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Fixing the Final 1997 AP College Football Poll

1) Michigan 12-0
2) Nebraska 13-0
3) Florida State 11-1
4) Florida 10-2
5) UCLA 10-2
6) North Carolina 11-1
7) Tennessee 11-2
8) Kansas State 11-1
9) Washington State 10-2
10) Georgia 10-2
11) Auburn 10-3
12) Ohio State 10-3
13) Louisiana State 9-3
14) Arizona State 9-3
15) Purdue 9-3
16) Penn State 9-3
17) Colorado State 11-2
18) Washington 8-4
19) Southern Miss 9-3
20) Texas A&M 9-4
21) Syracuse 9-4
22) Mississippi 8-4
23) Missouri 7-5
24) Oklahoma State 8-4
25) Georgia Tech 7-5


To the left is the final 1997 AP college football top 25. You can access all of these teams' full schedules at the College Football Data Warehouse (amongst a number of other places). The fixed final AP top 25 follows the article below. 

For the second time thus far, we have a problem at the top of the poll. In 2003, it was the dubious selection of Southern Cal over BCS champion LSU
. LSU played a much tougher schedule and, on the surface, appeared to have performed slightly better. However, deeper analysis showed that USC actually performed slightly better than LSU. For me, it wasn't enough to make up for LSU's vastly tougher schedule, but it was enough for me to compromise with the AP poll voters, and allow them to keep USC #1, albeit in a tie with LSU.

However, Michigan 1997 has an even weaker case than that of USC 2003. By the AP poll's own rankings, Nebraska (the coaches' poll #1) played 5 top 25 opponents to Michigan's 3, and 2 of those were rated higher than any team Michigan played. Nebraska outscored their opponents by an average of 30.2 points per game, Michigan by 17.3. And after the bowls, Nebraska had the #1 offense and #5 defense, while Michigan had the #45 offense and #2 defense.

And all of this was well displayed under the biggest magnifying lens: the bowl results. Playing highly comparable opponents, Michigan defeated PAC 10 champ Washington State (#9, 10-2) 21-16 in the Rose Bowl, while Nebraska defeated SEC champ Tennessee (#7, 11-2) 42-17 in the Orange Bowl.

So why was Michigan voted #1 at all?
Charles Woodson Rose Bowl interception

Heisman winning cornerback Charles Woodson goes up high for an interception in the end zone to help Michigan secure a 21-16 victory over Washington State in the Rose Bowl.

Michigan vs. Nebraska

The main reason Michigan was voted #1 is that they were MICHIGAN. They had the most wins in college football history, and they played in the Biggest House and in front of the most television viewers (in those days, CBS with its SEC telecasts got a shadow of the ratings ABC/ESPN got, primarily with the Big 10). And most importantly, they had not won a national championship since 1948. There was no way a 12-0 Michigan team would not finish #1.

Of course, none of those facts constitute a valid argument for Michigan in 1997. But Nebraska themselves would not have jumped to #1 in the final coaches' poll, thus securing a share of the so-called "national championship," without a huge nonvalid factor of their own. Following the regular season, someone conveniently leaked the news that Nebraska coach Tom Osborne was retiring after the bowl games, prompting him to make a formal announcement. Nebraska only just barely edged Michigan out in the coaches' poll, and you have to believe that Osborne's retirement, as well as quarterback Scott Frost's impassioned speech begging for votes after the final game, made the difference. Following the Orange Bowl, the AP poll was released rather quickly, while the final coaches' poll did not arrive until an hour or two later. From Nebraska's perspective, it was the classic case of a jury coming back fast being bad news, and a jury coming back after a longer thought process being good news.

Because the more you look at the facts, the harder it is to see Michigan as a legitimate #1. The list in my intro shows every fact lining up for Nebraska. Does Michigan have any point at all in their favor?

The Almighty Big Ten

I must have read, seen, or heard at least 20 AP poll voters discuss their choice of Michigan over Nebraska that season, but valid reasons for that choice were quite scarce for the offering. Several even granted that Nebraska was likely the better team. Beano Cook, for example, said that Nebraska may have been the better team, but that he voted for Michigan because they "accomplished more." This seemed to be the general feeling among Michigan touters, but it makes no sense. By their own ballots, Nebraska played more rated opponents, higher-rated opponents, and a better bowl opponent. But there was a reason they felt that Michigan accomplished more.

