Here are the final 1-120 rankings of the 2011 season.
In the preseason, we had Oklahoma No. 1, with Alabama second, Oregon third and LSU fourth. In our first weekly poll, which came out Oct. 4, LSU was No. 1, and the Tigers remained there until this final poll.
Our biggest preseason misses? We had Florida State eighth and Texas A&M 10th; we also had Arizona State at 20th and Florida at 21st. We underrated Oklahoma State, at No. 11, and Michigan, which we had 36th.
On to the rankings:
The buzz: The Tide rebounded from their only regular-season loss by dominating LSU for the national title. That's the third title ring for Nick Saban. They already have a statue of him in Tuscaloosa. What's next: Bryant-Denny-Saban Stadium?
The buzz: QB Jordan Jefferson picked a bad time to channel his 2009 and 2010 self. Still, the Tigers won the SEC and were the only squad to beat three teams that won BCS bowls. Unfortunately for them, the Tigers lost to Alabama in the only BCS bowl that really mattered.
The buzz: The Cowboys capped off the best season in school history with an exciting win in the Fiesta Bowl. This was just the fifth 10-win season in school history.
The buzz: While the Ducks weren't as productive as they were in 2010, they were productive enough to win the Pac-12 for the third season in a row. They also snagged their first Rose Bowl win since 1917.
The buzz: You wonder if coach David Shaw regrets not putting the game in the hands of QB Andrew Luck at the end of the Fiesta Bowl. Why count on a kicker when you have Luck on your side?
The buzz: The Trojans were surprisingly strong this season. They won't surprise anybody next season, when they will go into the fall as one of the teams to beat nationally.
The buzz: The Hogs' only two losses came to Alabama and LSU. But those two losses came by a combined 48 points, so they have a ways to go to catch the Tide and the Tigers.
The buzz: The Gamecocks enjoyed their first 11-win season in school history. But even though they beat Georgia, they didn't win the SEC East crown.
The buzz: If not for a missed field goal against TCU, Boise might have been in New Orleans on Monday playing for the national title. Coach Chris Petersen now has to rebuild his staff and his roster.
The buzz: QB Russell Wilson made a big impact on the Badgers' offense. The defense had some issues, though, and let the Badgers down in each of the three losses.
The buzz: Coach Mark Dantonio oversaw another successful season. The Spartans won 11 games for the second season in a row and won at least 10 for just the fifth time in school history.
The buzz: All hail Robert Griffin III. The Heisman winner led one of the nation's most prolific offenses and led the Bears to just the second 10-win season in school history. Baylor also got its first bowl victory since 1992.
The buzz: Rich who? The Wolverines put the previous coach out of their minds and re-established their defense to win 11 games for the first time since 2006 and just the fifth time in school history.
The buzz: The Horned Frogs won the Mountain West title in their final season in the league, and they won at least 11 games for the fourth season in a row and the seventh time in nine seasons.
The buzz: The Sooners began the season ranked first in the nation. But the defense failed at times, surrendering 130 points in the three losses, and the Sooners finished third in the Big 12.
The buzz: The defense had some issues, but the passing attack was strong and WVU was a Big East tri-champ in coach Dana Holgorsen's first season. His first year was capped by a memorable performance in an epic Orange Bowl beatdown of Clemson.
The buzz: The Golden Eagles were strong on both sides of the ball. A puzzling loss to an awful UAB team kept Southern Miss from an even higher ranking.
The buzz: A high-powered passing attack carried the Case Keenum-led Cougars to the cusp of the BCS. But a loss in the C-USA title game ended their BCS dreams. Coach Kevin Sumlin parlayed Houston's success into the Texas A&M coaching job.
The buzz: Who needs to pass? K-State rode a physical rushing attack and a defense that forced 27 turnovers to its first 10-win season since 2003.
The buzz: The Bulldogs lost their first two games and also their last two. In between, they won 10 in a row and the SEC East title, their first division crown since 2005.
