In the wake of a thrilling national championship game, it is no surprise to see Clemson at No. 1 and Alabama just behind in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll on Tuesday.
The big surprise was No. 3. And No. 7.
USC, which started the season by losing three of its first four games, made the jump to the third spot on the strength of a last-second victory over Penn State in one of the most-exciting Rose Bowls ever.
There was more good news for the Pac-12 Conference — Washington was No. 4 after losing in a semifinal against Alabama.
Which takes us to that other surprise, No. 7.
Penn State, which played USC toe to toe in the Rose Bowl, defeated Ohio State during the regular season, won the Big Ten Conference championship and outperformed its brethren in the postseason, came in behind No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State in the final ranking.
Strange that the Nittany Lions wouldn’t be right behind USC and ahead of both Ohio State and Washington, especially when you compare results and consider that the Trojans squeaked past Penn State but dealt Washington a lopsided loss on its own home field.
San Diego State, with record-setting running back Donnel Pumphrey, was No. 25.
Besides Alabama, no other Southeastern Conference team finished in the top 10.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, which had a strong bowl season, finished with a handful of teams in the Top 25, including No. 8 Florida State.
“I think all you media folks need to change your stories,” Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said. “I’ve been in this league a long time, and this league has never gotten the respect that it deserves.”
Wisconsin came in at No. 9, followed by Michigan, giving the Big Ten, which went 3-7 in bowl games, four top-10 teams.
11:33 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information and analysis of Penn State’s placement in the final poll.
This article was originally published at 10:10 a.m.