It's not meaningful in any particular way, but a post-bowls rundown of the nation's top 30 teams using a results-based system ...
1. Auburn (14-0). Steady at No. 1. Most reasonable minds would agree the Tigers own seven victories over top 25 teams (Oregon, Louisiana State, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi State and South Carolina twice). In the absence of a playoff, that's the best evidence available, and the Tigers have navigated enough stern tests to be a worthy national champion.
2. Texas Christian (13-0). Up from No. 3. The Horned Frogs nabbed a signature victory in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, and there's no question their defense is legitimate. But stack up the resumes of the two remaining unbeatens, and Auburn's is simply deeper.
3. Oregon (12-1). Down from No. 2. Bowl teams the Ducks defeated this season: Stanford (12-1), Washington (7-6), Arizona (7-6) and Tennessee (6-7). The defeat of the Cardinal is superb, but it isn't enough of a resume to bump Oregon over an unbeaten Texas Christian team.
4. Stanford (12-1). Steady at No. 4. The Cardinal lost to one of the two teams in the national title game, and complemented their domination of a depleted Pac-10 (and Notre Dame) with a rout of Virginia Tech. A great season in Palo Alto, and there's a chance for something even greater in 2011 with Andrew Luck remaining in the fold.
5. Ohio State (12-1). Up from No. 7. The Buckeyes were the one notable Big Ten team to escape bowl season unscathed, but they might not have done that if Arkansas understood the concept of scoop-and-score. The Sugar Bowl win is the highlight of an set of victories (at Iowa, Miami, Penn State, Michigan) in the regular season that was qualitatively limited.
6. Oklahoma (12-2). Up from No. 9. The Florida State pummeling looks better, as does the Bedlam victory in Stillwater. The Sooners' 48-20 handling of Connecticut was no surprise and should cement a top-10 finish in the major polls.
7. Louisiana State (11-2). Up from No. 10. For all the befuddling moments out of Baton Rouge this season, the resume still is excellent. Victories over Texas A&M (in the Cotton Bowl), Alabama, Mississippi State, Florida and North Carolina.
8. Alabama (10-3). Up from No. 17. The Crimson Tide didn't repeat as national champs, but they hauled in three legitimate top-20 wins (Arkansas, Michigan State and Mississippi State). The bowl season devalued the chains of Big Ten and Big 12 teams in the top 20 to allow a big jump for a particularly masterful performance. Alabama got just that.
9. Oklahoma State (11-2). Up from No. 18. The Pokes' victories didn't grow much more valuable in the bowl season, and they beat up on an overmatched Arizona team in the Alamo Bowl. Still, they have a decent enough set of victories and nothing shameful to their name. There's an argument to be made they belong behind these next two teams ...
10. Nevada (13-1). Up from No. 14. The Wolf Pack upended a pedestrian Boston College team in the Fight Hunger Bowl, and were buoyed by their upset of Boise State to the very end. The rest of Nevada's resume is a bit skimpy --- at Brigham Young, at Fresno State, home against a sub-.500 Cal outfit --- but one game in late November makes the difference between pushing for a spot in the top 10 and barely making the top 25. Hooray for small sample sizes.
11. Boise State (12-1). Up from No. 15. Eviscerated Utah in Las Vegas seemingly a month ago (it was merely three weeks in the past. The victory over Virginia Tech did what it was supposed to all along. Just for fun, the resume of a 13-0 Boise team that didn't play in a BCS game would probably have ranked fourth in the end game, given Texas Christian's defeat of Wisconsin.
12. Michigan State (11-2). Down from No. 5
13. Wisconsin (11-2). Down from No. 6
The one head-to-head that would be sort of nice to ignore is the Spartans' defeat of the Badgers. The eyeball test said Wisconsin was better, and the bowl results --- Michigan State getting reamed by Alabama, while the Badgers fell by two to Texas Christian --- back that up. Still, head-to-head is head-to-head, and they're comparable enough that Sparty gets the nod.
14. Arkansas (10-3). Down from No. 8. The Louisiana State win looks better. The South Carolina and Texas A&M victories really don't. But there isn't a three-loss team that leaves this season with a better set of losses (Auburn, Ohio State, Alabama). With Ryan Mallett leaving, though, is this going to be high tide in Fayetteville for a while?
15. Virginia Tech (11-3). Up from No. 16. Yes, up. The Hokies lost to a clearly superior Stanford bunch, and both their best wins (Florida State, N.C. State and North Carolina) and their notable loss (Boise State) look better than a month ago. (Boise, in turn, got propped up a bit with Nevada's win). To the end, it's difficult to know what to make of the Hokies' loss to James Madison. But they did beat a certain surging team in the ACC title game ...
