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Josh Furlong's AP Top 25: Utes move up after Pac-12 title game win over Trojans


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SALT LAKE CITY — The college football season wrapped up the regular season with championship week.

And while some game results finished as predicted, there were a handful where the underdog came away the victor to add one more win to column. For some teams, like USC, it hurt a College Football Playoff bid, while others it helped.

With it being the penultimate Associated Press rankings of the season, I changed up my ballot a little bit now that the regular season is over and we've got a full picture of teams. Is there room for debate? Absolutely.

Here's the ballot I submitted to the Associated Press that will be counted toward the official consensus poll that is expected to be released today around 9 a.m MST.

1. Georgia

There's really no doubt in my mind that Georgia is the team to beat this season. Stetson Bennett remains a calming and consistent force at quarterback and the defense continues to find ways to make teams pay. While a repeat as national champions is anything but certain, but odds are on Kirby Smart's program.

2. Michigan

Jim Harbaugh has done a phenomenal job transforming Michigan into a powerhouse in the college football world, which feels weird to say considering the program has always been a blue blood. But the Wolverines are undefeated for the first time in program history and have the talent to win it all this year. Losing Blake Corum hurts, so I'm a bit hesitant, but I like what they continue to produce on the field.

3. TCU

The undefeated streak came to an end this weekend, but TCU is locked in at No. 3 in my mind. Can arguments be made to move them down? Sure, but their resume is comparable to the teams around them — specifically Ohio State and Alabama — and they have had the more impressive schedule and Top 25 wins. Are they vulnerable? Yes, but Max Duggan will at least keep them in to the end.

4. Ohio State

Ohio State sat idle this week and watched — literally — as their odds improved. The Buckeyes still feature a high-powered offense with C.J. Stroud leading the charge at quarterback. Outside of its rivalry loss to Michigan, Ohio State has been a strong player in college football this year. Will their defense match their offense?

5. Alabama

Nick Saban took to every television network he could to stump for his team and what he perceives to be another playoff bid. But this is not the same Alabama team of the past few seasons. Could they do some damage in a playoff setting? Yes, but there are more deserving teams as of now.

6. Tennessee

Yes, I have Alabama above Tennessee in my rankings, despite the result on the field being in the Vols' favor. I see these teams as nearly equal, but the loss of Hendon Hooker takes Tennessee down a bit in my view. Had Hooker remained healthy and playing, I would have no hesitation at putting Tennessee higher in the poll. Still, I feel sixth is an appropriate spot given their season.

7. Utah

You could argue this is too high for the Utes, and given the argument I might agree with you — losses to Florida, UCLA and Oregon is a good starting point — but there's no denying that Kyle Whittingham has established a quality program. Utah ended USC's playoff bid and then added some extra points on the scoreboard for extra measure to claim the program's second consecutive Pac-12 title.

8. USC

The Trojans have only two losses on the season, and they've both been from the team ranked directly above them. The Trojans still feature, arguably, the best quarterback on the field and an arsenal around him to make the offense a massive threat. But one team in the Pac-12 stands in their way — and maybe the Oklahoma fans who tuned in to see Lincoln Riley come up short.

9. Clemson

It hasn't been the smoothest season for the Tigers, but Clemson has done well enough to finish with an 11-2 record. The defense remains the featured asset of the team, but the offense, at times, leaves much to be desired. This year's team doesn't come close to Dabo Swinney's national championship teams, but they're still one of the best in the country.

10. Penn State

The Nittany Lions continue to quietly go about business. They were idle this week but are expected to be the Big Ten representative for the Rose Bowl to meet up with Utah. Though I have Penn State inside at No. 10, I'm hesitant given that the program doesn't have a win over a Top 25 team this season and is 0-2 in games against a ranked opponent.

Checking in: Texas

Dropping out: UCF

In consideration: UCF, Illinois, Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Mississippi State

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

Want to create your own Top 25 ballot, go create one with the KSL.com College Football Top 25 Fan Poll.

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Josh is the Sports Director for KSL.com and beat writer of University of Utah athletics — primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.

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