Nothing changed from last season; LSU and Alabama 1 and 2, SEC above the rest with 5 teams in the top 10 in a season of many changes that sees TCU and West Virginia in their new Big 12 home already among the preseason top 25, while USC make a return to the upper echelon of College Football, this time without Pete Carroll and hopefully no scandals.
1. LSU Tigers, 13-1 in 2011 (18 first place votes) – LSU finished last season as the #2 in the nation, losing to Alabama in the national title game by a whopping 21 points.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide, 12-1 in 2011 (20 first place votes) – Alabama won the national title for the second time under Nick Saban, beating LSu 21-0 in the final.
3. USC Trojans, 10-2 in 2011 (19 first place votes) – The return of USC, who finished #6 in the AP rankings last year, but didn’t participate in a bowl game due to the post-season ban.
4. Oklahoma Sooners, 10-3 in 2011 – Bob Stoops’ team finished #19 in the coaches poll last year but higher in the BCS rankings, beating Iowa 31-14 in the Insight Bowl, Stoops’ third consecutive bowl game win.
5. Oregon Ducks, 12-2 in 2011 – The Ducks won the Pac-12 for the third consecutive time in 2011, winnign the first ever Pac-12 championship game and beat Wisconsin 45-38 in a Rose Bowl to be remembered for a long time.
6. Georgia Bulldogs, 10-4 in 2011 – Enjoyed a weak SEC East to win the division and reach the SEC title game, before getting romped by LSU. They lost their bowl game, in overtime, to Michigan State, finishing ranked #18 in the nation.
7. Florida State Seminoles, 9-4 in 2011 – Here we go again, and the ‘Noles get another chance to prove their top 10 and BCS bowl material. They beat Notre Dame in the Champs sports bowl, claiming a #23 ranking to end the season.
8. Michigan Wolverines, 11-2 in 2011 – Michigan had a great year under first year coach Brady Hoke, finally ending their losing streak to Ohio State and beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl 23-20 in overtime, claiming a #12 ranking.
9. South Carolina Gamecocks, 11-2 in 2011 – A real breakout year for Steve Spurrier last season, but not enough to threaten the throne of the SEC. South Carolina demolished Nebraska 30-13 in the Capital One Bowl, finishing #9 in the nation.
10. Arkansas Razorbacks, 11-2 in 2011 – A great season which wasn’t enough in the impossible SEC West, winning the Cotton Bowl 29-16 against Kansas State to finish the season #5 in the nation.
11. West Virginia Mountaineers, 10-3 in 2011 – WVU’s last season in the Big East ended with them sharing the title for the conference but the BCS bowl game, the 70-33 romp against Clemson at the Orange Bowl is what people take into the new season as a Big 12 member.
12. Wisconsin Badgers, 11-3 in 2011 – The Badgers reached the Rose Bowl for a second consecutive time, losing once again, this time to Oregon, 45-38, but they did get to win the Big Ten, beating Michigan State in the first ever Big Ten title game.
13. Michigan State Spartans, 11-3 in 2011 – Despite losing the Big Ten title game, MSU finished the season with an impressive 33-30 bowl game win over Georgia, earning a #11 ranking to end the season.
14. Clemson Tigers, 10-4 in 2011 – Had an impressive run early in the season, but everyone will remember the 70-33 demolishing defeat against West Virginia, nothing else.
15. Texas Longhorns, 8-5 in 2011 – Had a rough year in the Big 12 (4-5) but did get to win a bowl game at the end of the season, beating California 21-10 in the Holiday Bowl.
16. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 9-4 in 2011 – The growing pains in the Big Ten weren’t easy in 2011, and Nebraska had a disappoiting ending to the season, losing 2 of their last 4 conference games before the bowl game defeat against South Carolina and a #24 finish.
17. TCU Horned Frogs, 11-2 in 2011 – Many believe TCU have a real shot of succeeding in their first Big 12 season. They won the MWC title last season, leading to a win over Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia bowl and a #14 ranking.
18. Stanford Cardinal, 11-2 in 2011 – Didn’t win the Pac-12 and lost to Oklahoma State 41-38 in the Fiesta Bowl, Andrew Luck’s last college game, ending in a #7 ranking.
19. Oklahoma State, 12-1 in 2011 – Maybe they should have played in the national title game, but we won’t get into that. Won the Big 12 for the first time, won the Fiesta Bowl and destroyed Oklahoma 44-10 in the Bedlam game, getting a #3 ranking to end the season.
20. Virginia Tech Hokies, 11-3 in 2011 – Another double digit win season for Frank Beamer, ending in two disappointing defeats – to Clemson in the ACC title game and to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, leading to a #21 ranking.
21. Kansas State Wildcats, 10-3 in 2011 – The return of the Wildcats happened under Bill Snyder’s 20th year with the program, finishing the season with a loss to Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, leading to a #15 finish.
22. Boise State Broncos, 12-1 in 2011 – Their first season in the MWC resulted in a one loss season, a 36-35 crusher against TCU, costing them a BCS game. They destroyed Arizona State 56-24 in the Maaco Las Vegas bowl.
23. Florida Gators, 7-6 in 2011 – Disappointing season in Gators standards, losing four straight games in the middle of the season to ‘Bama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia. They did beat Ohio State in the Gator Bowl to put a smile on some faces at season’s end.
24. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 8-5 in 2011 – Still independent, although it would really help the program professionally to join a conference, preferably the Big Ten. They lost their first two games of the season and lost their last two, including to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
25. Auburn Tigers, 8-5 in 2011 – A very rough first season without Cam Newton, losing quite roughly to Alabama and LSU during the season, but they did beat Virginia 43-24 in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl to end the season on a high.