Dropped Out: Pittsburgh (#20), Michigan State (#24).
I did not give serious consideration to placing Utah at #1 for several reasons. First, when I was making the case during the season that an unbeaten Penn State would not deserve a spot in the national title game over a one-loss Florida, I said that a large gap in strength of schedule could make up for a one-game difference in the schedule. Per Sagarin, Florida played the #4 schedule nationally and Utah's schedule was #56. Sagarin would also have Florida and USC as two-touchdown favorites over Utah on a neutral field. It's pretty close to impossible to make a case that Utah would be likely to beat Florida on any field in light of the fact that Florida runs a better version of Utah's offense and has better talent at just about every position. Second, I was never that high on Alabama (I had Florida ahead of them throughout the second half of the season), so Utah beating up on the Tide, while impressive, is not the equivalent of Utah beating Florida, USC, or Texas. Alabama was a somewhat limited team on offense and they were playing a third string left tackle in the Sugar Bowl. What Utah does deserve credit for is their offensive explosion in the first quarter, as Alabama had a consistently top-notch defense this year.
I did give serious consideration to dropping Texas to #5 behind Utah and Oklahoma. It's not that I think that the Utes would beat the Horns on a neutral field, but the game would be close. Also, I didn't see anything in the bowl games to change my opinion that Oklahoma is slightly better than Texas, so having the Sooners ahead of the Horns would have been fine with me. At the end of the day, I couldn't put Texas lower than #3 after a season in which they went 12-1 and were a dropped interception from perfection.
Conventional wisdom: bowl games favor great coaches because a great coach can enhance his advantage over an average one with a month to prepare as opposed to a week. Conventional wisdom: Mack Brown and Les Miles are decent coaches who win because of recruiting talent as opposed to strategy or tactics. Brown has won his last five bowl games, including two Rose Bowls and one Fiesta Bowl. Miles has won all four of his bowl games at LSU by a total of 113 points. Which of the two pieces of conventional wisdom are incorrect?
I gave no thought to ranking a Big Ten team other than Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa, which might imply that I'm overrating those three teams. What would the spread be between TCU and Ohio State? Or Ole Miss and Ohio State? Wouldn't a Georgia-Iowa game have been more interesting than Georgia-Michigan State?
The one team that Sagarin was high on that I didn't rank was Arizona. (Sorry, Klinsi.) I went back and forth between Arizona and Florida State before deciding that FSU had a better record against a slightly tougher schedule. If this ranking went to 26, then Mike Stoops would make a cameo.