Florida State Tops The AP Poll, Which Very Much Still Matters

The Associated Press has released its preseason college football poll, always fun, but maybe carrying a little extra poignancy this year, the first time a national champion will be chosen without the (official) input of polls.

There are no surprises. Defending champs FSU overwhelmingly top the polls, but the depth belongs to the usual suspects: the SEC has eight teams in the top 25, matching its all-time high, while the Pac-12 has a conference-record six teams on the list.

Here is the top 25, with each team's total points and number of first-place votes:

  1. Florida State (57) — 1,496
  2. Alabama (1) — 1,361
  3. Oregon (1) — 1,334
  4. Oklahoma (1) — 1,324
  5. Ohio State — 1,207
  6. Auburn — 1,198
  7. UCLA — 1,106
  8. Michigan State — 1,080
  9. South Carolina — 1,015
  10. Baylor — 996
  11. Stanford — 885
  12. Georgia — 843
  13. LSU — 776
  14. Wisconsin — 637
  15. USC — 626
  16. Clemson — 536
  17. Notre Dame — 445
  18. Ole Miss — 424
  19. Arizona State — 357
  20. Kansas State — 242
  21. Texas A&M — 238
  22. Nebraska — 226
  23. North Carolina — 194
  24. Missouri — 134
  25. Washington — 130

That's near-identical to the preseason coaches' poll, which came out last month. The coaches' poll, along with the Harris poll, were actually factored into the BCS standings to determine your national championship game participants—that is, thankfully, a thing of the past. The BCS is dead, replaced by a new college football playoff system creatively named the College Football Playoff.

A 13-person committee will now select four teams for the two semifinal games. Committee members will, ostensibly, make their decisions independently and via debate, without being forced to factor in the polls. In reality, that's impossible—the polls permeate college football discussion. No one can watch every game, and consensus is more influential on us than we're willing to admit. Is No. 1 FSU still the best team in the country? For all practical purposes, they'll be considered tops until they lose a game, so that's something that hasn't changed. And now that the BCS standings will no longer exist, there's nothing nearer to capturing consensus than the AP poll, the most respected poll of all specifically because the AP refused to allow it to be used in the BCS calculations.

So take your preseason polls with the requisite grain of salt. But cast a little extra attention the AP poll's way. The national semifinalists won't be chosen in a vacuum, and this poll will be the closest thing to updated standings we're going to get.