Full disclosure: My final AP football ballot
As I suspected, my 15th and final ballot of the season was the most difficult to complete, for one overriding reason.
In my way of thinking, it had to represent teams' total body of work, not merely bowl performance. But because the latter remains freshest in the minds of most, I'm braced for a degree of backlash.
Case in point: Florida. By season's end, few would argue the Gators -- who dropped their last three with a feeble offense and laughable kicking situation -- hardly resembled a top-25 contender. But what about their previous 10 victories, which included triumphs against Ole Miss, Tennessee and Georgia? What about that SEC East title?
Body of work, folks. They remain on the ballot, barely.
Similarly, Oklahoma State collapsed down the stretch, ending with an embarrassing four-touchdown loss to Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl. But step back and take in the whole
picture, and one might consider the Cowboys -- fourth in the Big 12 preseason poll -- an over-achiever. Despite the absence of an effective run game, Mike Gundy still
managed to lead his team to a 10-0 start including a 20-point romp of TCU. Big picture wins.
And before launching into a Twitter tirade over head-to-head discrepancies, just remember it's a strong balloting criteria, but only when practical. Example: Florida and Tennessee both have four losses and played similar schedules, so I employed head-to-head to put the Gators at No. 23 and the Vols at 24.
3. Ohio State
6. Michigan State
9. Ole Miss
11. Notre Dame
15. North Carolina
20. Oklahoma State
21. Western Kentucky