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Fixing the Final 2007 AP College Football Poll

1) Louisiana State 12-2
2) Georgia 11-2
3) Southern Cal 11-2
4) Missouri 12-2
5) Ohio State 11-2
6) West Virginia 11-2
7) Kansas 12-1
8) Oklahoma 11-3
9) Virginia Tech 11-3
10) Boston College 11-3
      Texas 10-3
12) Tennessee 10-4
13) Florida 9-4
14) Brigham Young 11-2
15) Auburn 9-4
16) Arizona State 10-3
17) Cincinnati 10-3
18) Michigan 9-4
19) Hawaii 12-1
20) Illinois 9-4
21) Clemson 9-4
22) Texas Tech 9-4
23) Oregon 9-4
24) Wisconsin 9-4
25) Oregon State 9-4


At left is the final 2007 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. 

Most of the fixes to this edition of the AP poll revolve around three sets of head-to-head chains:

  • West Virginia > Oklahoma > Missouri > Kansas
  • Auburn > Florida > Tennessee
  • Oregon State > Oregon > Michigan

Let's start with the one near the top: #6 West Virginia (11-2) crushed #8 Oklahoma (11-3, Big 12 champion) in the Fiesta Bowl 48-28, Oklahoma whipped #4 Missouri (12-2) twice (41-31, then 38-17 in the Big 12 title game), and Missouri won at #7 Kansas (12-1) 36-28 in their regular season finale.

The real egregious thing here is Missouri being rated #4 while Oklahoma is #8. In this case, AP voters ignored not one, but two head-to-head results, both by more than a touchdown. In fact, their second meeting, in the Big 12 title game, was a beatdown by 3 touchdowns. I'm really not sure what these voters needed to see here. A third win? Would seven do it?




LSU-Ohio State in 2007 National Championship Game

Louisiana State came out on top 38-24 in the national championship game.

The First Fix

For the first fix, we'll drop Missouri behind West Virginia and raise Oklahoma ahead of Missouri. That moves Ohio State up to #4, WV to #5, Oklahoma to #6, Missouri to #7, and Kansas to #8. And congratulations to Sports Illustrated writer and AP poll voter Stewart Mandel for seeing this chain of teams correctly and ordering them properly. As he noted then, head-to-head results should be heeded. Unfortunately, he joined his fellow voters in not seeing the next two head-to-head chains.

Oregon State, Oregon, and Michigan

For the next head-to-head chain, we'll cast our eyes from the top of the poll to the bottom, specifically to #18 Michigan, #23 Oregon, and #25 Oregon State, all 9-4. In fact, since these teams all had the same record, it should have been easier to see this chain than the above one. Looking at the order the AP poll chose to rank these teams, you might never suspect that Oregon State won at Oregon 38-31 in OT, and especially that Oregon won at Michigan by a ridiculously decisive 39-7. The AP poll, oddly enough, ranks them in the opposite order.

Based on the poll's relative positions of the involved teams (#18 to #25), the fix here calls for the following reshuffle: #18 Hawaii, #19 Clemson, #20 Oregon State, #21 Oregon, #22 Michigan, #23 Illinois (they drop because they must remain behind Michigan, who beat them), #24 Texas Tech, and #25 Wisconsin.

Auburn, Florida, and Tennessee

Our third head-to-head chain is very similar, but it involves three SEC teams right in the middle of the poll: #12 Tennessee (10-4), #13 Florida (9-4), and #15 Auburn (9-4). Again, all of them had 4 losses, and again, the AP poll ranked them in the opposite order of their head-to-head results. On the field of play, Auburn won at Florida 20-17, and Florida beat the poo-poo out of Tennessee 59-20.

So we'll just move Auburn up a few places to #12, ahead of #13 Florida, and drop Tennessee behind Florida to #14. That drops previous #14 Brigham Young down to...

Brigham Young

Whoa... what? Did I just see Brigham Young at #14? Look, I know they were 11-2, and that is nice and all, but Valdosta State went 13-1 that season, against perhaps a tougher schedule. And I don't see Valdosta State in here. BYU lost to 2 unranked opponents, and defeated no ranked opponents (and no teams even close to being ranked). Their greatest accomplishment was their 17-16 Las Vegas Bowl win over 6-7 UCLA (to whom they lost by 10 points in the regular season). And a 1-point win over a team that would rank somewhere around #40-60 actually indicates that BYU is themselves around #40-60. So their greatest accomplishment doesn't do them any favors (except with AP poll voters, who merely see 11-2 and pencil them in... at 14! It is a really good thing these guys don't live in Vegas).

