1981 NCAA Division I-A football rankings

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Two human polls comprised the 1981 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I-A football rankings. Unlike most sports, college football's governing body, the NCAA, does not bestow a national championship, instead that title is bestowed by one or more different polling agencies. There are two main weekly polls that begin in the preseason—the AP Poll and the Coaches' Poll.

Legend[edit]

  Increase in ranking
  Decrease in ranking
  Not ranked previous week
  National champion
(#–#)
  Win–loss record
(Italics)
  Number of first place votes
т
Tied with team above or below also with this symbol

AP Poll[edit]

Preseason
Aug 29[1]
Week 1
Sep 7[2]
Week 2
Sep 14[3]
Week 3
Sep 21[4]
Week 4
Sep 28[5]
Week 5
Oct 5[6]
Week 6
Oct 12[7]
Week 7
Oct 19[8]
Week 8
Oct 26[9]
Week 9
Nov 2[10]
Week 10
Nov 9[11]
Week 11
Nov 16[12]
Week 12
Nov 23[13]
Week 13
Nov 30[14]
Week 14 (Final)
Jan 3[15]
1.Michigan (38)Michigan (0–0) (37)Notre Dame (1–0) (24)USC (2–0) (46)USC (3–0) (57 ½)USC (4–0) (58)Texas (4–0) (35)Penn State (5–0) (36 ½)Penn State (6–0) (45)Pittsburgh (7–0) (49)Pittsburgh (8–0) (53)Pittsburgh (9–0) (63)Pittsburgh (10–0) (60)Clemson (11–0) (63)Clemson (12–0) (47)1.
2.Oklahoma (7)Alabama (1–0) (11)USC (1–0) (12)Oklahoma (1–0) (15)Penn State (2–0) (5 ½)Penn State (3–0) (6)Penn State (4–0) (24)Pittsburgh (5–0) (26 ½)Pittsburgh (6–0) (19)Clemson (8–0) (9)Clemson (9–0) (7)Clemson (10–0) (5)Clemson (11–0) (5)Georgia (10–1) (1)Texas (10–1–1) (1)2.
3.Notre Dame (7)Oklahoma (0–0)Oklahoma (1–0) (12)Penn State (1–0) (2)Texas (3–0) (1)Texas (3–0) (1)Pittsburgh (4–0) (3)North Carolina (6–0) (3)Clemson (7–0)USC (7–1) (7)USC (8–1) (8)Georgia (9–1)Georgia (9–1)Alabama (9–1–1)Penn State (10–2) (1)3.
4.Alabama (3)Notre Dame (0–0) (4)Georgia (2–0) (12)Texas (2–0) (1)Pittsburgh (2–0)Pittsburgh (3–0)North Carolina (5–0) (4)Clemson (6–0)USC (6–1)Georgia (7–1)Georgia (8–1)Alabama (8–1–1)Alabama (8–1–1)Nebraska (9–2) (1)Pittsburgh (11–1)4.
5.USC (5)USC (0–0) (3)Penn State (1–0) (1)Pittsburgh (2–0)Oklahoma (1–1)North Carolina (4–0)Michigan (4–1)USC (5–1)Georgia (6–1)Texas (6–1)Penn State (7–1)Nebraska (8–2)Nebraska (9–2)SMU (10–1) (1)SMU (10–1) (1)5.
6.NebraskaGeorgia (1–0) (4)Texas (1–0) (1)UCLA (2–0)North Carolina (3–0)Michigan (3–1)Clemson (5–0)Iowa (5–1)Texas (5–1)Penn State (6–1)Alabama (7–1–1)SMU (9–1)SMU (10–1)Texas (9–1–1)Georgia (10–2)6.
7.Penn State (1)Nebraska (0–0)Pittsburgh (1–0)Michigan (1–1) (1)Ohio State (3–0)Alabama (4–1)USC (4–1)Georgia (5–1)Mississippi State (6–1)Alabama (7–1–1)Nebraska (7–2)Michigan (8–2)Texas (8–1–1)Penn State (9–2) (1)Alabama (9–2–1)7.
8.PittsburghTexas (0–0)Ohio State (1–0)Ohio State (2–0)Michigan (2–1)BYU (5–0)Missouri (5–0)SMU (6–0)Alabama (6–1–1)North Carolina (7–1)SMU (8–1)Texas (7–1–1)USC (9–2)USC (9–2)Miami (FL) (9–2)8.
9.TexasPenn State (0–0)UCLA (1–0)North Carolina (2–0)Mississippi State (3–0)Clemson (4–0)Georgia (4–1)Mississippi State (5–1)North Carolina (6–1)Arizona State (6–1)Arizona State (7–1)Southern Miss (8–0–1)Miami (FL) (8–2)Miami (FL) (9–2) (1)North Carolina (10–2)9.
10.GeorgiaPittsburgh (1–0)North Carolina (1–0)Alabama (2–1)BYU (4–0)Oklahoma (1–1–1)SMU (5–0)Texas (4–1)Arizona State (6–1)SMU (7–1)Texas (6–1–1)USC (8–2)North Carolina (9–2)Pittsburgh (10–1)Washington (10–2)10.
