Time Machine | Syracusefan.com

Time Machine


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
This page shows the end -of-regular-season polls for this year: 2018 College Football Rankings for Week 15 | ESPN

Until 1936 there was no national champion poll. There are some retro systems that rank teams before that. By far the most interesting read is Richard Vautraver's:
College Football Top 25 1901-1935
There can be a wide variance in those systems, (one guy has Syracuse as the 1923 national champion), and with three undefeated teams it's not clear who would have been chosen. Also, most of those systems include post season games,. Some don't.

From 1936-1949 there was one poll, the writer's poll, which was created by and is still presented by the Associated Press. They didn't typically do a post bowl poll so the national champion would have been chosen based on the current poll. There was no rival poll then but they still have a split title in 1947, when, for the only time in this period they did a post bowl poll. Both Notre Dame and Michigan had won all their games. Notre Dame had crushed #3 ranked Southern California 38-7 in their final game but Michigan then beat the Trojans 49-0 in the Rose Bowl. AP sent a simple poll, (similar to one we might have done on this board) asking those same voters who they now thought was the best team in the country and they voted Michigan #1. AP described this as an "unofficial" poll but what polls are "official"? This did not convince AP to do a post bowl poll on a regular basis: bowls were still thought of primarily as exhibition games. Under this system, Alabama would be the 2018 national champions. Sorry Clemson and Notre Dame, who were just as undefeated and Oklahoma who beat the one team who beat them.

From 1950-64 the AP poll had a rival, the United Press International poll of coaches which became the USA Today/CNN poll in 1991, the USA Today/ESPN poll in 1997, the USA Today poll in 2004 and the Amway poll in 2014. But it's always been the "coaches' poll". This allowed the possibility of split championships, especially since the coaches refused to vote for a team on probation while the writers had no such standard. Ohio State won the AP in 1954 while UCLA won the UPI. Both had won all their games, as did Auburn in 1957, when they won the AP title in 1957. UPI chose Ohio State, who had lost to TCU in their opener and then run the table. Those voters would likely not have found a split championship this year, despite three teams with perfect records, (as there was in 1954 when Oklahoma also won all it's games and finished 3rd).

In 1964, Alabama was 10-0-0 and ranked #1 and Arkansas was 10-0-0 and ranked #2. The razorbacks had won a classic game against Texas, 14-13. That was the only loss by the Longhorns, who then beat Bama 21-17 on a controversial goal line stand where Tommy Nobis stopped Joe Namath, (when he had good knees) at the goal line. Arkansas beat another 9-1-0 team, Nebraska 10-7 in the Cotton Bowl. To modern eyes, Arkansas is the 1964 national champion but there was no poll after the bowl so Alabama went into the books as the 1964 national champion in both the AP and UPI polls. In 1965, Michigan State, Arkansas and Nebraska all finished 10-0-0 while Alabama lost by a point to Georgia on a controversial play where it looked like the runner's knee was down before he scored and were tied by Tennessee and ranked fourth. The Spartans, the razorbacks and the Cornhuskers all lost on New year's Day. of their conquerors the highest ranked and most impressive was Alabama, who beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl 39-28 after leading 39-14 going into the fourth quarter. AP asked their writers for a full poll, (they were only running a Top Ten at the time) and Alabama was voted #1. UPI didn't do that so Michigan State went into their books as the national champion. In 1966, Alabama had probably their best team of the Bryant Era. They gave up only 44 points in 11 games, all of which they won and they again crushed Nebraska, this time in the Sugar Bowl, 34-7. But Notre Dame and Michigan State had beaten everybody but each other in a famous 10-10 tie and the writers and coaches had both teams ranked ahead of the Tide, which infuriated Bryant. But it may have been karma for getting the 1964 title because there was no poll after the bowls and the 1965 title because there was. But base don the final regular season poll, the Tide is the 2018 champion.

We've got three teams with perfect records, as there was in 1965 but they won't be playing in three different bowls so it's hard to determine who would have been national champion if things were as they were in those days. In 1968 the AP decided to do a formal poll after the bowls every year. UPI didn't follow suit until 1974. For this reason they had split titles in 1970 when #1 Texas lost to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and Nebraska wound up with their first AP national title and in 1973 when the Irish won the AP title by beating #1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. There was another split title in 1974 because 11-0-0 Oklahoma was on probation . the coaches chose 10-1-1 Southern California instead. Another came in 1978 when Southern California beat Alabama early in the season, got upset by Arizona State and won out as the Tide did, including a Sugar Bowl win over #1 Penn State. Normally, Alabama would have been the clear champion having beaten #1 but enough people said that since USC had the same record and beat them, they should be the champs that the coaches decided to vote for the Trojans.

We then had 11 straight unanimous champs. In 1990, Colorado played several of the top teams and finished 10-1-1 against easily the toughest schedule in the country. But one of their wins involved a fifth down being erroneously granted to them by the refs so they really should have been 9-2-1, hardly the record of national champion. The one unbeaten team was Georgia Tech who went 11-0-1 against a much weaker schedule and beat a 9-2-0 Nebraska team in the Citrus Bowl and the coaches went for them. In 1991 the U. of Miami and Washington both won all their games impressively and the coaches went for Washington, creating another split title. People may remember it as a split title but in 1994, 13-0-0 Nebraska was #1 in both polls and 12-0-0 Penn State was #2. There was a split in 1997 with 12-0-0 Michigan #1 according to the writers and 13-0-0 Nebraska #1 being the coaches choice. All these polls were after bowls so the 2018 results would not yet have produced a title at this point.

