We don’t need polls anymore to tell us who the national champions are; Ohio State won the College Football Playoff and that’s it. But the top 25 to close the 2014 season does tell us that behind the two finalists (Buckeyes and Oregon), TCU “jumped” the losers of the semifinal (Alabama and Florida State) while Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Georgia and UCLA enjoyed great bowl games, propelling them into the top 10.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (59 First place votes), 14-1: Won the Big Ten by beating Wisconsin, following that with a 42-35 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal and winning the national championship by beating Oregon 42-20 in the final. Undisputed champions.
2. Oregon Ducks, 13-2: Winning the Pac-12 by destroying Arizona, beating Florida State with a dominant 59-20 win, but lost to Ohio State 42-20 in the championship game.
3. TCU Horned Frogs, 12-1: Made the most of not playing in the playoff. Shared the Big-12 title and then beat Ole Miss 42-3 in the Peach Bowl.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide, 12-2: Won the SEC once more under Saban after an easy win over Missouri, but lost 42-35 to Ohio State in the college football playoff semifinal.
5. (shared). Florida State Seminoles, 13-1: Stuttered all season long but still won the ACC by beating Georgia Tech. In the College Football Playoff their undefeated streak dating back to 2012 ended in a 59-20 loss to Oregon.
5. (shared). Michigan State Spartans, 11-2: Can’t complain about where they finished, thanks to a huge 42-41 dramatic win over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl.
7. Baylor Bears, 11-2: Co-champions of the Big 12 but missed out on the playoffs and collapsed against Michigan State, losing 42-41 in the Cotton Bowl.
8. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 11-3: A very good season for Georgia Tech, barely losing in the ACC championship game and then manhandling Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, winning 49-34.
9. Georgia Bulldogs, 10-3: Something of a disappointing season for Georgia, but beating Louisville 37-14 in the Belk Bowl made everyone a bit happier.
10. UCLA Bruins, 10-3: Narrowly missed out on playing in the conference championship game. Settled for beating Kansas State 40-35 in the Alamo Bowl.
11. Mississippi State Bulldogs, 10-3: A great season up until November 15, but ended by losing three times in four games to Alabama, Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl 34-49.
12. Arizona State Sun Devils, 10-3: Lost to Arizona 42-35 which meant missing out on the conference championship game, but got some mojo back with a 36-31 win over Duke in the Sun Bowl.
13. Wisconsin Badgers, 11-3: Hard to erase a 59-0 humiliation in the hands of the Buckeyes while playing for the Big Ten title, but beating Auburn 34-31 in the Outback Bowl was something of a consolation.
14. Missouri Tigers, 11-3: Somehow came out as SEC East winners but got beat badly in the conference title game. Ended the season on a high with a 33-17 win over Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl.
15. Clemson Tigers, 10-3: Another successful bowl season for the Tigers, this time beating Oklahoma 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
16. Boise State Broncos, 12-2: Got back some of their national swagger back thanks to a 38-30 win over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.
17. Ole Miss Rebels, 9-4: Turned out this season wasn’t so special after all, ending very badly as they lost 42-3 to Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl.
18. Kansas State Wildcats, 9-4: As always, just short of major success. Lost the deciding game for the Big 12 title, followed by losing 40-35 to UCLA in the Alamo Bowl.
19. Arizona Wildcats, 10-4: Got crushed by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game and were stunned by Boise State 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl.
20. USC Trojans, 9-4: On a personal note, this was a very good finish for Steve Sarkisian even though the Trojans got left behind in the Pac-12 South again. Beat Nebraska 45-42 in an excellent Holiday Bowl.
21. Utah Utes, 9-4: A very good season for the Utes, adjusting to the life of the Pac-12, finishing with a 45-10 win over Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
22. Auburn Tigers, 8-5: A terrible finish for the Tigers a year after playing for the national championship, losing 34-31 to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
23. Marshall Thundering Herd, 13-1: Didn’t go undefeated as expected, but beating Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl 52-23 was pretty nice.
24. Louisville Cardinals, 9-4: Didn’t do too badly in the ACC but lost 37-14 to Georgia in the Belk Bowl as the finisher.
25. Memphis Tigers, 10-3: Shared the title of the American conference and ended the season with a 55-48 double overtime win against BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl.