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In 1974, Bama lost to ND (again), the SEC was still great, and Yale should've totally gone B1G

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Some years are more orderly than others. The 1974 season may have been the most orderly of all-time.

Your AP preseason top 8: 1 Oklahoma, 2 Ohio State, 3 Notre Dame, 4 Alabama, 5 USC, 6 Michigan, 7 Nebraska, 8 Penn State

Your year-end AP top 9: 1 Oklahoma, 2 USC, 3 Michigan, 4 Ohio State, 5 Alabama, 6 Notre Dame, 7 Penn State, 8 Auburn, 9 Nebraska

You have to reach down to Auburn, unranked in the preseason, to find any sort of surprise. Meanwhile, you have to go down to preseason No. 9 LSU to find a disappointing team. The teams that were supposed to be good, were good.

Almost nobody was great, though. Oklahoma was incredible (and ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions), Alabama was excellent until a slight upset loss to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl (the second straight postseason loss to Notre Dame that cost them a national title), and no one else was at higher than the 96.2 percentile. (For comparison, five teams hit that mark in 1975.)

That opened the door for Miami (Ohio). The then-Redskins are one of the teams in my book (starting halfback: Randy Walker, future Miami and Northwestern head coach), and honestly, if they hadn't slipped up and tied Purdue -- a team that would whoop Notre Dame the next week before fading down the stretch -- they would have had a really, really strong Hypothetical Playoff case. As it stood, OU won the AP title basically by default because of Alabama's loss, and with the Sooners ineligible for the UPI title, it went to two-blemish USC. That's fine. USC was good. But Bama and OU were better.

By the way, it was another dumb bowl year. With OU ineligible, No. 2 Bama played No. 9 Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, No. 3 Ohio State played No. 5 USC in the Rose, No. 6 Auburn played No. 11 Texas in the Gator, No. 7 Penn State played No. 12 Baylor in the Cotton, and No. 8 Nebraska played No. 18 Florida in the Sugar. (No. 4 Michigan was ineligible because this was the Big Ten's last year of stubbornly only sending one team bowling.) This did not affect the quality of the games -- ND upset Bama, USC beat Ohio State by one, Nebraska beat UF by three, and only Auburn-Texas (27-3 AU) and PSU-Baylor (41-20 PSU) were blowouts. But the magnitude of these bowls was almost nonexistent.