And that is because ABC/ESPN relentlessly told us all season that the Big 10 was by far the toughest conference. Just about everyone at a studio desk or in a broadcast booth for those networks that season said so, over and over again. Aside from Michigan, there was Ohio State, who started 5-0 and came into the Michigan game 10-1. Penn State started 7-0, Purdue 6-1, Wisconsin 6-1, Michigan State 5-0, and Iowa 4-0.

And ABC/ESPN's non-stop Big 10 lovefest is also the main reason Charles Woodson won the Heisman over Peyton Manning, the preseason favorite who shocked everyone by returning for his senior year, then finally won the SEC. More glaring, if less noticed, was Penn State running back Curtis Enis being selected a consensus All American over Nebraska's Ahman Green. Green was the #2 running back (156.4 yards per game), Enis #11 (123.9). Green averaged 6.8 yards per carry, Enis 6.0. Green scored 22 touchdowns, Enis 19. What did Enis have in his favor? Only that he played for a high-profile Big 10 team.

When the bowls arrived, and the Big Ten crashed like the house of cards it was all along, going 2-5, hardly anyone seemed to even notice. Their minds had already been made up.

But here are the facts. The Big 10 was 28-16 against nonconference opponents in 1997, good for 4th place amongst conferences. The SEC, virtually ignored by ABC/ESPN all that season, went 37-5, the best record by any conference since World War 2! They went 5-1 in bowl games. The PAC 10, at 28-8, and the ACC, at 22-9, were also well ahead of the Big 10 in the end. The Big 10 did edge out the Big 12, who went 26-16, but the Big 12 did less poorly in their bowls (2-3) and were better against rated nonconference opponents (Big 12 was 5-8, Big 10 was 3-9). Not only was the Big Ten not the best conference in 1997, they were not even particularly good.

Most importantly, Michigan played 6 teams in the regular season who earned bowl berths, while Nebraska only played 4. But the 6 teams Michigan played went a disastrous 0-6 in their bowl games, and none of them even came within a touchdown, losing by 18, 10, 28, 15, 27, and 17 points. Nebraska's 4 bowl-bound opponents went 2-2 in their bowls.

The Slim Case for Michigan

That brings us back to the same, still unanswered, question: Does Michigan have any point at all in their favor? They have two.

The Kicked Ball

In the play of the year (it won an ESPN award for best play of the year in any sport), Nebraska tied then-unranked Missouri at the end of regulation on a bizarre and miraculous kicked ball that was caught for a touchdown. They then won in overtime. I would have done my 1997 painting of this famous play, but I chose to do a Michigan painting instead (as seen above), and for the same reason Michigan was voted #1 in the AP poll-- because my next chance to do a Michigan painting won't come until the 1948 AP poll, and I will already be doing Nebraska paintings for the 1995 and 1994 polls.

The argument here is that Nebraska only went unbeaten due to either an illegal play or a tremendously lucky play (or both), and therefore did not deserve to be #1 as much as Michigan. However, intended receiver Shevin Wiggins was attempting to kick the ball back to himself, which is a legal play. Had he intentionally kicked the ball to another player, it would have been an illegal play. But as you can see from watching the video, there is no way he could have known someone would get behind him to catch it. The ball was kicked too far because he was being tackled, and his body windmilled the ball too far back.

As to the play being "lucky," the video shows you exactly why some teams seem to get "lucky" more often than others. The play went from being an incompletion to a touchdown precisely because of hustle and skill. Wiggins did not give up on the play after he dropped the pass. Receiver Lance Brown did not give up on it, diving at Wiggins' feet as the ball was being kicked. If the ball had just bounced off the foot, rather than being kicked, he might have made the catch. And Matt Davison, who did make the catch, was on the other side of the end zone when the ball was thrown. He immediately broke toward the play, which most players don't in that situation, and his hustle paid off when he found the ball floating just long enough for him to snag it off the top of the (uncut for this game) grass.

