrated conference was the PAC 10 at +35.5, followed by the SEC at +28.5.

1980-2010 

The most overrated teams of all so far (1980-2010) are as follows:

1) Brigham Young -41.5
2) Air Force -30
3) Virginia Tech -21
4) Southern Methodist -19
5) Ohio State -16.5
6) Texas -15.5
7) Southern Mississippi -15
8) Iowa -14.5
9) Maryland -12
10) Texas A&M -11.5

The most underrated:

1) Florida +45.5
2) Auburn +36
3) Washington +27.5
4) Southern Cal +26.5
5) UCLA +23.5
6) Penn State +22.5
7) Tennessee +22
8) Notre Dame +20
9) Louisiana State +18.5
10) Georgia +12

The most overrated conference of all so far is the WAC at -78, followed by the ACC -49, the SWC -45.5, the Big 10 -27.5, CUSA -27, and the Big East -21.5. The SEC, of course, is the most underrated conference at +156.5, followed by the PAC 10 at +85.5.

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