As a high school student growing up in Altoona, Pa., in 1967, Thom Forr first became interested in college football when the Nittany Lions featured linebacker Jack Ham, fullback Franco Harris and running back Lydell Mitchell.
Forr attended Penn State and was there during the controversial 1969 season, when President Richard Nixon crowned Texas the best team in the nation before the season had ended -- an affront to the State College faithful who believed head coach Joe Paterno's team deserved national recognition. At the time, Penn State -- now in the Big Ten -- played as an independent.
"There was a perception that eastern schools played a schedule that didn't live up to what it would take to be national champion," Forr said. "It wasn't fair to dismiss teams that weren't affiliated with conferences. It was frustrating as a student."
From 1961-1971, Alabama and USC won the national championship twice, and Texas won three times. Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Nebraska were also at or near the top during that time.
Forr believed you couldn't dismiss the east with teams such as Maryland, Penn State, Boston College and Navy as a college football power. He created his own, handwritten college football ranking system in 1976 called the IV Poll, and he's been doing it ever since. He's kept a copy of every poll.
"I paper clip them together and throw them in a box," he said. "It was a hobby that became very addictive. I started with a point system, but that became too confusing. It's morphed over the years. I wasn't doing it for anybody. I never did it for recognition. I wasn't sending it out. I was working full-time. It was enough just to do it."
According to Forr, attention focused eastward after Pitt won the national championship in 1976. Clemson put the ACC on the map as something other than a basketball conference when the Tigers won in 1981.
Forr said predicting the national championship is a "crap shoot."
"I correctly predicted the national champion in 1982, Penn State, and again with Penn State in 1986. Nebraska in 1994 and '95. Florida State in 1999 and Alabama in 2015."
Forr moved to Baltimore in 1983 and works as an advertising copywriter in Hunt Valley, Md. In the late 1990s, he did a stint with sports radio host and PressBox founder Stan Charles.
"Stan was the only one who ever cared about the IV Poll," Forr said. "Most people don't care, and I don't blame them. I'm a horrible self-promoter."
He continues the IV Poll every week and likes the new playoff format.
"I never liked the idea of sportswriters voting for the team that was closest to the paper they worked for," he said. "I agree with the college football poll people. It's about the best team. I like the BCS format and the playoff even better. I don't want to see a 16-game playoff. It delegitimizes the regular season too much."
Forr consults a number of sources, including ESPN, the XM Radio College Sports Preview and various print media such as
Street & Smith's College Football Issue
"I've had to discipline myself," Forr said. "Can I be totally objective? I try and decide who is best."
The IV Poll's end-of-season rankings were No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Washington, No. 5 Michigan, No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 7 Penn State, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 9 Colorado and No. 10 USC.
"The National Championship has kind of become the Alabama Invitational Tournament these days," he said. "It's not going to change anytime soon. They are as deep as can be. There is no drop-
off between the second and third team. I'm no Mel Kiper Jr. or anything, I just watch the players. The Alabama versus LSU game was brutally fascinating."
Forr passionately and religiously watches games alone or with a friend. He's both a Ravens and Steelers fan who said Mitchell was a better player in college than Franco Harris. As for the IV Poll, there is no end in sight.
"Why stop now?" he said.
Issue 228: December 2016