But whether the play was illegal or lucky is irrelevant anyway. In the end, you cannot treat the Missouri game like a loss, because Nebraska did in fact win the game.

Still, one can definitely argue that this performance-- going to overtime against a previously unrated (final #23) opponent, and needing a fortuitous bounce of the ball to do that much--is worse than any performance Michigan had on the season. But the problem is that Nebraska played 12 other games, and their season-long performance outstrips Michigan to such a degree that one poor outing doesn't amount to much. So how about two poor outings?

Colorado

In their regular season finale (not counting the Big 12 title game), Nebraska survived a rally from 5-6 Colorado to win by only 27-24. Michigan had already beaten Colorado 27-3, so this was a "common opponents" argument as well as a poor performance argument. Michigan had also beaten Baylor by 35, while Nebraska beat them by "only" 28.

The Baylor game is irrelevant, as neither team was threatened, and anyway, Michigan played them at home and Nebraska played them on the road, and the standard 3.5 point home field advantage swing wipes out Michigan's 7 point difference, rendering those Baylor performances the same.

So we're really just looking at one common opponent mattering here: Colorado.

Now first of all, common opponents are a very poor way to rank teams, as I discussed in this section of my how-to-rate teams guide ("Common Opponents" subsection is at the bottom of the page there). This is particularly true when you're just looking at one common opponent. Secondly, Michigan played Colorado at home, in the season opener. Nebraska played Colorado on the road, at the end of the season, when Colorado was 5-5 and needed a win to get a bowl invitation. Moreover, it was a rivalry game for Nebraska, as Colorado annually printed the Nebraska game in red on their schedule, and almost always played Nebraska tougher than one would otherwise expect them to. So the comparison is not at all equitable.

But along with the Missouri game, one can argue that this makes two performances that were worse than any Michigan performance.

The Two Worst Performances

So this is Michigan's argument-- Nebraska had not one, but two performances that were worse than any of Michigan's. But focusing entirely on Nebraska's 2 worst games isn't fashioning a real argument at all-- it's just rationalizing a decision you've already made based on how you feel. Nebraska played 11 other games, and Michigan played 12. Missouri and Colorado are the only two teams that came within a touchdown of Nebraska. Michigan, on the other hand, won by a touchdown or less four times-- twice as often as Nebraska did.

Furthermore, Nebraska's 2 poor performances both came on the road, and one of those teams finished #23 in the AP's own poll. Michigan's 2 worst performances, 21-14 over Notre Dame and 28-24 over Iowa, both came at home, and neither of those teams finished ranked. If you take average home field advantage point differential into account, those Nebraska performances are not worse than Michigan's poorest at all.

But let's go ahead and accept the most extreme spin for Michigan. Let's say that Michigan's Iowa and Notre Dame results were better than Nebraska's Missouri and Colorado results, and ignore where the games were played and such. That gives Michigan a 2 game performance advantage over Nebraska. However, Michigan also only beat Ohio State 20-14 and Washington State 21-16.  Both of those teams were highly ranked, but Kansas State and Tennessee were ranked higher than anyone Michigan played, and Nebraska beat those teams by 30 and 25 points. They also beat #18 Washington by 13 on the road and #20 Texas A&M by 39 on a neutral field. So there goes Michigan's 2 game performance advantage. Poof.

Furthermore, bowl games should carry greater emphasis, and Michigan won theirs 21-16 while Nebraska won 42-17. And that was one game after Nebraska beat #20 Texas A&M 54-15 in the Big 12 title game. Hardly an anomaly.

So. Michigan has no argument left at all.

Nebraska vs. Michigan Conclusion

In the "national championship" sense, it's good that the AP poll went with Michigan at #1, because otherwise Michigan would have gone unbeaten and uncrowned in most people's eyes, a bitter pill for a great program that had not won a mythical national championship since 1948. But that's the bitter pill Penn State had to swallow in 1994 and Auburn in 2004, and I think that both of those teams have as much of an argument for sharing a title as Michigan did in '97 (and probably better arguments). For myself, I consider Michigan and Nebraska co-champions regardless of where they are ranked (and I extend the same view to Penn State '94 and Auburn 2004 too), but the question here is, who should be ranked #1? And there is simply no real argument for Michigan.

