The final College Football Conference Power Rankings for the 2016-17 season. Here’s how the Power Five conferences shake out.
After a long season and with all the games in the rearview, which conferences reign supreme and which lag behind. Not all college football conferences are created equal, and here’s how the Power Five rank at season’s end.
Final College Football Conference Power Rankings
5. Big 12
It was just a rough year for the Big 12. From the Baylor saga before the season to powerhouse Texas firing Charlie Strong at year’s end, things rarely seemed to bounce the conference’s way. Fully illustrating how down the Big 12 was, Oklahoma ran the table in conference play and still couldn’t crack the top six in the CFP standings. For the second time in three years, the Big 12 was frozen out of the College Football Playoff.
On the high side for the Big 12, Tom Herman appears to be the proper hire for Texas. Matt Rhule will bring discipline and accountability to Baylor – and Jim Grobe did a yeoman’s job during the gap year. Matt Campbell and David Beaty made strides at perennial doormats Iowa State and Kansas, respectively. And with a conference title game on the horizon, things appear on the upswing.
The conference that started slowly and finished strong. Out of the gate, USC was outmatched, Oregon was perpetually confused, Stanford was injured and the state of Arizona just seemed nonexistent. As the year went on, though, things got better and better for some of the teams out West.
Colorado was one of the nation’s best stories. Washington surprised a lot of people en route to a Peach Bowl berth. Washington State showed bursts of brilliance – and more than just a kitschy offense. Stanford turned in, quite probably, the nation’s quietest 10-win season. And then there was USC, who ended on an absolute tear. The Trojans will undoubtedly be a preseason darling – and likely begin 2017 ranked in the top 5.
The best conference in all the land? It just means more? Eh, not really. The disparity between the West and East keeps the SEC in the middle of the pack.
Consider that Florida, for the second year, represented the East in the conference title game and yet could hardly score. Tennessee imploded. And while okay, UGA wasn’t quite there in Kirby Smart’s first year.
In the West, injuries hampered Texas A&M. Inconsistency again dampened Arkansas. And quarterback problems plagued LSU and Auburn.
That said, Alabama is still the premier program of college football – winning games, cleaning up on the recruiting trail, and flipping disenfranchised coaches into reclamation projects. Vanderbilt made a bowl under Derek Mason. Kentucky closed in strong fashion, and is a legitimate dark horse in the East next year with Benny Snell in the backfield.
Ultimately, it wasn’t a bad year by the SEC. It just wasn’t as dominant as we’ve come to expect.
2. Big Ten
There was actually a first-place tie among the Campus Insiders editorial team between the Big Ten and ACC, and ultimately the B1G was knocked to second on account of its less than stellar bowl record. And while Bowl Season left plenty to be desired, let’s talk about the good from the season as a whole.
The Big Ten East firmly supplanted the SEC West as the nation’s most difficult division. Consider that Michigan and Ohio State were the toast of college football all year (the latter being a CFP competitor), and yet neither won the division. Penn State used its monumental win over Ohio State as a springboard to an East, and ultimately a Big Ten, title. The Nittany Lions have officially turned the corner under James Franklin.
Elsewhere, Wisconsin overachieved – neither injuries nor inconsistent quarterback play (from two signal callers) could slow down Paul Chryst’s squad. Iowa performed quite admirably. Nebraska took a gigantic leap forward in Mike Riley’s second year. Northwestern rebounded from a particularly grizzly start. And despite an ignominious unraveling at season’s end, Minnesota is now in great hands with P.J. Fleck at the helm.
Even at the bottom of the conference, Purdue appears to have knocked a home run with the hiring of Jeff Brohm. Chris Ash is recruiting like a mad man for Rutgers. Maryland is on the cusp of being really, really good under D.J. Durkin and Walt Bell. And Michigan State’s down year should be an exception, not the norm, if Mark Dantonio’s history is to be believed.
Clemson in the CFP finale, winning the title in absolutely thrilling fashion. Louisville fielding Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. FSU notching 10 wins and an exhilarating Orange Bowl victory in a “down year.” Virginia Tech winning 10 games and the Coastal Division in Justin Fuente’s first year. What an absolutely wonderful season for the ACC.
Only three teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference finished below .500, and six schools had nine wins. Miami looks refreshed under Mark Richt, UNC proved last year was no joke, Pitt just needs Pat Narduzzi’s defense to kick in and it’ll be a force, and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson has an incredible knack for grinding out successful seasons with his back against the wall (9-4 this year).
When the dust settled, the ACC was, unquestionably, the nation’s deepest and best conference during the season.