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Josh Furlong's AP Top 25: The final rankings of the 2021 football season

Alabama's Bryce Young takes a snap during the first half of the College Football Playoff championship football game against Georgia Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Alabama's Bryce Young takes a snap during the first half of the College Football Playoff championship football game against Georgia Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in Indianapolis. (Charlie Riedel, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — After all the crazy and wild games we watched over the 2021 college football season, it was another SEC team winning the national championship.

The 2021 season always felt like it would be Georgia's to win it all. They had stacked recruiting classes, a frightening defense that will soon be NFL bound and destiny on their side. Alabama derailed that destiny a bit in the SEC championship game in a beat down, but the Bulldogs rebounded in the championship game.

The Bulldogs were the No. 1 team for much of the season in my ballot and seemed unstoppable, and in the end they were. It's hard not to be happy for Georgia after their strong push to win a national championship. It's even better that it came against Alabama.

College football still runs through Alabama as long as Nick Saban remains coach, but Georgia did everything right to win it all. Soak it up now because Alabama will likely be back to No. 1 to start the 2022 season.

Outside of the national championship game, there were some really entertaining games of bowl season — most coming near the end of the year. The Music City Bowl set the standard for crazy and the Rose Bowl tried to match the absurd. The following are my thoughts on some of the teams and where I ranked them:

  • Michigan did everything it could to make it to the playoff and then ran into a tough opponent in Georgia. But Jim Harbaugh finally got a win over Ohio State and took his team to the playoff, so it's a massively successful season. Outside of the teams in the national championship, Michigan is the next best team in the country and lands at No. 3 — just above their rival.
  • Ohio State is going to be a dangerous bunch in 2022. Between C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba alone, the Buckeyes have two proven talents that will be instant Heisman hopefuls for the next season. The Buckeyes wanted a playoff berth, but finished the season strong against a Utah team looking for its first Rose Bowl win. Ohio State is No. 4 in my ballot and will be a heavy favorite next season.
  • Many will look at the blowout loss in the College Football Playoff semifinals for Cincinnati as a reason for why the Bearcats shouldn't have been there. Those people are wrong. Cincinnati made history and was a worthy contender in the playoff — it's just a tough thing to unseat an Alabama team led by Nick Saban. Give credit to the Bearcats for making history as the first Group of Five team to make it to the playoff. I dropped them to No. 5 mostly because of how good Ohio State was to closeout the season.
  • Baylor and Oklahoma State had incredible seasons and are worthy of the No. 6 and No. 7 spot in my ballot. Dave Aranda took a down Baylor program that had only two wins in 2020 and turned them into a contender in the Big 12, and Mike Gundy retooled his team's schemes to be more competitive. Both have solidified (at least for the time being) the future of the Big 12 with the exit of Oklahoma and Texas imminent.
  • Locally, Utah lands at No. 11 — just outside the Top 10. There's no doubt Cam Rising was a key factor in Utah's sudden rise in the sport after starting 1-2 on the season. Rising had one of his best performances as a Utah player against a talented Ohio State team that needed all the points they got to beat Utah on a last-second field goal in a wild Rose Bowl.
  • BYU falls to No. 18 in my ballot after a loss to UAB in the Independence Bowl. The Cougars were one of the hottest teams in the country to start the season, but depth soon became an issue as many of its players, especially on defense, went down with injuries. It's really too bad because there was a lot of promise to the season, but it was a lot of holding on at the end of the season. Still, it was a successful season and one BYU should be proud of — even if just for the Big 12 invite alone!
  • Utah State is one of the best stories in college football this season. The Aggies went from a tumultuous season where they only won one game to an 11-win season with wins over San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference championship game and an LA Bowl win over Oregon State to closeout the season. There's a lot to be optimistic about for the Aggies, and a Top 25 finish at No. 20 is just the beginning.
  • It's a shame we couldn't see NC State or Texas A&M in a bowl game. Both teams had successful seasons and seemingly were on an upswing, but COVID-19's variant caused problems to cancel their respective bowl games. I've listed them No. 21 and No. 22, respectively, though they might have been a bit higher had they played their bowl game.

If you can't see my ballot below, click here.

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