College Football Rankings 2016-17: B/R's Final Official Top 25

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2017

College Football Rankings 2016-17: B/R's Final Official Top 25

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    The dust has settled and now we have a clear champion. Clemson is the best in college football for 2016-17 after beating defending champ Alabama in Tampa on Monday for its first national title since 1981. That means you know who No. 1 is in our final Bleacher Report Top 25, but how did everyone else end up?

    The Bleacher Report poll is voted on by 17 members of our college football staff: writers Greg Couch, Tyler Donohue, Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Sanjay Kirpalani, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brian Pedersen, David Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Damon Sayles, Brad Shepard, Greg Wallace and Christopher Walsh; video staff Michael Felder and Sean McManus and editor Eric Yates.

    First-place votes are worth 25 points, with each subsequent point worth one fewer point all the way down to one for 25th place. The 25 teams with the most poll points make our list, with the rest falling into the "others receiving votes" category.

    Check out where everyone finished the 2016-17 season, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Others Receiving Votes

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    Western Kentucky has moved into the upper tier of non-power conference teams after going 11-3 this season with a second consecutive Conference USA title and a win over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl. The Hilltoppers led the nation in yards per play, gaining 7.65 each time they snapped the ball, but that still wasn't good enough to get them into our final rankings.

    Here's a look at all the schools that just missed the cut for the final Bleacher Report Top 25 of the 2016 season.

    • Western Kentucky (22)
    • Georgia Tech (21)
    • Kansas State (15)
    • Nebraska (11)
    • Baylor (4)
    • Pittsburgh (4)
    • Tulsa (4)
    • BYU (3)
    • Georgia (2)
    • Minnesota (2)
    • James Madison (1)
    • Troy (1)

No. 25 San Diego State Aztecs

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    Poll points: 42

    Final record: 11-3, 6-2 Mountain West

    High point: Senior Donnel Pumphrey became the FBS career rushing leader during San Diego State's 34-10 win over Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl. Pumphrey finished his career with 6,405 yards after gaining 115 in his final game.

    Low point: The Aztecs lost their final two regular-season games, allowing 63 points to Colorado State in their home finale.

    What went right this season: SDSU won a second consecutive Mountain West title and led FBS with 26 interceptions.

    What went wrong this season: The Aztecs had the 10th-worst pass offense in the country, averaging 144.5 yards per game. They failed to throw for at least 100 yards four times.

No. 24 Miami (Florida) Hurricanes

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    Poll points: 60

    Final record: 9-4, 5-3 ACC

    High point: Miami's 31-14 win over West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl was its fifth consecutive win, its best streak since winning seven straight in 2013.

    Low point: The Hurricanes lost four consecutive games midway through the season—three were by one score, while the other was a 21-point defeat at Virginia Tech.

    What went right this season: Miami ranked 12th in FBS in scoring defense, allowing 18.5 points per game. It was the program's best defensive performance since 2006, when it allowed 15.5 per game.

    What went wrong this season: Only 57.4 percent of the 'Canes' red-zone possessions resulted in touchdowns.

No. 23 Louisville Cardinals

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    Poll points: 68

    Final record: 9-4, 7-1 ACC

    High point: Louisville announced itself as a team to be reckoned with—and quarterback Lamar Jackson affirmed his place as the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy—with a 63-20 win over Florida State in September. It was part of a 4-0 start in which the Cardinals averaged 63.5 points per game.

    Low point: The Cardinals dropped their final two regular-season games to fall out of the playoff race and tumble in the national offensive rankings. They also lost to LSU in the Citrus Bowl. During that three-game skid, they averaged 19.0 points per game after scoring 49.6 per game while starting 9-1.

    What went right this season: Jackson became the school's first Heisman winner, tallying 5,114 yards of total offense and accounting for 51 touchdowns, more than 78 other FBS schools scored in 2016.

    What went wrong this season: Louisville turned the ball over 32 times, including 22 lost fumbles, four more than any other team.

No. 22 Auburn Tigers

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    Poll points: 78

    Final record: 8-5, 5-3 SEC

    High point: Auburn won six in a row after a 1-2 start. During that stretch, the run game began to thrive, while quarterback Sean White asserted himself as the Tigers' best option to run the offense.

    Low point: The Tigers dropped three of four to finish the season, including their final two (against Alabama and versus Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl) by a combined 34 points.

    What went right this season: Auburn ranked sixth nationally in rushing, averaging 271.3 yards per game. Despite injuries to nearly everyone in the backfield, the Tigers had a 1,200-yard rusher in sophomore Kamryn Pettway, and sophomore Kerryon Johnson gained nearly 900 yards with 11 touchdowns.

