Oklahoma State, the Big 12 football champion, caught the attention of enough voters to prevent Alabama from earning a unanimous decision as The Associated Press’ national champion in the final college football polls, released today.
But the Crimson Tide, which swept all first-place votes in the coaches poll, earned 55 of 60 first-place ballots from AP voters and easily finished No. 1 in that post-season poll as well. Oklahoma State (12-1) landed at No. 3, with four first-place votes _ one spot behind No. 2 LSU (13-1), which received the remaining first-place vote in the AP poll despite its 21-0 loss to Alabama in Monday’s BCS National Championship Game.
OSU, which set a school record for victories this season, had zero first-place votes in either poll before defeating Stanford, 41-38, in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cowboys finished as the nation’s highest-ranked Big 12 team, placing No. 3 in both the AP and the coaches polls. It marked the highest post-season finish in school history.
Baylor (10-3) finished with its loftiest post-season perch in 25 years. The Bears landed at No. 12 in the coaches poll and finished 13th with AP voters. It marked the Bears’ best finish since the 1986 team placed 12th in the AP poll and 13th in the coaches poll.
TCU (11-2), which will join the Big 12 in July, placed 13th in the coaches poll and was No. 14 with AP voters. Texas (8-5), which defeated California 21-10 in the Holiday Bowl, finished unranked in both polls.
Other teams with Big 12 or Texas connections to crack the final polls included Houston (13-1 record; 14th in coaches poll, 18th in AP); Oklahoma (10-3; 15th in coaches poll, 16th in AP) and Kansas State (10-3; 15th in AP; 16th in coaches). West Virginia (10-3), the Orange Bowl champion scheduled to join the Big 12 in July, finished 17th with AP voters and 18th in the coaches poll.
Texas, Missouri (8-5) and Texas A&M (7-6) received votes in the coaches poll after bowl victories but finished unranked. Texas and Missouri also were included on AP ballots but failed to crack that Top 25 as well.
Oklahoma State was left out of the BCS title game mix in favor of Alabama, which did not win its division in the Southeastern Conference, after the Cowboys finished .009 of a point behind the Crimson Tide in the final BCS standings on Dec. 4. Any hope that a Cowboys’ bowl victory might trigger a title split among AP voters disappeared when Alabama dominated then-No. 1 LSU in the BCS title game, avenging a 9-6 overtime loss to the Tigers on Nov. 5.
Alabama topped the final AP poll with 1,495 points. LSU finished with 1,425 points and OSU had 1,399. The No. 3 finish marked the highest post-season ranking in school history for Oklahoma State.
_ Jimmy Burch