11.Ohio State (1)Ohio State (0–0)Michigan (0–1)BYU (3–0)Alabama (3–1)Georgia (3–1)Florida State (4–1)Alabama (5–1–1)Iowa State (5–1–1)Nebraska (6–2)Michigan (7–2)Miami (FL) (7–2)Penn State (8–2)North Carolina (9–2)Nebraska (9–3)11.
12.North CarolinaUCLA (0–0)Alabama (1–1)Mississippi State (2–0)Washington (3–0)Iowa State (3–0–1)Iowa (4–1)Arkansas (5–1)Nebraska (5–2)Michigan (6–2)Miami (FL) (6–2)North Carolina (8–2)Washington (9–2)Washington (9–2)Michigan (9–3)12.
13.UCLANorth Carolina (0–0)BYU (2–0)Notre Dame (1–1)Georgia (3–1)Missouri (4–0)Miami (FL) (3–1)BYU (6–1)SMU (6–1)Miami (FL) (5–2)North Carolina (7–2)Penn State (7–2)Iowa (8–3)Iowa (8–3)BYU (11–2)13.
14.Mississippi StateMississippi State (1–0)Mississippi State (1–0)Miami (FL) (2–0)Clemson (3–0)SMU (4–0)Wisconsin (4–1)Iowa State (4–1–1)Washington State (6–0–1)Florida State (6–2)Southern Miss (7–0–1)Washington State (8–1–1)BYU (10–2)BYU (10–2)USC (9–3)14.
15.WashingtonBYU (1–0)Washington (1–0)Nebraska (1–1)SMU (4–0)Iowa (3–1)Alabama (4–1–1)Nebraska (4–2)Michigan (5–2)Mississippi State (6–2)Oklahoma (5–2–1)UCLA (7–2–1)Ohio State (8–3)Ohio State (8–3)Ohio State (9–3)15.
16.BYUMiami (FL) (1–0)Miami (FL) (1–0)Washington (2–0)UCLA (2–1)Miami (FL) (3–1)Mississippi State (4–1)Washington State (5–0–1)Iowa (5–2)Washington (7–1)Arkansas (7–2)Arkansas (8–2)Michigan (8–3)Michigan (8–3)Arizona State (9–2)16.
17.FloridaWashington (0–0)Nebraska (0–1)Georgia (2–1)Miami (FL) (2–1)UCLA (3–1)BYU (5–1)Arizona State (5–1)Florida State (5–2)Oklahoma (4–2–1)Washington State (7–1–1)Washington (8–2)Southern Miss (8–1–1)Arizona State (9–2)West Virginia (9–3)17.
18.StanfordFlorida State (1–0)Arizona State (1–0)Arizona State (2–0)Iowa (2–1)Ohio State (3–1)Washington State (5–0)Michigan (4–2)Washington (6–1)Ohio State (6–2)UCLA (6–2–1)BYU (9–2)Arizona State (8–2)Southern Miss (9–1–1)Iowa (8–4)18.
19.Florida StateStanford (0–0)Florida State (2–0)Clemson (3–0)Arkansas (3–0)Mississippi State (3–1)Nebraska (3–2)Missouri (5–1)Oklahoma (3–2–1)Arkansas (6–2)Hawaii (7–0)Iowa (7–3)UCLA (7–3–1)UCLA (7–3–1)Missouri (8–4)19.
20.Arizona StateArizona State (0–0)Wisconsin (1–0)SMU (3–0)Iowa State (3–0)Florida State (3–1)Arizona State (4–1)Florida State (4–2)Arkansas (5–2)Southern Miss (6–0–1)Florida State (6–3)Arizona State (7–2)Washington State (8–2–1)Washington State (8–2–1)Oklahoma (7–4–1)20.
Preseason
Aug 29[1]
Week 1
Sep 7[2]
Week 2
Sep 14[3]
Week 3
Sep 21[4]
Week 4
Sep 28[5]
Week 5
Oct 5[6]
Week 6
Oct 12[7]
Week 7
Oct 19[8]
Week 8
Oct 26[9]
Week 9
Nov 2[10]
Week 10
Nov 9[11]
Week 11
Nov 16[12]
Week 12
Nov 23[13]
Week 13
Nov 30[14]
Week 14 (Final)
Jan 3[15]
Dropped:
  • Florida
Dropped:
  • Stanford
Dropped:
  • Florida State
  • Wisconsin
Dropped:
  • Notre Dame
  • Nebraska
  • Arizona State
Dropped:
  • Washington
  • Arkansas
Dropped:
  • Oklahoma
  • Iowa State
  • UCLA
  • Ohio State
Dropped:
  • Miami (FL)
  • Wisconsin
Dropped:
  • BYU
  • Missouri
Dropped:
  • Iowa State
  • Washington State
  • Iowa
Dropped:
  • Mississippi State
  • Washington
  • Ohio State
Dropped:
  • Oklahoma
  • Hawaii
  • Florida State
Dropped:
  • Arkansas
NoneDropped:
  • Southern Miss
  • UCLA
  • Washington State

