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The 1975 college football season had a pretty funky November (and some great mid-majors)

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One thing we don't know about the College Football Playoff committee is how they'll handle a strong, dominant, undefeated mid-major. We probably wouldn't have in 1975 either, even though a late surge by Arizona State would have made things pretty interesting.

I keep talking about how bluebloods dominated the 1970s, and it's true -- Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas, and USC accounted for 41 of the 50 year-end top-five spots between 1970 and 1979. But before getting promoted from the WAC to the Pac-10 in 1978, Arizona State was on one hell of a run of its own.

Frank Kush's Sun Devils finished in the top 10 four times between 1970 and 1975 and, thanks to some favorable bowl results, rose to second in 1975, behind only Oklahoma. You also had Miami (Ohio) played excellent ball for the third straight year, and down in the Southland Conference, you had Arkansas State laying waste to all (mostly terrible) comers. Plus, you had Southern Miss going 7-4 but putting a high-quality product on the field while facing a hilariously brutal schedule: eight road games, a neutral-site game, and just two home games (against Fullerton State and BYU). It was a good year for mid-majors. It was also an underrated-silly year among the powers.

  • Oklahoma outscored opponents, 341-131, in 11 wins. The Sooners beat eight-win Pitt by 36 and thumped 10-win Nebraska by 25 in the regular season finale. And on November 8, they lost to Kansas at home, 23-3.
  • Alabama outscored opponents, 367-52, in 11 wins. But they did that after beginning the season by getting pasted by Missouri, 20-7, in Birmingham.
  • Texas A&M reached No. 2 in the polls at the end of November, then lost its final two games, to No. 18 Arkansas and unranked USC, by a combined 51-6.
  • Ohio State finished the regular season undefeated, beating four ranked opponents by a combined 57 points. One of those four was UCLA, which lost 41-20 to the Buckeyes on October 4 ... and then thumped them, 23-10, in the Rose Bowl to prevent the Buckeyes from winning the national title.
  • Michigan began the season with a win and two ties against mediocre Baylor and Stanford teams. But the Wolverines still managed to climb to fourth in the poll heading into the Ohio State game.

OU was seventh in the polls on November 17 but managed to crawl back up to first by January 2. That takes a certain amount of chaos.

