College Football Conference Power Rankings for Week 14 of the 2016 season. The SEC loses three of four to the ACC, which moves up a notch to No. 2.
Which Power Five conference harbors the best collection of programs in the nation, and which are lagging toward the back of the pack? It’s been a fluid process throughout a season now nearing its conclusion.
Sizing up the league pecking order is far bigger than the triviality of regional bragging rights. It’ll directly impact the selections and rankings of the College Football Playoff committee, which will be tasked with deciding which league champion—or two—winds up on the outside looking in when the four berths are released on Sunday.
Week 14 College Football Conference Power Rankings
5. Big 12
Oklahoma hosts Oklahoma State this Saturday, as the Big 12 gets its long-awaited opportunity to showcase its two best teams.
The Big 12’s two best teams will square off on the final weekend in a winner-take-all Bedlam for a second straight year. That’s a good thing for the league, even though it’s likely to be shut out of the playoffs for the second time in the last three years. However, the Big 12 will be defined this season by its defensive shortcomings, bungling of expansion considerations and general lack of depth. After the Sooners, Cowboys and West Virginia, the drop-off to Kansas State and possibly TCU is too steep to escape this year’s Power Five cellar.
The Pac-12 used 2016 to showcase its depth, which is a good thing for the future of the conference.
For the first time since 2008, someone other than Oregon or Stanford will be crowned Pac-12 champ. Washington surpassed the Ducks and the Cardinal in the North with an Apple Cup rout of Wazzu, while Colorado held off USC in the South by beating Utah. It’s the Buffs and the Huskies in Santa Clara, with the latter hoping to use the game as a springboard to a playoff berth. The Pac-12 has also benefitted from strong finishes from the Cardinal and Trojans, which defeated both division winners. Oregon and UCLA were this season’s big disappointments, though the league is still considerably better than the Big 12 and within striking distance of the No. 3 spot.
The SEC’s biggest issue this season? It wound up being Alabama and everyone else, which ought to be the case again this Saturday when the Tide faces East Division champ Florida in the Georgia Dome.
If, as expected, the Gators lose Saturday in Atlanta, the SEC will have one undefeated team and not a single one-loss, two-loss or three-loss team. Yeah, parity is part of the cost of doing business in a league with so many talented players and coaches, but the spread from the top to the midsection is a little more pronounced and disturbing than in recent years. Too many teams outside of Tuscaloosa underachieved in 2016, exiling the league from second place.
The ACC had four rivalry games with SEC teams Saturday. It won three to raise its 2016 mark to 6-3 versus college football’s most recognized brand.
Georgia Tech upset Georgia. Clemson clubbed South Carolina. And Florida State maintained its dominance over Florida. The lone loss? Ironically, it was four-touchdown favorite Louisville, which may have squandered its spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game by stumbling to Kentucky. Eight league members have won at least eight games this season, and 11 of 14 are bowl-eligible, which means the ACC will be well represented throughout December and early January. The Coastal Division, which is sending Virginia Tech to Orlando to face Clemson Saturday night, did a better than usual job of carrying its weight this season.
1. Big Ten
Michigan and Ohio State looked like a couple of heavyweight prizefighters Saturday, duking it out for a national title. Neither will even participate in this week’s Big Ten Championship Game, testament to the league’s strength up top in 2016.
The Big Ten was front-loaded all year with contenders, including Wisconsin and Penn State, who’ll square off in Indianapolis for a conference championship and possibly a playoff spot. The East has been the league’s calling card the past few seasons, spearheaded by the Wolverines and Buckeyes, but the West carried more than its usual weight this fall. Beyond the Badgers, Nebraska and Minnesota performed better than preseason expectations and Iowa closed on a tear by winning its final three games to get to 8-4. The Big Ten is the only conference in the country, Power Five or Group of Five, with more than two 10-win programs.