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Senior College Football Columnist

Power Poll: Irish rise to No. 1 tops season filled with unlikely twists


Let's see, how will we remember this season?

 A team (Alabama) that went 1,092 days between SEC titles is playing for its third national championship in four years.

 A team that fired its offensive-line coach after it couldn't score 10 against Oregon State (Wisconsin) won the Big Ten title when it scored 70 against Nebraska.

 A school that was ranked once in history (Kent State, one week in 1973) played for the MAC title and an Orange Bowl berth.

 A team known historically for losing (Kansas State) won its third conference title in 99 years, and almost played for the national championship.

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 The best player in the country looked a lot like Brick on The Middle.

 A season in which Georgia Tech was guaranteed to go bowling at 6-7 but Louisiana Tech, at 9-3, was shut out.

 A team with the No. 102 offense in the nation was guaranteed a BCS bowl berth (Florida, No. 3 in the BCS).

 The team (Baylor) with the No. 1 player in total offense (Nick Florence) also sported the nation's second-worst defense.

 The preseason AP No. 1 (Southern California) finished unranked for the first time since 1964.

 A WAC coach who started 4-2 was an Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year finalist (Utah State's Gary Andersen).

 A school would successfully delay a bowl ban with an appeal long enough so it could play for a conference championship game it lost (Central Florida).

 A coach would get more respect in one night for losing a conference championship game (Mark Richt) than he did in the previous seven years since winning the school's last conference championship.

 The sport's second-winningest program (Notre Dame) would come from unranked in the AP poll to play for the national championship. That's a first.

 The likely Heisman winner (Johnny Manziel) didn't speak to the media until the last week of the season. Another first, leading to the rethinking of the worth of Heisman campaigns by sports information departments.

 Less than 11 months after Tom Brady's position coach helped lead the Patriots to another AFC title, that same coach (Bill O'Brien) would be honored nationally for winning eight games at Penn State.

Yeah, that kind of season. The final regular-season Power Poll ...

Dodd's Power Poll
1Notre Dame
Overall: 12-0
Conference: N/A
Underdogs to Alabama, but what do you expect? The school used to having everything its own way has been proving everyone wrong all season. Why stop now?
2Ohio State
Overall: 12-0
Conference: 8-0
Still the second-best accomplishment in the country. Worst thing that can happen the world is Urban Meyer being unleashed to recruit instead of prepare for a bowl.
3Texas A&M
Overall: 10-2
Conference: 6-2
Aggies playing Oklahoma in the Cotton makes it the second-best bowl game of the postseason.
Overall: 12-1
Conference: 7-1
Any team with Eddie Lacy in the fourth quarter has a decided schematic advantage.
Overall: 11-1
Conference: 7-1
Will Muschamp has had his say beating three top-10 teams. Now it’s time to establish the Gators as a top five team next season. It starts beating Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
Overall: 11-2
Conference: 7-1
Of course, the Dawgs are a BCS team but the rules agreed upon 15 years ago say a conference have only two teams in. No disgrace playing Nebraska in Capital One.
Overall: 11-2
Conference: 8-1
First Rose Bowl since 1999 against the first five-loss team in Rose history (Wisconsin). Don’t blame the Cardinal. They’re on their best four-year run in history.
Overall: 11-1
Conference: 8-1
An overtime loss away from playing for it all. Playing Kansas State in the Fiesta will be highly entertaining.
9Kansas State (9)
Overall: 11-1
Conference: 8-1
No problem with attendance in Glendale. Wildcats headed to their first BCS bowl since 2003. When does Bill Snyder, 72, start strong-arming administration for extension?
Overall: 10-2
Conference: 6-2
Best news short of an SEC title, Tigers fans have Les Miles for the next seven years.
11South Carolina
Overall: 10-2
Conference: 6-2
Jadeveon Clowney vs. Denard Robinson in the Outback Bowl. Yeah, I’d watch that chase.
Overall: 10-2
Conference: 8-1
Landry Jones quietly became one of the productive passers in history. The Cotton Bowl gets his final bow against A&M and Johnny Football.
13Florida State
Overall: 11-2
Conference: 7-1
Embarrassment factor high facing Northern Illinois in the Orange.
Overall: 10-2
Conference: 7-1
Chick-fil-A does it again: Intriguing matchup between Tigers and Tigers (LSU).
15Northern Illinois
Overall: 12-1
Conference: 8-0
Tied for the nation’s longest winning streak (12). National lightning rod for having the audacity to accept BCS bowl bid. Get over it, people. Blame the underachieving Big Ten and Big East.
16Utah State
Overall: 10-2
Conference: 6-0
What’s more famous than Gary Andersen leading Aggies their first bowl game in 14 years? The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Overall: 9-3
Conference: 5-3
Fifth consecutive bowls for the Wildcats, first meeting with Mississippi State in Gator.
18Oregon State
Overall: 8-3
Conference: 6-3
Surprising season that started with Mike Riley on the hot seat ends with Beavers going for 10th victory against Texas in the Alamo Bowl.
19Kent State
Overall: 11-2
Conference: 8-0
Golden Flashes’ best season in forever ends just short of the Orange Bowl. Nice lead-in to national championship game playing Arkansas State on Jan. 6 in the GoDaddy.com.
20Boise State
Overall: 10-2
Conference: 7-1
Chris Petersen has lost eight games in seven seasons. Eight. Two of those to BCS conference schools at the time of kickoff. He’ll play one of them (Washington) in the Las Vegas Bowl.
21Penn State
Overall: 8-4
Conference: 6-2
In late July, I would have given 1,000-1 odds against the Nittany Lions winning eight. There is a small ray of hope for Bill O’Brien and Penn State going forward.
Overall: 10-2
Conference: 5-2
Haven't seen a quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) hobble around against Rutgers and lead his team to a gutty victory since Byron Leftwich.
Overall: 10-3
Conference: 8-1
What's former Oklahoma quarterback and congressman J.C. Watts doing? Producing a Conference USA championship game MVP. Trey Watts' 54-yard punt return helped beat Central Florida.
24San Jose State
Overall: 10-2
Conference: 5-1
Two years after going 1-12, Mike MacIntrye led the Spartans to only their second bowl game in 22 years.
25Arkansas State
Overall: 9-3
Conference: 7-1
Tied for the nation's second-longest winning streak (7). Coach Gus Malzahn has set himself up for a promotion -- and got it, taking the Auburn job.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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