So I've filed the final ballot for the season. Here's how it shook out:
1. Alabama — The Tide take the top spot after a 45-40 win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff national title game. This wasn't Nick Saban's best team — that was the 2011 bunch — and Jacob Coker might be the worst quarterback Saban has ever started at Alabama. No matter. It's the best team in 2015.
2. Clemson — Earned this spot as a result of elite play toward the end of the year, its thrashing of a decent Oklahoma team, and its competitiveness in the College Football Playoff title game. The Tigers could stand to improve on special teams; they're average in that department.
3. Ohio State — Most talented team in college football that futzed around with its quarterback situation for far too long this season, then lost late in the year to a team that needed a miracle to beat Michigan earlier in the season. If Michigan State didn't get that blocked punt for a touchdown, Ohio State is quite likely playing for the national title tonight. That's how it goes.
4. Stanford — Dominated the Rose Bowl, won a very tough Pac 12.
5. Oklahoma — The Big 12 has problems, but OU's season wasn't really one of them.
6. Michigan State — The Spartans beat Ohio State and Michigan on the road, lost to Nebraska, beat Purdue by just three, and got hammered by Alabama.
7. Michigan — Here by virtue of a giant loss to Ohio State at season's end. Otherwise, higher. Michigan won't be this good next year. Mark my words.
8. Notre Dame — Injury-ridden team looking, once again, to next year.
9. Iowa — The Hawkeyes dropped hard after losing so badly to Stanford. Iowa's preparation for that game was deficient. The Hawkeyes could easily go 6-6 next season. It's possible.
10. Houston — Hard team to get a read on, but the Cougars did beat a few Power Five teams en route to such a successful season.
11. Ole Miss — Beat Alabama, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State, lost in an oddball game to Arkansas and was frankly outplayed by Memphis.
12. TCU — The defense will be much better in 2016, and 11-2 is nothing to sneeze at.
13. Baylor — Lost to TCU and Texas at season's end after quarterback injuries. Had they all stayed healthy, well, who knows. They didn't. Baylor quarterbacks get hurt a lot.
14. Utah — Bound for a hard fall after a sparkling ten-win season. If I'm Kyle Whittingham, I consider strongly UCLA if the job comes open.
15. Oregon — When Vernon Adams was healthy, Oregon really only lost one game — at Michigan State —and beat Stanford. When he wasn't, well, losses to TCU, Washington State and Utah. The Ducks program is at a crossroads. Believe that.
16. Arkansas — Dopey losses to Toledo and Texas Tech opened the door to an 8-5 season, but the Razorbacks closed very strong with wins over Ole Miss, LSU and Tennessee. Arkansas underachieved, in my book, by two non-conference games.
17. LSU — The Tigers' offense needs to evolve for the program to capture another league crown. Other teams have caught up too much. LSU finished 9-3, but had the talent for 11-1.
18. Mississippi State — What a magnificent final season from Dak Prescott. I picked the Bulldogs to finish 7-5 — at best — in 2015. Prescott willed this program to nine wins, along with some help from a fairly stingy D.
19. Tennessee — Next year is Tennessee's year. It'll all be there for the Volunteers. The most talent in the SEC East, Alabama at home, highly manageable schedule, all of it. Tennessee faces four new head coaches next season. Pretty good deal.
20. North Carolina — Inflated record forged by a dirt schedule that was popped when Baylor ran up the score on the Tar Heels in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Still UNC belongs in the top 25. Power Five teams that win 11 games get in my poll no matter what. Ten-win teams — like Florida and Florida State — do not automatically.
21. Oklahoma State — OSU makes the cut thanks to an impressive win over TCU when the Horned Frogs had Trevone Boykin at their disposal.
22. Georgia — So why Georgia and not Florida, which hammered the Bulldogs? Easy. Florida had no quarterback at year's end that could pass for a decent college quarterback, and Georgia did. And since Florida suspended quarterback Will Grier, it takes responsibility for the team it put on the field at season's end, which needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic and lost to Florida State 27-2 and Michigan 41-7.
23. Navy — College football is better with Navy.
24. Northwestern — Struggled to put this team in the top 25 and I guess I just had to, with wins over Wisconsin and Stanford. Those are excellent wins regardless of when or how Northwestern came about them. The Wildcats are due for a fall next season.
25. Wisconsin — Underachieved. The Badgers were better than every team they played except for Alabama, and Wisconsin dropped home games to Iowa and Northwestern in infuriating fashion.
Here's my preseason AP Top 25 poll, along with the spots where those teams actually landed in the full preseason poll:
1. Ohio State (1)
2. TCU (2)
3. Michigan State (5)
4. Baylor (4)
5. Georgia (9)
6. Alabama (3)
7. Arizona State (15)
8. Arkansas (18)
9. USC (8)
10. Stanford (21)
11. UCLA (13)
12. Oklahoma State (28)
13. Clemson (12)
14. Ole Miss (17)
15. Utah (30)
16. Notre Dame (11)
17. Wisconsin (20)
18. Oregon (7)
19. Florida State (10)
20. LSU (14)
21. Auburn (6)
22. Oklahoma (19)
23. Penn State (31)
24. Georgia Tech (16)
25. California (42)
What I got right:
>> Utah, Oklahoma State, and Cal. I ranked all three teams much higher than most; all three were much better teams that people expected.
>> Stanford. I picked the Cardinal for the top ten when most voters opted for Oregon to win the Pac-12 North. Didn't happen that way.
>> Auburn and Georgia Tech. I ranked each lower than all other voters — caught some flack for it, too — and the teams finished 7-6 and 3-9 respectively.
>> Oregon and Florida State — I ranked both much lower than most voters, and both will finish that way. Or at least both should.
What I got wrong:
>> Alabama was too low and Georgia was too high.
>> Arizona State didn't play defense all season.
>> I think I actually got Arkansas right, but the Razorbacks found ways to lose two non-conference games at home before finishing the season on a roll.
>> USC and UCLA were not top ten teams or even close to that.
>> Oklahoma was too low.