The buzz: The Tigers won the ACC championship for the first time since 1991, but the season ended with an Orange Bowl debacle in which they surrendered 70 points to West Virginia. (Pssst – you want to frighten any Tigers player, coach or fan? Just walk up to them and whisper, "Tavon Austin.")
The buzz: The Hokies made the most of a relatively easy schedule. But they were hammered twice by Clemson and again lost in a BCS bowl.
The buzz: A season that began with great promise and a spot in the top 10 instead ended with four losses. The Seminoles suffered through three ACC losses and had some offensive issues down the stretch.
The buzz: The Huskers had some nice wins but also some exasperating losses. This was the fourth consecutive season the Huskers lost four games and the eighth season in a row they lost at least four.
The buzz: The Bearcats were crushed by a bad Tennessee team in their second game, and it looked as if this season was going to be a bad one. But Cincy ended up in a three-way tie for the Big East title thanks to a big-play defense and an opportunistic offense.
The buzz: The Utes' first season in the Pac-12 ended with five wins in the final six games – but the only setback in that stretch was an embarrassing loss to a bad Colorado team. The offense has to get a lot better next season.
The buzz: The Tigers' final season in the Big 12 was an inconsistent one. But they did finish the season with a four-game winning streak and dominated North Carolina in the Independence Bowl.
The buzz: The Longhorns made some offensive strides under new coordinator Bryan Harsin, but they must improve their passing attack.
The buzz: The Nittany Lions started 8-1, then the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke and football became secondary. This program now looks as if it is going to have more than a few lean seasons.
The buzz: Turnovers doomed the Irish in two early-season losses, and an inconsistent offense cost them later in the season, including a bowl-game loss to Florida State. Coach Brian Kelly needs to find a quarterback he trusts.
The buzz: The Cougars' first season as an independent was a success, though the record is a little deceiving. The Cougars beat just two teams with winning records – and both those wins came on last-second TD passes.
The buzz: The Tigers tumbled a long way from the heights of the 2010 season. They shocked South Carolina, but in their other games against "good" SEC teams (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU), they were outscored 170-45.
The buzz: The senior-laden Cavaliers had a surprisingly strong season. Turnovers were a problem, and the Cavs also surrendered at least 28 points in each of the five losses.
The buzz: The Yellow Jackets started 6-0, then a mediocre defense caught up to them. They finished second in the nation in rushing.
The buzz: The Golden Hurricane had a solid season. Each of their five losses came to a team that won at least 10 games.
The buzz: A season that began in the top 10 ended with six losses and the firing of coach Mike Sherman. The Aggies blew double-digit second-half leads like most of us take a breath. Five losses came by seven or fewer points, with four of those coming by four or fewer points.
The buzz: First-year coach Dave Doeren had a highly successful debut season, thanks to a high-powered offense that scored at least 40 points nine times. A rebuilt defense was gashed often, but that unit should be the team's strength next season.
The buzz: The offense made some incremental strides this season, but the Golden Bears still need more consistency on that side of the ball. How inconsistent were they? They routed Utah, then were hammered by UCLA the next week.
The buzz: A victory over Michigan was the season highlight. But the Hawkeyes lost four of their final six games, and their three best offensive players (T Riley Reiff, TB Marcus Coker and WR Marvin McNutt) are gone.
The buzz: The Will Muschamp era got off to a rough start, mainly because of a poor offense. The Gators didn't beat a FBS team that finished with a winning record.
The buzz: The Nevin Shapiro scandal hit right before the season started, and first-year coach Al Golden deserves credit for keeping the team focused. Still, relative to their talent level, the Hurricanes underachieved.
The buzz: The Rockets fought back from a 1-3 start, which included a controversial setback at Syracuse, to finish strong – so strong, in fact, that coach Tim Beckman got the Illinois job.
The buzz: Forget the 67 points the Huskies allowed in the Alamo Bowl. (OK, that's impossible to ignore. Sixty-seven?) This program remains on the uptick, and QB Keith Price is a big-timer.
The buzz: The past 14 months have been hellish for the Buckeyes and their fans. But even with NCAA sanctions, the future looks good, and next season's defense could be dominant.
