These rankings are all about rating teams against their conference brethren, but we are also ranking the conferences against each other.
Check out the chart below, and click on a conference to get full details on why we ranked teams how we did.
The regular season is over, and no one should be surprised that Alabama and Georgia sit atop the SEC. But the rest of the conference? Well, that’s another story. Auburn, which began the season looking like a playoff contender after beating Washington, sunk to the bottom half of the league. Conversely, an LSU team that many had pegged for seven wins was a seven-overtime game away from a 10-win regular season. A couple of first-year coaches, Florida’s Dan Mullen and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, finished in the middle of the pack, while Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt came up just shy of six wins and bowl eligibility. For the Vols, Ole Miss and Arkansas, the season is over. For the rest of the SEC, it’s time to go bowling.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0)
A few first-half mistakes were ultimately overshadowed by a second half that saw Tua Tagovailoa make a Heisman Trophy statement and the defense smother Jarrett Stidham and the Auburn offense.
2. Georgia Bulldogs (11-1)
The Bulldogs’ offense, which looked like a sore spot coming out of that loss to LSU midway through the season, is now firing on all cylinders, having followed up a 66-point outing against UMass with a 45-21 win over Georgia Tech to end the regular season.
3. LSU Tigers (9-3)
The Tigers came up just short of 10 wins and their bowl destination became a bit murkier after a marathon seven-overtime loss at Texas A&M, but they can still get to double digits with a postseason victory and it’s been a solid season for Ed Orgeron’s group.
4. Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4)
An up-and-down debut season for Joe Moorhead ended with a blowout win in the Egg Bowl, making it a strong beginning for the Bulldogs in their new era.
5. Kentucky Wildcats (9-3)
The Wildcats pounded rival Louisville, putting a nice cap to a historic regular season.
6. Texas A&M Aggies (8-4)
The Aggies turn in an 8-4 regular season in Jimbo Fisher’s A&M debut, but the last win, over LSU, means a lot, because it’s something the team hasn’t achieved since it got to the SEC. Things are looking up in College Station.
7. Florida Gators (9-3)
Give Dan Mullen credit. The Gators could have folded after back-to-back losses to Georgia and Missouri. Instead, they were resilient and finished the regular season by beating in-state rival Florida State for a third consecutive win.
8. Missouri Tigers (8-4)
Drew Lock‘s final game in Columbia was a solid one as the Tigers took care of business against Arkansas. The team took a step forward and, if it can nab a bowl win, a nine-win campaign would be nice to build upon.
9. Auburn Tigers (7-5)
Gus Malzahn tried to cover up deficiencies with odd formations and trick plays, but the smoke and mirrors act wasn’t enough to give in-state rival Alabama a real run for its money. Auburn, which began the season with such high hopes, now has to look forward to next season and the question of whether Jarrett Stidham will return for another year at quarterback.
10. South Carolina Gamecocks (6-5)
The Gamecocks kept it interesting for a half and moved the ball well, but were eventually overpowered by a more talented Clemson squad. Their regular season isn’t over yet; they have a makeup game vs. Akron in Week 14.
11. Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6)
The Commodores are going bowling for the second time in three seasons thanks to their 25-point win over in-state rival Tennessee. And Derek Mason is only the second Vanderbilt coach to beat Tennessee three times.
12. Tennessee Volunteers (5-7)
It looked like the Vols might go bowling, but losing their last two to Missouri and Vandy shuttered those hopes. There were certainly signs of progress in Jeremy Pruitt’s debut season in Knoxville, but also evidence that there’s still a long way to go.
13. Ole Miss Rebels (5-7)
The defense struggled throughout much of the season, including in the Egg Bowl loss and though the Rebels’ offense was generally a potent group, they’ll lose several key offensive pieces, most notably quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.
14. Arkansas Razorbacks (2-10)
A nightmarish season came to an end with a shutout loss at the hands of Missouri. It was the Razorbacks’ lowest win total since 1952.
2. Big Ten
Ohio State may have meandered its way to a 10-1 record while looming on the cusp of playoff contention and dropping from its perch in our weekly power rankings, but Saturday served as a reminder that the Urban Meyer-led Buckeyes always have a foot hovering just above the gas pedal. Dwayne Haskins threw for six touchdown passes and 396 yards against a Michigan pass defense that had allowed only seven touchdown passes in its first 11 games of the season. The shocking 62-39 victory in Columbus guarantees Ohio State a shot at back-to-back Big Ten championships and could potentially add some spice to the debate over the final playoff spot depending on how next week shakes out. The Buckeyes’ prominence in that conversation is fast becoming an annual event.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
Ohio State outperformed its rival in all three phases Saturday for the most devastating and thorough of Urban Meyer’s seven straight wins against “the team up north.”
2. Michigan Wolverines (10-2)
Jim Harbaugh’s team remains one of the Big Ten’s best even though Saturday’s loss in Columbus wasn’t competitive.
