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Fixing the Final 1982 AP College Football Poll

1) Penn State 11-1
2) Southern Methodist 11-0-1
3) Nebraska 12-1
4) Georgia 11-1
5) UCLA 10-1-1
6) Arizona State 10-2
7) Washington 10-2
8) Clemson 9-1-1
9) Arkansas 9-2-1
10) Pittsburgh 9-3
11) Louisiana State 8-3-1
12) Ohio State 9-3
13) Florida State 9-3
14) Auburn 9-3
15) Southern Cal 8-3
16) Oklahoma 8-4
17) Texas 9-3
18) North Carolina 8-4
19) West Virginia 9-3
20) Maryland 8-4
To the left is the final 1982 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. 

Boy howdy, did football writers love them some Ohio State in the 1980s. And of all of the many overrated Ohio State teams under head coach Earle Bruce, this 1982 edition, 9-3 and ranked #12, has to be the worst case. They lost to 2 unrated opponents, defeated no rated teams, and were even ranked one spot ahead of Florida State, who beat them 34-17 in Columbus.

And how many times now has Florida, 8-4 and unranked this season, been underrated? I'd go back and count, but I don't think I have enough fingers and toes. Florida was upset by unrated 8-4 Vanderbilt in 1982, but their other losses came to top 11 teams, and they defeated the #13, #14, and #15 teams. That looks more like a #12 team.

Then there are some odd dismissals of head-to-head results, headlined by 9-3 West Virginia being ranked 3 places behind 8-4 Oklahoma, despite slapping OU around 41-27 in Norman. It all adds up to one of the worst jobs AP voters have done among the polls I have fixed thus far. But the 1982-1986 polls have all been unusually poor, so at least it fits into its time period. It really makes you appreciate today's AP voters.
Joe Paterno and Penn State celebrate the 1982 national championship

After three times going unbeaten, untied, and uncrowned, Joe Paterno and Penn State finally won their first national championship in 1982.

Nebraska and Georgia

#2 Southern Methodist (11-0-1) may have a better straight record than #3 Nebraska (12-1) and #4 Georgia (11-1), but SMU was tied by #9 Arkansas, whereas Nebraska and Georgia each lost only to #1 Penn State. SMU was also a chronic poor performer, with 4 close wins over losing teams: 16-13 over TCU, 22-19 at Baylor, 20-14 over Houston, and 34-27 at Texas Tech.

Let's move Nebraska to #2, Georgia to #3, and SMU to #4
.

Washington and Arizona State

#7 Washington and #6 Arizona State, both 10-2, tied for 2nd in the PAC 10, but Washington won at Arizona State 17-13. And if that isn't enough, ASU didn't even play conference champ UCLA, while Washington did. Washington outscored 6 common opponents by 129, ASU by 85. You have to wonder if AP voters looked at these teams at all before they voted. I don't see how it's possible that they could have.

Switch 'em: Washington #6, Arizona State #7
.

Pittsburgh

#10 Pittsburgh (9-3) lost 19-10 to #1 Penn State, 7-3 to now-#4 Southern Methodist, and 31-16 to unrated 6-4-1 Notre Dame. The team ranked just in front of them, 9-2-1 Arkansas, lost 24-17 to unrated 4-6-1 Baylor and 33-7 to #17 Texas in their regular season finale, but they tied #4 Southern Methodist 17-17. That tie puts them ahead of Pitt by half a game (especially since Pitt lost to the same opponent), but they have one more upset loss than Pitt does, leaving Pitt effectively a half game ahead of Arkansas. In addition, Pitt defeated #18 North Carolina, #13 Florida State, and #19 West Virginia, while Arkansas did not beat a single ranked team.

This is too easy. Switch these 2 teams too: Pitt #9, Arkansas #10.

Ohio State

Well, as I said, #12 Ohio State (9-3) took 2 losses to unrated opponents, and they beat no rated teams, so they don't look like a top 25 team at all. But most baffling is their being rated right in front of 9-3 Florida State, who beat them 34-17 in Columbus. FSU lost to but 1 unrated opponent, and they defeated 2 rated teams. This simply has to be the most inept AP poll yet, and we're just getting started.

Where to rank Ohio State? Nowhere as yet. Throw 'em out. But we'll come back to the Buckeyes once we've finished fixing and expanding this top 25, and see what we can do for AP voters then.

Auburn

Let's get to the point here and compare now-#13 Auburn (9-3) to now-#10 Arkansas (9-2-1). Arkansas beat Florida 28-24 in the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, while Auburn lost at Florida 19-17. Those scores look like little more than the product of where the games were played, but let's go ahead and give Arkansas a one game lead over Auburn. Arkansas also tied now-#4 SMU, stretching their lead to an effective game and a half. But Arkansas' losses to unranked Baylor and #17 Texas leave them an effective half game behind Auburn, who did not lose to any other lower-ranked team but Florida. These teams performed comparably, but the effective half game difference is enough to move Auburn past Arkansas. Auburn also defeated 5 winning teams to 3 for Arkansas.

