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Fixing the Final 1975 AP College Football Poll

1) Oklahoma 11-1
2) Arizona State 12-0
3) Alabama 11-1
4) Ohio State 11-1
5) UCLA 9-2-1
6) Texas 10-2
7) Arkansas 10-2
8) Michigan 8-2-2
9) Nebraska 10-2
10) Penn State 9-3
11) Texas A&M 10-2
12) Miami-Ohio 11-1
13) Maryland 9-2-1
14) California 8-3
15) Pittsburgh 8-4
16) Colorado 9-3
17) Southern Cal 8-4
18) Arizona 9-2
19) Georgia 9-3
20) West Virginia 9-3
To the left is the final 1975 AP college football top 20. You can access all of these teams' full schedules here: College Football Data Warehouse (amongst a number of other places). The fixed final AP poll, expanded to 25 teams, follows the article below. 

Forget Brigham Young 1984. History's WAC team that is most deserving of at least a share of the mythical national championship (MNC) is this 1975 Arizona State team. Why more deserving than BYU '84? Because they beat #9 Nebraska (10-2) in their bowl game, while BYU '84 didn't beat any rated teams. And they also beat #18 Arizona (9-2) and 6-5 Washington, who will make the fixed and expanded top 25. And ASU '75 had 4 close wins, while BYU '84 had 5.

But the real issue here isn't ASU '75 vs. BYU '84. It's ASU '75 vs. Oklahoma '75. Oklahoma finished #1 in 1975 despite taking a very ugly 23-3 loss to unranked 6-5 Kansas at home. Can they logically be ranked ahead of 12-0 ASU?

I'll look at this in more detail below, but the short answer is yes, they can be, though either is a valid choice for #1, and I believe that both should be considered co-MNC for 1975.
Arizona State wide receiver John Jefferson
Arizona State wide receiver John Jefferson was my favorite player as a young'un. I have never seen anyone make the kind of spectacularly acrobatic catches he did as both a college and pro player.

Oklahoma vs. Arizona State

Oklahoma took a loss, but they played a much tougher schedule than did Arizona State. The Big 8 was the top conference this season, posting a very impressive 29-7 record against nonconference opponents, and an unusually high 12 of those opponents finished rated in the AP poll. The Sooners played 5 ranked opponents to ASU's 2, and they played a huge 8 opponents who will make the fixed top 25 to ASU's 3. Furthermore, ASU faced all 3 of their strong opponents at home, and they had a couple of poor performances against unrated New Mexico and Wyoming, while Oklahoma had just 1 poor performance against an unrated team (at Miami-Florida). Both played Nebraska late in the season, Oklahoma winning 35-10 and ASU winning a very close game 17-14. Overall, Oklahoma outscored opponents who will make the fixed top 25 by 9.8 points per game, ASU by 9.7, but the difference is that Oklahoma beat unrated opponents by an average of 28.0, ASU by 21.2.

Oklahoma's schedule was so much tougher that the loss can be forgiven, and they outperformed ASU too, if not by much. So Oklahoma was a valid choice for #1. But as I said, I consider both Oklahoma and Arizona State to be co-national champions of 1975.

Nebraska

10-2 Nebraska lost only to #1 Oklahoma and to #2 Arizona State, but they ended up ranked #9 because they took those losses in their last 2 games. With the AP poll, it's not who you lose to, but when you lose. 11-1 Alabama, for instance, lost to unranked Missouri 20-7 at home, a team Nebraska beat 30-7 on the road, yet the Tide is ranked #3 because that loss came in their first game. I think it's fine to emphasize the late season games over early games, but that emphasis should be much smaller than it is for AP voters, many of whom rank teams based primarily on their last games played.

Furthermore, that emphasis has to be done in its proper context. Losing a close bowl game to a 12-0 #2 team is simply not a poor performance, and should not cause a drop in the rankings. The fact that Nebraska lost to the #1 and #2 teams should do nothing to help Alabama in comparison to Nebraska, since Alabama did not play any opponent that was even close to as strong. Whether Nebraska played those games in September or December should be irrelevant. And regardless of when Alabama lost to Missouri, the fact is that Nebraska did not lose to any opponent ranked below #2, and moreover they destroyed Missouri when they played them.

Because of Alabama's loss to Missouri, Nebraska's relevant record is effectively a game better, and Nebraska played 6 teams who will finish ranked in the fixed top 25, while Alabama played 3. The Big 8 went 29-7 against nonconference opponents, the SEC well back of that with 35-17-2. Alabama did perform very strongly this season, if against a very weak schedule, and that had me looking closely at this case, but Alabama's 13-6 Sugar Bowl win over 9-3 Penn State was not particularly impressive. On the other hand, Nebraska's 63-21 win over 9-3 Colorado-- who will be ranked higher than Penn State in the fixed poll (as covered next)-- was impressive.

