College Football Rankings: B/R's Final Regular-Season Official Top 25

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2014

College Football Rankings: B/R's Final Regular-Season Official Top 25

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    So, did that clear everything up for you?

    A weekend loaded with key playoff-affecting games didn't really provide much clarity, not with the favorites winning most of them. The only things that stood out were some of the margins of victory, which likely will be something the playoff selection committee factors into which teams they choose for the coveted four playoff spots.

    There's far less uncertainty about our rankings, however. We have a clear No. 1 team and three others that slid nicely into the spots behind the leader.

    The Bleacher Report Top 25 is voted on by 20 members of our college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen and Marc Torrence, as well as editors Eric Bowman, Adam Donaldson and Max Rausch.

    Each voter submits their ballots based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th, and then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

    Check out the final regular-season poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Others Receiving Votes

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Marshall isn't going to go to a major bowl game after losing its regular-season finale last week, but after winning 26-23 at home against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, the Thundering Herd did snag the Conference USA championship.

    The victory also gives the Herd their choice of C-USA's affiliated bowl games, which include ones in the Bahamas and Hawaii.

    • Minnesota (31)
    • Oklahoma (25)
    • Memphis (21)
    • Marshall (15)
    • Colorado State (7)
    • Duke (5)
    • Northern Illinois (2)
    • Cincinnati (1)
    • UCF (1)

24. (tie) Utah Utes

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 42

    Last week's ranking: Not ranked

    Utah (8-4) finished with its best record since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, and as a result will be playing in its first bowl game since that season. The Utes had several notable victories this year, including at UCLA and Michigan.

    The Utes have won 10 of their last 11 bowl appearances.

24. (tie) Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 42

    Last week's ranking: Not ranked

    Nebraska (9-3) reached the nine-win plateau for the seventh straight year, but that wasn't enough to keep Bo Pelini from getting fired last Sunday. However, the Cornhuskers already have their new man in Mike Riley, who was hired Thursday after spending 14 seasons at Oregon State.

    The Cornhuskers will be playing in a bowl game for the seventh straight year.

23. LSU Tigers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 43

    Last week's ranking: Not ranked

    LSU (8-4) finished in a tie for fourth in the SEC's West Division, but it did manage to win at least eight games for the 15th consecutive year.

    The Tigers struggled offensively for most of the season but saw freshman running back Leonard Fournette develop over time and finish with 891 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

    LSU will be playing in a bowl game for the 15th straight year.

22. USC Trojans

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    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 60

    Last week's ranking: 24th

    USC (8-4) finished in a three-way tie for second in the Pac-12 South and beat Arizona on the road in October. But the Trojans had some stinkers, too, falling at Boston College early and getting handled by rival UCLA.

    The Trojans, who are headed to a third straight bowl game, have gotten a wonderful season from junior quarterback Cody Kessler. He's thrown 36 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, tossing at least four TDs in six games.

21. Boise State Broncos

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    Week 15 result: Won 28-14 vs. Fresno State in Mountain West championship

    Poll points: 107

    Last week's ranking: 22nd

    Boise State (11-2) won its eighth straight game to claim its first Mountain West title. As the highest-ranked champion from a non-power conference, the Broncos appear headed to a major bowl game such as the Fiesta Bowl.

    The Broncos jumped out to a 28-0 lead thanks to two rushing touchdowns from quarterback Grant Hedrick and another from tailback Jay Ajayi. Hedrick threw for 155 yards and ran for 81, while Ajayi ran for 70 yards.

    Boise intercepted three passes, with Tanner Vallejo returning one 63 yards for a TD late in the first quarter.

    This will be the Broncos' 13th straight season with a bowl appearance.

20. Louisville Cardinals

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    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 116

    Last week's ranking: 21st

    Louisville (9-3) overcame injuries on offense to have a solid first season in the ACC, finishing third in the Atlantic Division and then knocking off in-state rival Kentucky to end the year. The Cardinals entered the weekend ranked sixth in the country in total defense.