The buzz: Despite a bowl win, just the second for the Mustangs since 1984, the season was a mild disappointment. The offense wasn't as potent as expected, and that has to bother coach June Jones.
The buzz: "Cyclones" remains a dirty word in Stillwater, Okla. – and, truth be told, likely in the Big 12 offices, as well. The season ended with just the 11th bowl appearance in school history.
The buzz: The Illini looked really good early, getting out to a 6-0 start. The bottom then fell out, though, and coach Ron Zook was shown the door. But just like his tenure at Florida, he left the next staff with a lot of talent.
The buzz: The Bulldogs took a step back from last season, but they still went bowling for just the ninth time in 30 years. Coach Dan Mullen has to find a quarterback who can throw the ball effectively.
The buzz: Rutgers finished strong despite a weak offense. The Scarlet Knights' defense carried the day for most of the season.
The buzz: Frank Solich has a good thing going in Athens, Ohio. Three of the Bobcats' losses came by three or fewer points, and sophomore QB Tyler Tettleton is a star on the rise.
The buzz: There were some nice wins, including victories over Virginia, North Carolina, Clemson and Louisville, but the Wolfpack need more playmakers if they want to compete for the ACC title.
The buzz: Coach Butch Davis was fired on the eve of fall practice, and the Tar Heels muddled through an inconsistent season. UNC started 5-1, then sank out of sight.
The buzz: A season of great promise started well, then disintegrated. Coach Dennis Erickson was fired and the season ended with a five-game losing streak.
The buzz: A young Cardinals team was a tri-champ in the Big East. They look as if they will be the league favorite next season.
The buzz: First-year coach Steve Addazio arrived from Florida, where he had been Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator, and rode a run-happy offense and a stout defense to a bowl win.
The buzz: The Bulldogs were the surprise winners of the WAC despite having to work through some quarterback issues. They also gave TCU a tussle in the Poinsettia Bowl.
The buzz: First-year coach Hugh Freeze re-energized the program and led the Red Wolves to the Sun Belt Conference title. Freeze was so successful that he already has moved on, to Ole Miss. But Gus Malzahn is the new coach, and the program definitely has momentum.
The buzz: James Franklin relentlessly sold his program, and the players bought in. Still, Vandy was 2-6 in the SEC and needs to start beating some "good" teams before it truly can be taken seriously.
The buzz: How did this team lose to Army? Coach Pat Fitzgerald needs to improve
The buzz: Coach Danny Hope received a contract extension after a season that included an upset of Ohio State. But it also included a loss to Rice.
The buzz: This was an unbelievably successful season for the Ragin' Cajuns, who were picked to finish last in the nine-team Sun Belt but instead finished third and went to a bowl. The bowl appearance was the first in school history, and ULL won it on a 50-yard field goal on the final play.
The buzz: The Aztecs have won 17 games in the past two seasons, the best two-year stretch at the school since 1976-77. But just one of the eight wins this season came against an FBS team that finished with a winning record.
The buzz: The Panthers played well down the stretch – at least until their bowl game, which they lost to SMU. Coach Todd Graham lasted just one season before moving on, and he won't be fondly remembered by Pitt fans.
The buzz: The Red Raiders shocked Oklahoma on Oct. 22 to move to 5-2 at the time. But that was their last win of the season, and coach Tommy Tuberville once again is reshuffling his staff.
The buzz: This season will go down in history, as the Bruins became the first seven-loss team to play in a bowl game. It also seems likely to go down in history as the final season in which Rick Neuheisel was a head coach.
The buzz: True freshman QB Brett Smith started all season and guided the Cowboys to the New Mexico Bowl. Coach Dave Christensen and his staff need to work on the run defense, though, after the Cowboys allowed at least 200 rushing yards in nine games.
The buzz: There were nice wins over North Carolina State and Florida State early, and Wake got off to a 4-1 start. But the only wins after that came against Duke and Maryland.
The buzz: The Falcons scored at least 33 points eight times and at least 41 five times. But their run defense was abysmal, and they beat no FBS team with a winning record.
