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Fixing the Final 1999 AP College Football Poll

1) Florida State 12-0
2) Virginia Tech 11-1
3) Nebraska 12-1
4) Wisconsin 10-2
5) Michigan 10-2
6) Kansas State 11-1
7) Michigan State 10-2
8) Alabama 10-3
9) Tennessee 9-3
10) Marshall 13-0
11) Penn State 10-3
12) Florida 9-4
13) Mississippi State 10-2
14) Southern Miss 9-3
15) Miami (Florida) 9-4
16) Georgia 8-4
17) Arkansas 8-4
18) Minnesota 8-4
19) Oregon 9-3
20) Georgia Tech 8-4
21) Texas 9-5
22) Mississippi 8-4
23) Texas A&M 8-4
24) Illinois 8-4
25) Purdue 7-5


To the left is the final 1999 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. 

As with the 2000 AP poll, most of the fixing involved accounting for head-to-head results that the AP poll ignored.

For a change, it is not the SEC that was underrated in 1999. It was the Big Ten. Which is saying a lot, because the AP poll already had seven Big 10 teams ranked! But most of them will be moving up as we fix the poll.

Let's kick this off with an example of both an ignored head-to-head result and an underrated Big 10 team.
10-2 Michigan State (#7) defeated 10-2 Michigan (#5) 34-31. It was a close home win, but I see no reason at all to ignore it. MSU had 2 poor performances, but Michigan had 3. And MSU played a crazy 8 rated opponents to Michigan's 6. Both were strong down the stretch, while playing almost exactly the same teams, but even here MSU has the advantage, having beaten Ohio State 23-7, while Michigan beat them 24-17. There's really no excuse for rating Michigan higher here, other than a baffling degree of laziness.

So we'll move Michigan State to #5, Michigan to #6, and drop Kansas State to #7.
 


Vick against FSU 1999 championship game

Michael Vick led Virginia Tech to a 29-28 lead against Florida State, but he ran out of gas in the 4th quarter, and FSU pulled away to win the title game 46-29.

Kansas State

11-1 Kansas State is a very tough case, and I spent a lot of time looking at them. Their schedule was, as per usual under Bill Snyder, a complete joke. Their performances were generally very strong, but they still barely beat unranked opponents Iowa State and Colorado, and in their bowl game they edged unranked Washington 24-20. They beat just one ranked opponent (#21 Texas), and got drilled 41-15 by #3 Nebraska. I myself would rank them at least 5 places lower than the AP poll does.

However, 10-3 Alabama, who now sits right behind them, took an ugly upset loss to a very weak Louisiana Tech team. Now, for me, that fact is drowned out by the fact that the rest of Alabama's season was overwhelmingly better than Kansas State's. They beat 6 ranked opponents to KSU's 1 for crying out loud! And KSU compares even less well with other teams behind Alabama, such as Tennessee, Penn State, and Florida.

Aside from Alabama's loss to Louisiana Tech, the only argument in KSU's favor is an appeal to ignorance. Meaning that we cannot know for certain how well or poorly KSU would have played against Alabama's schedule.

But we do know that KSU did not lose to a team as weak as Louisiana Tech. So the AP voters can keep them ahead of Alabama. It's tough, because I don't believe for a second that KSU would have had a chance against Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, or Penn State. And I don't think the AP voters themselves believed that either. So we're really just rewarding Bill Snyder for his scheduling cowardice. But I'll hold my nose and move on now...

Florida 

9-4 Florida (#12) defeated 9-3 Tennessee (#9) 23-21, which is why they won the East division of the SEC. The reason they have an extra loss is because they played #1 Florida State, whereas Tennessee played no strong nonconference opponent in the regular season, and because Florida played in and lost the SEC championship game to #8 Alabama. In real terms, Florida is actually a game better than Tennessee.

Move Florida to #9, Tennessee to #10, and Marshall and Penn State each drop a spot.

Marshall and Penn State

13-0 Marshall, of course, played no rated opponents. Their performances were very strong, and that might have been enough for them to remain ranked ahead of Penn State if not for a close 34-30 win over a weak Western Michigan team in the MAC title game. That gives Marshall 2 poor performances to PSU's 1 (and that one was an early rivalry game with Pittsburgh). PSU was upset 24-23 by #18 Minnesota, but Marshall did not even play a ranked opponent, while PSU defeated 4.

I myself would rank Penn State #7, right behind Michigan State and Michigan (they lost very close games to both). But the AP voters have a (weak) case for keeping Tennessee ahead of Penn State, so we'll just switch Marshall and PSU around and leave it at that. PSU to #11 and Marshall to #12.