Move Nebraska up to #3. Alabama drops a spot, as do all the teams that had been ranked between Alabama and Nebraska.

Colorado

The Big 8 was quite underrated this season. They had 5 teams ranked in 1976, but only 3 this season despite sporting an even better record against nonconference opponents than they posted in 1976. And while one of the 3 ranked teams was #1, Nebraska and Colorado were both highly underrated at #9 and #16. Colorado, just a year away from actually winning the conference, was the most ridiculously underrated of the conference's teams. Their only losses came to the #1, #6, and #9 teams, and now that Nebraska has been moved up to #3, you can make that the #1, #3, and #7 teams. And they defeated 8-3 Cal, who nevertheless sits 2 places ahead of them at #14, despite losing to #20 West Virginia and beating no team ranked higher than Colorado. This is a just a joke.

Let's cut to the chase and compare Colorado to 8-2-2 Michigan, who now sits at #9. All of Colorado's losses came to teams ranked higher than that, but Michigan was tied by unrated 6-4-1 Stanford and by unrated 3-6-2 Baylor, both games at home. Colorado beat 4 teams that will make the fixed top 25, Michigan 1. Colorado had 3 poor performances (2 ugly losses, albeit to higher-ranked teams, and 1 close win over Iowa State), while Michigan had 4 (the 2 ties and 2 close wins over Minnesota and Illinois).

No contest. Move Colorado all the way up to #9. Michigan drops a spot, as do all the teams that had been ranked between Michigan and Colorado.

Miami-Ohio and Maryland

Now we turn our attention from the 2 most underrated teams in the 1975 AP poll to the 2 most overrated teams, 11-1 Miami-Ohio (originally ranked #12) and 9-2-1 Maryland (#13).

Miami-Ohio lost to unrated 7-4 Michigan State, and they defeated no rated teams. They had close wins over Ball State, Ohio, Bowling Green, and Cincinnati. Looks more like #32 than #12. Maryland also failed to defeat a rated opponent, and also lost to an unrated opponent (7-5 Tennessee), but they went Miami-Ohio one further and tied 2-8-1 Kentucky. Both teams, interestingly, had trouble getting by 6-5 Cincinnati, Miami winning 21-13 and Maryland surviving 21-19.

These teams were clearly overrated and will have to drop, so now the question is, what is the highest rating we can allow the AP voters to have for these two? The answer is easy: behind #17 Southern Cal, who defeated now-#12 Texas A&M in their bowl game, and ahead of #18 Arizona, a 9-2 WAC team. Like Miami-Ohio and Maryland, Arizona lost to an unranked opponent (New Mexico) and did not defeat a ranked team.

Drop Miami-Ohio to #16 and Maryland to #17. Southern Cal, Pittsburgh, and California move up 2 slots each. But Miami and Maryland will be dropping much more before this AP poll is fully repaired.

West Virginia and Pittsburgh

9-3 West Virginia (#20) defeated 8-4 Pittsburgh (originally ranked #15) 17-14, and though it was a close home win, I don't see a good reason to dismiss it. So let's move West Virginia ahead of Pitt and place them both behind Southern Cal and ahead of Miami-Ohio.

That puts West Virginia at #15 and Pittsburgh at #16. Miami-Ohio, Maryland, Arizona, and Georgia all drop one spot, while Southern Cal moves up one.

Washington, Stanford, Southern Cal, and Texas A&M

Unranked Washington (6-5) and unranked Stanford (6-4-1) both defeated now-#14 Southern Cal (8-4), and both finished 2 games better in PAC 8 play (both were 5-2, USC 3-4). Southern Cal defeated now-#12 Texas A&M (10-2) 20-0 in the Liberty Bowl. My suggestion? Washington > Stanford > Southern Cal > Texas A&M.

Washington lost nonconference games to #2 Arizona State, now-#4 Alabama, and now-#7 Texas. Had they played 3 patsies instead, they would be 9-2 and certainly ranked ahead of Southern Cal. Stanford had the same conference record as Washington, and they beat Washington, but they lost to unranked San Jose State. An upset tie with now-#10 Michigan makes up for half the SJ State loss, but that still leaves them effectively half a game behind the Huskies. However, Stanford has a better relevant record than Southern Cal, even if you were to keep Texas A&M rated up where the AP poll had them.

But I don't think Texas A&M should be rated so highly. Their 20-0 bowl loss to Southern Cal was decisive. Prior to that, Texas A&M lost to now-#8 Arkansas 31-6. The Aggies did upset now-#7 Texas 20-10, but that is their only win over a rated opponent in either the original or fixed AP polls. As far as performance goes, USC had just 1 close win (at unranked 8-3 Notre Dame), while A&M had 2 (6-5 Mississippi and 1-10 Texas Christian). And USC was beaten by more than a touchdown just once, A&M twice-- the second a convincing 20-0 loss to USC in the Liberty Bowl.

