No. 2 Not For Many

Despite this year's upsets, No. 2 has historically been one of safest spots in Top 25

Nov. 22, 2007

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By Eric Sorenson

Special to CSTV.com

 

You think it's tough to be No. 2? Try making a living being ranked No. 9.

 



ERIC SORENSON

Eric Sorenson is a regular contributor to CSTV.com, covering football, basketball & baseball. E-mail here!

A lot has been made about the No. 2 teams dropping like so many political campaign promises this year. And it's true, with Oregon's 34-24 loss in the desert of Arizona, the Ducks became the fifth No. 2-ranked team to faceplant this season. Kind of makes you think it's really tough to be No. 2, huh?

 

But in the modern era of the AP poll - since it expanded from 10 teams to 20 in 1968 - the toughest poll position of all has actually been the No. 9 slot. In the 40 years since the poll's biggest expansion, the No. 9 team in the country has gone down to defeat 126 times and been tied eight times in the regular season. No. 2 has actually done relatively well, losing just 75 times and tying five times. And in case you're wondering, the least-beaten poll position of all is the teams ranked at No. 1, who have lost only 53 times with five ties in regular season games.


 

 

 

However, it is true that there has been a certain degree of difficulty to being No. 2 lately. When you combine this year's and last year's results, the No. 2 team has gone down to defeat 11 times. Since 1968, there hasn't been a tougher stretch at being a No. 2 ranked team than in the past 12 months.

 

2006

Texas lost to No. 1 Ohio State, 24-7.

Notre Dame lost to No. 11 Michigan, 47-21 (yes, ND was actually No. 2).

Auburn lost to Arkansas, 27-10.

Florida lost to No. 11 Auburn, 27-17.

Michigan lost to No. 1 Ohio State, 42-39.

USC lost to UCLA, 13-9.

 

2007

USC lost to Stanford, 24-23.

California lost to Oregon State, 31-28.

South Florida lost to Rutgers, 30-27.

Boston College lost to Florida State, 27-17.

Oregon lost to Arizona, 34-24.

 

Does anything top that? Yep, in the two-year stretch of 1983 and 1984, No. 9-ranked teams also lost 11 times, but also tied once. But that has a distinct chance of getting outdone if another No. 2 goes down this season. Kansas, you're on alert.

 

Taking the 2007 season in total, how does this year of overall upheaval compare to others? Looking at the top 10 results so far, there have been 28 losses for those teams. That's an awful lot.

 

Since 1968, the greatest number of total regular season losses for top 10 teams came in 1984, when there were 32 losses in all, including five losses and a tie by the No. 1 ranked teams. But don't get all giddy and think that kind of parity is a good thing. Consider that all those losses and upsets that season allowed BYU to win the "national title" with a weak 7-point win over a 6-6 Michigan team.

 

Okay, so there IS one thing good about the BCS: that would never have happened in modern times.

 

Here are the seasons with the most losses by Top 10 ranked teams in the modern era of college football, prior to this year:

1. 1984, 32 losses.

2. 2003, 30 losses.

3. 1990, 28 losses.

4. 1974, 27 losses.

5. 1981, 1985, 1986, 2002, all 26 losses.

 

Look at the top four seasons above. Notice anything unusual? How about the fact that each of those seasons ended up with embarrassing and/or fraudulent finishes.

2003: Somehow the BCS managed to not invite the No. 1 team in the polls to its title game and we ended up with two national champions.

1990: Again, we got dual national champions, including an undeserving 5th-down Colorado team.

1984: BYU wins the "national title." Nuf said.

1974: This time there were two title holders, but only because 11-0 Oklahoma was on probation. 10-1-1 USC won the UPI title.

 

For all you stat geeks, here's the complete rundown.

 

Losses for Top 10 teams in regular season games since 1968:

1968: 19 losses, 5 ties (No. 9 lost four times and was tied twice.)

1969: 15 losses, 2 ties

1970: 18 losses, 2 ties (No. 4 teams lost seven times. Nos. 1 and 2 went unbeaten until the bowls)

1971: 20 losses

1972: 19 losses, 2 ties

1973: 13 losses, 5 ties (The entire Top 5 only lost once all season.)

1974: 27 losses, 1 tie (No. 6-ranked teams lost six times.)

1975: 17 losses, 3 ties

1976: 22 losses, 2 ties

1977: 19 losses, 1 tie

1978: 21 losses, 1 tie

1979: 15 losses (Including ties, this was the least amount of upheaval in the top 10.)

1980: 20 losses, 2 ties

1981: 26 losses, 3 ties (Six different No. 1 teams, most in modern era.)

1982: 23 losses, 3 ties

1983: 24 losses, 2 ties (No. 9 teams lose six and tie once.)

1984: 32 losses, 2 ties (Five losses and one tie for No. 1 teams.)

1985: 26 losses, 3 ties

1986: 26 losses, 1 tie

1987: 19 losses, 3 ties

1988: 20 losses

1989: 21 losses, 3 ties

1990: 28 losses, 3 ties (Five losses for No. 1 teams.)

1991: 20 losses, 1 tie

1992: 15 losses, 4 ties

1993: 17 losses, 4 ties

1994: 16 losses, 4 ties

1995: 22 losses (Overtime instituted. No more ties.)

1996: 23 losses

1997: 17 losses (The last time there were fewer than 20 Top 10 losses.)

1998: 23 losses

1999: 24 losses

2000: 25 losses (Nebraska goes from No. 1 at 7-0, to not playing in a BCS bowl.)

2001: 25 losses

2002: 26 losses

2003: 30 losses (Six No. 6 teams lost, the most for one ranking since six No. 9s lost in 1983.)

2004: 20 losses

2005: 25 losses (Five No. 3s and five No. 9s lost.)

2006: 23 losses

2007: 28 losses (LSU's loss at Kentucky was the first regular season loss for No. 1 since Oklahoma lost to Kansas State in 2003.)

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