S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
1 Oklahoma 11-0 27.8 99.62% 39.7 1 11.9 11
2 Alabama 11-1 22.0 98.27% 28.7 10 6.7 1
3 USC 10-1-1 18.5 96.24% 30.3 7 11.8 10
4 Miami-OH 10-0-1 18.3 96.09% 26.6 18 8.3 2
5 Michigan 10-1 18.1 95.90% 27.2 13 9.1 4
6 Ohio State 10-2 18.0 95.84% 32.7 2 14.6 25
7 Auburn 10-2 17.3 95.14% 25.6 23 8.4 3
8 Maryland 8-4 16.7 94.54% 25.8 21 9.1 5
9 Texas 8-4 16.1 93.88% 31.6 3 15.5 29
10 Florida 8-4 15.7 93.45% 26.9 14 11.2 8
11 Mississippi State 9-3 14.4 91.72% 30.2 8 15.8 32
12 Tennessee 7-3-2 13.0 89.47% 22.8 42 9.8 6
13 Arkansas 6-4-1 13.0 89.35% 26.9 16 13.9 20
14 Nebraska 9-3 12.8 89.13% 27.5 12 14.6 26
15 Pittsburgh 7-4 11.8 87.15% 25.4 24 13.6 16
16 Kentucky 6-5 11.7 87.04% 26.0 20 14.2 22
17 Oklahoma State 7-5 11.7 86.97% 24.4 33 12.7 13
18 Notre Dame 10-2 11.3 86.04% 25.0 29 13.7 18
19 Penn State 10-2 10.8 85.07% 24.7 31 13.9 19
20 Temple 8-2 10.7 84.76% 30.0 9 19.4 67
21 San Diego State 8-2-1 10.6 84.58% 26.3 19 15.7 30
22 Georgia 6-6 10.5 84.36% 30.8 5 20.3 75
23 Baylor 8-4 10.3 83.95% 25.0 30 14.6 24
24 NC State 9-2-1 9.7 82.46% 28.2 11 18.5 57
25 Boston College 8-3 9.6 82.21% 26.9 17 17.3 45
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
26 Texas A&M 8-3 9.6 82.08% 20.8 58 11.2 7
27 Wisconsin 7-4 9.3 81.52% 31.3 4 22.0 87
28 Michigan State 7-3-1 9.1 80.92% 25.8 22 16.6 38
29 Yale 8-1 8.6 79.66% 21.1 54 12.4 12
30 Missouri 7-4 8.5 79.29% 23.4 37 14.9 28
31 Bowling Green 6-4-1 7.8 77.25% 24.4 32 16.7 39
32 Vanderbilt 7-3-2 7.5 76.34% 25.1 27 17.6 51
33 North Carolina 7-5 7.4 76.10% 30.6 6 23.2 90
34 Houston 8-3-1 7.3 75.91% 23.0 40 15.7 31
35 Harvard 7-2 6.6 73.55% 23.6 36 17.0 42
36 Texas Tech 6-4-2 6.5 73.50% 17.8 82 11.3 9
37 Iowa State 4-7 6.3 72.74% 20.6 59 14.3 23
38 LSU 5-5-1 6.1 72.06% 19.8 63 13.7 17
39 Tulsa 8-3 6.0 71.95% 25.3 25 19.2 65
40 Georgia Tech 6-5 5.7 70.80% 23.3 38 17.6 50
41 Colorado 5-6 5.2 69.25% 26.9 15 21.7 83
42 Clemson 7-4 4.9 67.97% 25.0 28 20.2 72
43 Miami-FL 6-5 4.2 65.78% 18.3 78 14.0 21
44 California 7-3-1 4.1 65.35% 24.3 34 20.2 73
45 Ohio 6-5 3.9 64.67% 22.0 48 18.1 54
46 Kent 7-4 3.9 64.59% 20.8 57 16.9 40
47 BYU 7-4-1 3.6 63.57% 22.7 43 19.1 62
48 Stanford 5-4-2 3.4 62.98% 21.0 55 17.6 49
49 Hawaii 6-5 2.9 61.09% 19.9 62 16.9 41
50 Arizona State 7-5 2.8 60.48% 19.3 72 16.5 36
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
51 Southern Miss 6-5 2.6 59.86% 17.4 86 14.8 27
52 Utah State 8-3 2.5 59.49% 18.9 75 16.4 35
53 San Jose State 8-3-1 2.5 59.40% 21.6 49 19.2 63
54 Rutgers 7-3-1 2.5 59.35% 22.1 47 19.6 68
55 Arizona 9-2 2.1 57.94% 20.9 56 18.8 60
56 Tampa 6-5 2.1 57.92% 22.2 45 20.1 71
57 Kansas 4-7 2.0 57.49% 19.3 71 17.4 46
58 Kansas State 4-7 1.9 57.15% 22.6 44 20.7 80
59 Memphis 7-4 1.7 56.64% 17.8 83 16.0 33
60 Lamar 8-2 1.7 56.48% 14.7 105 13.0 14
61 UCLA 6-3-2 1.5 55.90% 19.6 66 18.0 53
62 Cincinnati 7-4 1.4 55.44% 19.4 68 18.0 52
63 East Carolina 7-4 1.3 54.83% 20.1 61 18.8 59
64 West Virginia 4-7 1.1 54.04% 20.3 60 19.2 64
65 Arkansas State 7-3 1.0 53.69% 18.2 79 17.3 44
66 Duke 6-5 0.9 53.36% 19.0 73 18.1 55
67 West Texas A&M 6-5 0.9 53.29% 17.1 88 16.2 34