Coaches' Poll[edit]

Arizona State, SMU, and Miami (FL) (after a November 3, 1981 ruling) were on probation by the NCAA during the 1981 season; they were therefore ineligible to receive votes in the Coaches' Poll.

Preseason
Aug 29[16]
Week 1
Sep 14[17]
Week 2
Sep 21[18]
Week 3
Sep 28[19]
Week 4
Oct 5[20]
Week 5
Oct 12[21]
Week 6
Oct 19[22]
Week 7
Oct 26[23]
Week 8
Nov 2[24]
Week 9
Nov 9
Week 10
Nov 16[25]
Week 11
Nov 23
Week 12
Nov 30
Week 13 (Final)
Jan 3[26]
1.Michigan (22)Notre Dame (1–0) (11)USC (2–0) (28)USC (3–0) (39)USC (4–0) (40)Texas (4–0) (23)Penn State (5–0) (36)Penn State (6–0) (40)Pittsburgh (7–0) (35)Pittsburgh (8–0) (38)Pittsburgh (9–0) (40)Pittsburgh (10–0) (39)Clemson (11–0)Clemson (12–0) (35)1.
2.Oklahoma (3)USC (1–0) (10)Oklahoma (1–0) (10)Penn State (2–0) (2)Penn State (3–0) (1)Penn State (4–0) (19)Pittsburgh (5–0) (6)Pittsburgh (6–0) (2)USC (7–1) (4)Clemson (9–0) (1)Clemson (10–0) (2)Clemson (11–0) (3)Georgia (10–1)Pittsburgh (11–1)2.
3.Alabama (3)Oklahoma (1–0) (14)Penn State (1–0) (1)Texas (3–0)Texas (3–0)Pittsburgh (4–0)North Carolina (6–0)USC (6–1)Clemson (8–0) (2)USC (8–1) (3)Georgia (9–1)Georgia (9–1)Alabama (9–1–1)Penn State (10–2) (1)3.
4.Notre Dame (5)Georgia (2–0) (7)Texas (2–0) (1)Pittsburgh (2–0)Pittsburgh (3–0)North Carolina (5–0)USC (5–1)Clemson (7–0)Georgia (7–1) (1)Georgia (8–1)Alabama (8–1–1)Alabama (8–1–1)Nebraska (9–2)Texas (10–1–1) (1)4.
5.USC (2)Penn State (1–0)Pittsburgh (2–0)North Carolina (3–0) (1)North Carolina (4–0)Michigan (4–1)Clemson (6–0)Georgia (6–1)Texas (6–1)Penn State (7–1)Nebraska (8–2)Nebraska (9–2)Texas (9–1–1)Georgia (10–2)5.
6.NebraskaTexas (1–0)Michigan (1–1)Oklahoma (1–1)Michigan (3–1)USC (4–1)Georgia (5–1)Texas (5–1)Penn State (6–1)Alabama (7–1–1)Michigan (8–2)Texas (8–1–1)Penn State (9–2)Alabama (9–2–1)6.
7.Penn State (2)Pittsburgh (1–0)UCLA (2–0)Ohio State (3–0)Alabama (4–1)Clemson (5–0)Iowa (5–1)Alabama (6–1–1)Alabama (7–1–1)Nebraska (7–2)Texas (7–1–1)USC (9–2)USC (9–2)Washington (10–2)7.
8.Georgia (4)Ohio State (1–0)Ohio State (2–0)Michigan (2–1)BYU (5–0)Missouri (5–0)Texas (4–1)Mississippi State (6–1)Nebraska (6–2)Michigan (7–2)Southern Miss (8–0–1)North Carolina (9–2)Pittsburgh (10–1)North Carolina (10–2)8.
9.Pittsburgh (1)North Carolina (1–0)North Carolina (2–0)Mississippi State (3–0)Georgia (3–1)Georgia (4–1)Alabama (5–1–1)Nebraska (5–2)North Carolina (7–1)Texas (6–1–1)USC (8–2)Penn State (8–2)North Carolina (9–2)Nebraska (9–3)9.
10.TexasUCLA (1–0)Alabama (2–1)Alabama (3–1)Clemson (4–0)Florida State (4–1)Mississippi State (5–1)Iowa State (5–1–1)Michigan (6–2)Southern Miss (7–0–1)Arkansas (8–2)Washington (9–2)Washington (9–2)Michigan (9–3)10.
11.Ohio StateAlabama (1–1)Notre Dame (1–1)BYU (4–0)Missouri (4–0)Miami (FL) (3–1)Nebraska (4–2)North Carolina (6–1)Miami (FL) (5–2)Oklahoma (5–2–1)North Carolina (8–2)Iowa (8–3)Iowa (8–3)BYU (11–2)11.
