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Fixing the Final 1985 AP College Football Poll

1) Oklahoma 11-1
2) Michigan 10-1-1
3) Penn State 11-1
4) Tennessee 9-1-2
5) Florida 9-1-1
6) Texas A&M 10-2
7) UCLA 9-2-1
8) Air Force 12-1
9) Miami-Florida 10-2
10) Iowa 10-2
11) Nebraska 9-3
12) Arkansas 10-2
13) Alabama 9-2-1
14) Ohio State 9-3
15) Florida State 9-3
16) Brigham Young 11-3
17) Baylor 9-3
18) Maryland 9-3
19) Georgia Tech 9-2-1
20) Louisiana State 9-2-1
To the left is the final 1985 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. 

Finally, we have our first fixed AP poll that retains every team that the original AP poll rated. #20 Louisiana State drops to #23 in the fixed poll, leaving 2 more spots to fill to make a top 25. To fill those spots, I just took the top two viable teams from the "Others receiving votes" section of the AP poll.

At the top of the poll, previous #1 Penn State (11-1) was punished for losing the national championship to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and dropped to #3, behind a Michigan team with a worse record (10-1-1).

Penn State was boring to watch, a defensive team that often won by unimpressive scores over mediocre opponents. But they would continue to be boring in 1986, when they went 12-0 and upset exciting Miami in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.
Oklahoma quarterback Jamelle Holieway

Oklahoma accomplished a rare feat in 1985-- they won the mythical national championship behind a true freshman quarterback, Jamelle Holieway.

Penn State and Michigan

Penn State lost only to #1 Oklahoma, while Michigan lost to #10 Iowa (10-2), and they were also tied by unrated 6-5-1 Illinois. There isn't much more to say than that. Michigan did perform much better than Penn State, and they defeated one more ranked opponent than did Penn State (3 to 2), but Penn State beat Alabama, who will finish #7 in the fixed poll, while Michigan did not defeat a team in the top 10 of either the original poll or the fixed one.

Michigan's superior performance made them close to a viable option for #2, but 2 upsets is just too many when Penn State had none. And I myself would probably rank Michigan more like #10.

But we'll stick with a simple switch here. Penn State #2, Michigan #3.

Florida and Tennessee

9-1-1 Florida beat 9-1-2 Tennessee 17-10 and had a better record to boot. What gives here, sportswriters? What gives is that Florida was on probation, so Tennessee got to go to the Sugar Bowl in their place, where they upset 10-2 Miami. That's impressive, but Florida beat Miami too.

Another switch, Florida to #4 and Tennessee to #5.

Miami-Florida

10-2 Miami lost only to top 5 teams Florida and Tennessee, and they defeated #1 Oklahoma, so you know a #9 ranking has to be wrong. #6 Texas A&M, also 10-2, lost to teams ranked #13 and #17, and they did not defeat a top 10 opponent. No comparison.

We'll move Miami up ahead of Texas A&M, to #6, dropping Texas A&M, UCLA, and Air Force one spot each.

Alabama and Texas A&M

9-2-1 Alabama (#13) defeated 10-2 Texas A&M (now #7) 23-10, and both their losses came by 2 points to top 5 teams (Penn State and Tennessee). No excuse for this.

Move Alabama ahead of the Aggies, to #7, dropping Texas A&M, UCLA, Air Force, Iowa, Nebraska, and Arkansas one spot each. 

Air Force and Brigham Young

12-1 Air Force (now #10) was very impressive, but they lost their only matchup with a ranked opponent, 28-21 at #16 Brigham Young (11-3). BYU took a baffling 23-16 loss at 1-10 UTEP in conference play, so Air Force and BYU shared the WAC title, but the head-to-head tiebreaker goes to BYU. BYU's other 2 losses came to now-#9 UCLA and #14 Ohio State, but since Air Force did not beat a ranked opponent themselves, it doesn't make sense to punish BYU for those losses.

We'll drop Air Force back behind their Mormon masters, to #16. BYU and all the teams that had been ranked between BYU and Air Force all move up a spot.

As to that baffling BYU-UTEP game, it was only UTEP's 14th win in 11 years. They pulled it off with a WACky surprise, a 2-9 defense that resulted in 4 BYU interceptions, one returned for a 100 yard touchdown. BYU realized too late that they could run the ball with ease. UTEP's 9-2 defense against Air Force's wishbone was far less successful.

Auburn

Unrated 8-4 Auburn is this year's most underrated team, no contest. Their losses came to teams originally ranked #4, #5, #6, and #13, and they defeated teams originally ranked #15 and #19, so not rating them makes no sense. Obviously they should have been rated #14 if the original ratings of their opponents were correct. But they weren't correct-- #13 Alabama has now been moved to #7 in the fixed poll, and Auburn can therefore be ranked as high as #9 (behind Texas A&M, who beat them 36-16 in the Cotton Bowl).

That would put them all the way up ahead of 9-2-1 UCLA. Shall we compare them? Let's.

