Texas A&M finished fourth in the final Associated Press Top 25 college football poll for its highest finish since the 1939 team won the national championship. National champion Alabama topped the AP poll for the 11th time followed by Ohio State, Clemson and A&M.
The Aggies (9-1) passed Notre Dame (10-2), which was fourth in the final College Football Playoff rankings then lost to Alabama 31-14 in the CFP semifinals. The Aggies capped their season with a 41-27 victory over North Carolina in the Orange Bowl.
A&M, which ended the season with an eight-game winning streak, was 75 points behind Clemson (10-2) and 24 points ahead of Notre Dame.
The Aggies’ previous best finish in the AP poll since the 1939 title team was fifth on two occasions. The 1956 team under coach Paul “Bear” Bryant went 9-0-1 and also finished fifth in the coaches poll. The 2012 team matched that No. 5 finish with an 11-2 record under Kevin Sumlin in his first season with the Aggies, which also was A&M’s first year in the Southeastern Conference. A&M tied Georgia that year in the AP poll, but the coaches ranked Georgia fourth and A&M fifth. Ohio State (12-0), which was ranked third by AP, wasn’t included in the coaches’ poll because it was ineligible for postseason play.
A&M’s lone loss this year came against the Crimson Tide (13-0), which defeated Ohio State 52-24 on Monday night to win the national title. That was the same score in Alabama’s victory over A&M. The Crimson Tide breezed by Ohio State, which couldn’t repeat its 49-28 upset of Clemson in the semifinals. It was Alabama’s first perfect season since 2009.
Big 12 Conference champion Oklahoma was sixth with Georgia, Cincinnati, Iowa State and Northwestern rounding out AP’s top 10.
A&M started the season ranked 13th by AP and the coaches. The Aggies slipped to 21st by AP and 20th by the coaches after the loss to Alabama. They climbed to 11th in both polls after a 41-38 victory over Florida which at the time was ranked fourth by AP and third by the coaches. A&M also was fifth in the first CFP rankings, which were announced on Nov. 24, the 13th week of the season that was altered by COVID-19. The 5-1 Aggies were behind Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State in the first CFP rankings.
Those five teams held their spots for the next three weeks, but on Dec. 19, the day before the final CFP rankings, Clemson defeated Notre Dame 34-10 for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, avenging an early season loss at Notre Dame, and Ohio State rallied for a 22-10 victory over Northwestern to win the Big Ten title. A&M defeated Tennessee 34-13 that day and head coach Jimbo Fisher campaigned for the Aggies to make the CFP, but the 13-member CFP selection committee ranked Alabama first followed by Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame with A&M fifth.