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Postmortem: Alabama in a landslide

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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So, all those Associated Press pollsters who vowed to vote LSU No. 1 based on the Tigers' superior body of work, even if it lost Monday night's BCS Championship rematch against Alabama? Yeah, not so much: 'Bama's shutout win in New Orleans earned the Crimson Tide 55 of 59 first-place votes in the final AP poll, ending any and all speculation about the possibility of a split title. By all widely recognized formats, the Crimson Tide are the 2011 national champions. Period.

LSU — which had held the top spot in on AP ballots since Sept. 25 and received every single first-place vote in both the AP and Coaches' polls since beating Alabama in overtime on Nov. 5 — finishes with a single, solitary nod at No. 1 from Albuquerque, N.M. radio reporter Erik Gee. (Last week, Gee told CBS Sports that the score of the championship game "would have to be something like a 63-0 pasting" by Alabama to overcome the Tide's regular season loss to LSU and the Tigers' tougher schedule. In adjusted terms, a 21-0 final between these two defenses may be the rough equivalent of 63-0 under different circumstances, but least he stuck to his word.) For its part, Oklahoma State picked up four first-place votes from the writers, but that wasn't even enough to move the Cowboys past LSU into No. 2 in either poll. There are no competing claims to the crown.

The final top five in both polls is the same:

1. Alabama (12-1)
2. LSU (13-1)
3. Oklahoma State (12-1)
4. Oregon (12-2)
5. Arkansas (11-2)

LSU finishes the season with the SEC championship, five wins over teams that finished in the top 20 and three wins over teams that finished in the top five, including the team that finished No. 1 — by any standard, one of the most accomplished resumés of the BCS era. That's still only accomplished enough, though, to place the Tigers alongside the 2002 Miami Hurricanes and 2005 USC Trojans as great runners-up.

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The higher they're ranked, the harder they fall. Oklahoma's win over Iowa in the Insight Bowl nudged the Sooners up three slots in the AP poll, from No. 19 to No. 16, matching the 1997 Penn State Nittany Lions for the lowest finish for a preseason No. 1 since the final poll was moved from the end of the regular season to after bowl games in 1968. Going into the bowl, OU's fall to 19th was a new low for any preseason favorite in that span at the end of the regular season.

Most obvious fail. AP voters ranked 10-3 Kansas State 15th, one spot ahead of 10-3 Oklahoma, despite the Sooners' blowout win in Manhattan on Oct. 29.

Most significant disagreement. Virginia Tech came in 17th on the coaches' ballots after its overtime loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, but fell all the way to No. 21 according to the writers — actually slightly narrowing the gap at the end of the regular season, when the Coaches' Poll hardly punished the Hokies at all for their ACC Championship flop against Clemson. The only other teams with gaps as wide as four slots between polls: Houston (18th AP, 14th Coaches) and Cincinnati (25th AP, 21st Coaches).

At least we know Michigan State is No. 2. The Big Ten spent most of the season with a gaggle of indistinguishable teams hovering on the edge of the top ten, and that's exactly how it finishes: The AP poll ranks the top three teams in the conference as 10. Wisconsin 11. Michigan State 12. Michigan… a mirror image of the order in the Coaches' Poll, which went 9. Michigan 10. Michigan State 11. Wisconsin.

Ranked teams in the final poll that did not appear in the preseason poll (AP): Michigan (12), Baylor (13), Kansas State (15), Houston (18), Southern Miss (20), Clemson (22), Cincinnati (25).

Ranked teams in the preseason poll that did not appear in the final poll (AP): Texas A&M (8), Notre Dame (16), Ohio State (18), Mississippi State (20), Missouri (21), Florida (22), Auburn (23).

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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