All four of Auburn's losses came to teams ranked higher than UCLA, one of which UCLA tied, so that puts UCLA a half game ahead. But both of UCLA's losses came to unranked teams (7-5 Washington and 6-6 Southern Cal), so that moves Auburn effectively a game and a half ahead. UCLA defeated 2 ranked opponents, as did Auburn, but Auburn defeated a 3rd who will make the fixed and expanded top 25 (7-3-2 Georgia). Performance is even. So the game and a half lead for Auburn is everything.

We'll move Auburn all the way in ahead of UCLA, to #9, dropping UCLA and all the teams behind them one spot each (Louisiana State is now #21).

Florida State and Nebraska

9-3 Florida State (#15) won 17-13 at 9-3 Nebraska (now #12), and all 3 of their losses came to teams now ranked higher than Nebraska, who did not defeat a ranked opponent. Enough said.

Move Florida State up ahead of Nebraska, to #12, dropping Nebraska, Arkansas, and Ohio State one spot each.

Georgia and Baylor

Unrated 7-3-2 Georgia defeated 9-3 Baylor (now #18) 17-14. Baylor lost to one unrated opponent (8-4 Texas), while Georgia was tied by 2 unrated opponents (3-7-1 Vanderbilt and 8-3-1 Arizona), one in their bowl game. Baylor had one upset win, 20-15 at home over 10-2 Texas A&M, while Georgia upset 9-1-1 Florida 24-3 on a neutral field. Baylor had 3 close wins over unrated opponents, while Georgia had 1.

Even with greater weight placed on Georgia's poor bowl result (count it as a full loss rather than a tie, for example, doubling its negative value), Georgia still has a better relevant record than does Baylor, and they beat them head-to-head, and they beat a better team (Florida) than anyone Baylor beat, and they performed better too.

So let's move Georgia into the top 20 ahead of Baylor, and drop them both behind 9-2-1 Georgia Tech (who beat Georgia 20-16)
. That moves Maryland to #18, Georgia Tech to #19, Georgia to #20, Baylor to #21, and LSU to #22.

Texas

Unranked 8-4 Texas should also be ranked ahead of 9-3 Baylor. I did Georgia first because they were in the "Others receiving votes" section of the AP poll, and Texas was not. Texas and Baylor both went 6-2 in SWC play, but Texas beat Baylor at home 17-10 (it was Baylor's finale). Texas' other losses came to 11-1 Oklahoma and 12-1 Air Force, both of whom are of course rated higher than Baylor. Texas had a couple of awful results (stomped by 6-5 SMU and by Texas A&M), but overall I don't think there's enough of a performance difference between Texas and Baylor to dismiss the head-to-head result (though it's close).

Let's move Texas in ahead of Baylor too, putting them at #21, Baylor at #22, and LSU at #23.

Fresno State and Oklahoma State

The AP top 20 is now fixed, but it needs 2 more teams to get to 25. The next 2 viable teams in the "Others receiving votes" section of the 1985 poll are #21 Fresno State (11-0-1) and #24 Oklahoma State (8-4). #23 Army, who went 9-3, is not an option because they have 2 losses to unrated opponents and only one win of any value at all (and not much at that, a 31-29 win over 7-5 Illinois). Fresno State accomplished little themselves, but they have just the one upset tie (Hawaii), and did beat 11-1 Bowling Green (though BG beat no one). Oklahoma State also accomplished little (won 31-17 at 7-5 Washington and beat 7-5 Colorado 14-11), but they only took one upset loss (to Iowa State).

This part was the most difficult portion of this poll to fix, because 8-3-1 Arizona (who was #27) looks like a much better team to me than 8-4 Oklahoma State. They tied now-rated Georgia in their bowl game, beat 6-5 SMU (who would make my own top 25 right behind Arizona), and also beat 8-4 Arizona State. But they took 2 upset losses (to 4-7 Stanford and 7-5 Colorado, whom Oklahoma State defeated) to OSU's 1, so the AP poll can have its way here.

Put Fresno State at #24 and Oklahoma State at #25 and call it good.

Fixed AP Top 25

For the first time, no teams fall out of the rankings. Huzzah! But with the expansion to 25, there are still 5 new teams. Those teams had a total 6 wins against the AP's top 20, and 2 losses and 3 ties to teams that are unrated.

1) Oklahoma 11-1--
2) Penn State 11-1+1
3) Michigan 10-1-1-1
4) Florida 9-1-1+1
5) Tennessee 9-1-2-1
6) Miami-Florida 10-2+3
7) Alabama 9-2-1+6
8) Texas A&M 10-2-2
9) Auburn 8-4IN
10) UCLA 9-2-1-3
11) Iowa 10-2-1
12) Florida State 9-3+3
13) Nebraska 9-3-2
14) Arkansas 10-2-2
15) Ohio State 9-3-1
16) Brigham Young 11-3--
17) Air Force 12-1-9
18) Maryland 9-3--
19) Georgia Tech 9-2-1--
20) Georgia 7-3-2IN
21) Texas 8-4IN
22) Baylor 9-3-5
23) Louisiana State 9-2-1-3
24) Fresno State 11-0-1IN
25) Oklahoma State 8-4IN

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