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Fixing the Final 2002 AP College Football Poll

1) Ohio State 14-0
2) Miami (FL) 12-1
3) Georgia 13-1
4) Southern Cal 11-2
5) Oklahoma 12-2
6) Texas 11-2
7) Kansas State 11-2
8) Iowa 11-2
9) Michigan 10-3
10) Washington State 10-3
11) Alabama 10-3
12) North Carolina State 11-3
13) Maryland 11-3
14) Auburn 9-4
15) Boise State 12-1
16) Penn State 9-4
17) Notre Dame 10-3
18) Texas Tech 10-4
19) Pittsburgh 9-4
20) Colorado 9-5
21) Florida State 9-5
22) Virginia 9-5
23) Texas Christian 10-2
24) Marshall 11-2
25) West Virginia 9-4

 
To the left is the final 2002 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. 

AP poll voters did a much better job in 2002 than they did in 2003, so there is a shorter list of fixes this time.


The first teams that stand out as I look over this top 25 are #12 North Carolina State and #13 Maryland, both 11-3. Both of them took all 3 of their losses to lower-ranked teams, and neither defeated a team in the top 11, so they are almost certainly overrated.

9-4 Auburn, for example, sits behind them despite having only 2 losses to lower-ranked teams and 1 win over a top 11 team. And 9-4 Penn State does not have a loss to a lower-ranked team at all. Then there's 10-3 Notre Dame, with the same number of losses as NC State and Maryland, but only one loss to a lower-ranked team, and one win over a top 11 team. Plus they beat Maryland 22-0!

So should NC State and Maryland drop behind Notre Dame? Maryland definitely should, and NC State has a worse relevant record than Notre Dame, but there is one problem here: NC State defeated Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl by the decisive score of 28-6.



Pass interference flag that saved the 2002 college football national championship for Ohio State

The 2002 season's play of the year. As Miami players celebrated winning the national championship, referee Terry Porter reviewed the last play in his mind's eye, then threw the late and controversial flag for pass interference that gave Ohio State another shot, which they used to win the national championship themselves.

North Carolina State and Maryland

North Carolina State lost to Maryland 24-21, and again, Notre Dame beat Maryland 22-0. That makes NC State and Notre Dame even, with NC State having a big edge due to their bowl win over Notre Dame. Both NC State and Notre Dame lost to an unranked opponent, but NC State also lost to another lower-rated team, #22 Virginia. That gives Notre Dame a one game lead in relevant record. Add in Notre Dame's upset win over #9 Michigan, and Notre Dame is effectively two games better than NC State. So even if you count NC State's bowl win twice, Notre Dame still has the better relevant record.

So we'll drop North Carolina State and Maryland behind Notre Dame, putting them at #16 and #17. Auburn, Boise State, Penn State, and Notre Dame all move up 2 spots.

At this point, you might wonder if Maryland, having beaten NC State, should be ranked higher than the Wolfpack. Perhaps, but the AP poll makes a valid choice in ranking NC State higher. It's just that Florida State should be ranked between them...

Florida State

9-5 Florida State, ranked #21, was actually the ACC champion. They lost to NC State 17-7, and defeated Maryland 37-10. The Seminoles finished 2 games better than NC State in ACC play, but that advantage is wiped away by nonconference play, where FSU lost to unranked Louisville, and NC State defeated Notre Dame (whom FSU lost to 34-24). But FSU definitely belongs ahead of Maryland due to their very decisive win over them. The only reason FSU has 2 more losses than Maryland is because they played #2 Miami and #3 Georgia, whereas Maryland played no top ten teams.

Move FSU up to #17, drop Maryland to #18, and of course the teams that were between Maryland and FSU drop a spot.

West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech

AP poll voters did not appear to pay attention to Big East play at all, ranking Virginia Tech #18, Pittsburgh #19, and West Virginia #25. That is the opposite order in which these teams defeated each other, and opposite to how they finished in Big East play. West Virginia's only conference loss came to Miami. They beat Virginia Tech 21-18 and Pittsburgh 24-17, both on the road. Pittsburgh was 5-2 in Big East play, and won at Virginia Tech 28-21. Virginia Tech was 3-4 in Big East play.

