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Beth Maiman | | August 21, 2017

How the final AP Top 25 looked in the first preseason poll

  USC celebrates after the Trojans clinched a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State.

The first 2017 AP college football poll was released on Monday, Aug. 21, providing a first glimpse of how teams stack up for the 2017 season. Alabama leads the pack with Ohio State, Florida State, USC and Clemson rounding out the opening top five of the year.

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But how much does the AP preseason poll indicate how things will look at the end of the season? If we look at 2016, the answer is not much.

Although many predicted Clemson and Alabama as the two best teams last year — they were 2-1 in the preseason poll, and finished 1-2 after Clemson's thrilling win in the championship game — the rest of the rankings went through a lot of changes over the course of the season:

1 Clemson (60) 1500 14-1  
2 Alabama 1440 14-1 1  
3 Southern California 1292 10-3 20  
4 Washington 1277 12-2 14  
5 Oklahoma 1252 11-2 3  
6 Ohio State 1240 11-2 6  
7 Penn State 1130 11-3 NR  
8 Florida State 1105 10-3 4  
9 Wisconsin 1032 11-3 NR  
10 Michigan 1001 10-3 7  
11 Oklahoma State 920 10-3 21  
12 Stanford 730 10-3 8  
13 LSU 651 8-4 5  
14 Florida 640 9-4 25  
15 Western Michigan 619 13-1 NR  
16 Virginia Tech 610 10-4 NR  
17 Colorado 585 10-4 NR  
18 West Virginia 368 10-3 NR  
19 South Florida 358 11-2 NR  
20 Miami (Fla.) 338 9-4 NR  
21 Louisville 277 9-4 19  
22 Tennessee 253 9-4 9  
23 Utah 222 9-4 NR  
24 Auburn 206 8-5 NR  
25 San Diego State 113 11-3 NR

In comparing the AP preseason poll from August 2016 to the final AP poll on January 10, 2017, 11 teams started the season ranked and ended it out of the poll completely. That enabled 11 programs unranked at the start of the season that would finish the season amond the Top 25. 

Teams who were ranked at the beginning of the season but were out of the poll at the end: Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Michigan State, TCU, Houston, UCLA, Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina, Baylor and Oregon. 

Some schools that didn't make the cut for the preseason poll — but did receive votes — worked their way into the final Top 25. Those teams include: San Diego State, Utah, Wisconsin, Miami (Fla.) and South Florida. 

Penn State made the biggest jump from nowhere to ranked. The Nitany Lions didn't receive any preseason votes, yet surprised just about everybody in the Big Ten in earning a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Nittany Lions finished No. 7 in the final poll. 

Two Pac-12 teams also made big jumps. USC went from 20 in the preseason to third in the final poll. Despite a College Football Playoff loss to Alabama, Washington jumped 10 spots from the first to last poll coming in at No. 4. 

It's also hard to forget "Row the Boat" and the magic P.J. Fleck created at Western Michigan. The Broncos were another example of a team who made their way up the AP Top 25 poll. They finished 13-1, with their only loss against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. 

So who will surprise AP voters and college football fans this season? We'll have to wait and see.

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