    Safety Gerod Holliman has tied a single-season FBS record with 14 interceptions, a mark he can have all his own with another pick in the upcoming bowl game. This will be Louisville's fifth straight season with a bowl.

19. Clemson Tigers

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    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 144

    Last week's ranking: 19th

    Clemson (9-3) finished in second place in the ACC's Atlantic Division, once again behind Florida State. The Tigers struggled offensively for much of the season but were far more explosive when freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson ran the team rather than senior Cole Stoudt.

    Coming off a win over in-state rival South Carolina, the Tigers will bring a defense that entered the weekend ranked No. 1 overall into their school-record 10th straight bowl game.

18. Auburn Tigers

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    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 148

    Last week's ranking: 20th

    Auburn (8-4) began the season 5-0 before running into the buzz saw that is the SEC West Division, tying for fourth place with a 4-4 conference mark. The Tigers lost three of four games to end the season, including allowing 55 points to Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

    Nick Marshall has 3,095 yards of total offense and 29 touchdowns, but his rushing numbers are down from a season ago.

    Auburn, which lost to Florida State in the BCS title game, hasn't lost consecutive bowl games since 2000-01.

17. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Week 15 result: Lost 59-0 vs. Ohio State in Big Ten championship

    Poll points: 167

    Last week's ranking: 11th

    Wisconsin (10-3) was absolutely overwhelmed by Ohio State in the conference final, falling behind after less than two minutes and never getting any closer to suffer its first shutout since 1997.

    The Badgers allowed 558 yards while only managing 258 themselves, with star running back Melvin Gordon held to 76 yards on 26 carries. He sits at 2,336 yards heading into the bowl game, needing 293 to pass Barry Sanders for the single-season rushing record.

    Joel Stave was forced to throw early, but he wasn't able to do so effectively to get Wisconsin back in the game. He finished with 187 yards and three interceptions on 17-of-43 passing.

    Wisconsin is heading to a bowl game for the 13th straight season and will be looking to end a four-game bowl losing streak.

16. Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 179

    Last week's ranking: 16th

    Arizona State (9-3) lost two of three down the stretch to miss out on a second consecutive Pac-12 South title. The Sun Devils lost at Oregon State and rival Arizona in November to fall out of the division title race—and playoff contention.

    Quarterbacks Mike Bercovici and Taylor Kelly combined to throw for 3,329 yards and 32 touchdowns, with Bercovici filling in for several games as starter after Kelly suffered a broken foot. Running back D.J. Foster ran for 1,002 yards and nine touchdowns while also catching 59 balls for 646 yards and three scores.

    ASU will be playing in a bowl game for the fourth straight year.

15. Missouri Tigers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 15 result: Lost 42-13 vs. Alabama in SEC championship

    Poll points: 186

    Last week's ranking: 14th

    Missouri (10-3) made a game of it for three quarters, trailing by only eight points thanks to a few long pass plays between Maty Mauk and Jimmie Hunt, but the two-time East Division champs couldn't contain Alabama in the fourth quarter.

    The Tigers surrendered three touchdowns in the fourth to turn the game into a rout, allowing a season-high 504 yards overall. Mizzou came in ranked 16th in the country in total defense, allowing 330.5 yards per game.

    Mauk threw for 272 yards and a touchdown, but it was on 16-of-34 passing, with Hunt catching six passes for 169 yards. Mizzou ran for a mere 41 yards, and it only had 10 first downs.

14. UCLA Bruins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 206

    Last week's ranking: 17th

    UCLA (9-3) entered its regular-season finale with a chance to win the Pac-12's South Division but lost badly at home to Stanford. It was the Bruins' third home loss this season, preventing them from making a third trip to the conference title game in four seasons.

    Brett Hundley had 3,567 yards of total offense and 29 touchdowns, but only 21 passing. He dealt with protection issues, getting sacked 36 times.