So yes, Washington > Stanford > Southern Cal > Texas A&M. All of that results in the following ratings shift: California #12, Washington #13, Stanford #14, Southern Cal #15, Texas A&M #16, West Virginia #17, Pittsburgh #18, Miami-Ohio #19, Maryland #20, Arizona #21, and Georgia #22.

Missouri and Oklahoma State

As strong as the Big 8 was this season (29-7 against nonconference opponents, 6-6 against those rated by the AP poll), you have to know that unranked teams 6-5 Missouri and 7-4 Oklahoma State are heading for a place in the fixed AP poll. Missouri defeated now-#4 Alabama (11-1) and Oklahoma State defeated now-#8 Arkansas (10-2). 6-5 Kansas actually finished a game better than both in conference play, but they lost that advantage with an upset loss to 3-8 Washington State in nonconference play, and the big upset wins by Missouri and Oklahoma State move each effectively one game past Kansas. But Kansas did beat #1 Oklahoma 23-3 on the road, and they beat Missouri as well, so they are worthy and I will handle them next.

Missouri and Oklahoma State have better relevant records than the bottom 6 teams currently ranked. Let's compare them to current #17 West Virginia. Missouri has 1 loss to an unranked opponent (6-5 Kansas), Oklahoma State no such loss (other than to Missouri), and West Virginia 2 upset losses (to 4-7 Tulane and 6-5 Syracuse). All 3 defeated a higher-ranked opponent, but Missouri and Oklahoma State beat teams now ranked #4 and #8, while West Virginia's victim was now-#12 Cal. Missouri had 1 close win over an unrated opponent, Oklahoma State 2, and West Virginia 3.

Move Missouri and Oklahoma State in at #17 and #18, Dropping West Virginia and all the teams behind them 2 slots each.

Kansas

Though they were upset 18-14 by 3-8 Washington State in their opener, Kansas defeated #1 Oklahoma 23-3 on the road, and they also defeated now-#17 Missouri in their regular season finale, so they have a better relevant record than the teams currently in the bottom of the rankings.

Let's put them in at #21, behind Pittsburgh, who beat them in the Sun Bowl. That drops Miami-Ohio, Maryland, Arizona, and Georgia 1 spot each, and brings us to 25 teams. Unfortunately for Georgia, however, we're not quite done.

San Jose State

Unranked San Jose State went 9-2. They lost at 6-5 Hawaii in their regular season finale, but they balanced that out with a big win at now-#14 Stanford. Their other loss came to now-#12 Cal, so they have a better relevant record than the 4 teams currently sitting at the bottom of the rankings. Miami-Ohio, for instance, may have a better straight record (11-1), but they have no wins against rated opponents, and they have 4 close wins to SJ State's 2.

Put San Jose State in at #22, dropping Miami-Ohio to #23, Maryland to #24, Arizona to #25, and Georgia out of the rankings. It's too bad for 9-3 Georgia, because I would rank them ahead of the likes of Miami-Ohio, Maryland, and Arizona myself, but the AP poll had a case for not doing so. Georgia didn't beat any rated teams, took all 3 losses by more than a touchdown, lost to 6-5 Mississippi, and had 4 close wins over unrated opponents. So the AP poll may have been right to rate the aforementioned trio ahead of them anyway.

Fixed AP Top 25

Only Georgia falls out of this fixed and expanded AP poll. They took 1 loss to an unrated opponent and had no wins over rated teams. Discounting games against each other, the 6 teams that pass them up and enter the top 25 had a combined 2 losses to unranked opponents and 6 wins against teams the AP poll had rated, which is rather impressive.

1) Oklahoma 11-1 --
2) Arizona State 12-0 --
3) Nebraska 10-2 +6
4) Alabama 11-1 -1
5) Ohio State 11-1 -1
6) UCLA 9-2-1 -1
7) Texas 10-2 -1
8) Arkansas 10-2 -1
9) Colorado 9-3 +7
10) Michigan 8-2-2 -2
11) Penn State 9-3 -1
12) California 8-3 +2
13) Washington 6-5 IN
14) Stanford 6-4-1 IN
15) Southern Cal 8-4 +2
16) Texas A&M 10-2 -5
17) Missouri 6-5 IN
18) Oklahoma State 7-4 IN
19) West Virginia 9-3 +1
20) Pittsburgh 8-4 -5
21) Kansas 7-5 IN
22) San Jose State 9-2 IN
23) Miami-Ohio 11-1 -11
24) Maryland 9-2-1 -11
25) Arizona 9-2 -7

OUT: #19 Georgia 9-3

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