12.UCLAMichigan (0–1)Nebraska (1–1)Georgia (3–1)Oklahoma (1–1–1)Iowa (4–1)Iowa State (4–1–1)Washington State (6–0–1)Washington (7–1)North Carolina (7–2)Washington State (8–1–1)BYU (10–2)BYU (10–2)Ohio State (9–3)12.
13.Florida StateBYU (2–0)BYU (3–0)Washington (3–0)Miami (FL) (3–1)Wisconsin (4–1)Arkansas (5–1)Oklahoma (3–2–1)Oklahoma (4–2–1)Arkansas (7–2)UCLA (7–2–1)Michigan (8–3)Michigan (8–3)USC (9–3)13.
14.North CarolinaMississippi State (1–0)Mississippi State (2–0)Clemson (3–0)Iowa State (3–0–1)Alabama (4–1–1)Washington State (5–0–1)Michigan (5–2)Florida State (6–2)UCLA (6–2–1)Penn State (7–2)Ohio State (8–3)Ohio State (8–3)Oklahoma (7–4–1)14.
15.Mississippi StateMiami (FL) (1–0)Miami (FL) (2–0)Miami (FL) (2–1)Iowa (3–1)BYU (5–1)BYU (6–1)Washington (6–1)Mississippi State (6–2)Washington State (7–1–1)BYU (9–2)Southern Miss (8–1–1)Southern Miss (9–1–1)Iowa (8–4)15.
16.FloridaFlorida State (2–0)Georgia (2–1)Arkansas (3–0)UCLA (3–1)Mississippi State (4–1)Missouri (5–1)Iowa (5–2)Ohio State (6–2)Hawaii (7–0)Washington (8–2)UCLA (7–3–1)UCLA (7–3–1)Arkansas (8–4)16.
17.WashingtonWashington (1–0)Washington (2–0)Missouri (3–0)Ohio State (3–1)Iowa State (3–1–1)Oklahoma (2–2–1)Florida State (5–2)Arkansas (6–2)BYU (8–2)Iowa (7–3)Arkansas (8–3)Arkansas (8–3)Mississippi State (8–4)17.
18.HoustonPurdue (1–0)Clemson (3–0)UCLA (2–1)Nebraska (2–2)Nebraska (3–2)Washington (5–1)Ohio State (5–2)Southern Miss (6–0–1)Iowa (6–3)Ohio State (7–3)Washington State (8–2–1)Washington State (8–2–1)West Virginia (9–3)18.
19.BYUNebraska (0–1)Florida State (2–1)Nebraska (1–2)Florida State (3–1)Washington State (5–0)Michigan (4–2)Miami (FL) (4–2)Washington State (6–1–1)Florida State (6–3)West Virginia (8–2)Houston (6–3–1)Houston (7–3–1)Southern Miss (9–2–1)19.
20.BaylorWisconsin (1–0)Arkansas (2–0)
West Virginia (2–0)
Iowa (2–1)Mississippi State (3–1)Oklahoma (1–2–1)Florida State (4–2)Arkansas (5–2)Iowa State (5–2–1)Minnesota (6–3)Missouri (7–3)San Jose State (8–2)San Jose State (9–2)Missouri (8–4)20.
Preseason
Aug 29[16]
Week 1
Sep 14[17]
Week 2
Sep 21[18]
Week 3
Sep 28[19]
Week 4
Oct 5[20]
Week 5
Oct 12[21]
Week 6
Oct 19[22]
Week 7
Oct 26[23]
Week 8
Nov 2[24]
Week 9
Nov 9
Week 10
Nov 16[25]
Week 11
Nov 23
Week 12
Nov 30
Week 13 (Final)
Jan 3[26]
Dropped:
  • Florida
  • Houston
  • Baylor
Dropped:
  • Purdue
  • Wisconsin
Dropped:
  • Notre Dame
  • Florida State
  • West Virginia
Dropped:
  • Washington
  • Arkansas
Dropped:
  • UCLA
  • Ohio State
Dropped:
  • Miami (FL)
  • Wisconsin
Dropped:
  • BYU
  • Missouri
Dropped:
  • Iowa
Dropped:
  • Miami (FL)
  • Washington
  • Mississippi State
  • Ohio State
  • Iowa State
Dropped:
  • Oklahoma
  • Hawaii
  • Florida State
  • Minnesota
Dropped:
  • West Virginia
  • Missouri
NoneDropped:
  • UCLA
  • Washington State
  • Houston
  • San Jose State