    Paul Perkins led the conference entering this weekend with 1,378 rushing yards, a tally he can increase when UCLA plays in a bowl for a fourth straight season.

13. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 239

    Last week's ranking: 15th

    Georgia (9-3) heads into bowl season smarting from an overtime home loss to rival Georgia Tech last weekend, a game it led with 18 seconds left. It continued a trend of odd losses this season for the Bulldogs, who lost at South Carolina by three points and were blown out by Florida.

    The Bulldogs had the No. 13 rushing offense in the country heading into the weekend, a tally boosted by the combination of freshman Nick Chubb (1,281 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Todd Gurley (911 yards, nine scores). Gurley only played six games, first missing four because of an NCAA suspension and then going down with a season-ending knee injury in his return.

    Georgia is headed to a bowl game for the 18th consecutive season, the third-longest active streak in the FBS.

12. Arizona Wildcats

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    Week 15 result: Lost 51-13 vs. Oregon in Pac-12 championship

    Poll points: 261

    Last week's ranking: 8th

    Arizona (10-3) got crushed in its first conference title game appearance, falling behind 30-0 and finishing with a season-low 224 yards.

    The Wildcats held their own early because of a stout defense, limiting Oregon to just two field goals on its first five possessions. But with their own offense unable to move the ball, that same defense wore down. The Wildcats allowed 627 yards, including 313 passing yards and five total touchdowns to Marcus Mariota.

    Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon threw for only 34 yards on 6-of-12 passing before getting pulled at halftime. Leading rusher Nick Wilson ran for only 26 yards.

    Despite the loss, the Wildcats are in contention for a major bowl game, marking their third straight season with a bowl appearance after reaching 10 wins for the first time since 1998.

11. Ole Miss Rebels

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    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 286

    Last week's ranking: 13th

    Ole Miss (9-3) ended up in third place in the tough SEC West Division, but the Rebels began the year 7-0 thanks to their solid defense. That unit entered the weekend leading the FBS in scoring at only 13.8 points-per-game allowed.

    Quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 3,085 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he struggled during a stretch when Ole Miss lost three of four to fall out of playoff and division title contention.

    This will be Ole Miss' third straight year ending in a bowl game, and it's riding a six-game bowl win streak dating back to 2002.

10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 15 result: Lost 37-35 vs. Florida State in ACC championship

    Poll points: 292

    Last week's ranking: 12th

    Georgia Tech (10-3) had defending national champion Florida State on its heels for about three quarters thanks to its option run game, but all it took was a few stops and the Yellow Jackets got in a hole. And without the ability to slow down the Seminoles offense, the chance to knock off an unbeaten team and win the ACC title wasn't there.

    Tech ran for 331 yards and had the lead three times in the first half, but it trailed 28-21 at halftime. It tied the game midway through the third quarter on a one-yard touchdown run from Synjyn Days, who scored three times, but then didn't score again until two minutes were left.

    Justin Thomas ran for 104 yards and threw for 134 yards and a touchdown, but he was also intercepted once and struggled when forced to throw in the second half.

    Tech's defense got little pressure on Jameis Winston, who threw for 309 yards and three TDs, while it allowed Dalvin Cook to rush for 177 yards and a score.

    Tech is heading for its 18th straight bowl game, likely the Orange Bowl, as the highest-rated ACC team after FSU.

9. Kansas State Wildcats

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 15 result: Lost 38-27 at Baylor

    Poll points: 294

    Last week's ranking: 10th

    Kansas State (9-3) couldn't keep up with Baylor's high-powered offense, falling behind 14-0 and never getting closer than one score after that to miss out on a share of the Big 12 title.

    The Wildcats allowed a season-high 584 yards to Baylor, more than 240 above their season average, with no answer for Bryce Petty's passing game or a patient run attack.

    K-State's offense put up 403 yards, with Jake Waters throwing for 300 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-27 passing, but he was also sacked four times. The Wildcats were only down 24-14 at halftime, but they had to settle for field goals on their first two drives of the third quarter while allowing touchdowns.