S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
1 Oklahoma 11-1 22.1 98.57% 31.8 2 9.7 3
2 Alabama 11-1 21.3 98.28% 29.2 10 7.9 2
3 Ohio State 11-1 19.7 97.46% 30.1 7 10.4 8
4 Texas 10-2 18.7 96.80% 33.6 1 15.0 36
5 Arkansas 10-2 18.3 96.55% 28.3 12 10.0 5
6 Penn State 9-3 17.9 96.19% 24.0 34 6.1 1
7 Arkansas State 11-0 17.4 95.80% 29.0 11 11.6 10
8 Nebraska 10-2 16.5 94.90% 29.3 9 12.8 21
9 Pittsburgh 8-4 16.3 94.70% 28.3 13 12.0 12
10 Southern Miss 7-4 14.7 92.83% 26.6 20 11.8 11
11 Florida 9-3 14.0 91.82% 24.4 32 10.4 7
12 Missouri 6-5 12.8 89.73% 30.2 6 17.4 51
13 Oklahoma State 7-4 12.7 89.64% 27.4 17 14.7 33
14 Michigan 8-2-2 12.6 89.39% 25.2 27 12.6 18
15 Texas A&M 10-2 12.5 89.34% 22.4 44 9.9 4
16 Colorado 9-3 12.5 89.20% 30.5 5 18.1 57
17 West Virginia 9-3 12.3 88.79% 25.8 25 13.5 24
18 Georgia 9-3 12.2 88.76% 26.8 19 14.6 31
19 Miami-OH 11-1 12.2 88.62% 24.7 29 12.5 17
20 Arizona State 12-0 11.8 87.98% 26.0 24 14.2 28
21 UCLA 9-2-1 11.8 87.95% 30.6 4 18.8 64
22 San Jose State 9-2 11.1 86.46% 27.1 18 16.0 43
23 California 8-3 10.6 85.44% 31.0 3 20.3 71
24 Arizona 9-2 10.4 84.81% 27.9 14 17.5 52
25 Ball State 9-2 10.0 84.03% 23.9 35 13.8 26
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
26 Louisiana Tech 8-2 9.8 83.57% 27.8 16 18.0 56
27 Maryland 9-2-1 9.8 83.51% 24.2 33 14.3 29
28 Notre Dame 8-3 9.7 83.17% 22.4 43 12.8 20
29 Ole Miss 6-5 9.3 82.29% 19.7 66 10.4 6
30 Bowling Green 8-3 8.9 81.25% 24.7 30 15.7 41
31 Michigan State 7-4 8.2 79.31% 21.8 51 13.5 23
32 Texas Tech 6-5 8.0 78.77% 27.9 15 19.8 69
33 Cincinnati 6-5 7.9 78.42% 21.7 52 13.8 25
34 USC 8-4 7.9 78.34% 20.0 63 12.1 13
35 Kansas 7-5 7.9 78.24% 22.3 45 14.5 30
36 Mississippi State 6-4-1 7.7 77.66% 18.8 71 11.1 9
37 Central Michigan 8-2-1 7.6 77.40% 23.1 39 15.5 38
38 Rutgers 9-2 7.5 77.03% 19.8 65 12.3 14
39 Harvard 7-2 6.8 74.91% 23.8 36 17.1 47
40 Washington 6-5 6.4 73.88% 23.5 38 17.1 45
41 Tennessee 7-5 6.1 72.88% 21.6 55 15.5 39
42 NC State 7-4-1 6.0 72.52% 22.6 41 16.6 44
43 Brown 6-2-1 5.6 71.03% 25.6 26 20.1 70
44 San Diego State 8-3 5.0 69.18% 23.7 37 18.6 62
45 Stanford 6-4-1 5.0 68.89% 29.9 8 24.9 112
46 LSU 4-7 4.9 68.54% 18.8 72 13.9 27
47 Yale 7-2 4.0 65.30% 18.8 70 14.9 35
48 Navy 7-4 3.9 64.89% 16.4 99 12.5 16
49 Auburn 3-6-2 3.2 62.59% 20.6 59 17.3 49
50 Syracuse 6-5 3.1 62.08% 17.7 86 14.6 32
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
51 Baylor 3-6-2 3.0 61.79% 20.4 60 17.4 50
52 Eastern Michigan 4-6 3.0 61.77% 21.7 54 18.6 63
53 Kentucky 2-8-1 3.0 61.57% 15.7 104 12.8 19
54 Tulsa 7-4 3.0 61.55% 26.5 21 23.5 102
55 Temple 6-5 3.0 61.54% 24.7 28 21.8 88
56 Ohio 5-5-1 2.8 60.88% 15.3 110 12.5 15
57 Dartmouth 5-3-1 2.6 60.33% 18.2 77 15.6 40
58 Miami-FL 2-8 2.5 59.70% 21.0 57 18.6 60
59 Long Beach State 9-2 2.1 58.33% 20.7 58 18.6 61
60 South Carolina 7-5 2.1 58.21% 26.2 22 24.1 106
61 Memphis 7-4 1.8 57.21% 16.7 95 14.8 34
62 Boston College 7-4 1.7 56.77% 17.6 87 15.8 42
63 BYU 6-5 1.5 55.75% 22.2 47 20.7 76
64 New Mexico 6-5 1.4 55.64% 24.5 31 23.1 98
65 Princeton 4-5 1.4 55.48% 18.4 75 17.1 46
66 McNeese State 7-4 1.4 55.45% 20.4 61 19.0 65
67 North Texas 7-4 1.2 54.84% 18.9 69 17.7 54
68 Dayton 5-6 0.9 53.37% 19.1 68 18.2 58
69 Georgia Tech 7-4 0.8 53.09% 21.8 50 21.0 80
70 Appalachian State 8-3 0.8 53.07% 26.1 23 25.4 115
