Florida State was the easy pick at the top of our staff rankings at the end of the year. Photo: USA Today Sports
We already shared our final power rankings for the 2013 season following the conference championships had been sorted out, but with the bowl season now in the books we figured it was worth one last look before turning the page over to 2014. As expected, Florida State was the consensus pick for number one in our rankings after defeating Auburn to wrap up the only undefeated season in the country.
1. Florida State (eight first place votes)
Florida state was simply the most dominant team in college football from start to finish this season. When challenged by Auburn the way no team had been able to do all season, the Seminoles handled it well. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston led Florida State to two fourth-quarter touchdowns to add to the drama, and Florida State looks to be in a great position heading in to 2014.
2. Michigan State
Michigan State snuck past Auburn in our staff vote, edging the SEC champions by one single point once all the votes were counted. The Spartans claimed the Big Ten title and would probably love to have that Notre Dame game back. Michigan State's dream season ended with a Rose Bowl victory over Stanford.
Auburn did things against Florida State that no team this season has been able to do, but even they ran out of steam in the BCS Championship Game. But let it be known that Auburn is set up to bring back a monster of a roster in 2014 and could very well set up a potential rematch with Florida State next season.
4. South Carolina
The Gamecocks continue to be the best team in the SEC that has yet to reach that next level. A game shy of a trip to the SEC Championship Game, the Gamecocks were one of the most impressive teams in the 2013 season and had wins against two winners of two BCS bowl winners (UCF and Clemson).
Oklahoma came on strong late in the year, first by upsetting Oklahoma State to open the Big 12 championship up for Baylor but their Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama may have been one of the most impressive performances of the bowl season. Watch out for the Sooners in 2014, as they should be the favorite in the Big 12 next fall.
6. Central Florida
Some wondered if UCF could keep up with Baylor's offense in the Fiesta Bowl, but it was the Knights who controlled the game from start to finish against the Big 12 champions. UCF also scored victories against Penn State and Louisville this past season, both on the road. UCF was a legit team, but can they repeat that success in 2014 without Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson?
Clemson nearly let an Orange Bowl victory slip away against Ohio State, but the Tigers managed to come up with a big play to seal the victory. Clemson's overall advantage against the Buckeyes came with their speed and athleticism. Clemson proved to be a very good team in 2013, but losses against Florida State and South Carolina demonstrated why the Tigers still have some work to do before becoming a true championship contender.
One of the most successful seasons in Missouri history ended with a wild finish in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State. The Tigers made a run for the SEC championship but could not get past Auburn, but Missouri rebounded to win the next biggest non-BCS bowl. Missouri could be a favorite in the SEC East in 2014.
Few saw a two-game losing streak coming for Alabama, but the Crimson Tide did just that after eyeing up a third straight BCS Championship opportunity. The loss to Auburn is still amazing to recall, but Alabama was never able to keep up with Oklahoma and was sloppy in the Sugar Bowl. Five turnovers turned in to 35 points for the Sooners. Alabama is not going away but they will have a new look in 2014 with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator.
We sort of forgot about Oregon as the season wound down after losses to Stanford and Arizona, but the Ducks put together one last good performance in the Alamo Bowl in Mack Brown's final game with Texas. Year two for Mark Helfrich should be a telling one as the Pac 12 North continues to improve.