The buzz: USF's string of six consecutive bowls came to an end. The season began with an upset of Notre Dame, which led to a 4-0 start. But as is their wont, the Bulls collapsed in the second half of the season.
The buzz: The highlight of the season was a rout of a Cincinnati team that ended up as the tri-champ of the Big East. But Vols fans tend to focus more on the 1-7 SEC record than on a victory over a team from the Big East.
The buzz: The Cougars won almost as many games this season as they had in the previous three seasons combined (five). But it wasn't enough for coach Paul Wulff to keep his job. Enter Mike Leach, and Wulff already has been forgotten.
The buzz: A 1-5 start cost coach Mike Stoops his job. But the Wildcats showed some pride by going 3-3 down the stretch. Despite the poor season, there is some energy surrounding the program because of the hiring of Rich Rodriguez.
The buzz: The Herd needed to win their final two regular-season games to become bowl-eligible. It did so, then capped off the season with a victory over FIU in the Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl.
The buzz: One year after living the high life – i.e., advancing to the Fiesta Bowl – the Huskies returned to earth with a thud. The offense was awful, and so was the pass defense.
The buzz: Unquestionably, the season highlight was a rout of West Virginia. But after that win gave the Orange a 5-2 record, Syracuse closed the season on a five-game losing streak.
The buzz: Utah State went bowling for the first time since 1997 and just the sixth time in school history. And as special as that was, this season had a chance to be great: The Aggies' six losses came by a total of 26 points, including two one-pointers. (Five of the wins came by seven or fewer points, too.)
The buzz: The pass-happy Broncos went bowling for just the fifth time in school history; alas, they lost to Purdue in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl to drop to 0-5 in the postseason.
The buzz: The Wolf Pack were 0-5 against bowl teams this season, including a seven-point loss to Southern Miss in the Hawaii Bowl. That was one of four losses that came by seven or fewer points.
The buzz: UK's five-season bowl streak ended, thanks to an anemic offense that scored more than 17 points just three times this season. UK scored 94 points in eight SEC games – but 30 of those came against woeful Ole Miss.
The buzz: This was a superb season for the Hilltoppers, who had won a combined four games in the past three seasons. Western finished second in the Sun Belt, and its only league loss came by four points to champion Arkansas State.
The buzz: The season was highlighted by a road win at Big East tri-champ Louisville. But FIU finished fourth in the Sun Belt, which is disappointing.
The buzz: The biggest problem for the Knights this season? They were 0-6 on the road. UCF was ninth nationally in total defense but forced just 15 turnovers, 10th-fewest in the nation.
The buzz: The Eagles were bad on offense, and way too much pressure was placed on the defense. BC scored 19 or fewer points nine times and 14 or fewer six times.
The buzz: The pass-happy Warriors didn't throw the ball as well as usual, and that led to three home losses. Injuries along the offensive line wreaked havoc all season. Coach Greg McMackin retired after the season.
The buzz: Navy's string of eight consecutive bowls came to an end. But this almost was a big season: Five of the seven losses came by three or fewer points.
The buzz: The season opened ominously with a loss to FCS member Sacramento State. Turnovers were a problem all season, and the Beavers couldn't run or stop the run.
The buzz: The Cardinals were respectable offensively in coach Pete Lembo's first season. But the defense too often resembled a sieve, as Ball State surrendered at least 41 points five times and at least 500 yards in a game eight times.
The buzz: The Pirates made big defensive strides in Ruffin McNeil's second season, but their offense let them down at inopportune times, most notably in a loss to UTEP.
The buzz: The Spartans made some strides in coach Mike MacIntyre's second season, going from one to five wins. Five of their final six games were decided by three or fewer points.
The buzz: The Miners had legit bowl hopes, but they were blasted by UCF in the regular-season finale. The defense still needs to make big improvements.
The buzz: Coach Jon Embree's first season also was the Buffs' inaugural season in the Pac-12. An upset of Utah in the regular-season finale was the highlight.
The buzz: The Blue Devils started the season 3-2 and there were visions of a bowl bid. Alas, they ended the season on a seven-game losing streak.