71 Illinois 5-6 -0.4 48.49% 22.1 48 22.5 92
72 Hawaii 6-5 -0.4 48.34% 12.8 120 13.3 22
73 Toledo 5-6 -0.7 47.05% 22.6 42 23.3 100
74 SMU 4-7 -1.1 45.76% 22.6 40 23.7 104
75 Richmond 5-6 -1.1 45.56% 18.2 78 19.3 66
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
76 UL-Lafayette 6-5 -1.1 45.47% 21.2 56 22.4 91
77 Indiana State 5-5 -1.3 44.71% 22.3 46 23.7 103
78 UT-Arlington 4-7 -1.6 43.52% 21.9 49 23.5 101
79 Minnesota 6-5 -1.9 42.53% 18.5 74 20.4 72
80 Iowa State 4-7 -2.5 40.19% 18.0 81 20.5 74
81 Colorado State 6-5 -2.5 40.12% 17.2 92 19.7 68
82 Pacific 5-6-1 -3.1 38.10% 19.5 67 22.6 93
83 Pennsylvania 3-6 -3.2 37.55% 17.3 89 20.5 73
84 Virginia Tech 8-3 -3.6 36.21% 15.9 102 19.4 67
85 Kansas State 3-8 -3.6 35.98% 13.4 118 17.1 48
86 East Carolina 8-3 -3.8 35.38% 17.8 83 21.6 85
87 Purdue 4-7 -3.9 34.85% 13.8 116 17.7 55
88 Utah State 6-5 -4.1 34.08% 16.5 97 20.7 75
89 TCU 1-10 -4.4 33.19% 17.3 91 21.6 86
90 Wyoming 2-9 -4.6 32.36% 16.4 98 21.0 79
91 Duke 4-5-2 -4.6 32.28% 16.3 100 20.9 78
92 Oregon 3-8 -5.0 31.04% 16.2 101 21.2 83
93 Kent 4-7 -5.1 30.60% 19.8 64 24.9 111
94 Rice 2-9 -5.2 30.45% 16.9 94 22.0 89
95 Akron 7-4 -5.2 30.34% 15.6 106 20.8 77
96 Florida State 3-8 -5.8 28.39% 15.3 109 21.0 81
97 Colgate 6-4 -6.0 27.47% 17.1 93 23.1 97
98 Columbia 2-7 -6.1 27.18% 21.7 53 27.8 123
99 Vanderbilt 7-4 -6.3 26.52% 11.3 128 17.6 53
100 Iowa 3-8 -6.6 25.74% 17.7 85 24.3 108
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
101 West Texas A&M 5-6 -7.2 23.71% 18.1 79 25.3 113
102 Air Force 2-8-1 -7.5 22.94% 15.4 107 22.9 96
103 North Carolina 3-7-1 -7.8 22.02% 17.9 82 25.7 117
104 Washington State 3-8 -8.1 21.14% 18.3 76 26.4 118
105 Furman 5-5-1 -8.3 20.64% 12.9 119 21.2 82
106 UT-Chattanooga 5-1-1 -8.5 19.90% 13.7 117 22.2 90
107 Tulane 4-7 -8.6 19.78% 10.0 132 18.5 59
108 Northern Illinois 3-8 -9.0 18.72% 14.2 115 23.2 99
109 UL-Monroe 4-6-1 -9.3 17.71% 17.8 84 27.1 121
110 Wake Forest 3-8 -9.6 17.12% 17.3 90 26.9 120
111 Houston 2-8 -9.8 16.46% 16.6 96 26.4 119
112 Oregon State 1-10 -9.9 16.26% 11.8 127 21.7 87
113 Wisconsin 4-6-1 -10.0 15.98% 14.4 113 24.4 109
114 Clemson 2-9 -10.2 15.53% 20.3 62 30.5 131
115 Indiana 2-8-1 -10.6 14.54% 10.9 131 21.5 84
116 The Citadel 6-5 -11.2 13.24% 3.8 137 15.0 37
117 Cornell 1-8 -11.6 12.47% 17.4 88 29.0 126
118 Northwestern 3-8 -11.7 12.20% 15.4 108 27.1 122
119 Lamar 1-10 -11.8 12.14% 11.1 129 22.8 95
120 UTEP 1-10 -12.6 10.48% 12.7 121 25.4 116
121 Western Michigan 1-10 -12.9 10.10% 12.5 123 25.3 114
122 Holy Cross 1-10 -13.0 9.81% 11.0 130 24.0 105
123 William & Mary 2-9 -13.1 9.74% 9.6 134 22.7 94
124 Fullerton State 2-9 -14.1 8.06% 18.7 73 32.8 134
125 Fresno State 3-8 -14.2 7.99% 15.7 105 29.8 129
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
126 Villanova 4-7 -14.2 7.93% 9.9 133 24.1 107
127 New Mexico State 5-6 -14.3 7.76% 14.6 111 29.0 125
128 Marshall 2-9 -15.8 5.89% 12.6 122 28.3 124
129 Drake 3-8 -16.5 5.13% 14.3 114 30.7 132
130 VMI 3-8 -16.7 4.85% 7.8 136 24.5 110
131 Army 2-9 -17.3 4.29% 12.2 124 29.5 128
132 Southern Illinois 1-9-1 -18.0 3.73% 15.8 103 33.7 136
133 Utah 1-10 -18.0 3.70% 12.1 125 30.1 130
134 Illinois State 2-7-1 -18.7 3.17% 14.4 112 33.1 135
135 Virginia 1-10 -18.8 3.08% 18.1 80 36.9 137
136 Louisville 1-10 -19.0 2.98% 11.8 126 30.8 133
137 Wichita State 3-8 -19.7 2.51% 9.5 135 29.2 127