68 SMU 6-4-1 0.6 52.22% 21.3 52 20.7 78
69 Purdue 4-6-1 0.1 50.50% 22.1 46 22.0 86
70 Ole Miss 3-8 -0.1 49.67% 17.0 89 17.1 43
71 Washington 5-6 -0.4 48.48% 25.2 26 25.6 103
72 Princeton 4-4-1 -0.8 46.95% 18.9 74 19.7 69
73 Illinois 6-4-1 -0.9 46.72% 18.5 76 19.3 66
74 Virginia Tech 4-7 -1.6 43.81% 23.8 35 25.4 101
75 Virginia 4-7 -1.8 43.29% 19.4 70 21.2 82
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
76 Colorado State 4-6-1 -1.8 43.23% 23.1 39 24.9 98
77 Dartmouth 3-6 -1.9 42.83% 11.7 120 13.6 15
78 Navy 4-7 -2.2 41.54% 15.2 102 17.4 47
79 Rice 2-8-1 -2.4 40.86% 14.1 108 16.5 37
80 Oregon State 3-8 -2.6 40.04% 21.5 50 24.1 95
81 Fresno State 5-7 -2.6 39.99% 18.0 80 20.6 76
82 Toledo 6-5 -3.3 37.40% 23.0 41 26.4 107
83 Syracuse 2-9 -3.4 37.16% 15.6 100 19.0 61
84 Iowa 3-8 -3.4 37.13% 19.4 67 22.9 89
85 Florida State 1-10 -3.5 36.74% 17.3 87 20.8 81
86 VMI 7-4 -3.9 35.33% 14.8 104 18.8 58
87 Appalachian State 6-5 -4.3 34.00% 16.3 93 20.6 77
88 Holy Cross 5-5-1 -4.3 33.96% 15.7 99 20.0 70
89 Pennsylvania 6-2-1 -4.5 33.22% 17.5 85 22.0 85
90 Tulane 5-6 -6.0 28.25% 14.7 106 20.7 79
91 Brown 5-4 -6.2 27.54% 11.4 121 17.6 48
92 Indiana 1-10 -6.2 27.44% 17.7 84 24.0 94
93 Long Beach State 6-5 -6.4 26.98% 19.7 65 26.0 104
94 South Carolina 4-7 -6.5 26.76% 21.2 53 27.6 115
95 William & Mary 4-7 -6.9 25.49% 18.4 77 25.3 100
96 New Mexico State 5-6 -7.1 24.77% 16.3 96 23.4 91
97 Washington State 2-9 -7.6 23.16% 15.9 98 23.5 92
98 Pacific 6-5 -7.8 22.64% 19.4 69 27.2 113
99 New Mexico 4-6-1 -7.9 22.53% 16.8 90 24.6 97
100 Western Michigan 3-8 -8.0 22.04% 16.5 92 24.5 96
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
101 Cornell 3-5-1 -8.3 21.17% 17.9 81 26.2 105
102 Louisville 4-7 -8.4 20.99% 13.5 110 21.9 84
103 Villanova 3-8 -8.5 20.64% 11.7 119 20.2 74
104 The Citadel 4-7 -9.9 17.00% 15.1 103 25.0 99
105 UTEP 4-7 -10.0 16.78% 19.8 64 29.8 123
106 North Texas 2-7-2 -10.7 15.11% 11.9 117 22.7 88
107 Colgate 4-6 -10.9 14.75% 21.3 51 32.2 129
108 Air Force 2-9 -11.6 13.35% 12.0 115 23.6 93
109 Army 3-8 -11.6 13.18% 16.3 95 27.9 117
110 Richmond 5-5 -11.7 13.02% 16.1 97 27.8 116
111 Southern Illinois 2-9 -12.2 12.12% 16.7 91 28.9 120
112 Wake Forest 1-10 -12.5 11.49% 12.9 111 25.4 102
113 Furman 5-6 -13.5 9.79% 4.7 128 18.2 56
114 Minnesota 4-7 -13.8 9.19% 14.2 107 28.0 118
115 Wyoming 2-9 -13.9 9.07% 12.7 112 26.6 110
116 UL-Lafayette 2-9 -14.5 8.22% 12.7 113 27.2 111
117 UT-Chattanooga 4-4 -14.5 8.15% 13.8 109 28.3 119
118 TCU 1-10 -14.6 8.00% 11.9 116 26.6 109
119 Marshall 1-10 -15.3 7.08% 11.9 118 27.2 112
120 Northwestern 3-8 -15.3 7.06% 16.3 94 31.6 127
121 Drake 3-7-1 -16.1 6.11% 15.3 101 31.4 126
122 Wichita State 1-9-1 -17.0 5.15% 9.6 125 26.5 108
123 Oregon 2-9 -17.8 4.33% 11.4 122 29.2 121
124 Northern Illinois 4-7 -18.8 3.52% 10.9 123 29.8 122
125 Columbia 1-8 -18.9 3.48% 8.6 126 27.5 114
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
126 Dayton 3-8 -19.3 3.16% 12.6 114 31.9 128
127 Utah 1-10 -20.8 2.26% 10.2 124 31.1 125
128 Idaho 2-8-1 -22.4 1.56% 3.8 129 26.2 106
129 UT-Arlington 1-10 -22.6 1.49% 7.8 127 30.4 124