3. Northwestern Wildcats (8-4)
Northwestern coasted into championship weekend by holding out most of its starters in the second half of a closer-than-expected win over Illinois.
5. Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4)
A walk-off field goal Friday afternoon secured Iowa’s spot in second place of the West Division.
6. Wisconsin Badgers (7-5)
A disappointing year ended with another lackluster performance in a loss against rival Minnesota defined by turnovers and shaky defense.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6)
The Gophers head into the postseason surrounded by positive vibes after snapping a 14-year losing streak to Wisconsin in dominant fashion.
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-8)
Despite the last-second loss to Iowa, Scott Frost’s group continued to show it has turned a corner in November after a start to the season that could have had them calling it quits a while ago.
9. Purdue Boilermakers (6-6)
Jeff Brohm says he wants to stay at Purdue, which is a good sign for a Boilermakers team that beat rival Indiana for the second year in a row to cap a promising fall.
10. Michigan State Spartans (7-5)
A scare from Rutgers punctuated what many in East Lansing have known for weeks: The Spartans’ offense wasn’t good enough to compete against the top half of the league this season.
11. Indiana Hoosiers (5-7)
Tom Allen’s team wasn’t far off from returning to bowl season, but they sit just behind the pack of teams who managed to win enough close games to earn a postseason trip.
12. Maryland Terrapins (5-7)
An unpredictable and up-and-down year in College Park netted four games in which Matt Canada’s team scored more than 40 points and four games in which they scored a touchdown or less, including Saturday’s finale at Penn State.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-8)
The Illini weren’t able to complete a comeback against Northwestern’s second string at the end of another losing season.
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-11)
Head coach Chris Ash will return next fall when he’ll be hunting for his fourth conference win in his fourth year leading the program.
3. Big 12
The last time the Sooners and Longhorns played twice in a season? Oklahoma was still a territory and four years away from statehood.
But this weekend, for the first time since 1903, the Red River Rivalry will be a rematch. With a Big 12 championship on the line. Potentially a playoff berth for Oklahoma, too. And a showdown carrying massive state-line bragging rights.
1. Oklahoma Sooners (11-1)
No team has won four Big 12 titles in a row. Yet despite having, as Texas defensive end Breckyn Hager put it, “no defense,” the Sooners have a chance to become the first to do so while avenging their only loss of the season.
2. Texas Longhorns (9-3)
What a coup it would be for the Longhorns to defeat OU twice and win a Big 12 title and reach double-digit wins in Tom Herman’s second season. That would be confirmation that, you guessed it, Texas is back.
3. West Virginia Mountaineers (8-3)
OU remains the lone conference foe that West Virginia has yet to defeat since joining the Big 12. In six of the seven meetings, the Mountaineers have given up 44 or more points, too. To finally get over the hump, West Virginia will have to find a way to slow OU down at least a little bit, which is obviously no easy task.
4. Iowa State Cyclones (7-4)
The Cyclones scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to snap a 10-game losing streak to Kansas State and stamp an exclamation point on another superb season for Matt Campbell in Ames. With a victory over Drake in the makeup game next weekend, the Cyclones will claim back-to-back eight-win seasons for the first time since 1977-78.
5. TCU Horned Frogs (6-6)
TCU’s season seemed to be headed down the drain following the Oct. 27 loss at Kansas. But even with a short-handed roster, Gary Patterson rallied his team to three wins in four games, improbably propelling them to a bowl, providing yet more evidence as to why he remains one of the top coaches in college football.
6. Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-6)
What a strange season this has been for Oklahoma State, which is just 3-5 as a favorite, but 3-1 outright as an underdog (the one-point Bedlam loss being the only defeat). The Cowboys are capable of beating just about anyone in the country. But pretty much capable of losing to anyone, as well.
7. Baylor Bears (6-6)
A year after winning only one game, Matt Rhule has the Bears going bowling in his second season. That is why he deserves to be in the conversation for Big 12 Coach of the Year.
8. Kansas State Wildcats (5-7)
Holding a 17-point lead, K-State was a quarter away from going bowling. Instead, the focus in Manhattan will ramp up ever more on Bill Snyder’s future in the wake of the Wildcats missing out on a bowl for the first time since 2009.
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-7)
After a third consecutive losing season, Texas Tech fired coach Kliff Kingsbury on Sunday. The Red Raiders had poor injury luck, namely losing QB Alan Bowman to a lung injury. Still, Tech never could get over the hump under Kingsbury, who will be in demand as a QB coach and play-caller.
10. Kansas Jayhawks (3-9)
As David Beaty’s final game underscored, the Jayhawks are more competitive today than they were when Beaty took over four years ago. Now, it’s up to Les Miles to translate that into more wins.
The Pac-12 championship game between Washington and Utah on Friday won’t even deserve mention in conversations about the College Football Playoff. That’s a sign of irrelevancy.