Your hypothetical Playoff race

Here's your end-of-regular-season AP poll:

1. Ohio State (11-0)
2. Texas A&M (10-1*)
3. Oklahoma (10-1)
4. Alabama (10-1)
5. Michigan (8-1-2)
6. Nebraska (10-1)
7. Arizona State (11-0)

* A&M was unbeaten at the time of the last pre-bowl poll but had already lost to Arkansas when bowls came around. So they lost twice between the end-of-regular-season poll and the final poll.

This would have been a really, really interesting debate. Ohio State's in, obviously, but Texas A&M had just gotten rocked by Arkansas and had only beaten one ranked team (Texas). Oklahoma looked great but lost to Kansas. Alabama looked great but lost to Missouri and beat only one ranked team (Tennessee). Michigan had two dismal ties. Nebraska had wins over ranked Colorado and Missouri teams but had just gotten its doors blown off by Oklahoma.

So ... does ASU get in then? The Sun Devils had just beaten No. 12 Arizona and boasted easy wins over power-conference teams like Washington (No. 40 in Est. S&P+) and TCU (uh, No. 89). I could honestly see ASU getting the No. 4 seed in this scenario, couldn't you? Granted, the Sun Devils really weren't great (20th here), but they might have had both the résumé and the timing, with others getting blown out right before the hypothetical Playoff pairing.

I think we definitely have 1 Ohio State, 2 Oklahoma, and 3 Alabama. I kinda think ASU is No. 4. So we get 1 Ohio State vs. 4 Arizona State and a dynamite 2 Oklahoma vs. 3 Bama. The OU-Bama winner is favored over probably Ohio State in the finals.

Other thoughts:

  • Four MAC teams in the top 37. The MAC was tough as nails in the early- to mid-1970s.
  • Oh hey look, Missouri with a good ranking and a mediocre record again. Story of the 1970s.
  • Clemson: 2-9 and 114th. Six years later, the Tigers won the national title.
  • Arkansas State ranking seventh feels dicey, but ... look at their results. Only one game was decided by fewer than 17 points, and that was on the road against a pretty solid Cincy team. At the very least, they didn't prove that they WEREN'T top-10 caliber.

Next up: 1974, Miami (Ohio)'s moment in the sun.