The buzz: Give it up for coach Ron English. This was the first non-losing season for EMU since 1995 and only the second since 1989. Who cares that two of the wins came over FCS schools?
The buzz: One season after surprisingly winning the MAC title, the RedHawks took a tumble. The running game was awful; Miami ran for 100 yards in a game just three times.
The buzz: The Golden Flashes won four of their final five regular-season games to flirt with a .500 mark. The defense was good. The offense? It was … well, it wasn't, finishing 119th overall.
The buzz: A bad season was overshadowed by health concerns for first-year coach Jerry Kill, who collapsed on the sideline during a loss to New Mexico State. There were some positive signs, though, such as wins over Illinois and Iowa.
The buzz: The Mean Green won five games. Big deal, right? Actually, it was, considering they hadn't won more than three in a season since 2004.
The buzz: The Falcons had a productive passing attack, but a porous run defense and a ton of turnovers were big negatives.
The buzz: Pat Hill's long and fruitful run as the Bulldogs' coach came to an end after 15 seasons. A poor defense did him in.
The buzz: The Aggies did break a 19-game losing streak to "Big Six" conference opponents with a win at Minnesota, but they still finished with their 12th consecutive losing record.
The buzz: As usual, the Owls were bad on defense. But they did go 4-1
The buzz: Turner Gill went 5-19 in two seasons at KU. That record at Iowa State was good enough to get Gene Chizik the Auburn job. All it got Gill at KU was a pink slip.
The buzz: Finishing 0-8 in the SEC a season after going 1-7 in the league led to the dismissal of coach Houston Nutt. He led the Rebels to nine-win seasons in 2008 and '09, but his fortunes turned bad quickly.
The buzz: The season started nicely, with a victory over Miami. But it went downhill fast, and you wonder about the long-term viability of Randy Edsall as Terps coach.
The buzz: The Blazers' defense was pitiful, and that was a big reason coach Neil Callaway was fired. UAB did upset Southern Miss, though.
The buzz: The Warhawks won two of their final three regular-season games to make the season a bit more palatable. ULM was eighth in the nation in rush defense.
The buzz: Army won a bowl game last season, but took a huge step backward this season. The Black Knights did upset Northwestern, though.
The buzz: The Trojans played well in losing to Arkansas by 10 in their second game, but that was the highlight of the season. The defense was atrocious.
The buzz: Steve Fairchild took the Rams to a bowl in 2008, his first season at the school. But while the Rams won seven games that season, they won just three in each of the past three and he was fired.
The buzz: How in the world did this team beat Ohio University? The Bulls' only other win over a FBS school came by 41 over Akron.
The buzz: How in the world did this team beat Northern Illinois? The Chippewas' only other win over a FBS school came by one over Akron.
The buzz: The only win came against an FCS team. But the Hoosiers did have a couple of close losses they can build on.
The buzz: The Rebels ran the ball well. Alas, that's about it when it comes to the plus side
of the ledger.
The buzz: The Vandals won eight games and went to a bowl in 2009. In the past two seasons combined, they've won eight games and gone to zero bowls.
The buzz: You want to know why the Blue Raiders are a combined 8-17 the past two seasons? They have committed a staggering 66 turnovers in that span, including 28 this season.
The buzz: Injuries at quarterback wreaked havoc on the Tigers, and coach Larry Porter was let go after just two seasons. You don't have to be a genius at math to realize a team that ranks 116th in total offense and 117th in total defense is going to be bad.
The buzz: Coach Mike Locksley was fired during the season. His tenure was so bad school officials are thinking new head man Bob Davie is a huge upgrade.
The buzz: Coach Bob Toledo was let go after another disappointing season. There is talk of an on-campus stadium, but can the school raise the money?
The buzz: Howard Schnellenberger's long coaching career ended in a vastly disappointing manner. But FAU did open an on-campus stadium, fulfilling one part of Schnellenberger's vision.
The buzz: The Zips' only win came over an FCS program, and coach Rob Ianello was fired after just two seasons. The new coach is Terry Bowden, last seen taking in a ton of FBS transfers when he was coach at Division II North Alabama.
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