1. Washington Huskies (9-3)
The Huskies began the season a candidate for the College Football Playoff and while that has been off the table for weeks, a Rose Bowl berth wouldn’t be a bad alternative. Thanks to another lopsided Apple Cup win, they’re just a win over Utah away.
2. Washington State Cougars (10-2)
Losses don’t get much more painful than Wazzu’s in the Apple Cup. WSU fans will always wonder how things might have turned out differently if the game wasn’t played in what was, at times, a driving snow. A New Year’s Six bowl is likely to come.
3. Utah Utes (9-3)
Had Utah lost to BYU the week before going to the Pac-12 championship game it would have been more bad optics for the conference. Utah’s 35-7 second-half comeback in the Holy War was important for conference perception.
4. Oregon Ducks (8-4)
The Ducks had a lot of encouraging flashes but struggled with inconsistency. With what’s shaping up to be one of its strongest recruiting classes ever, the program is headed in the right direction.
5. Stanford Cardinal (7-4)
For the first time in a long time, the Big Game between Cal and Stanford feels like programs on similar levels. Can the Cardinal maintain Bay Area bragging rights?
6. Cal Golden Bears (7-4)
The Bears are the best under-the-radar defense in the country. Justin Wilcox is starting to look like a brilliant hire.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5)
The first year of the Herm Edwards Experience was a success. Despite five losses, it should be noted that they were all one-score defeats. This team wasn’t that far from putting together a really good season and will continue to be an interesting program to monitor.
8. USC Trojans (5-7)
For a lot of USC fans, this is rock bottom. In reality, it’s a 5-7 season a year after a conference title. Still, Clay Helton is about to be the most scrutinized coach in the country.
9. Arizona Wildcats (5-7)
Considered a possible Pac-12 title contender in the preseason, Arizona got off to a poor start, had a few good wins and then played poorly to end the year.
10. UCLA Bruins (3-9)
The offense did some impressive things over the second half of the year. It was still a largely disappointing season, but there was definitely encouraging progress over the course of the season.
11. Colorado Buffaloes (5-7)
From 5-0, to 5-7, the Buffaloes collapse spelled the end of Mike MacIntyre’s tenure. MacIntyre did an excellent job improving a horrible situation and he leaves the Buffs in much better shape for the next coach.
12. Oregon State Beavers (2-10)
Jonathan Smith can coach offense. The priority now is improving the talent level. because the Beavers simply haven’t matched up.
The regular season ended as predictably as it began, at least at the top: It is Clemson and everybody else in the ACC. The only real surprises came with everyone else. Pitt as Coastal champion; Syracuse as the second-best team in the league; Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech with disappointing seasons; Louisville without a head coach. The only question now is whether Pitt can do what it did two years ago, and unexpectedly upset Clemson. This season, the stakes are much higher, in the ACC championship game with a College Football Playoff spot on the line for the Tigers.
1. Clemson Tigers (12-0)
The Clemson secondary is the weak link, and it was exposed early on against South Carolina. The Tigers have to play better there if they want to compete for a national championship.
2. Syracuse Orange (9-3)
Syracuse completed its best regular season since 2001 with a decisive win over Boston College. Dino Babers is building something special up north.
3. NC State Wolfpack (8-3)
This team is far from dominant, as evidenced by its overtime win over North Carolina. But with a game against East Carolina set for next week, NC State still has a shot at a 10-win season.
4. Boston College Eagles (7-5)
The Eagles closed the season with three straight losses, but didn’t have a healthy AJ Dillon for the second half of the season. Coach Steve Addazio’s future is up in the air.
5. Miami Hurricanes (7-5)
Without question, Miami underachieved this season. But the Hurricanes did finish the regular season with two straight wins and one of the best defenses in the ACC.
6. Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5)
Pitt had a disappointing performance in a loss to Miami, and now heads to the ACC championship game against Clemson needing a much better performance from its offensive and defensive lines.
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-5)
For the second straight year, Georgia Tech was not competitive in its rivalry game against Georgia.
8. Virginia Tech Hokies (5-6)
This might be a tad high, but the Hokies deserve to be ahead of Virginia after winning their 15th straight in the rivalry with an improbable comeback.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-6)
The Demon Deacons blew out Duke to clinch a bowl spot, but here is what is most impressive. Wake Forest beat teams with winning records in two of its final three games, with a backup quarterback, to get back to the postseason.
10. Virginia Cavaliers (7-5)
Virginia had multiple chances to put the Hokies away but could not get the job done, and ends the regular season with losses in three of its final four games.
11. Duke Blue Devils (7-5)
Duke lost its final two games by a combined 94-13.
12. Florida State Seminoles (5-7)
History was made this season, and not in a good way: The Seminoles will not be in a bowl game for the first time since 1982.
13. North Carolina Tar Heels (2-9)
North Carolina had another heartbreaking loss to close its season, its fifth by a touchdown or less. And coach Larry Fedora was fired on Sunday.
14. Louisville Cardinals (2-10)
There is some good news for Louisville fans: The season has mercifully come to an end.