That led to the BCS, which people felt would resolve such matters by pitting the top two teams against each other. Most years there was one unbeaten teams who played one of multiple one loss teams and the undefeated team always seemed to win so it looked like a success, assume the right one loss team had been picked to play in the game. Florida State was one of seven one loss teams when they lost to Tennessee after the 1998 season and 12-0-0 Tulane was also left out. In 1999 we had the perfect situation: two 11-0-0 teams in Florida State and Virginia Tech although 12-0-0 Marshall says "High!". In 2000 the Florida State team that lost to Oklahoma was one of seven one loss teams, one of whom, U of Miami had beaten them and was 32 in both polls but got left out. In 2001 Nebraska, who got blown out by the Hurricanes, was one of five one loss teams and were ranked fourth behind 10-1 Oregon and 10-2 Colorado who had crushed the Huskers 62-36. Perfection returned in 2002 when Miami and Ohio State were the only two undefeated teams. In 2003 everybody got beat. Southern California was #1 in both polls and remained so in the writer's poll after Louisiana State beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game, thus creating something thought to be impossible: a split title in the BCS era. There were three other one loss teams at the end of the regular season. In 2004 you would have perfection with undefeated USC playing undefeated Oklahoma except SEC champion Auburn was also undefeated. it was the only time an undefeated power conference champion didn't play in a BCS title game- and it was the champions of what is traditionally the strongest conference. 2005 was perfection: Undefeated USC vs. undefeated Texas is what may be the greatest game ever. In 2006 Ohio State was unbeaten. So was Boise State. Florida was one of four one loss teams. In 2007 everybody got beat. Ohio State and Kansas had one loss. LSU was one of no less than 10 two loss teams. In 2008 Utah and Boise State were unbeaten but neither had a shot. Oklahoma and Florida were two of eight one loss teams. 2009 was delicious: we had five unbeaten teams: Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Texas Christian and Boise State. In 2010 Auburn, Oregon and Texas Christian were all perfect. in 2011 LSU was unbeaten and had already beaten Alabama who didn't even win their division. The Tide was one of five one loss teams. In 2012 both Notre Dame and Ohio State were unbeaten. Perfection! Except Ohio State was on probation. Alabama was one of five one loss teams. In 2013 Florida State was unbeaten and Auburn was one of nine one loss teams. if this system were to be used this year, we would see an Alabama-Clemson game with Notre Dame being left out, despite having the same record. .

The NCAA finally admitted that this was working and went to 4 teams in 2014. Florida State was again undefeated. Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State all had one loss as did Baylor and Texas Christian, who got left out. In 2015 Clemson was undefeated. Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma all had one loss and got in. Ohio State, Iowa and Houston also had one loss and got left out. In 2016 Alabama was unbeaten and so was Western Michigan. One loss teams Ohio State, Clemson and Washington got in. Everybody else had at least two losses. Nothing to complain about there. In 2017. Last year everyone but Central Florida got beat. Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama all had one loss and got in. So did Wisconsin and they got left out. This year We have undefeated Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame and one loss Oklahoma. One loss Ohio State and another unbeaten UCF team got left out.

A lot of people are now calling for an 8 team playoff. A popular idea is to give the power 5 conference champions automatic bids and to give another to the best of the teams from the AAC, Conference USA, Mac, Sun Belt and Mountain West conferences. Then you add in the two highest ranked teams that didn't win a conference. This year that would be:
SEC champion Alabama 13-0-0 ranked #1
ACC champion Clemson 13-0-0 ranked #2
at large Notre Dame 12-0-0 ranked #3
Big 12 champion Oklahoma 12-1-0 ranked #4
at large Georgia 11-2-0 ranked #5
Big 10 champion Ohio State 12-1-0 ranked #6
AAC champion Central Florida 12-0-0 ranked #7
Pac 12 champion Washington 10-3-0 ranked #9
left out with records as good: Michigan and Washington State 10-2-0, Fresno State 11-2-0, Florida, LSU, Penn State, Kentucky and Syracuse, all 9-3, West Virginia 8-3 and Boise State 10-3.

I think that would be great and someday we'll have that in the future. it's also been suggest, (not by many), that we should go to 16. After all, the other divisions have bigger playoffs than that: DIII has a 32 team playoff. That would involve auto bids to all 10 conference champs plus 6 at large teams. This year that would have looked like this:

SEC champion Alabama 13-0-0 ranked #1
ACC champion Clemson 13-0-0 ranked #2
at large Notre Dame 12-0-0 ranked #3
Big 12 champion Oklahoma 12-1-0 ranked #4
at large Georgia 11-2-0 ranked #5
Big 10 champion Ohio State 12-1-0 ranked #6
AAC champion Central Florida 12-0-0 ranked #7
at large Michigan 10-2-0 ranked #8
Pac 12 champion Washington 10-3-0 ranked #9
at large Florida 9-3 ranked #10
at large Louisiana State 9-3 ranked #11
at large Penn State 9-3 ranked #12
at large Washington State 10-2 ranked #13
MW champion Fresno State 11-2 ranked #21
SB champion Appalachian State 10-2 19 votes in the writer's, 32 in the coaches
MAC champion Northern Illinois 8-5 no votes

here's where I get off. I've no need to see a Northern Illinois- Alabama game. But if you get in your time machine you may be able to find a year in the future where that's what we've got.

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