16. Florida State (10-4). Up from No. 21. The best of the four-loss teams? It's the Seminoles, Mississippi State or Texas A&M. Florida State wasn't far from being a 12-2 outfit, and at their peak (i.e. with Christian Ponder close to full health, even if he wasn't a Heisman-caliber QB even then this season) they probably nose ahead of the rest of that bunch. One other thing: Jimbo Fisher's team is going forward before it goes backward.
17. Mississippi State (9-4). Up from No. 20. Is it too late to get the Chick-Fil-A Bowl to take Mississippi State, then send Steve Spurrier to the Gator Bowl to issue the death knell for Rich Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan. It would have worked out so well all around (well, not for Rich Rod). The Bulldogs went 1-4 in the tortuous SEC West and ran the table against everyone else. As such, their best victories are against tarnished titans like Florida, Michigan and Georgia. The eyeball test gets applied a little here to differentiate.
18. Missouri (10-3). Down from No. 11. The train of Big 12 teams shifts seven spots downward. Missouri won at Texas A&M and also defeated Oklahoma. That keeps them at the head of this three-team group, even though the Tigers did little to impress in an Insight Bowl loss to inconsistent Iowa.
19. Texas A&M (9-4). Down from No. 12. Part of the Aggies' tumble is because they lost to Louisiana State. Just as much of it is due to the unexpected losses of Nebraska, Missouri and Baylor (OK, that last one was more unexpected by me than most) in their respective bowl games. A&M will finish the season a bit undervalued, just as it was all season. It does have a defeat of Oklahoma, and that still counts for something.
20. Nebraska (10-4). Down from No. 13. The Cornhuskers will fit in just nicely in the Big Ten after their embarrassing collapse in the Holiday Bowl against Washington. Not sure there was a more disappointing team in the postseason than Nebraska.
21. South Carolina (9-5). Down from No. 19. Paused for a while on what to do from this point going forward. In the end, it's difficult to punish the Gamecocks too much for falling to Auburn twice, just as it's difficult not to reward them for collecting a top-10 win (Alabama). The setback at Kentucky remains a puzzler, and it probably costs South Carolina four spots in the final rankings.
22. Maryland (9-4). Up from No. 23. Hammered an amazingly mediocre East Carolina bunch in the Military Bowl to send Ralph Friedgen out a winner. The Terps were helped by N.C. State's victory in the Champs Sports Bowl, though those road losses to Clemson and Miami look worse after bowl season. There's no great gem on Maryland resume, but it should slip into the tail end of the top 25.
23. N.C. State (9-4). Up from No. 25. Handled West Virginia with relative ease in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Wolfpack belongs just behind Maryland based on head-to-head, which slightly trumps State's escape of Florida State in the regular season.
24. Tulsa (10-3). Up from unranked. Destroyed Hawaii in Honolulu, and that victory at Notre Dame kept increasing in value as the season progressed. That's something --- enough to get Todd Graham the Pittsburgh job.
25. Iowa (8-5). Up from unranked. There are no correct answers going forward, just a muddled mass of teams that aren't easy to differentiate. The Hawkeyes beat Michigan State and Missouri. They also lost to Minnesota somehow. Even given a spot here, they're among the biggest letdowns nationally.
26. Notre Dame (8-5). Up from unranked. The Irish saved their most credible performances for late in the season, beating Utah, Southern California and Miami. Others can argue a place here, but Notre Dame did beat No. 27 ...
27. Utah (10-3). Down from No. 24. Underwhelming to the end, Utah still should be the second-highest ranked Mountain West team based on their victories over solid San Diego State and Air Force. But if November (and the Las Vegas Bowl) demonstrated anything, it's that the Utes are a borderline top-25 team at best.
28. San Diego State (9-4). Up from No. 29. The Aztecs beat both Navy and Air Force at home, and didn't embarrass themselves along the way. Four losses by 15 points says this was a good bunch all along; it just doesn't have the resume to show it's particularly noteworthy.
29. Air Force (9-4). Up from unranked. The Falcons complete the Mountain West chain. Another good-but-not-great team, Air Force was blitzed by Texas Christian, suffered its other three losses by a combined 10 points and outlasted a middling Georgia Tech team in an ugly Independence Bowl. Even now, the Falcons' best showing all year might be the three-point loss at Oklahoma.
30. Central Florida (11-3). Steady at No. 30. Beat Georgia in a difficult-to-watch Liberty Bowl, and the only other bowl teams the Knights defeated (East Carolina and Southern Methodist) did not acquit themselves well in the postseason. SMU, in fact, was the only team Central Florida defeated that wound up with a .500 record. Eleven wins is eleven wins, but this wasn't a particularly accomplished team.
Next five: Hawaii, West Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Navy