The upper echelon of the final college football rankings of the season is often the easiest to decide, and that rings true again this season. After a historic 58-point blowout win in the College Football Playoff National Championship, the Georgia Bulldogs are an easy, unanimous pick for No. 1 in the final CBS Sports 131, our comprehensive ranking of every FBS team.
In a season where the Bulldogs had the largest margin of victory in the country while finishing 15-0, there’s an argument that Georgia could occupy the top two, or even top three spots. But the razor-thin margin between Georgia and the team it defeated 42-41 in the Peach Bowl semifinal, Ohio State, has contributed to the reason our voters are finishing the year with the Buckeyes at No. 2.
TCU, which received some second-place votes, checks in at No. 3. The lopsided defeat in the title game certainly hurt their final position, although the Horned Frogs did enter the postseason at the very same slot.
In terms of movement within the top of the rankings, the final update after the bowl games provides some of the biggest shake-ups we’ve seen since the early weeks of the season. These nonconference matchups between bowl-eligible teams can be, at times, important data points to either confirm or challenge the end-of-season opinion about a program’s standing in the sport.
Tulane, for example, saw a seven-spot bump from No. 16 to No. 9 after winning his 12th game of the year against USC. Washington and Florida State also saw bumps up into the top 10 following impressive bowl wins against Power Five conference opponents with the Huskies jumping four spots to No. 8 and the Seminoles moving up three spots to No. 10. Teams like Utah (No. 11), Kansas State (No. 13) and Clemson (No. 14) each took a hit in the rankings after not only losing in New Year’s Six bowl games but doing so by double-digit margins. . LSU, meanwhile, returned to the top 15 thanks to a 56-point win against Purdue that was the biggest blowout of the bowl season … until Monday’s national title game.
But those aren’t the only ranking changes from our voters in the wake of bowl season results. For more on the biggest adjustments since the end of the regular-season rankings, check out the Mover’s Report below the top 25 table.
College football experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports contribute ballots each week, which are averaged together for our rankings. You can see the top 25 below and 26-131 on our rankings page.
- No. 37 Air Force (+12): The Falcons have won 10 games for the second straight season and the third time in the last three years that the Mountain West has played a full schedule. But Troy Calhoun’s consistency did not contribute to this rise as much as the wire-to-wire, double-digit win against Baylor in the Armed Forces Bowl.
- No. 29 Fresno State (+11): Jeff Tedford’s return to Fresno State has been an undeniable success, and the finish has led to a huge surge in our rankings. First, the Bulldogs went to Boise and knocked off the Broncos for the Mountain West title. Then, in the bowl season, absolutely dominated Washington State in a 23-point Los Angeles Bowl win.
- No. 9 Tulane (+7): A transformational season for Tulane football results in a top-10 finish in our rankings as the Green Wave are rewarded not just for its epic comeback against USC in the Cotton Bowl but a campaign that’s resulted in 12 wins and established Tulane as the team to beat in the American Athletic Conference moving forward.
- No. 25 Pittsburgh (+7): Down multiple key starters on both sides of the ball, Pitt’s resiliency showed through as the Panthers came out on top in a knock-down, drag-out battle against UCLA. This team was 4-4 heading into November but finished the season on a five-game winning streak, giving Pat Narduzzi a total of 20 wins across the last two seasons.
- No. 26 Duke (+7): ACC Coach of the Year Mike Elko showed the award was handed over to the right man as Duke showed up with better preparation and better execution in a Military Bowl victory to finish with nine wins in Elko’s first year.
- No. 35 Cincinnati (-8): A disappointing finish to the year for Cincinnati ends in a rainy and cold Fenway Bowl loss to the team that was coached by its next head coach. After finishing 9-4 in its final year of American Athletic Conference play, the Bearcats are now off to the Big 12 for 2023.
- No. 40 Purdue (-9): The availability of several key starters plus the absence of Jeff Brohm contributed to the blowout loss to LSU, but this adjustment might also be water finding its level after our voters surged the Boilermakers forward for winning the Big Ten West.
- No. 59 Baylor (-11): The other side of our voters making Air Force one of the biggest movers up in the final rankings is a retaliatory adjustment for the Bears, who finished the season with a losing record at 6-7 one year after winning the Big 12.
Check out the rest of CBS Sports 131: Teams ranked 26-131