As you can see, I have written an enormous amount on this issue by now (and have spent many hours on it). That is because I don't like to reverse an AP poll decision at the top. So I looked at Michigan's case from every angle, trying to find some solid reason to keep them #1. But the fact is, no such reason exists. As far as I can tell, Michigan was voted #1 not by merit, but because that was the result AP voters wanted. So, being writers, they picked up their pens, and wrote their own ending. Eyes closed.

In the end, all I've done is spent a lot of time corroborating what was already blatantly obvious from the beginning. Nebraska went 13-0 while playing 5 rated opponents, won by an average of 30 points a game, gained 515 yards per game offense, gave up 262 on defense, and won their bowl over the then-#3 team by 25 points. Very few teams in the AP poll era (1936 to present) have put up those kinds of numbers. And the few that have never finished #2.

I worked my brain overtime on this first fix, but really it's a no-brainer: Nebraska moves to #1, and Michigan drops to #2.

Tennessee

As mentioned, the SEC went 37-5 in nonconference games, still the best record any conference has put together in the last 65 years (at least). They went 5-1 in bowls, and would have gone 6-0 had Tennessee not been served up to the Nebraska juggernaut (it would have been Florida State if the Seminoles hadn't been upset by Florida in their finale). So how likely is it that SEC champion Tennessee is only the 7th best team in the land? It's possible, but highly unlikely.

The real problem here, as usual, is a simple case of the AP poll ignoring a head-to-head result. Tennessee (#7, 11-2) won at UCLA (#5, 10-2) 30-24. Not only that, but both of Tennessee's losses came to teams ranked ahead of UCLA, and UCLA lost to a team that is ranked behind Tennessee. This ranking is one of those that is so utterly and inexcusably bad, that any voter who made this decision should not be voting at all. And in fact, I suspect that if you were to throw out all the ballots that ranked UCLA ahead of Tennessee, the whole AP poll would look a lot more sensible. Starting with #1.

The reason UCLA moved ahead of Tennessee in the final poll is because Tennessee lost by 25 to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, while UCLA beat Texas A&M by 6 in the Cotton Bowl. But when you consider that Nebraska had just beaten A&M by 39 in the Big 12 title game, this whole fiasco makes even less sense.

Move Tennessee to #5, dropping UCLA to #6 and North Carolina to #7. Tennessee can remain behind SEC runner-up Florida because the Gators beat the Volunteers, and though they were upset twice in SEC play, they made up for one of those games by upsetting #3 Florida State in their finale.

Incidentally, Washington State (#9, 10-2) also beat UCLA, thereby winning the PAC 10, and I would rank WSU ahead of the Bruins myself, but the AP poll has a case here, because WSU's win was a close home win (37-34), they were upset by Arizona State, and UCLA outperformed WSU on the season, though not by much.

Washington

Here is another head-to-head result that was unfairly dismissed. Washington (8-4, #18) beat Arizona State (9-3, #14) 26-14. Now, ASU did finish one game better in PAC 10 play, but they lost that advantage in nonconference play, losing 13-10 at home to 6-5 Brigham Young (a team Washington beat on the road 42-20). So the two teams are even, with Washington getting the head-to-head tiebreaker (Washington had an extra loss because they played Nebraska). So let's move Washington up ahead of ASU.

That puts Louisiana State (9-3, #13) right in front of Washington. LSU defeated only one rated opponent, and though it was a big one (28-21 over #4 Florida), they were upset by 2 lower-rated opponents (#22 Mississippi and unrated Notre Dame, both at home, and by 15 and 18 points). Washington also defeated only one rated opponent (ASU by 26-14), but they defeated another two who will make the fixed top 25 (6-5 Southern Cal and 7-5 Arizona, by 27 and 30 points) , and they lost to only one lower-rated opponent (7-5 Oregon, who will also make the fixed top 25, beat the Huskies by 3). Even if you disregard USC, Oregon, and Arizona coming into the fixed top 25, Washington still comes out better than LSU due to not getting stomped in their upset loss (as LSU was in both of theirs, and at home no less), winning by more than a touchdown in all 8 of their wins (LSU had 2 close wins), and defeating 5 winning opponents to LSU's 3. So lets move Washington on up ahead of LSU.

