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Another Florida State comeback as hard-to-beat Seminoles return to No. 1 in AP poll

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Breaking down the ballots for the AP Top 25 and wrapping up college football's 12th weekend:


RESILIENT SEMINOLES

Florida State just keeps on winning.

Good or lucky — probably both — the Seminoles have defied logic to stay undefeated and extend their winning streak to 26 games.

In a season filled with remarkable rallies, Florida State followed up its latest one on the field Saturday night at Miami with another comeback of sorts on Sunday.

The Seminoles are No. 1 again in the AP Top 25, returning to where they started the season after spending six weeks behind Mississippi State.

The Seminoles were preseason No. 1 before being replaced by the Bulldogs in October. The Bulldogs (9-1) had a run of six weeks on top stopped after losing 25-20 at Alabama on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide moved up four spots to No. 2 in the poll. The Bulldogs dropped to fourth. The Seminoles received 43 first-place votes from the media panel. Alabama got 16 and No. 3 Oregon has one.

Florida State is the only unbeaten team remaining from the Big Five conferences after Jameis Winston and the 'Noles erased a halftime deficit for the fifth time this season to beat Miami 30-24.

Along the way to 10-0, the Seminoles have caught a few breaks. Clemson's bad snap in the red zone. An offensive pass interference that wiped out a potential game-winning touchdown against Notre Dame. In the Miami game, Winston had a pass batted at the line of scrimmage turn into a touchdown.

The Seminoles are a long way for being last season's juggernaut, which had most games in the bag by halftime. They get criticized for playing a schedule with few marquee games, but some of that is overblown.

Florida State beat Clemson without Winston and when the Tigers had star freshman quarterback DeShaun Watson, who has missed much of the season with injuries. The Seminoles beat Louisville when it had two of its best players (quarterback Will Gardner and receiver Devante Parker) healthy and playing together for one of the few times this season.

Knock Miami (6-4) and Notre Dame (7-3), but are they that much worse than Texas A&M (7-4) or LSU (7-4), teams that Alabama and Mississippi State have built their resumes on that are currently unranked.

And then, of course, there are the off-the-field issues, including the sexual assault allegations against Winston and the case of the stolen crab legs. Florida State has become the team college football fans — outside of Tallahassee, Florida — love to hate.

"At the end of the day, it's about winning and losing, and we're winning, so why constantly criticize us when we are making it possible to win games and continue to chase our goals?" Seminoles receiver Rashad Greene said after beating Miami. "At the end of the day, that's their job to criticize us, and it's my job to go out there and play football and get my teammates going, and we will continue to win and get better."

PHOTO: Florida State president John Thrasher, left, congratulates head coach Jimbo Fisher after Florida State defeated Miami 30-26 in an NCAA College football game, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Florida State president John Thrasher, left, congratulates head coach Jimbo Fisher after Florida State defeated Miami 30-26 in an NCAA College football game, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Maybe it's just a matter of time before Florida State falls, but the Seminoles seem to be growing stronger with every near-loss experience. Coach Jimbo Fisher said the slow starts are just part of his team's "personality."

"They never panic," he said. "They look each other in the eye and they handle the next play."

And now they're No. 1 again, at least in the AP and coaches' polls.

The College Football Playoff rankings come out Tuesday. Florida State had already been jumped by Oregon (9-1) in that top 25 so don't be surprised if Alabama goes past the 'Noles, too.

It doesn't really matter, though. If Florida State keeps winning it will be make the four-team playoff — and here's guessing they'll be tough to beat.


IN AND OUT

Notre Dame's second straight loss, a gut-wrenching giveaway at home to Northwestern, knocked the Fighting Irish out of the rankings for the first time this season.

Also falling out were Clemson, which lost Watson to a knee injury and then crumbled in a loss to Georgia Tech, and LSU.

Moving back in were No. 23 Oklahoma, which had a streak of 76 streak poll appearances snapped last week, No. 24 Southern California and No. 19 Missouri.


FROM THE ARCHIVES

Regaining the top ranking is a rare feat for preseason No. 1s.

Florida State is the first preseason No. 1 to drop out of the top spot and regain it during the season since Penn State in 1997. The Nittany Lions slipped to No. 2 for three weeks, jumped back to No. 1 for a week in October, but finished the season ranked No. 16.

The last AP preseason No. 1 to lose the top ranking and still go on to win the national title was Florida State in 1993. Coach Bobby Bowden's Seminoles lost at Notre Dame in early November to fall to No. 2. When Notre Dame was upset by Boston College a week later, Florida State went back to No. 1 and went on to win it all.

To find a preseason No. 1 that fell from No. 1 for multiple weeks and still won a national title, you have to go back to 1985. That season Oklahoma dropped to No. 2 in September, slipped all the way to No. 10 in October after losing to Miami, before beating No. 1 Penn State in the Orange Bowl to jump from No. 3 to No. 1 in the final poll.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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