In my mind, the top four teams (Florida, Texas, Utah, USC) could all beat each other on any given day. So I tried to look at each of their seasons as a whole and give the top spot to the most deserving candidate.
I considered Texas to be the best team throughout most of the latter part of the season, and I voted them number one in my final regular season poll. The Longhorns beat Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, but weren't National Championship-sharp throughout most of the game. However, they showed the heart and the ability to answer in the clutch that led me to believe they could beat any other team in the country prior to bowl season.
Florida won the BCS National Title game, but we all know (now) their opponent was a sham. Worse still, their opponent abandoned the game plan that got them to the game in the first place and then quit in the fourth quarter, robbing all of us from truly judging just how good Florida is. I still think the Gators have flaws in terms of the Xs and Os (especially on offense), but I really admire the passion with which they play in all three phases of the game.
USC obviously has the hype on their side. The Trojans blasted a Penn State team I held in high regard in the Rose Bowl, which gives them high marks in the "what have you done for me lately" category. They are also a fantastically talented team with the ability to shut down any offense they face. However, I don't feel like USC played at as high a level from week to week during the season as Texas and Florida did, and for that I discarded them from the #1 discussion.
Utah is the wild card. Thanks to the Mountain West Conference's terrible television contract it was difficult to see much of Utah this season. However, the Utes finished as the only undefeated team, and, in my opinion, played a strong enough schedule that they should be considered for the top spot. They played Michigan in the Big House to open the season (who knew how bad a season the Wolverines would be?), beat Oregon State the week after the Beavers knocked off mighty USC, and finished the season by beating three top 25 teams (TCU, BYU, Alabama) in their final four games. That's a tougher schedule than at least half the teams in BCS conferences had to play this season. Above all though, from what I DID see from the Utes, I like the way they play football.
After considering all the facts, here are my final rankings for 2008:
|7. Penn State||6||11-2|
|9. Ohio State||9||10-3|
|11. Texas Tech||8||11-2|
|12. Boise State||12||12-1|
|14. Virginia Tech||13||10-4|
|15. Oklahoma State||10||9-4|
|16. Oregon State||24||9-4|
|19. Michigan State||20||9-4|
|20. Ole Miss||23||9-4|
|23. West Virginia||--||9-4|
|25. Georgia Tech||14||9-4|
Others Receiving Consideration:
Boston College (9-5), Florida State (9-4), LSU (8-5), Maryland (8-5), North Carolina (8-5), BYU (10-3), Northwestern (9-4), Iowa (9-4), Kansas (8-5), Rice (10-3)
Boston College (18)