Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller

Fixing the Final 1992 AP College Football Poll

1) Alabama 13-0
2) Florida State 11-1
3) Miami-Florida 11-1
4) Notre Dame 10-1-1
5) Michigan 9-0-3
6) Syracuse 10-2
7) Texas A&M 12-1
8) Georgia 10-2
9) Stanford 10-3
10) Florida 9-4
11) Washington 9-3
12) Tennessee 9-3
13) Colorado 9-2-1
14) Nebraska 9-3
15) Washington State 9-3
16) Mississippi 9-3
17) North Carolina State 9-3-1
18) Ohio State 8-3-1
19) North Carolina 9-3
20) Hawaii 11-2
21) Boston College 8-3-1
22) Kansas 8-4
23) Mississippi State 7-5
24) Fresno State 9-4
25) Wake Forest 8-4

To the left is the final 1992 AP college football top 25. The fixed final AP top 25 follows the article below. 

11-1 Miami-Florida was punished for its 34-13 Sugar Bowl loss to national champion Alabama, dropping not only behind the Tide, but also behind 11-1 Florida State, whom Miami defeated 19-16 early in the season. Fair?

I would rank Miami #2 myself, but FSU is a valid option. Miami's win over them came at home, and was close, with the Seminoles missing a field goal at the end, as they did every year against the Hurricanes back then. Furthermore, FSU defeated 5 rated opponents (plus a 6th who was very close, 7-4 Virginia), while Miami only beat 2.

And given Miami's ugly loss in the Sugar Bowl (only 4 of Alabama's 13 opponents did as poorly against the Tide as Miami did), one could argue that FSU performed better down the stretch.

A better question is, should 12-1 Texas A&M be ranked behind 10-2 Syracuse? I would say that the answer is no. But the question becomes far tougher when rephrased as such: Can 12-1 Texas A&M be validly ranked behind 10-2 Syracuse?

Antonio Langham interception 1992 SEC championship game

Here is my painting of Alabama cornerback Antonio Langham's game-winning interception late in the fourth quarter of the SEC championship game. He returned it 21 yards for a touchdown to beat Florida 28-21. That put Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, where they "upset" #1 Miami-Florida 34-13 for the national championship.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M's only loss came 28-3 to #4 Notre Dame. Syracuse's losses came 16-10 to #3 Miami, and more importantly, 35-12 to #18 Ohio State. That is a big score, and to a much lower-rated opponent, putting Texas A&M effectively one game ahead of Syracuse (as well as having the better straight record at 12-1 to 10-2).

But Syracuse's loss to Ohio State came early. Syracuse performed better than A&M down the stretch, as A&M's blowout loss to #4 ND came in their bowl, while Syracuse's 16-10 loss to #3 Miami came in their regular season finale. And A&M beat a bad Houston team by only 8 in their 10th game, whereas Syracuse had no such struggles over their last 6 games. A&M's big win, 10-7 over #9 Stanford, came in their opener, giving it less weight, and since it was their only win of any value, it can more easily be seen as an anomaly. Syracuse defeated 2 ranked opponents, #13 Colorado and #21 Boston College, and those wins came in their bowl game and in their next-to-last regular season game.

But do those timing-oriented factors completely negate the fact that Syracuse got blown out by the #18 team at home, while Texas A&M had no upset losses? Whenever it happened, A&M's win over #9 Stanford is more impressive than any of Syracuse's wins. And the AP poll itself ranks A&M much higher than Syracuse victims Colorado and Boston College. Syracuse wasn't all that impressive in their 26-22 Fiesta Bowl win over Colorado anyway, the winning margin delivered by Colorado missing 2 extra points and a short field goal. And while looking at common opponents should be low on the list of factors one weighs, it's hard to completely ignore the fact that A&M beat Louisville and Texas by 22 and 21 points, while Syracuse beat those same teams by 6 and 10 points.

My inclination is to move A&M ahead of Syracuse here, but since all of the timing factors stack up in Syracuse's corner, we'll compromise, and put Texas A&M into a tie with Syracuse at #6.

Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia

As so often happens, the AP poll has this trio ranked in the opposite order of their head-to-head results: #10 Florida (9-4) lost at #12 Tennessee (9-3) 31-14, and #8 Georgia (10-2) lost to Tennessee 34-31 and to Florida 26-24. Those Georgia losses were obviously close, but they came at home and on a neutral field, and I don't see much rationale in the rest of Georgia's results for dismissing them. Tennessee was upset twice, but they made up for those losses with their wins over Georgia and Florida (who of course beat Georgia). The only reason Tennessee has one more loss than Georgia is because they played #1 Alabama (losing 17-10), and Georgia didn't. And the only reason Florida has 2 more losses than Georgia is because they played #1 Alabama and #2 Florida State.

We should be looking at these 3 teams as though they were all effectively 10-2. Which makes the head-to-head results a clearly overriding factor, giving us Tennessee>Florida>Georgia.  And the bowl results of the 3 teams corroborate this: Tennessee over #21 Boston College 38-23 (with BC scoring most of their points in garbage time), Florida over #17 North Carolina State 27-10, and Georgia over #18 Ohio State 21-14.