So we'll raise West Virginia and drop Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech behind them in the proper order. As #22 Virginia crushed West Virginia in a bowl game, we'll put them all behind Virginia. That creates the following shift: Colorado #19, Virginia #20, West Virginia #21, Pittsburgh #22, Virginia Tech #23, Texas Christian #24, and Marshall #25.

Wisconsin

At 8-6, Wisconsin did not come close to making the AP top 25. After all, they had 6 losses, and two of them were ugly ones to unranked Indiana and Illinois. On the other hand, they also defeated two top 25 opponents, West Virginia 34-17 and Colorado 31-28 in the Alamo Bowl (and being a bowl game gives it greater weight). The dominating head-to-head win over West Virginia should put them into the top 25 ahead of the Mountaineers (the bowl win over Colorado gives them an equal relevant record to West Virginia's).

Move Wisconsin into the top 25 at #21, and drop West Virginia and everyone behind them one spot each. As a side note, another factor in Wisconsin's defense is the fact that the Big 10 was 38-15 against nonconference opponents in 2002, best in the FBS.

Boise State

Boise State, 12-1 and originally ranked #15, played no rated opponents at all, and lost at unranked Arkansas 41-14. I would likely not rank them in a top 25 myself. But their loss came early (game 2), and they destroyed every other opponent they played (the closest anyone else got to them was 17 points). Just how good they were we'll never know thanks to their weak schedule and college football's weak bowl system (which pitted them in a meaningless game with Iowa State), but their performance is strong enough to let the AP poll keep them ranked. But how high?

The best I can do for the voters here is to keep Boise State ranked higher than Colorado, and behind Maryland. The AP poll originally had Maryland ranked ahead of Boise State anyway. Maryland did not lose to an unranked opponent, defeated two ranked opponents, and like Boise State they had no close wins over unranked opponents. So Boise State has no argument against them at all.

Drop Boise State to #18, move Maryland up to #17, and of course all the teams that were between Boise State and Maryland move up one spot.

Boston College

11-2 Marshall, originally ranked #24, has by now fallen out of the fixed top 25, and currently sitting at #25 (originally #23) is 10-2 Texas Christian. TCU has 2 losses to unranked opponents (Cincinnati and East Carolina), no wins over ranked opponents, and repeated poor performances (close wins over North Texas, Tulane, and Memphis). We can certainly find a better top 25 team than that.

Florida, 8-5 and sitting just outside the top 25 at #26, also has 2 losses to unranked teams, but they have wins over #3 Georgia, now-#12 Auburn, and 8-5 Tennessee. That is no comparison. I myself would rank Florida around #15 or so.

But 9-4 Boston College has en even better relevant record, with no losses to unranked opponents and an upset win over now-#14 Notre Dame. They also performed better than Florida (and needless to say, much better than TCU). Once the AP poll makes the decision that Florida is worse than all the teams BC lost to (which I disagree with, but is a valid decision), BC must be rated higher than Florida.

So put BC in at #25, kicking TCU to the curb.

Fixed AP Top 25

After the mess of the 2003 poll, it was nice to get an easy one. The AP voters did a much better job of it in 2002. Falling out are Texas Christian and Marshall. In their stead now stand Wisconsin and Boston College. The teams falling out had 3 losses to unranked opponents and no wins over ranked teams, while the teams coming in had 2 losses to unranked opponents and 3 wins over ranked teams. Yet another improvement.

1) Ohio State 14-0--
2) Miami-Florida 12-1--
3) Georgia 13-1--
4) Southern Cal 11-2--
5) Oklahoma 12-2--
6) Texas 11-2--
7) Kansas State 11-2--
8) Iowa 11-2--
9) Michigan 10-3--
10) Washington State 10-3--
11) Alabama 10-3--
12) Auburn 9-4+2
13) Penn State 9-4+3
14) Notre Dame 10-3+3
15) North Carolina State 11-3-3
16) Florida State 9-5+5
17) Maryland 11-3-4
18) Boise State 12-1-3
19) Colorado 9-3+1
20) Virginia 9-5+2
21) Wisconsin 8-6IN
22) West Virginia 9-4+3
23) Pittsburgh 9-4-4
24) Virginia Tech 10-4-6
25) Boston College 9-4IN

OUT: #23 Texas Christian 10-2
#24 Marshall 11-2

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