Full disclosure: My latest AP ballot (Dec. 1)
I couldn't cast a ballot in the immediate wake of the Miracle on Iron. To fairly assess where Auburn should reside in my top 25, I had to allow the emotion to subside. Then I had to ponder it, sleep on it then ponder it some more.
Twelve hours later, I arrived at this personal conclusion: The Tigers (11-1) pulled off the greatest finish in college football history, but they're still No. 3 in America.
For all the Tigers' resilience, I couldn't in good conscience propel them past undefeated Ohio State. While I acknowledge Auburn has played a tougher schedule, leap-frogging the Tigers over the Buckeyes would violate a personal conviction.
I've had Ohio State ahead of Auburn all along, and won't penalize the former for winning a rivalry game against a plus-.500 team in its most hostile environment of the year. It's not that Auburn doesn't deserve No. 2, it's that OSU doesn't warrant a demotion.
Elsewhere, Alabama falls only to No. 4 because the Tide's lone loss was to a top-three team on the game's final play. South Carolina remains ahead of SEC East champ Missouri because the Gamecocks (10-2) defeated the Tigers (11-1).
Texas A&M, USC and Fresno State (which hasn't played anyone) exited, while Texas, Georgia and Iowa entered. The Hawkeyes (8-4) sort of snuck up on me; their losses have been to four higher-ranked teams (Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin).
2. Ohio State
5. Oklahoma State
6. Michigan State
7. South Carolina
11. Arizona State
14. Northern Illinois