Your hypothetical Playoff race

How would a Playoff race have taken shape with the No. 1 team ineligible? Here's your end-of-regular-season AP poll:

2. Alabama (11-0)
3. Ohio State (10-1)
4. Michigan (10-1)
5. USC (9-1-1)
6. Auburn (9-2)
7. Penn State (9-2)
8. Nebraska (8-3)
9. Notre Dame (9-2)
15. Miami (Ohio) (10-0-1)

The ACC champion (Maryland) had three losses, as did the SWC champion (Baylor). The Big 8 champion was ineligible. Basically, this is a four-team race, with the fifth team (Miami) likely out of the conversation thanks to the Purdue tie. So assuming Michigan is available for selecting -- in this Playoff-based reality, there are no single-bid leagues -- this is a pretty easy choice. I'll say we get 1 Alabama vs. 4 Michigan and 2 Ohio State vs. 3 USC. And I'll say we get an Alabama-USC matchup in the final. Heavyweights galore in 1974.

Other thoughts

  • Utah: really, really, really bad in 1974. Oregon and TCU, too.
  • This year's Missouri award for best team with a bad record: not Missouri! We'll go with Arkansas instead. The Razorbacks beat USC in Little Rock to start the season and lost to eventual SWC champ Baylor by just four points. They got crushed 38-7 by Texas (No. 9 in Est. S&P+) and 26-7 by Oklahoma State (No. 17) and lost by 10 to Texas A&M (No. 26), but they are 13th not only because of the 22-7 USC win, but also because most of their wins were dominant. They beat Tulsa, TCU, Colorado State, and Rice by a combined 177-15.
  • This was a great year for SEC quality, and at an interesting time -- the league had only become fully integrated a couple of years earlier. But you've got Alabama at No. 2, Auburn No. 7, Florida No. 10, Mississippi State No. 11, Tennessee No. 12, Kentucky No. 16, and Georgia No. 22, and (not that it matters) you also had future members Arkansas (No. 13), Texas A&M (No. 26), and Missouri (No. 30) nearby.
  • Yale: quite good in the 1970s. Carmen Cozza's Bulldogs/Eli were No. 29 in 1974 and were 36th or better 10 times between 1967 and 1981. Totally shoulda jumped to the Big Ten.
  • (Hmm, there's a think piece for you. What if the Big Ten had added, like, Penn State and Yale in the mid-1970s...)

Next up: 1973, another completely orderly year.