That puts Ohio State (10-3, #12) right in front of Washington. Ohio State did not defeat a single rated opponent, while Washington did. Now, 7-5 Arizona will be entering the fixed top 25, giving Ohio State a 28-20 win at home over one rated opponent. But all of Washington's wins were by more than a touchdown (including 58-28 at Arizona!), and Arizona and USC's entrance into the top 25 will give Washington 3 wins over rated opponents to OSU's 1.

Move Washington to #12, Ohio State to #13, LSU to #14, ASU to #15, and Purdue, Penn State, and Colorado State all drop a spot.

Penn State

And here we go again. Penn State (9-3, originally #16) won at Purdue (9-3, #15) 42-17. I would call that resounding. And they had the same conference record, as well as the same straight record, and the game took place in November (their 10th game), all of which makes rating PSU behind Purdue all the more inexcusable. But wait, there's more. Purdue's nonconference loss came to unranked Toledo (by 2 touchdowns!), whereas PSU's came to #4 Florida.

But wait, there is even more! Purdue did not play Michigan or Ohio State this season, the top two teams in the conference, whereas PSU did (beating Ohio State). Switch those games around (PSU playing Iowa and Indiana, and Purdue playing Michigan and Ohio State), and Purdue finishes 7-5, PSU 10-2. Switch their bowl opponents around (Purdue playing Florida and PSU playing Oklahoma State), and Purdue finishes 6-6, PSU 11-1.

All of which goes to say, these teams are in reality not even close, as just a cursory look at their schedules should reveal (let alone PSU actually beating Purdue 42-17 on their home field). This is even worse than rating Tennessee behind UCLA, and quite possibly the worst case of this kind that I have ever seen. Not only should those who made this choice not be voting in the AP poll, they should not be entrusted with any decisions whatsoever. And you know these same people are voting for senators and congressmen we all have to live with. Which goes to explain why Washington D.C. is perpetually overrun with "1997 Purdues." So to speak.

This much is certain-- people who try to tell you that Purdue had a better season in 1997 than Penn State are the last people on the planet you should be listening to as to whether Michigan or Nebraska should be #1.

Switch 'em: Penn State to #16, Purdue to #17.
 

Mississippi

Mississippi (8-4, #22) has one loss to an unranked opponent, and one win over a higher-ranked opponent (36-21 at now-#14 LSU). That gives them a better relevant record than every team ranked ahead of them up to Penn State. The aforementioned Purdue (9-3, now-#17), for example, has two losses to unranked opponents and one win over a ranked opponent (8-4 Oklahoma State, #24). Because Mississippi has one less upset loss, and because they defeated a team that is ranked higher than Purdue, Ole Miss is effectively two games better than Purdue. They have one more loss than Purdue only because they played 4 rated opponents to Purdue's 1.

Move Mississippi up ahead of Purdue, to #17, dropping Purdue and all the teams that had been between Purdue and Mississippi one spot each. In fact, maybe it's time we looked more closely at Purdue...

Purdue and Michigan State

Clearly Purdue was ranked so highly to begin with solely because of their impressive-looking 9-3 straight record. So basically the AP poll voters rewarded them for not playing Michigan and Ohio State. If they had played those 2 teams, they would have had the same record as the rest of the middle-of-the-conference teams: 7-5 Michigan State, 8-5 Wisconsin, and 7-5 Iowa. I think Purdue should be ranked higher than Wisconsin, whom they beat 45-20, and even Iowa, despite getting trounced by the Hawkeyes 35-17. But what about Michigan State?

Purdue did beat Michigan State head-to-head, albeit only 22-21 at home, so it was far from decisive. But Purdue lost to two unrated opponents (Iowa and Toledo), whereas MSU lost to only one (Northwestern). That makes them even. However, Michigan State also destroyed now-#16 Penn State 49-14, a team that, again, beat Purdue 42-17. That makes Michigan State effectively one game better than Purdue.

