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APTOPIX CFP National Championship Clemson Alabama Football

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney kisses the championship trophy after his team's 44-16 rout of Alabama in the College Football Playoff Championship Game on Monday in Santa Clara, California.

Clemson left no doubt.

From Trevor Lawrence's arm to the work of a talent-rich defense, the 44-16 beatdown the Tigers delivered in the College Football Playoff championship game against Alabama forced the first change of the season at the top of my ballot for the Associated Press college football poll.

A.J. Terrell's tone-setting pick six on Tua Tagovailoa's third pass attempt of the game sent Clemson on its way to its second national title in three seasons and led to a frustration-filled night for the Crimson Tide.

Monday's winner in Santa Clara was moving into the top spot on my ballot. That was a given.

The unexpected was moving Alabama from first to third, a direct result of the thoroughness of the beating delivered by the Tigers.

I moved Ohio State, the lone postseason winner not named Clemson among the top nine on my most recent ballot from fifth to second. Like the Tide, the Buckeyes finished with one blemish on their record.

Playoff semifinal losers Notre Dame and Oklahoma both drop one spot into the fourth and fifth spots on my season-ending ballot.

Bowl winners Florida, Texas, Washington State and LSU move into the sixth through ninth spots with Georgia dropping from sixth to 10th following its loss to Texas in the Sugar Bowl.

Washington, Michigan, Kentucky and Syracuse start my second 10 with Penn State settling in at 16, Northwestern at 18 and Iowa at 19 on my final ballot.

The Wildcats move up at 9-5 following their win over Utah in the Holiday Bowl and the Hawkeyes at 9-4 move back onto my ballot following their win over a Mississippi State team that entered the Outback Bowl at 18th but I had at 22nd on my most recent ballot.

Mississippi State remains on my final ballot at 23rd, one spot ahead of Iowa State. Like every other team to lose their bowl game, I dropped the Cyclones, slipping them one spot from the 23rd position I had on the Dec. 2 ballot to 24 in the final 25.

The AP is scheduled to release its final top 25 around 1 a.m. (CT). Here's a look at my final ballot for this season:

1. Clemson

2. Ohio State

3. Alabama

4. Notre Dame

5. Oklahoma

6. Florida

7. Texas

8. Washington State

9. LSU

10. Georgia

11. Washington

12. Michigan

13. Kentucky

14. Syracuse

15. Texas A&M

16. Penn State

17. UCF

18. Northwestern

19. Iowa

20. Fresno State

21. Army

22. Utah

23. Mississippi State

24. Iowa State

25. West Virginia

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