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Power Poll: No. 4 Michigan State's in -- if we had a playoff, that is

Season No. 144 is in the books.

At least the 144th regular season since Rutgers and Princeton teed it up. There's still a postseason to go.

The next time we meet (in this space) we'll be looking forward to 2014. For now, these are the best 25 for 2013 in the final Power Poll.

Power Poll

1. Florida State (1): Almost lost in national narrative: FSU is best team in the country and it may not be close. Noles bookend the BCS. Played in first BCS national title game (1999), will play in last. They have largest average margin of victory in the past 10 years, 42.3 point average. If Jameis Winston doesn't win the Heisman, they might as well melt down the trophy. "I gotta get more mature," he said, summing up the week that was. Bowl: BCS title game vs. Auburn.

2. Auburn (5): Sealed the deal with 59-42 clobbering of Missouri in SEC title game. Tre Mason elbowed his way into the Heisman conversation. Gus Malzahn doesn't make much conversation but that's OK. Tigers are going to the big game for the second time in four years. They better get some trees in Toomer's Corner soon. Those wires are taking a beating. Bowl: BCS title game vs. Florida State.

3. Alabama (3): One lousy second may spawn a line of T-shirts. Last trip to Sugar Bowl game (2009) resulted in that embarrassing loss to Utah. No worries. You may have heard, Tide went on a little run after that. There will be no shame in losing to the Sooners. Bowl: Sugar vs. Oklahoma.

4. Michigan State (8): Interesting question ... If this was a four-team playoff who would you put at No. 4. Spartans get the nod here because they beat No. 2 to win the Big Ten. Coach D's throwback Spartan Dawgs defense comprised the foundation of what might be the toughest team in the game. Bowl: Rose vs. Stanford.

5. Baylor (7): Life couldn't be better in Waco. Bears close Floyd Casey out in style winning first Big 12 title. Art Briles signs extension. The guts of the offense is back. Bowl: Fiesta vs. Central Florida.

6. Stanford (9): Fourth straight BCS bowl. Back-to-back Rose Bowls. Another smacking of Arizona State leaves no doubt. Bowl: Rose vs. Michigan State.

7. Ohio State (5): Bucks weren't exposed by Michigan State, they were just beat. There are better days ahead. Defense just wasn't good enough this year. Bowl: Orange vs. Clemson.

8. Missouri (4): How big a comeback was this season? Mizzou entered Saturday with a higher BCS rank (5) than its preseason pick in SEC East (six). No shame in losing to an Auburn team of destiny. Bowl: Cotton vs. Oklahoma State.

9. Oklahoma (14): That was Big Game Bob at his best in Stillwater. Three quarterbacks. Fake field goal. Comeback on the road. Look what it got the Sooners ... Bowl: Sugar vs. Alabama.

10. Oklahoma State (6): Still wondering how Cowboys blew the Big 12 at home with Oklahoma using three quarterbacks in the cold. Bowl: Cotton vs. Missouri.

11. South Carolina (10): Remember when Jadeveon Clowney was the story? A great ending as Gamecocks finish fourth straight win with at least nine wins for Steve Spurrier. Bowl: Capital One vs. Wisconsin.

12. Oregon (12): Good news -- Marcus Mariota is returning for a fourth season. Bad news -- Oklahoma and Clemson trump the Ducks for a BCS berth. That breaks four-year run of BCS bowls. Bowl: Alamo vs. Texas.

13. Clemson (13): Tigers remain FSU's best win. In a bounce-back year for the ACC, let's not forget Tajh Boyd and Vic Beasley. Bowl: Sugar vs. Ohio State.

14. Central Florida (15): There were 1,000 folks who got in free to watch the first team to clinch a BCS bowl play what amounted to an exhibition game Saturday. That would be UCF beating SMU in an ice storm. That's also only 72,000 fewer that showed up to watch Auburn clinch a BCS berth. Bowl: Fiesta vs. Baylor.

15. Fresno State (16): Beats Utah State to win Mountain West. Beating itself up because it could have won first BCS berth. Bowl: Las Vegas vs. USC.

16. LSU (17): We feel for Zach Mettenberger (career over with ACL) but should be an interesting bowl game with Anthony Jennings taking over. Bowl: Outback vs. Iowa.

17. North Dakota State (18): Interesting weekend for the Bison. They won their FCS playoff game but they lost coach (Craig Bohl) to Wyoming. Next: FCS quarterfinal vs. Coastal Carolina.

18. UCLA (21): Jim Mora turned down interest from his alma mater (Washington) to get an extension from UCLA and stay in Westwood. Bowl: Sun vs. Virginia Tech.

19. Arizona State (11): Getting old for the Sun Devils, who played Stanford twice and lost twice, the second time at home in the Pac-12 title game. Big. Bowl: Holiday vs. Texas Tech.

20. Wisconsin (22): Fine debut season for Gary Anderson in Madison. He won as many games as Bret Bielema lost in a row at Arkansas. Karma? Bowl: Capital One vs. South Carolina.

21. Louisville (23): Teddy Bridgewater and Cardinals almost forgotten after UCF loss. Deserve better after comeback win over Cincinnati. Bowl: Russell Athletic vs. Miami.

22. Bowling Green (25): Matt Johnson takes Jordan Lynch hype personally. BG quarterback does his own Lynch impersonation with five touchdown passes. Upset of Northern Illinois puts Falcons coach Dave Clawson back on national (coaching) radar. Bowl: Little Caesars vs. Pittsburgh.

23. Northern Illinois (20): There may not have been a more crushing loss this season than NIU's to Bowling Green. Perhaps Alabama or Ohio State can relate. In the new playoff structure who knows how long it will take NIU/MAC champ to make it to a major bowl. Bowl: Poinsettia vs. Utah State.

24. Rice (NR): Reason No. 5,213 why we love college football. You couldn't tell the difference between Florida State and the plucky Owls in their locker rooms after Rice won its first outright conference title since 1957 (over Marshall in C-USA title game). In the past 18 games the Owls are 15-3. The only schools with fewer losses over that span are Ohio State, FSU, Alabama, Louisville and Fresno. Bowl: Liberty vs. Mississippi State.

25. Duke (19): Yeah, the Blue Devils got their MBAs handed to them by FSU. Yeah, they didn't deserve to be on the same field with the Noles. But 10 wins were the most ever for Duke and David Cutcliffe already has been named a national coach of the year. Can't bring myself to drop them out of the Power Poll. You're welcome Dookies. Bowl: Chick-fil-A vs. Texas A&M.

Also receiving love for the 2013 season (teams, people, coaches, trends, philosophies that didn't make the top 25): Verne and Gary, Noon ET starts. Yes, they still exist (Thank you, Big Ten), Bill Hancock, the pregame meal, Chris Petersen, Steve Sarkisian, Cincinnati and Tommy Tuberville, Josh Williford, Jordan-Hare as time ran out on Nov. 30, Jerry Kill and his Minnesota staff for moving on as if nothing had happened, Houston, Iowa, Marshall, Chick-fil-A -- the bowl and the chain, East Carolina, North Texas and Dan McCarney, BYU and Tom Holmoe, CBSSports.com bloggers, Old Dominion -- welcome to the big time, Mack Brown for - everything, Buffalo, the great Claude Felton, Timothy Alexander, Kaz Kazadi, Ball State, Aaron Donald (he would have been nothing without E.J. Borghetti), Craig Silver, the copy desk at 2 in the morning, Phil Marwill, Matt Sign and Steve Hatchell of the National Football Foundation, Adrian Arrington for making the trip to Chicago. Finally, the BCS for preserving a tradition that is all but gone -- open locker rooms.

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