Furthermore, Michigan State performed much better than Purdue. Purdue lost their one game against a ranked opponent by 25 points, while MSU was outscored by their 5 ranked opponents by an average of only 7 points.  And Purdue outscored their unranked opponents by an average of 14 points, MSU by 20.

So clearly Michigan State should be ranked ahead of Purdue. The question is, where do we rank them? Purdue was originally ranked #15, and Michigan State was in the "also receiving votes" section at #34. That makes for an average ranking right at the bottom of the top 25. But since Purdue beat #24 Oklahoma State in their bowl game, we'll insert Michigan State and Purdue just ahead of the Cowboys. That puts Michigan State in at #23, and drops Purdue down to #24. All the teams that had been between Purdue and Oklahoma State move up a spot, and Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech each drop one, pushing Georgia Tech out of the top 25. But not for long...

Syracuse

Not much to say here. Syracuse (9-4, #21) had a big three losses to unranked opponents and no win against a rated opponent. One of their losses came at home to 6-5 North Carolina State, and they should be ranked behind the Wolfpack, out of the top 25.

That moves Missouri to #21, Michigan State to #22, Purdue to #23, Oklahoma State to #24, and Georgia Tech comes back in at #25. But not for long...

Southern Cal and Oregon

Southern Cal (6-5, unranked) is an unusual team this season in that they did not lose to any unranked opponents (unlike the bottom 15 teams in the AP poll's top 25!). In fact, all five of their losses came to teams now ranked in the top 15. And they lost to 3 top 10 teams (Florida State, Washington State, and UCLA) by only 7 points each, which is the performance of a #11-25 type team. Colorado State (11-2, originally ranked #17), on the other hand, lost to two unranked opponents, and both by more than a touchdown.

USC may be 6-5, but against CSU's incredibly weak schedule they go 13-0. Schedule is everything.

Oregon (7-5, unranked) is a similar story, except that they lost to USC, and also lost to one unranked opponent (Stanford). But they made up for the upset loss with an upset win over now-#12 Washington. Oregon did not perform as strongly as USC, and in fact barely won early games against Nevada and Fresno State by 4 and 3 points, two teams Colorado State beat by 32 and 38 points. But CSU, of course, had even worse performances against unranked teams, losing to two of them. One of those losses came 24-0 at home against Air Force, a team Oregon beat 41-13 in the Las Vegas Bowl. CSU performed very strongly in the second half of the season, but so did Oregon, while playing a much tougher schedule.

We'll move USC and Oregon into the top 25 ahead of Colorado State, putting them at #18 and #19. Colorado State and all the teams behind them drop 2 spots, pushing Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech out of the top 25.

And those two teams would have dropped anyway. Oklahoma State (8-4, originally ranked #24) beat no ranked teams, and in fact beat no winning teams, and they lost 27-3 to Texas Tech (6-5, unranked). They belong ranked behind Texas Tech, out of the top 25.

Georgia Tech (7-5, #25) lost to Virginia (7-4, unranked), and should not have been ranked ahead of them. At the end of the regular season, 6-5 GT unfairly got a bowl invite over 7-4 UVA, then snuck into the final top 25 by edging 7-5 West Virginia 35-30 in the Carquest Bowl. Not very impressive, especially when you consider that UVA beat 7-5 Virginia Tech 34-20 in their finale. But with no bowl game for the Cavaliers, the writers forgot about Virginia, their better record, and the fact that they beat Georgia Tech.

Arizona

Arizona (7-5, unranked) makes a third 5-loss PAC 10 team that I think belongs in the top 25. They have no losses to unranked teams, other than a loss to Oregon, who is now in. And they defeated now-#15 Arizona State 28-16 in their finale. That makes them effectively three games better than Colorado State. I would certainly rank them ahead of CSU myself. However, after long thought on the matter, I think the AP poll has some call for ranking CSU ahead of Arizona.

