World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon offers up his final top 25 rankings for the 2013-14 college football season.
* * *
1. Florida State: The Seminoles finish the season as the only undefeated team in FBS. As poorly as FSU played for one half of the BCS national title game, its superior talent finally won out in the fourth quarter.
2. Michigan State: The Spartans have fewer “name” victories, but their quality of play: offense, defense and special teams serving one another so well: elevates them to No. 2. I would have strongly considered them at No. 1 had Auburn beaten Florida State.
3. South Carolina: Only an injury to quarterback Connor Shaw late in a road loss to Tennessee kept the Gamecocks from playing for the national title. Beat Central Florida, Clemson and Missouri.
4. Auburn: The Tigers were often more lucky than good in several games late in the year. Still, it’s not a season to sneeze at.
5. Missouri: Best Mizzou team I’ve ever seen, especially on defense.
6. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops upped his coaching game in wins over Oklahoma State and Alabama.
7. Stanford: The Cardinal opted for the rugby scrum on the key fourth-down play in the Rose Bowl. Didn’t work.
8. Oregon: The Ducks have so many of the pieces, yet seem an outside shot to win the title. What is it?
9. Alabama: Soft schedule didn’t help the Tide’s defense gear up for its biggest games.
10. UCLA: Throttled Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Jim Mora wisely staying in Pasadena for one more year.
11. Clemson: Sammy Watkins did a happy dance all over Ohio State’s secondary.
12. LSU: Won 10 games with a brutal schedule.
13. Central Florida: Punched Baylor in the mouth and kept on punching, winning the Fiesta Bowl.
14. Louisville: One bad defensive night against UCF, a three-point loss, or Louisville would have played for the national title.
15. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have serious problems on defense. Too much five-star talent to be that average.
16. Baylor: The Bears were overrated much of the year. A loss to UCF is a useful correction. Still: what a program turnaround.
17. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys blew late-game chances to beat Oklahoma and Missouri.
18. Washington: Strong team that played a brutal schedule with games at Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State. The Huskies finished well.
19. Texas A&M: The Aggies’ defense is hideous. Lucky that Johnny Football bailed them out for two years.
20. Notre Dame: The Irish never stopped playing stingy defense.
21. Arizona State: ASU fell apart in its last two games. Laid big Sun Devil eggs.
22. Wisconsin: The Badgers’ defense took some lumps in two season-ending losses. And that was with linebacker Chris Borland.
23. Vanderbilt: James Franklin’s done some fine work in Nashville.
24. USC: The Trojans won 10 games, which included a win over Stanford.
25. Iowa: The Hawkeyes get the nod over the Huskers because of the 38-17 win in Lincoln. NU was beat up, yes, but it handed Iowa too many chances that day. Plus, Iowa played a much harder Big Ten schedule and won at Minnesota. Does Nebraska beat Wisconsin or Ohio State? Doubtful. The Gator Bowl win over Georgia wasn’t quite enough to sway my opinion.