Stuart McNair

The AP all-time poll doesn’t have Alabama on top, but Tide is high

Alabama has been best in AP poll when it comes to winning championship

Remembering that it doesn’t matter, here are the bare bones regarding the Associated Press having a first-time-ever revelation of its all-time college football rankings. From our standpoint, getting right to the heart of the matter, this ranking considers Alabama to be No. 4 all-time – behind Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame.

(Four, huh? As in the number of national championships won by Alabama in the past seven years. But we digress.)


There are certain variables in the AP calculations. One that can’t be accounted for is how the AP assigned voting rights for many, many decades. It was by the admission of later AP sports editors an electorate overwhelmingly of the East and Midwest. That has since been rectified, but not until after many instances where the ballot box was wrongly stuffed.


A second variable is the subjective nature of assigning weight to various aspects of the AP poll. The poll has been in existence since 1936, but has not always been the top 25 poll that exists today. In some years it was a top ten, in others a top 20.


In the words of the AP in announcing its calculations:


“Over 80 years and 1,103 polls, a total of 165 schools have been ranked and 44 of them have been ranked No. 1 (Minnesota was the first).

“To determine the all-time Top 25, the AP formula counted poll appearances (one point) to mark consistency, No. 1 rankings (two points) to acknowledge elite programs, and gave a bonus for AP championships (10 points).”

So a ranking of No. 2 and a ranking of No. 25 both earned one point.

A national championship earned a bonus of 10 points. Alabama has a national-best 10 AP national championships – 12.5 per cent of being No. 1 when it counted, in the final poll – but ranked first in only 74 of the 1,103 polls – 6.7 per cent of the polls.

By comparison, Ohio State – the team judged to be the best all-time – seems to have benefitted by voter incompetence. The Buckeyes have half as many national championships as Alabama, its five accounting for 6.25 per cent of the total. But the Midwest school has been ranked first 105 times, 9.5 per cent of the time.

Suspicious, no?

To take it a step further, Ohio State has been ranked in 852 polls, 77.24 per cent, Alabama only 745 polls, 67.54 per cent.

The AP saw this as a positive rather than a red flag.

So here’s how the AP had its top 10:

1.     Ohio State (1,112 points), 2. Oklahoma (1,055), 3. Notre Dame (1,042), 4. Alabama (993), 5. Southern Cal (974), 6. Nebraska (901), 7. Michigan (894), 8. Texas (822), 9. Florida State (714), 10. Florida (674).

Other SEC schools were 11. LSU, 14. Tennessee, 15. Georgia, 16. Auburn, 18. Texas A&M, 21. Arkansas, 29. Ole Miss, 35. Missouri, 46. Mississippi State, 48. South Carolina, 68. Kentucky, and 89. Vanderbilt. took the same data, but applied it differently. Ignoring the weekly rankings, and instead taking all the AP final rankings, CFN devised a scoring system giving every AP national champion 25 points, the No. 2 team 24, No. 3 23, and so on down to the bottom – currently No. 25, but there was a top ten for a bit and later a top 20.

The problem with this calculation is that there is only one point gained by achieving the ultimate – the national championship – over a team that failed in that quest.

By the CFN method, Oklahoma was No. 1 all-time with 1,116 points followed by No. 2 Alabama (989), No. 3 Ohio State (988), No. 4 Michigan (957), No. 5. Notre Dame (939), 6. Southern Cal (795), 7. Nebraska (783), 8. Texas (772), 9. Tennessee (682), 10. Penn State (648).

CFN believes there are five truly great programs – Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Notre Dame – with USC, Miami, and Texas in the next tier.

We like the CFN method of considering only the final poll and of awarding a decreasing number of points going down the poll; we like the AP aspect of giving a bonus for winning the national championship.

We are not, however, going to do that math. Here is how we would have awarded points:

Win the national championship and get 100 points (and we’d like recounts on 1966 and 1977).

Everyone else, thanks for playing.

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