As for #11 Louisiana State, they took 2 losses and a tie to unranked teams, and Auburn is effectively a game and a half better.

Move Auburn to #10, dropping Arkansas, LSU, and Florida State one spot each.

Southern Cal

Like Auburn, 8-3 Southern Cal, now ranked #14, took an upset loss to Florida, and like Auburn, USC is effectively a half game better than #11 Arkansas and a game and a half better than #12 LSU. USC actually tied Washington and Arizona State (#6 and #7) for 2nd in the PAC 10, losing to #5 UCLA by 1 point and to now-#7 ASU by 7, and their 17-9 upset loss at Florida came in their opener.

Unlike Auburn (and Arkansas), Southern Cal defeated a team that was ranked in the AP top 20, winning 12-0 at #16 Oklahoma. USC also outperformed Auburn, who had more close wins and got blown out once, whereas all of USC's losses were close. USC was actually rated higher than Auburn in the last regular season poll, but USC didn't play in a bowl, and Auburn's 33-26 bowl win over unrated Boston College somehow drove them past USC. That doesn't actually make much sense.

So we'll move Southern Cal up ahead of Auburn, to #10, dropping Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, and Florida State one spot each. I would rank USC even higher myself, right behind Washington and Arizona State. I had a very hard time justifying now-#9 Pitt being rated ahead of USC, and in fact I still don't think they should be, but since Pitt beat 2 teams that are ranked higher in the fixed poll than anyone USC beat, I figured I could just throw the AP voters this bone.

Florida

It just wouldn't be an AP poll if Florida weren't underrated. This time they went 8-4 and unranked, and while they were beaten 31-29 at unranked 8-4 Vanderbilt, and also took an ugly 44-0 loss to 11-1 Georgia, Florida defeated the AP poll's own #13, #14, and #15 teams, which blows away the wins of the three 4-loss teams the AP poll did rank.

With the shifting of the fixed AP poll so far, Florida's significant wins are now over #10 Southern Cal, #11 Auburn, and #14 Florida State. But in addition to #3 Georgia and unranked Vanderbilt, Florida lost to #12 Arkansas and #13 Louisiana State. That's a little mixed up, so where do we put them? A good place to start would be #14, behind LSU (who beat them) and ahead of FSU (who lost to them).

But they would still have 2 wins over higher-rated teams, and just one upset loss, so let's go ahead and compare them to 8-3-1 Louisiana State. LSU lost to 2 unrated teams-- 27-24 at 5-6 Mississippi State and 31-28 to 4-7 Tulane. They also tied 6-5-1 Tennessee, so that gives them 2.5 losses to unranked opponents compared to 1 for Florida. So even with LSU's 24-13 win at Florida, the Gators are still effectively a half game better. And that's without even taking into account Florida's wins over USC and Auburn (now ranked #10 and #11). Furthermore, Florida's upset loss came to a better team (8-4 Vanderbilt) than all 3 teams that upset LSU, and their losses to Vanderbilt and LSU came in the first half of the season, whereas LSU's 2 upset losses came in games 9 and 11.

So let's move Florida into the top 20, all the way to #13, dropping LSU and all the teams behind them one spot each. That placement gives Florida a balanced 2 wins over higher-rated teams and 2 losses to lower-rated. It also helps to validate LSU's ranking, as they had a poor relevant record and were overrated to begin with.

West Virginia and Oklahoma

Here is as poor a ranking job as you'll ever see. 9-3 West Virginia won at 8-4 Oklahoma 41-27, and all 3 of their losses came to teams ranked higher than Oklahoma. They also defeated 2 ranked opponents, Oklahoma just 1. So how is it even possible that a thinking person could conclude that West Virginia is #19 and Oklahoma #16?

Move West Virginia up ahead of Oklahoma, to #16, dropping Oklahoma, Texas, and North Carolina one spot each.

Maryland

8-4 Maryland (#20) won at 8-4 North Carolina (now #19) 31-24, and should be rated higher. But let's go further and compare Maryland to now-# 17 Oklahoma. Both teams took all 4 of their losses to rated opponents, and each defeated one rated team. Where they diverge is in the nature of their losses. Maryland lost at #1 Penn State by 8 points, at now-#16 West Virginia by 1 point, to #8 Clemson by 2 points, and to now-#6 Washington by 1 point in their bowl game. Oklahoma lost to now-#16 West Virginia by 14 points, to now-#10 Southern Cal by 12 points, at now-#3 Nebraska by 4 points, and at now-#7 Arizona State by 11 points in their bowl game. Those are quite equitable opponents, but Maryland's performances were very clearly better than Oklahoma's were.

So move Maryland to #17, dropping Oklahoma, Texas, and North Carolina one spot each.

Texas and North Carolina

8-4 North Carolina is rated one spot behind 9-3 Texas, despite routing the Longhorns 26-10 in the Sun Bowl. Fair or foul? Well, Texas beat now-#12 Arkansas 33-7 in their regular season finale, while North Carolina was upset by unrated 6-5 Duke in game 10, so the AP poll has a good case here. I would rank North Carolina higher because they played 9 winning opponents and defeated 5, whereas Texas played 5 and defeated 2, and Arkansas is the only decent opponent they beat at all. And that bowl result was dominating. But Texas has the better relevant record, so we can let the AP poll keep them as they are.