The fix here... drop Brigham Young to somewhere between #40 and #60. Actually, you can think of them as #26 for all I care. Now... some might say, "Yo, what about Hawaii?... they didn't play anyone either." True. But they also didn't lose to any of those unranked opponents they played (let alone twice). Personally, I would not rank Hawaii in my own top 25. But they are a valid choice for the AP poll voters, so remain they shall.

And while I'm at it, allow me to say that I find Southern Cal to be overrated at #3 too. I'd probably put them at the bottom of the top ten, maybe even lower. But that's just my personal opinion on the matter. The AP poll has a valid argument here, largely because one of USC's 2 upset losses came against Oregon while Dennis Dixon was still the quarterback. Oregon fell apart after his injury, but before that they sure did look like a top 5 team, and there's no harm in losing to a top 5 team. So the AP poll can keep their precious Trojans where they have them.

The point is, while you can argue over any team's ranking, some placements are just a matter of taste (like Hawaii and Southern Cal), and others are flat-out illogical and indefensible (like Brigham Young). Anyway, when we drop Brigham Young out, everyone behind them moves up a spot, opening up the #25 slot for a new team.

Penn State

The next team waiting in the "also receiving votes" section is 9-4 Virginia, but they have 2 losses to unranked opponents and no wins against ranked opponents. However, the team after that, 9-4 Penn State, has only one loss to an unranked opponent, and they also have one win over a ranked opponent (and a nice one, 38-7 over Wisconsin!). So the slot goes to Penn State. Virginia's relevant record looks a lot like Brigham Young's, and in fact, given that Virginia lost to Wyoming 23-3, and that BYU beat Wyoming 35-10, I suppose it's fine to slide BYU ahead of Virginia at #26. Not that it matters. The thin line that separates #25 from #26 is the same line that separates immortality from oblivion.

Penn State at #25, right behind Wisconsin. Now, some might say, "Yo, what about head-to-head? You just said PSU beat Wisconsin 38-7! And they're both 9-4." They are indeed both 9-4, but their relevant records are not equal. Wisconsin was 5-3 in the Big 10, while PSU was 4-4 (Wisconsin defeated Michigan and Michigan State, 2 teams PSU lost to). The reason their straight records are the same is because Wisconsin played #12 (now fixed to #14) Tennessee in their bowl game and lost 21-17, while PSU played unranked 7-6 Texas A&M in their bowl game and won 24-17. Those results are not really relevant-- if anything, they only corroborate Wisconsin's higher ranking.

Texas

One adjustment remains: let's take a look at 10-3 Texas, who shares the #10 spot with Boston College. Texas had 2 losses to unranked teams: a 41-21 debacle to 5-7 Kansas State early and a 38-30 loss to 7-6 Texas A&M in their regular season finale. Their performance was lousy in too many of their wins too: an 8 point win over Arkansas State, and 3 point wins over Central Florida, a losing Nebraska, and 7-6 Oklahoma State. That does not sound like a #10 team, and does not compare well to the performances of the three SEC teams behind them.

Tennessee, now the lowest-ranked of those three teams, also had a number of poor performances, and also had two losses to unranked opponents, but they made up for one of them with a huge 35-14 win over #2 Georgia. Texas has no win close to that. Both Tennessee and Texas defeated two ranked teams total, but whereas Tennessee beat five bowl-qualifying unranked opponents, Texas only beat two.


So... drop Texas to #14, and move Auburn, Florida, and Tennessee up a spot. Supporting this shift is also this fact: the SEC was a staggering 47-10 against nonconference opponents that year, while the Big 12 was well back of that mark at 41-19.

Fixed AP Top 25

And that wraps her up. For all the shifting around, this time we have just one team out (Brigham Young) and one team in (Penn State). PSU had one less loss to an unranked opponent than did BYU, and one more win against the top 25, so this is an upgrade. Again.

1) Louisiana State 12-2--
2) Georgia 11-2--
3) Southern Cal 11-2--
4) Ohio State 11-2+1
5) West Virginia 11-2+1
6) Oklahoma 11-3+2
7) Missouri 12-2-3
8) Kansas 12-1-1
9) Virginia Tech 11-3--
10) Boston College 11-3+0.5
11) Auburn 9-4+4
12) Florida 9-4+1
13) Tennessee 10-4-1
14) Texas 10-3-3.5
15) Arizona State 10-3+1
16) Cincinnati 10-3+1
17) Hawaii 12-1+2
18) Clemson 9-4+3
19) Oregon State 9-4+6
20) Oregon 9-4+3
21) Michigan 9-4-3
22) Illinois 9-4-2
23) Texas Tech 9-4-1
24) Wisconsin 9-4--
25) Penn State 9-4IN

OUT: #14 Brigham Young 11-2

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