CBS Sports 128 college football rankings: Clemson ends season on top, USC to No. 3

A quarter-century after experiencing life as a national champion as a walk-on wide receiver at Alabama Crimson Tide , Dabo Swinney (who described himself as a “crawl-on” to that title team) gets his second ring as a head coach after leading Clemson Tigers to its first national championship since 1981 with a 35-31 win over Alabama on Monday night in Tampa, Fla.
In taking down the Tide and handing Nick Saban his first national championship loss, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson cemented himself as an all-time great. And this Tigers program, built on speed, athleticism, versatility and fun, certified its membership as one of the top places in the country to go play your college ball.
Clemson, unsurprisingly, finished as the No. 1 team in the CBS Sports 128 end-of-year rankings with Alabama following close behind at No. 2.
The real fun in our final poll of CBS Sports college football experts lies elsewhere as the lessons of the postseason have shaped our final view of the 2016 season. Southern California Trojans was one of the biggest movers in the rankings, up to No. 3 after edging Penn State Nittany Lions in a Rose Bowl for the ages. Florida State Seminoles also benefited from a big-stage win against the Big Ten in a 33-32 Orange Bowl victory over Michigan Wolverines , and the top-10 ranking that both have below is likely to match where both teams (both returning freshman starting quarterbacks) will start in 2017.
College football experts from CBS Sports — and for the first time this year, partner 247Sports — contribute ballots each week, which are averaged together for our rankings. You can see the top-25 below, and 26-128 on our rankings page.
RANK
TEAM
RECORD
PREVIOUS
1
Clemson
14-1
2
2
Alabama
14-1
1
3
USC
10-3
8
4
Oklahoma Sooners
11-2
7
5
Washington Huskies
12-2
4
6
Ohio State Buckeyes
11-2
3
7
Penn State
11-3
6
8
Florida State
10-3
12
9
Michigan
10-3
5
10
Wisconsin Badgers
11-3
9
11
Oklahoma State Cowboys
10-3
15
12
Western Michigan Broncos
13-1
10
13
Colorado Buffaloes
10-4
11
14
Florida Gators
9-4
19
15
LSU Tigers
8-4
17
16
Virginia Tech Hokies
10-4
20
17
Stanford Cardinal
10-3
18
18
Louisville Cardinals
9-4
14
19
USF
11-2
21
20
Miami
9-4
32
21
West Virginia Mountaineers
10-3
13
22
Auburn Tigers
8-5
16
23
Western Kentucky
11-3
28
24
Utah Utes
9-4
29
25
Tennessee Volunteers
9-4
36
Biggest movers
Miami (+12): A strong and dominant 31-14 win against West Virginia gave Mark Richt finished a five-win climb back into the top 25 of our rankings.
Tennessee (+11): The Vols, like Miami, put up 30+ against a fellow Power Five foe (38-24 vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers ) and looked much more like the team picked by many to win the SEC East.
USC (+5): Start the hype machine now and get it ready to peak in August 2017. The Trojans and QB Sam Darnold are back in the thick of the national championship conversation.
Florida (+5): In crushing Iowa Hawkeyes 30-3 in the bowl game, Florida’s depth really showed through. The Gators carried a thin, injury-ravaged roster in and still looked drastically better than the Hawkeyes.
Auburn (-6): Auburn was a mess at quarterback and only looked competitive for about 15 minutes against Oklahoma. Once Sean White was knocked out, it was done.
West Virginia (-8): As a 10-win team, West Virginia was not likely to fall below No. 25 on most ballots but didn’t look anywhere close to Miami on the same field.
Check out the rest of the CBS Sports 128: Teams ranked 26-128

Source: General Sports