Arizona's win over ASU definitely looks like a rivalry-fueled anomaly, as they did not perform that way in any other game on their schedule. In fact, they repeatedly struggled against unranked opponents, winning such games by 3, 6, 3, and 6 points. One of those was a 31-28 home win over San Diego State, a team CSU beat 38-17 on the road. Another was a 20-14 home win over New Mexico in the Insight.com bowl, and CSU beat NM in the WAC title game 41-13. So unlike Oregon, Arizona did not finish strong (they also won at home by only 41-38 over 3-8 Cal in their 10th game). CSU did finish strong, stomping on all of their last 6 opponents.

However, Southern Miss (9-3, originally ranked #19) does not have much of a case for being rated higher than Arizona. They were beaten 27-13 by 4-7 Alabama, and unlike CSU, they beat no ranked opponents.

So we'll slide Arizona in between Colorado State and Southern Miss, at #21. Southern Miss and all the teams behind them drop a spot, pushing Purdue out of the top 25.

That makes for a lot of PAC 10 teams in the fixed AP top 25, but it shouldn't be much of a surprise. While the SEC was the best conference in 1997 at 37-5, the PAC 10's mark of 28-8 is the 5th best record for any conference over 20 years to that point. And they matched the SEC's 5-1 bowl record. 

Fixed AP Top 25

Wow, it's nice to finally be writing the conclusion. This AP poll took an enormous amount of time to fix. That is because it is probably the worst one I've fixed thus far. It had a full 7 teams that I would likely not rank myself (some of which remain), and the Penn State/Purdue debacle has to be the single worst rating error I've seen yet.

Four teams fall out of the fixed AP poll: Purdue, Syracuse, Oklahoma State, and Georgia Tech. The teams that replace them are Southern Cal, Oregon, Arizona, and Michigan State. Not counting games against each other, the four that fall out had 0 wins against rated opponents and 8 loses to unranked opponents. The teams that replace them had 3 wins against rated opponents and only 3 losses to unranked opponents. So we're looking at a huge upgrade, even though the old teams were 1-0 against the new teams head-to-head (Purdue's 22-21 home win against Michigan State).

Just like my last fixed poll (1998), Purdue finishes at #26, just outside the top 25. That is some harsh luck.

My own top 25 would look even more different, dumping Colorado State, Southern Miss, Texas A&M, Missouri, and Michigan State (let alone Purdue) for
7-4 Mississippi State, 7-5 Clemson, 6-5 North Carolina State, 7-4 Virginia, and 7-5 Georgia Tech (whom the AP poll originally ranked, but not behind Virginia, where they belong). That is a lot of ACC teams, but then the ACC, at 22-9, was the third best conference, significantly better than the Big 10 or Big 12. Yet the ACC only has 2 teams rated in either the original or fixed AP polls, half what the Big 12 and Big 10 placed in either top 25.

However, I could see a case, even if a weak one, for the AP poll retaining the listed teams (CSU, USM, A&M, etc.), and for all those middle-ACC teams (as well as Mississippi State) to remain outside the fixed top 25. So there they all remain.

Interestingly, my own top 25 would leave both Nebraska and Michigan with an equal 3 rated opponents, which would greatly strengthen the case for Michigan to at least share #1 with Nebraska.

1) Nebraska 13-0+1
2) Michigan 12-0-1
3) Florida State 11-1--
4) Florida 10-2--
5) Tennessee 11-2+2
6) UCLA 10-2-1
7) North Carolina 11-1-1
8) Kansas State 11-1--
9) Washington State 10-2--
10) Georgia 10-2--
11) Auburn 10-3--
12) Washington 8-4+6
13) Ohio State 10-3-1
14) Louisiana State 9-3-1
15) Arizona State 9-3-1
16) Penn State 9-3--
17) Mississippi 8-4+5
18) Southern Cal 6-5IN
19) Oregon 7-5IN
20) Colorado State 11-2-3
21) Arizona 7-5IN
22) Southern Miss 9-3-3
23) Texas A&M 9-4-3
24) Missouri 7-5-1
25) Michigan State 7-5IN

OUT: #15 Purdue 9-3
#21 Syracuse 9-4
#24 Oklahoma State 8-4
#25 Georgia Tech 7-5

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