Here's how the top 25 would've looked after the bowl shakeup
The Associated Press will not put out its final Top 25 until after Alabama and Clemson square off in Arizona.
But there have been 40 bowl games since the last top 25 poll. So we felt a need to update.
Here’s what the top 25 would’ve looked like if there was a new poll this week:
1. ALABAMA — I realize that Clemson is unbeaten and just thrashed the Big 12 “champions” by 20 points. But against an elite offensive line and a likely second-day NFL draft pick at quarterback, the Tide did not allow a single point, thanks to a Cyrus Jones interception at the goal line. Even scarier: Alabama scored 31 offensive points during Derrick Henry’s worst performance against a power-conference defense since he ran five times for 72 yards against Auburn in 2014. It took this Tide team about four games to hit its stride, but this group is playing as well as any Nick Saban-coached team ever has.
2. CLEMSON — Oklahoma averages more than 530 yards of offense per game. Clemson beat the Sooners’ offensive line so handily that Baker Mayfield, Sterling Shepherd, Samaje Perine and company did not score in the second half, turned the ball over twice and converted just 5 of 14 attempts on third or fourth down. Watson threw for just 187 yards, but Clemson rushed for 312, proving it can win in a variety of ways. This team is one win away from an FBS-record 15-0 season.
3. OHIO STATE — In context of the bowl games, the Buckeyes look like the most talented Big Ten team, and the best team not to make the College Football Playoff. Which makes sense, considering that coach Urban Meyer’s Ohio State won last year’s national title and returned as much NFL talent as any program in the nation. A Tide-Buckeyes rematch in the College Football Playoff would’ve been tremendous.
4. STANFORD — HEIS-MANNN! We don’t agree that Christian McCaffrey should’ve won the Heisman Trophy ahead of Alabama’s Derrick Henry, but we do think he’s one of the most exciting players in all of college football. There’s a sense that he could score any time he touches the football, from any point on the field. It’s almost a shame that this Cardinal team lost two games, because the team closed the season by beating Cal, Notre Dame, USC and Iowa in impressive fashion.
5. OKLAHOMA — “Big Game Bob” Stoops gave another dud performance on a national stage. But give him credit for transforming the offense to allow Baker Mayfield to become a star and give his defense some serious help. The Sooners wouldn’t have won a crowded Big 12 without being able to outscore teams like TCU and Baylor. And there’s no shame in a two-loss season.
6. MICHIGAN STATE — To be fair, the Spartans probably are lucky to finish this high in the rankings. Yes, this team is 12-2 despite arguably the most brutal schedule in the country. Alabama and Nebraska are the only teams that beat coach Mark Dantonio. But this team dodged so many bullets, beating Oregon by 3, Michigan by 4, Ohio State by 3 and Iowa by 3. That’s not to mention a 3-point escape against Purdue and a 7-point “triumph” over Rutgers. This team was both lucky and good, but without the luck it wouldn’t have ranked in the top 10.
7. IOWA — The Hawkeyes went from unbeaten to twice-beaten in the span of two postseason games. An easy target all season for the likes of Colin Cowherd and every SEC backer, Iowa still proved in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State that it at least belongs in the rankings, but its final spot probably will be much higher than the ability of its personnel thanks to those 12 wins. Stanford added credence to that thought in the Rose Bowl.
8. TCU — Gary Patterson gave us all a new technique for turning around failed ventures. Having an unproductive day at work? Change your shirt at lunch, then rally like the Horned Frogs. It should’ve been no surprise that TCU beat Oregon in triple-overtime with a backup quarterback and without its top receiver. Patterson’s team went 6-1 in one-possession games this season, including a one-point loss at Oklahoma. Still, 23-3 in the last two years is mighty impressive.
9. OLE MISS — How the heck did this team beat Alabama and still lose three times? One could argue that Ole Miss was better than Florida, Memphis and Arkansas over the course of the entire 2015 season, yet coach Hugh Freeze lost to all three of those teams. The punctuation mark came in a 48-20 win in the Sugar Bowl, but this team beat LSU, Mississippi State and the Tide as well. Despite all the first-round NFL talent, quarterback Chad Kelly probably was this team’s most important player, and it looks like he’ll return.
10. NOTRE DAME
11. MICHIGAN — Coach Jim Harbaugh managed to win 10 games and at times looked like an elite program. Considering 8 wins would’ve been considered a good start, and that he led his team to a 41-7 win in the Citrus Bowl, this was a tremendous overall season for the Wolverines. Two more recruiting classes and this team will be contending for a national title.
12. FLORIDA STATE
14. NORTH CAROLINA
16. HOUSTON — The only Group of 5 representative in the New Year’s Six bowls, people hardly blinked when the Cougars scored a big-game takedown of Florida State. That’s how much respect coach Tom Herman and his team commands. Houston plays Oklahoma and Louisville next year out of conference and should be ranked very high before the season.
17. LSU — The Tigers did exactly what they were supposed to do against Texas Tech and pounded the Red Raiders into submission. The loss to Alabama is excusable. If only LSU found a way to beat either Ole Miss or Arkansas, this may be considered a top 10 team. Instead, coach Les Miles must replace at least one coordinator and try his darndest to avoid lame-duck status in 2016.
20. TENNESSEE — A test case for optimism/pessimism, Vols fans either are lamenting what could’ve been if not for close losses to teams like Alabama and Oklahoma or are thrilled with the prospects of the 2016 season. Team 119 should move up a few slots in the polls after pummeling Northwestern at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football to conclude the season with a six-game winning streak. Expect this team to rank even higher during next year’s preseason poll.
21. OKLAHOMA STATE
24. WESTERN KENTUCKY
25. GEORGIA — The Bulldogs managed an impressive win against Penn State. Not so much because of the way UGA played in a 24-17 victory, but because the meat of the coaching staff, including the head coach and both coordinators, headed elsewhere before the game. And the win against the Nittany Lions represented the 10th of the season. That’s very much worthy of a top 25 finish, and expect Georgia to get one.