College Hotline: My Final AP Top 25 Ballot (Alabama Is No. 1 … Ha! Just Making Sure You Were Reading)

The post-bowl ballots are always difficult: How much weight do you assign the bowl result relative to the totality of the previous 12 or 13 games?

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There’s no easy answer and certainly no correct one.

An example of the difficulty is the scenario we just experienced: The Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 teams on my end-of-regular-season ballot all lost their bowl games. (I had Clemson in the 3-hole.)

You can’t automatically drop five of your top six teams below a group that won bowls games, because then you are, in fact, discounting the regular season to an excessive degree.

I went on a case-by-case basis, slotting Clemson on top, of course, followed by Alabama, of course.

Then I went with Washington over Ohio State for the No. 3 spot because the Huskies were more competitive in their bowl game — in that they were actually competitive, unlike OSU.

I moved USC into the No. 5 position after it beat Penn State and Florida State into the No. 6 spot after it beat Michigan.

(What a postseason for the ACC, by the way.)

The Trojans are a terrific test case for ballot preference: The were one of the hottest teams in the country down the stretch and beat the B1G champs in the Rose, but they also lost three games in September..

Should they be ranked on their finish, which would mean a top-four spot? I tried to credit USC for the finish without ignoring the first quarter of the season.

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Washington

4. Ohio State

5. USC

6. Florida State

7. Michigan

8. Penn State

9. Oklahoma

10. Wisconsin

11. Oklahoma State

12. Auburn

13. LSU

14. Stanford

15. Louisville

16. Colorado

17. Western Michigan

18. Florida

19. Virginia Tech

20. Tennessee

21. Miami

22. West Virginia

23. Kansas State

24. Nebraska

25. Utah

*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline

*** The Hotline podcast is available on iTunes.

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