I know it's cool to act like we don't understand the love affair between the AP writers and Alabama, but I think I can help to put it in perspective..
When you run roughshod over college football for the better part of a decade, routinely churning out top recruiting classes, NFL 1st round draft picks, All-Americans, and championships, you tend to build up a little bit of 'credit' with the voters.
In this world of complete objectivity that you are talking about, where none of this matters, Northwestern is the #1 team in the country, and Utah is a close #2. We are ranked where we are because of the residual effects of greatness, and so is Alabama.
Alabama will go away when they go away, but they just put the hammer down on a top 10 team this past week. I have no problem with not ushering them out of the top 15 after one loss. I will expect the same respect for the Buckeyes when our dynasty starts to wind itself down.