1. LSU - It got very comfortable ranking them in this spot all year (with a couple brief exceptions). They certainly won't go down as one of the dominant national champions and it will be interesting to see if they get asterisk treatment on message boards for being the first two-loss national champion. On the other hand, the fact that they looked very good in the national title game will have recency effects (as opposed to, say, 1990 Colorado who were lucky to beat Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl and that colors the view of the Buffs title team). LSU can credibly argue that once they got healthy, they returned to being the team that buried Virginia Tech at the start of the year. The fact that LSU's two decisive big game victories came against the champions of the ACC and Big Ten certainly speaks well of the depth and quality of the SEC.
2. Georgia - Part of me wanted to rank West Virginia in the #2 spot on the basis of: (1) a better bowl scalp; and (2) better losses (the Mountaineers can blame both losses on injuries to their quarterback and they never lost a game as decisively as Georgia did at Tennessee) . That said, Georgia's run in its last six games was truly epic and sets the stage for the Dawgs being the pre-season favorites in 2008. Prepare for a summer of hype, qualified by "gosh, the schedule is tough." My friend Ben, who has been known to be hyperbolic on an occasion or two, has already proclaimed Georgia's schedule to be "the hardest I have ever seen." This is going to be a long, miserable summer.
3. West Virginia - The Sagarin predictor ranking tabs the Mountaineers as the best team in the country, so start printing t-shirts, Morgantown.
4. Missouri - I have the Tigers ahead of Southern Cal for a couple reasons. First, it's much more respectable to lose to Oklahoma twice than it is to lose to Stanford at home. Second, I'm tired of the USC hype at the end of the year that is based on beating an Arizona State team that didn't beat anyone and an Illinois team that no one took seriously going into the Rose Bowl.
5. Southern Cal - All that said, on a neutral field, I'd have Southern Cal as a slight favorite over LSU. USC's problem for the last two years has not been rising to the occasion against quality opponents; it's been playing well when they don't respect the team on the other sideline.
6. Kansas - Many thanks to the Jayhawks for prolonging the ACC's drought in BCS Bowls. We're two years away from completing an entire decade with the ACC. For those of you keeping track, the SEC is 9-2 in BCS Bowls this decade and the ACC is 0-8.
7. Oklahoma - At some point, the Sooners need to figure out what they're doing wrong in bowl games because they were a very good team during the season and then they got dominated in the Fiesta Bowl.
8. Ohio State - This seems about right. They're going to have a whole lot to prove when they travel to Southern Cal next year. (Cue Kirk Herbstreit!) It is mildly annoying as a graduate of a Big Ten school to see the entire conference deemed inferior to the SEC when in reality, the conference as a whole has a pretty decent record against the SEC in bowl games and Michigan has a particularly good record against the SEC (7-3 in bowls). When SEC fans say that the Big Ten sucks, what they really mean is that Ohio State has a major hoodoo against the SEC.
9. Oregon - I really struggled to come up with my last two top ten teams, so I'll reward the Ducks for being really good before Dennis Dixon got hurt.
10. Auburn - Good lord was their defense good this year, especially when you take into account how meager the assistance from the other side of the ball was. I am very interested to see how Tony Franklin's offense works next year because Auburn's schedule will be home-heavy and they could do some serious damage if they are better at moving the chains.
11. Cincinnati - Brian Kelly must have some serious skeletons in the closet to not get hired after doing such quality work with the Bearcats this year.
12. Florida - You think Urban Meyer might be selling some immediate playing time at corner to recruits this January? I'm looking forward to seeing Meyer's offense with a quality tailback next year (assuming that Emmanuel Moody is the real deal).
13. Michigan - As with Oregon, I'm giving Michigan credit for being a much better team with a healthy Henne and Hart. If only Lloyd would have coached every game in fear of the opponent scoring 45 points.
14. Virginia Tech - Like Ohio State, the weakness of the ACC (especially the weakness of Miami and Florida State) has retarded Virginia Tech's development. They've been good enough to beat ACC teams without having to develop a functional offense.
15. Texas - Their bowl performance was easily their best performance of the season. Four bowl wins on the trot for Mack Brown.
16. Tennessee - I still don't think this team was very good. They were 4-0 in games decided by four points or less. If you want to be less arbitrary, they were 4-1 in games decided by one score. They weren't as good as their record this year and fans on Rocky Top have to be very nervous seeing what's happening around them in the coaching ranks in the SEC while their staff gets worse. Translation: I'm bitter that I was a goalpost away from being right on the "Phil Fulmer will be fired at the end of the year" prediction.
17. Arizona State - On the one hand, they didn't really beat anyone all year, other than an Oregon State team at its nadir. On the other hand, their weak performance in the last two games against USC and Texas might render them undervalued going into next season. Dennis Erickson does have a great record in year twos.
18. Boston College - Has there ever been a bigger gap between college and pro fans in terms of evaluation of one player than there is with Matt Ryan? I don't know a single committed college football fan who thinks that Ryan is anything more than a pretty good quarterback. Meanwhile, NFL fans who know nothing about Ryan except for the facts that he has an Irish name and plays for Doug Flutie's alma mater think that he's a surefire top five pick. Please, lord, don't let the Falcons take him.
19. Oregon State - The 40-14 loss at home against UCLA sticks out like a sore thumb. Otherwise, the Beavers quietly had another very nice season.
20. Clemson - I'm really struggling to say anything interesting about the Tigers. Uh, they should have been the best team in the ACC this year?
21. Illinois - Worst BCS at-large team ever and we can't even blame the Rose Bowl because there were very slim pickings. If you want to blame an entity, blame the BCS for the limitation that conferences can only send two teams. That said, even if Missouri and Florida were eligible for the Rose, you know that they would have taken Illinois anyway.
22. South Florida - The Bulls win the award for most inexplicable bowl performance.
23. Texas Tech - The Red Raiders join Georgia, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Maryland, Fresno State, and Virginia Tech in the pantheon of teams that have had huge rallies against Virginia. Congrats!
24. Brigham Young - Obligatory non-BCS spot. Could someone explain to me why there are two mid-major conferences out West when there are only enough good programs to fill one? Wouldn't it make more sense to dump BYU, Utah, Hawaii, and Boise State into the same league so their conference schedules aren't so abysmal. I know that programs wax and wane in terms of success, but I stand by the overall point that there's no reason to have a WAC and a MWC.
25. Kentucky - Yup, it's officially a football school.