References[edit]

  1. ^ "1981 Preseason AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  2. ^ "September 7, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  3. ^ "September 14, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  4. ^ "September 21, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  5. ^ "September 28, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  6. ^ "October 5, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  7. ^ "October 12, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  8. ^ "October 19, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  9. ^ "October 26, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  10. ^ "November 2, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  11. ^ "November 9, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  12. ^ "November 16, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  13. ^ "November 23, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  14. ^ "November 30, 1981 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  15. ^ "Final AP Top 20". Detroit Free Press. January 3, 1982. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  16. ^ "Michigan ranked No.1 in UPI preseason poll". Arizona Republic. August 29, 1981. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  17. ^ "Irish take over top spot in both polls". Indianapolis Star. September 15, 1981. p. 21. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  18. ^ "Tigers 18th, 19th". The Greenville News (Greenville, SC). September 23, 1981. p. 33. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  19. ^ "Polls rank Iowa among college football's top 20" (PDF). The Daily Iowan. September 29, 1981. p. 10. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  20. ^ "The United Press International board of coaches major-college football rankings". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. October 6, 1981. p. 32. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  21. ^ "Texas Is Number One". Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, IN). October 13, 1981. p. 8. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  22. ^ "Penn State No. 1". The Daily Reporter (Greenfield, IN). October 20, 1981. p. 7. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  23. ^ "Hawks fall to 16th; Lions stay at No. 1" (PDF). The Daily Iowan. October 27, 1981. p. 10. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  24. ^ "Pitt Panthers take hot seat". Ukiah Daily Journal (Ukiah, CA). November 3, 1981. p. 35. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  25. ^ "Pittsburgh retains top ranking". The Salina Journal. November 17, 1981. p. 9. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  26. ^ "Final UPI Top 20". Detroit Free Press. January 3, 1982. Retrieved January 1, 2017.