    Tyler Lockett had 14 catches for 158 yards and a TD, the score giving him the school career record that his father Kevin previously held. Lockett had already topped his father's school marks for career receptions and yards.

    K-State will be playing in a bowl for the fifth straight season, but with the loss, it might not get invited to one of the CFP access games.

8. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 321

    Last week's ranking: 9th

    Mississippi State (10-2) began 9-0 and was ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history, but two losses in its final three games knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoff hunt. Still, it's the first 10-win mark for the program since 1999.

    Quarterback Dak Prescott spent much of the season as a strong Heisman candidate thanks to his dual-threat abilities. He ran for 2,996 yards and 24 touchdowns while also rushing for 939 yards and 13 scores. The Bulldogs also got 1,128 rushing yards and 11 TDs from Josh Robinson.

    MSU is headed to a fifth straight bowl appearance, the longest streak in school history.

7. Michigan State Spartans

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    Week 15 result: Off

    Poll points: 352

    Last week's ranking: 7th

    Michigan State (10-2) finished second in the Big Ten's East Division, a game behind Ohio State. The Spartans' only losses came to teams that entered the final weekend in playoff contention, falling at Oregon in September and at home to the Buckeyes in November.

    The defending conference and Rose Bowl champs reached at least 10 wins for the fourth time in five seasons. Connor Cook notched 2,900 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, while running back Jeremy Langford added 1,360 rushing yards with 19 scores. Tony Lippett chipped in 11 receiving TDs.

    The Spartans will be making their eighth straight bowl appearance, a school record.

6. Baylor Bears

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    Week 15 result: Won 38-27 vs. Kansas State

    Poll points: 395

    Last week's ranking: 5th

    Baylor (11-1) earned a share of the Big 12 title with TCU after handling Kansas State, but the Bears didn't dominate to the level that figures to help them impress the selection committee. A lot will come down to their head-to-head victory over TCU (a game they trailed by 21 points and won on the final play) to determine if either team can earn a playoff bid.

    "We live in America," Art Briles said on the field after the game, via Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesmen. "If you beat me in a race, you're better than me."

    Needing to dominate, instead the Bears just controlled the game throughout. They jumped out 14-0 on one-yard touchdown runs by Bryce Petty and Shock Linwood, then held at least a seven-point lead throughout. Petty, who left last week's win over Texas Tech with a concussion, threw for 412 yards and a TD on 34-of-40 passing.

    Linwood ran for 91 yards and a score, and Johnny Jefferson had two rushing TDs as Baylor gained 584 yards.

5. TCU Horned Frogs

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    Week 15 result: Won 55-3 vs. Iowa State

    Poll points: 397.5

    Last week's ranking: 4th

    TCU (11-1) made as strong a case as it could, considering its opponent, that it deserved to be in the playoffs. The Horned Frogs scored 31 points in the third quarter to sew up the game, finishing with 722 yards while limiting Iowa State to 236 yards.

    "We knew we had to make a statement," TCU coach Gary Patterson told The Associated Press (h/t ESPN).

    Trevone Boykin nearly did it all himself for the Horned Frogs, throwing for 460 yards and four touchdowns while also catching a 55-yard TD pass for the opening score. Josh Doctson had 151 receiving yards and a TD on nine catches, and Aaron Green ran for 104 yards and a TD as well as 67 receiving yards and a score.

    TCU's defense got into the game as well, with two takeaways that included Derrick Kindred's 44-yard interception-return TD in the third quarter.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 15 result: Won 59-0 vs. Wisconsin in Big Ten championship

    Poll points: 407.5

    Last week's ranking: 6th

    Ohio State (12-1) left no doubt it was worthy of a playoff spot, winning its 11th straight game in massively impressive fashion against a 10-win Wisconsin team. Now it's up to the selection committee to decide if the Buckeyes deserve to slip into the top four.