Southern Miss

It's that time again. Time to kick a little big team to the curb. This time it's 9-3 Southern Miss, ranked a head-scratching #14. As is so often the case with these little bigs, USM defeated no ranked teams. And they lost 23-6 at #23 Texas A&M. So let's drop them back behind the Aggies. That puts USM at #23, and moves Texas A&M and all the teams that were between A&M and USM up one spot.

Mississippi

If the AP poll voters would just pay a little bit of attention, most of this repair work I'm doing would not be necessary. 8-4 Mississippi (originally ranked #22) defeated 8-4 Arkansas (#17) 38-16. Can it get any clearer than that? Move Mississippi up ahead of Arkansas, where they belong. That puts Ole Miss at #16, Arkansas at #17, and the teams that had been between them all drop a spot.

Purdue

Four of the five fixes to this AP top 25 so far have involved simple accounting for head-to-head results, and here comes another one. 7-5 Purdue (#25) won at 8-4 Minnesota (#18) 33-28. It was close, but the site of the game makes it solid. The only reason Minnesota has one less loss than Purdue is because Minnesota did not play Michigan or Michigan State, both 10-2 top 10 teams. Purdue, on the other hand, played all four of the top Big 10 teams. On top of that, Minnesota lost their bowl game to a lower-ranked opponent (Oregon), whereas Purdue lost their bowl game in overtime to a higher-ranked opponent (Georgia). This is not close.

Move Purdue up ahead of Minnesota, to #18, drop Minnesota to #19, and of course all the teams that had been between Minnesota and Purdue also drop a spot.

Ohio State

Can a 6-6 team be one of the best 25 teams in the nation? Of course. It all depends on schedule. After all, if you were to take the top 10 teams from any season, and have them play an entire schedule of nothing but games against each other, some of those teams would have losing records.

I bring this up because Ohio State was 6-6 in 1999, and of course unranked. But all six of their losses came to ranked teams, and they defeated Purdue (now #18) and Minnesota (now #19). Ohio State has a better relevant record than any team ranked behind Minnesota in the poll, and in fact they have a better relevant record than Minnesota. So given that they won at Minnesota 20-17, we'll move Ohio State into the top 25 at #19, dropping Minnesota to #20, and also dropping every team behind Minnesota one spot. That moves Illinois out of the top 25... but not for long...

Illinois

8-4 Illinois lost to an unranked opponent (Indiana), but they defeated two ranked opponents (Ohio State and Michigan). That gives them a better relevant record than any team ranked ahead of them up until Minnesota (who beat them 37-7). So we'll move them up to just behind Minnesota, at #21, thereby dropping all the teams that had been behind Minnesota one spot. That drops Southern Miss out. Who beat no team of real value anyway.

At this point you may have noticed that most of the teams moving up are Big Ten teams. That is no surprise, as the Big 10 was a national best 33-9 against nonconference opponents in 1999. The AP poll originally had 7 Big Ten teams ranked, quite impressive. And Ohio State makes an 8th ranked team.

Fixed AP Top 25

Southern Miss is the only team to drop out of the top 25, and they are one of the best teams to drop out of a fixed top 25 yet. They had no win against a ranked team, but they also did not lose to an unranked opponent. However, the fact is, if they wanted to legitimately make the top 25, they simply could not afford to lose to Texas A&M, who is sitting at #25.

The team that replaces them, Ohio State, also did not lose to an unranked opponent, but they did defeat two ranked opponents, so they are an upgrade. Sorry, Southern Miss.

1) Florida State 12-0--
2) Virginia Tech 11-1--
3) Nebraska 12-1--
4) Wisconsin 10-2--
5) Michigan State 10-2+2
6) Michigan 10-2-1
7) Kansas State 11-1-1
8) Alabama 10-3--
9) Florida 9-4+3
10) Tennessee 9-3-1
11) Penn State 10-3--
12) Marshall 13-0-2
13) Mississippi State 10-2--
14) Miami-Florida 9-4+1
15) Georgia 8-4+1
16) Mississippi 8-4+6
17) Arkansas 8-4--
18) Purdue 7-5+7
19) Ohio State 6-6IN
20) Minnesota 8-4-2
21) Illinois 8-4+3
22) Oregon 9-3-3
23) Georgia Tech 8-4-3
24) Texas 9-5-3
25) Texas A&M 8-4-2

OUT: #14 Southern Miss 9-3

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