AP top 25: Where Florida State and everyone else landed in our final rankings

Did the Seminoles crack the top 10 on our final ballot? What about Michael Penix’s Huskies?
Florida State's breakthrough 10-win season put the Seminoles in the mix for a top-10 finish.
Florida State's breakthrough 10-win season put the Seminoles in the mix for a top-10 finish. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Jan. 10

My final Associated Press top 25 ballot put a quarterback from Tampa in the top 10, Florida State just outside a milestone ranking and two former Bucs assistants in higher-than-expected finishing spots.

Let’s start with the 10-3 Seminoles, which entered bowl season with a viable shot at their first top-10 finish since 2016. They didn’t get there, at least in my rankings. I kept FSU at No. 13.

Related: Why TCU’s playoff roster is a model for Florida State, USF and UCF

Though the record and season-ending six-game winning streak are impressive, I couldn’t get past FSU’s weak strength of schedule. The Seminoles only beat three teams that finished with winning records (LSU, Louisville and Syracuse), and only the Tigers finished ranked.

Compare that stat to some of the other teams in the 8-17 tier on my ballot. USC beat four teams that finished in my final rankings. Utah and Washington beat three each, while Tulane beat two in my top 15. FSU deserves credit for rallying to beat Oklahoma, but this was also the worst Sooners team this century. That wasn’t enough to vault FSU past some of the other comparable teams, including Clemson (which beat FSU in Tallahassee).

FSU tight end Markeston Douglas and the Seminoles finished No. 13 on our final ballot.
FSU tight end Markeston Douglas and the Seminoles finished No. 13 on our final ballot. [ STEPHEN M. DOWELL | Orlando Sentinel (2022) ]

Elsewhere on my ballot:

The top five was straightforward: Georgia, TCU, Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama, in that order. I briefly thought about moving the Horned Frogs out of No. 2 during Monday night’s blowout loss, but who would take their place? Not Michigan; TCU beat the Wolverines. Not Ohio State. The Buckeyes lost handily to Michigan, which lost to TCU. The Crimson Tide looked great in the Sugar Bowl, but I couldn’t justify moving Alabama up from No. 5 after the top four all acquitted themselves well in the semifinals.

Related: What’s next after Florida State’s 10-win season? How about an ACC title?

Utah moved up two spots to No. 8 despite losing in the Rose Bowl to Penn State. That’s a product of two factors: other comparable teams losing, too (somebody must be eighth), and the fact that I underrated the Utes on my last ballot.

Tampa Bay Tech alumnus Michael Penix led the Huskies to the top 10 in our rankings.
Tampa Bay Tech alumnus Michael Penix led the Huskies to the top 10 in our rankings. [ ERIC GAY | AP ]

Washington finishes ninth after beating Texas in the Alamo Bowl. Tampa Bay Tech product Michael Penix will enter next season as a Heisman Trophy contender, and his Huskies will have a shot at winning the Pac-12.

Tulane took the final spot in my top 10. Head-to-head victories were a main reason why; I wasn’t going to put the 12-2 Green Wave behind USC or Kansas State (two teams they beat).

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Though Mississippi State didn’t look great in the ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium, I gave the Bulldogs credit for beating a solid Illinois team less than a month after the death of coach Mike Leach. Mississippi State earned its spot at No. 19, up two from my last ballot.

Related: How Mississippi State honored Mike Leach in ReliaQuest Bowl triumph over Illinois

Texas dropped two spots to No. 21 after losing to the Huskies. If you think that’s too high for the 8-5 Longhorns, that’s fair. But advanced metrics, including the Sagarin Ratings, SP+ and ESPN’s FPI, all view Texas as a top-10 team. That fact stood out as I considered 10 teams for my final few slots.

Fresno State entered my ballot at No. 20. The Bulldogs — coached by one-time Bucs assistant Jeff Tedford — won their final nine games to give themselves a shot at finishing ranked for the fourth time ever. Pitt also joined my rankings after edging UCLA in the Sun Bowl.

UTSA and South Carolina both dropped out after losing to Troy and Notre Dame. Former Bucs assistant P.J. Fleck and his Golden Gophers took the final spot. Minnesota had a quiet 9-4 season by avoiding notable upsets and not upsetting anyone, and its top-25 status in advanced metrics won out over the resumes of Duke, Air Force, Texas Tech, Louisville and Iowa, among others.

Final AP top 25 ballot

1. Georgia

2. TCU

3. Michigan

4. Ohio State

5. Alabama

6. Tennessee

7. Penn State

8. Utah

9. Washington

10. Tulane

11. USC

12. Clemson

13. Florida State

14. Kansas State

15. LSU

16. Oregon State

17. Oregon

18. Notre Dame

19. Mississippi State

20. Fresno State

21. Texas

22. Troy

23. Pitt

24. UCLA

25. Minnesota

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