    Using its third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones, OSU looked no less explosive on offense. Jones threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns on 12-of-17 passing, connecting with Devin Smith for all three TD passes.

    "The next-man-in cliche takes on an entirely new meeting with these Buckeyes," wrote Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com.

    Smith had 137 yards and the three scores on just four receptions.

    Ezekiel Elliott took care of the rest, rushing for 220 yards and two scores on 20 carries, and Curtis Samuel added two rushing TDs. The Buckeyes ran for 301 yards and finished with 558 total yards against a team that came in allowing 260.3 yards per game.

    OSU also removed Wisconsin standout running back Melvin Gordon from the equation early thanks to its offensive explosion. Gordon had only 76 yards on 26 carries as the Buckeyes forced Wisconsin to throw 43 times and toss three interceptions.

3. Florida State Seminoles

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    Week 15 result: Won 37-35 vs. Georgia Tech in ACC championship

    Poll points: 437 (one first-place votes)

    Last week's ranking: 3rd

    Florida State (13-0) won its 29th straight game and third straight conference title, and it most likely ensured itself a chance to defend its national title after solving Georgia Tech's run game in the second half.

    The Seminoles were torched by the option attack throughout the first two quarters, but because their own offense was dominant, they held a 28-21 halftime lead. Tech tied the game midway through the third, but then FSU took control and used three Roberto Aguayo field goals to build a nine-point lead.

    A late Tech touchdown made it close, but FSU recovered the onside kick and then ran out the clock. It finished with 488 yards, with Jameis Winston throwing for 309 yards and three TDs on 21-of-30 passing, while Dalvin Cook ran for 177 yards and a score.

    FSU is the only unbeaten team in the country, yet its ranking from the playoff selection committee has slipped the last few weeks.

2. Oregon Ducks

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 15 result: Won 51-13 vs. Arizona in Pac-12 championship

    Poll points: 456 (three first-place votes)

    Last week's ranking: 2nd

    Oregon (12-1) eliminated any doubt that it wasn't worthy of a playoff spot, and it may have made a strong case for the No. 1 overall seed—by avenging its only loss of the season in dominant fashion.

    The Ducks gained 627 yards and held Arizona to 224, cruising past a team they lost at home to in October. Since that defeat, Oregon averaged 47.7 points per game, scoring at least 42 in every contest.

    Marcus Mariota made an emphatic final statement in his quest to win the Heisman Trophy, throwing for 313 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for three scores. His first two rushing TDs gave Oregon a 20-0 lead, and in the third quarter (after Arizona pulled within 30-7), he eluded several defenders and threw deep for a completion to set up an 11-yard TD pass to Darren Carrington.

    "The question isn't who's going to win the Heisman, but what the margin will be," wrote George Schroeder of USA Today.

    Mariota has accounted for 53 touchdowns this season, 38 through the air and 14 on the ground along with a receiving TD.

    Most impressive Friday, though, might have been Oregon's defense. It swarmed an Arizona team that had scored 42 points in each of its past two games and averaged 481.3 yards per game for the season.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Week 15 result: Won 42-13 vs. Missouri in SEC championship

    Poll points: 471 (15 first-place votes)

    Last week's ranking: 1st

    Alabama (12-1) locked up a spot in the playoffs—almost assuredly in the Sugar Bowl—after running past Missouri in the second half for its second SEC title in the past three seasons and third in the last six.

    Whether that was enough to hold off Oregon for the No. 1 overall seed will get revealed Sunday afternoon.

    Derrick Henry had a career-high 141 rushing yards and two touchdowns, both in a 21-point fourth quarter after Missouri came within 21-13. Alabama ran for 242 yards, nearly double the 126.4 yards per game Missouri had been allowing coming into the game, and gained 504 total yards.

    Blake Sims threw for 262 yards and two TDs on 23-of-27 passing, while T.J. Yeldon added two first-half rushing TDs.

    The Tide held East champion Missouri to 41 rushing yards.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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