Arizona, Notre Dame, and Michigan

Time to start adding teams to get to 25. Let's start with 8-4 Michigan, who was ranked #15 in the coaches' poll. Michigan lost 23-17 at 6-4-1 Notre Dame, who lost 16-13 to 6-4-1 Arizona at home, and both teams should be rated ahead of Michigan.

Arizona took 2 losses to unranked opponents, 17-14 to 8-4 Iowa and 13-7 at 2-8-1 Oregon, but they also won 28-18 over now-#7 Arizona State and earned a 24-24 tie at #5 UCLA. They lost to now-#6 Washington by 10 and to now-#10 Southern Cal by 7, and their only close win was the 16-13 victory at Notre Dame, so they performed like a top 25 team in 9 of their 11 games. The PAC 10 led the nation with a 26-11-1 record against nonconference opponents this season.


Notre Dame lost 30-17 at unranked 8-5 Air Force, and they were tied at 2-8-1 Oregon, but they made up for the upset loss with a 31-16 win at now-#9 Pittsburgh. Their 23-17 win over Michigan therefore gives them a better relevant record than Michigan, who beat no rated teams.


Put Arizona at #21, Notre Dame at #22, and Michigan at #23. I'd actually rate Arizona much higher, but #21 is viable too.

Alabama

Next let's take a look at 8-4 Alabama, who was rated #17 in the coaches' poll. Alabama took two losses to unrated opponents, 35-28 at 6-5-1 Tennessee and 38-29 to 7-4 Southern Miss at home. But they also had the best win in college football this season, 42-21 over #1 Penn State at home. I would rank them ahead of Notre Dame, and certainly ahead of Michigan (the SEC was just behind the PAC 10 this season at 38-18-1 against nonconference opponents). However, Michigan being rated higher than Alabama is also a viable option. The AP poll had Michigan rated #19 in the last regular season poll, and Alabama unranked, and Michigan's 24-14 loss to 10-1-1 UCLA in the Rose Bowl should have no effect on their rating relative to Alabama (that result is not bad for a #19 team against a #5 team).

So we'll put Alabama in at #24, behind Michigan. One more slot left to fill. Let's look at Ohio State again.

Ohio State Again

9-3 Ohio State beat 8-4 Michigan 24-14 in their regular season finale, but they took upset losses to 5-6 Stanford and 7-5 Wisconsin, while all of Michigan's other losses came to higher-ranked teams, so Michigan was effectively a game better. Let's compare Ohio State to Alabama.

Ohio State now has one win over a rated team, 24-14 over Michigan. Alabama also has one such win, but their 42-21 demolition of #1 Penn State blows OSU's big win away. Both had 2 losses to unranked opponents, but Alabama's came to winning teams, one on the road, whereas both of OSU's upsets came at home, and one to a losing team. Alabama beat 5 winning teams, Ohio State 3.

So #25 it is for Ohio State. Or is it?

I think 8-3-1 Boston College is more deserving. They have no losses to unranked opponents-- two fewer than Ohio State-- and they tied now-#8 Clemson on the road. However, I think I can give the AP poll Ohio State over BC. BC did nothing but tie Clemson, and they had some poor performances, such as close wins over Rutgers and Syracuse, and a 52-17 home loss to #1 Penn State. BC's schedule was so weak that they did not actually defeat a team as good as Stanford and Wisconsin, the 2 teams that upset Ohio State. And OSU was very strong down the stretch, winning their last 7 games, capped by their big win over Michigan and a 47-17 romp over 8-4 Brigham Young in the Holiday Bowl.

So #25 it is for Ohio State. Sorry, 1982 AP voters, but that's the best I can logically offer your beloved Buckeyes.

Fixed AP Top 25

No team falls out of this fixed and expanded AP top 25, though Ohio State just held on by their fingernails. The 5 new teams had a total of 6 losses and a tie to unrated opponents (discounting games against each other), and they notched the same 6 wins and a tie against teams the AP poll had rated.

1) Penn State 11-1--
2) Nebraska 12-1+1
3) Georgia 11-1+1
4) Southern Methodist 11-0-1-2
5) UCLA 10-1-1--
6) Washington 10-2+1
7) Arizona State 10-2-1
8) Clemson 9-1-1--
9) Pittsburgh 9-3+1
10) Southern Cal 8-3+5
11) Auburn 9-3+3
12) Arkansas 9-2-1-3
13) Florida 8-4IN
14) Louisiana State 8-3-1-3
15) Florida State 9-3-2
16) West Virginia 9-3+3
17) Maryland 8-4+3
18) Oklahoma 8-4-2
19) Texas 9-3-2
20) North Carolina 8-4-2
21) Arizona 6-4-1IN
22) Notre Dame 6-4-1IN
23) Michigan 8-4IN
24) Alabama 8-4IN
25) Ohio State 9-3-13

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