Breaking down the final AP Top 25 Poll

Before 2016, USF had never finished a season in the AP Top 25. Since then, they’ve finished in the Top 25 in back-to-back seasons. THE ORACLE/CHAVELI GUZMAN

A day after Alabama triumphed over Georgia in the national championship game, the Associated Press (AP) released its final Top 25 Poll of the 2017 college football season.

The win over Georgia on Monday night pushed the Crimson Tide from No. 4 in the AP’s rankings to No. 1, while the Bulldogs fell to No. 2. Oklahoma and Clemson, the other two schools in the College Football Playoff (CFP), rounded out the top four.

As for USF, the Bulls moved up two places in the poll after defeating Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 23, going from No. 23 to No. 21. It’s the second straight year the Bulls have been in the final AP Poll, having been ranked No. 19 after defeating South Carolina in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl.

With the exception of Week 9 — after USF lost to Houston on a last-second touchdown — the Bulls have been in the poll’s top 25 every week, ranking as high as No. 17 (Week 7) and spending three weeks as the No. 23 team in the nation (Week 11, 13 and 14).

Fellow American Athletic Conference (AAC) schools that joined USF in the Top 25 were No. 6 UCF (13-0) and No. 25 Memphis.

The Knights, who have proclaimed themselves as national champions after being the only FBS D-1 team to go undefeated, received four first-place votes in the Poll, which was the first time an AAC program ever received a vote to be No. 1. Outside of Alabama, no other school received a first-place vote from the 61 voters.

Sam McKewon, who covers the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the Omaha World-Herald, was one of the four who voted UCF No. 1.

“Alabama did not win its league or even its division,” McKewon wrote on Monday, explaining his decision to give UCF his top spot over ‘Bama. “A small blue-ribbon panel elected the Crimson Tide to make the College Football Playoff as a No. 4 seed. Am I, or any AP voter, bound to the panel's determination? I am not.

“Among conference champs, UCF is 13-0 — 2 games clear in the loss column of any other conference champion. Alabama is 13-1, which is the same record as Wisconsin, another one-loss team that didn't make the playoff. Alabama lost one game this season — to Auburn. The very same team UCF beat in the Peach Bowl.”

Safid Deen of the Orlando Sentinel also voted the Knights as the No. 1 team in the country. His reasoning, explained in a tweet:

“I've submitted my final AP Top 25 football poll for the season. … And I'll say this: If it's not about winning and losing, what are we really doing here, fam?”
Soren Petro, a radio show host in Kansas City, voted UCF its lowest, putting the Knights as the 10th best team in the nation. Auburn, which UCF beat by a touchdown in the Peach Bowl on New Year's Day, was ranked by Petro as the No. 8 team in the Nation. No public explanation was released by Petro.

The final AP Top 25 released Monday was:
1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Oklahoma
4. Clemson
5. Ohio State
6. UCF
7. Wisconsin
 8. Penn State
9. TCU
10. Auburn
11. Notre Dame
12. USC
13. Miami (Fla.)
14. Oklahoma State
15. Michigan State
16. Washington
17. Northwestern
18. LSU
19. Mississippi State
20. Stanford
21. South Florida
22. Boise State
23. NC State
24. Virginia Tech
25. Memphis