We'll put Tennessee up ahead of Florida, and drop Georgia behind the Gators. That moves Stanford to #8, Tennessee to #9, Florida remains at #10, Georgia drops to #11, and Washington to #12.

Nebraska and Colorado

Here is this year's most glaring error in the AP poll: 9-3 Nebraska sitting right behind 9-2-1 Colorado. And by glaring, I mean blindingly glaring, as in 52-7. That was the score of Nebraska's win over Colorado. Nebraska did take an ugly 19-10 loss at 4-7 Iowa State, but they still won the Big 8 outright with a 6-1 record, a half game better than Colorado's 5-1-1 (they were tied by 5-4-2 Oklahoma). Nebraska also performed better, rolling easily in all 9 of their wins (including 49-7 over #22 Kansas). Colorado, on the other hand, beat unranked Minnesota by 1, unranked Missouri by 6, and Kansas by 7. Colorado has no argument here whatsoever.

The voters who made this choice should not have been allowed to vote again. I mean... 52-7? Sheesh. Switch 'em, Nebraska to #13 and Colorado to #14.

Ohio State

8-3-1 Ohio State (#18) has a better relevant record than the next three teams ranked ahead of them, 9-3-1 North Carolina State (#17), 9-3 Mississippi (#16), and 9-3 Washington State (#15). Let's compare the Buckeyes to the highest-ranked of those 3 teams, WSU.

Ohio State was upset twice in very close games, losing 20-16 to 5-6 Wisconsin and 18-16 to 6-5-1 Illinois. Washington State was also upset twice, but in not-so-close games, losing 31-21 to 6-5-1 Southern Cal and 34-17 to 6-6 Oregon. OSU's 3rd loss came 21-14 to now-#11 Georgia. WSU's 3rd loss came 40-3 to now-#8 Stanford. Each also had one upset win, OSU winning at #6 Syracuse 35-12 and WSU beating now-#12 Washington at home 40-23. Only one of OSU's 8 wins was close, and it was their opener, whereas WSU had 4 close wins, including a 31-28 victory over 6-6 Utah in the Copper Bowl, courtesy of Utah missing a 20 yard field goal at the end!

As you can see, every single factor favors Ohio State here. And on top of all that, OSU also tied #5 Michigan in their regular season finale, making this comparison a complete rout for the Buckeyes.

Move Ohio State up to #15, dropping the 3 teams that had been ranked just ahead of them one spot each.

Brigham Young

In what is becoming a trend in the '90s, here we have a "little big team" coming in to the fixed top 25. Brigham Young had an ugly 8-5 record thanks to an unusually vicious nonconference schedule that included UCLA, Notre Dame, Penn State, and Kansas in their bowl game. And although they did not win most of those games, they did beat #24 Fresno State (9-4) 36-24, and that is the point here. They should be ranked ahead of Fresno State.

Normally, I would place both teams in the middle of where they are ranked now, which would drop them both behind #25 Wake Forest (8-4). But Wake Forest is in a similar situation, as they lost to unranked Virginia (7-4) 31-17, and should be ranked behind the Cavaliers. And 7-5 Penn State would be next in line, but they lost to Brigham Young.

So we'll move Brigham Young into the top 25 at #24, dropping Fresno State to #25 and Wake Forest out altogether. I am inclined to replace Fresno State with Penn State, but while all 5 of PSU's losses came to rated teams (now that BYU is in), they did not beat anyone of any value at all, so Fresno State is a valid choice here.

Fixed AP Top 25

Wake Forest is the only team that falls out, replaced by Brigham Young. WF had 1 loss to an unranked opponent and no win over a rated one, while BYU had 2 losses to unranked opponents and 1 win over a rated one. So this is the first fixed AP poll that ends up being about the same as the original in that regard. There weren't many fixes this time around (I count only 5 subheadings above), and no team was moved very far in any of those fixes, so I'd say that the AP poll did a pretty good job this year. On the other hand, there was that Nebraska-Colorado debacle...

1) Alabama 13-0--
2) Florida State 11-1--
3) Miami-Florida 11-1--
4) Notre Dame 10-1-1--
5) Michigan 9-0-3--
6) Syracuse 10-2
Texas A&M 12-1
8) Stanford 10-3+1
9) Tennessee 9-3+3
10) Florida 9-4--
11) Georgia 10-2-3
12) Washington 9-3-1
13) Nebraska 9-3+1
14) Colorado 9-2-1-1
15) Ohio State 8-3-1+3
16) Washington State 9-3-1
17) Mississippi 9-3-1
18) North Carolina State 9-3-1-1
19) North Carolina 9-3--
20) Hawaii 11-2--
21) Boston College 8-3-1--
22) Kansas 8-4--
23) Mississippi State 7-5--
24) Brigham Young 8-5IN
25) Fresno State 9-4-1

OUT: #25 Wake Forest 8-4