The ballot below was submitted to the Associated Press office after Florida State's victory. There are several significant changes from the end-of-regular-season ballot, but perhaps not as many as you might expect.
The issue I grapple with every year at this time: Bowl wins should count more than a single regular-season result, but how much more?
Is a bowl victory the equivalent of two top-tier September-November wins? Does it depend on the bowl. And if so, where do you draw the line?
I'm not sure there's a right answer, or formula.
Oklahoma had bad losses to Texas and Baylor, but the Sooners finished with the Bedlam upset and then beat Alabama soundly in the Sugar.
Do the last two wins offset what was otherwise a ho-hum season?
Michigan State is No. 5, up three spots from its pre-bowl placement. I didn't put the Spartans in the top-three/four because of the weakness of its overall schedule.
Yes, that's a direct result of the weakness of the Big Ten -- the same weakness that prompted me to slot Ohio State lower than its AP ranking throughout the season.
MSU simply didn't have as many quality wins as the Sooners or Mizzou.
Stanford beat five teams that were ranked in the top 25 of the Dec. 8 AP poll: Oregon, UCLA, ASU (twice) and Notre Dame.
Finding a team that can match that group of victories is more difficult than you might think. (If not for the loss at Utah, I'd probably have the Cardinal in the top-5/6 -- quality wins matter than much in my ranking system.)
I opted against moving the Knights into the top-10 because of the overall weakness of the AAC.
The reason: They played in a mediocre league, recorded one quality win (Wisconsin) and don't have a fleck of a speck of a shred of a decent win away from Columbus.
1. Florida State
5. Michigan State
6. South Carolina
12. Oklahoma State
15. Ohio State
18. Arizona State
20. Texas A&M
23. Notre Dame
To read Jon Wilner's Hotline, please go to www.mercurynews.com/blogs