DABO

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2019, file photo, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney celebrates in the final seconds of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, in Santa Clara, Calif. For the first time, the defending national champion Tigers are No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 presented by Regions Bank, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

I initially didn’t have Clemson on my Associated Press Top 25 ballot. Yeah, how could that happen?

I could claim Texas A&M offensive guard Jared Hocker was so convincing in saying the Aggies would upset top-ranked Clemson, that I just decided not to rank the Tigers.

My only explanation is that I’ve voted Alabama No. 1 so many times, I just subconsciously figure Alabama should be first. I know this, I put Alabama first and filled in all the other teams, leaving off Clemson which I had ranked first.

Let me explain how we vote, or at least how I vote. I list approximately 30 teams. I like to know which teams are just outside my Top 25. I list all teams with no numbers beside them since I move them around so much. This week, I didn’t have much movement in my Top 15, but a lot of movement in my bottom 15. When I was done debating and moving, I logged onto the AP site and started voting. You click on No. 1, pull down to the team you have first and then move the cursor down to No. 2, etc.

For some reason as I was voting, I started with Alabama and went down my list. Remember, I have no numbers on my list (I certainly will in the future before logging on to the AP site). So Syracuse ended up being No. 25 on my initial AP ballot, though it actually was 26th on the list on my computer.

I did double check, again starting with Alabama as No. 1, glancing back and forth between the lists. I just blocked out Clemson or was focused on Alabama as the No. 1 team. And I hit save and logged off. What’s ironic is I’ve been thinking and writing about Clemson for months and have been looking forward to this game. Go figure.

Then came an email Tuesday morning from AP sports writer Ralph D. Russo: “Hey Robert, Ralph Russo here. You left Clemson off your ballot. Can you email me a corrected one ASAP.”

What a gaffe. Luckily, Ralph is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. Hey, mistakes happen. But now, I’m a repeat offender. Last year, late in the season the guy from the AP desk woke me up bright and early Sunday morning, way before I even get up for church.

“Hey, Buddy, you left Oklahoma off your ballot,” he said.

I don’t know if I had them third or fourth, but I’d also skipped over them. Again no numbers, dah, I should have numbered them starting the following week. I guess, I’m hard-headed, old habits are hard to break. Ironically, I never had a problem in the old system, when we emailed our ballots. I always had 25 teams, no problems, year after year.

The guy last year assured me mistakes happen all the time. Maybe he was just trying to make me feel good. Then again, I know I vote in the wee hours of the morning, often half awake and hungry. I’m sure others do as well.

I know this, when I get down shuffling my teams around next week, I’m numbering them. And then I’m going to check my list twice and make sure I’m not naughty and making more work for Rudolph, I mean Ralph.

FYI, here’s my original ballot (there better be 30, again, next week, I’ll number them)

Clemson

Alabama

Oklahoma

Georgia          

Ohio State

Michigan

Notre Dame

LSU

Florida

Texas

Utah

Washington

A&M

UCF

Auburn

Oregon

Wisconsin

Nebraska

Boise State

Iowa

Iowa State

Washington State

Stanford

Penn State

Michigan State

Syracuse

Memphis

Miami

Virginia

TCU

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