    What went wrong this season: The Tigers offense either clicked or stumbled with little middle ground. Auburn averaged 42.4 points per game in wins and 13.4 in losses.

No. 21 West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Poll points: 90

    Final record: 10-3, 7-2 Big 12

    High point: A 24-21 home victory over Baylor in early December gave West Virginia its first 10-win season since 2011, the year before the Mountaineers joined the Big 12. Their seven conference wins tied for second place and were the most in their Big 12 tenure.

    Low point: With a shot at the conference title on the line, West Virginia was blown out 56-28 at home by Oklahoma. The Mountaineers fell behind 34-0 at one point.

    What went right this season: Senior Rasul Douglas intercepted eight passes, tied for most in FBS. That included one he returned 54 yards for a touchdown against BYU in September.

    What went wrong this season: A rash of injuries at running back forced the Mountaineers to burn the redshirt of freshman Martell Pettaway for the second-to-last game of the regular season, but he ended up rushing for 181 yards and a TD in his college debut.

No. 20 Utah Utes

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    Poll points: 105

    Final record: 9-4, 5-4 Pac-12

    High point: Utah stuffed rival BYU on a two-point conversion in the final moments of a 20-19 home win in September; it was the Utes' sixth straight win in the series and part of a 4-0 start to the season.

    Low point: The Utes lost three of four to end the regular season to fall out of contention for the Pac-12 South Division title.

    What went right this season: Senior running back Joe Williams, who retired from football after the first two games of the season, was called back into action in mid-October and ran for 1,332 yards over the final seven games. That included 332 yards and four touchdowns in a win at UCLA and 222 yards in the Foster Farms Bowl victory over Indiana.

    What went wrong this season: Utah's pass offense struggled to produce, with quarterback Troy Williams completing only 53.1 percent of his throws.

No. 19 Tennessee Volunteers

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    Poll points: 109

    Final record: 9-4, 4-4 SEC

    High point: Tennessee ended an 11-game losing streak to Florida in dramatic fashion, rallying from down 21-0 in the first half to win 38-28 at home in September. It was part of the Volunteers' 5-0 start that included numerous comebacks from 10 or more points down.

    Low point: Three consecutive losses in October tumbled the Vols from ninth in the country to unranked and kept the SEC East favorites from winning their first division title since 2007.

    What went right this season: Quarterback Joshua Dobbs finally put it all together, throwing for 2,946 yards with 27 touchdowns while rushing for 831 yards and 12 scores and catching a TD pass. Defensive end Derek Barnett became the school's career sack leader (33), passing Reggie White with a sack in the Music City Bowl win over Nebraska.

    What went wrong this season: Despite bringing in highly regarded defensive coordinator Bob Shoop from Penn State, the Vols regressed on that side of the ball. They allowed 5.84 yards per play, up from 5.21 in 2015, and their run defense ranked 104th nationally.

No. 18 South Florida Bulls

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    Poll points: 127

    Final record: 11-2, 7-1 American

    High point: South Florida won its final five games, including a victory over South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl for its second win against an SEC school. The Bulls finished with their best record in program history.

    Low point: The Bulls couldn't hold on to an early 14-7 lead against Florida State in September, giving up 38 consecutive points to fall 55-35.

    What went right this season: Quarterback Quinton Flowers quietly had one of the best offensive seasons ever. The junior averaged 334.0 yards of total offense per game with 42 touchdowns; his 1,530 rushing yards were second only to Heisman winner Lamar Jackson among QBs.

    What went wrong this season: Stopping the big play was an issue all season. The Bulls allowed 220 plays of 10 or more yards, sixth-most in FBS.

No. 17 Western Michigan Broncos

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    Poll points: 141

    Final record: 13-1, 8-0 Mid-American

    High point: Western Michigan completed an unbeaten regular season by beating Ohio 29-23 in the Mid-American Championship Game in Detroit for the Broncos' first conference title since 1988.

    Low point: The Broncos couldn't finish off a perfect year, falling to Wisconsin 24-16 in the Cotton Bowl. They managed season lows in points and yards (280) and lost the turnover battle for the first time this season.

    What went right this season: Wide receiver Corey Davis finished his career as FBS' all-time receiving leader. The senior amassed 5,278 yards, 273 more than any other player, and had 331 catches. In 2016, he had 97 receptions for 1,500 yards and 19 scores.

    What went wrong this season: The Broncos were susceptible to the run most of the season, tying for 86th nationally in yards allowed per carry at 4.73. Five opponents gained at least 200 yards on the ground.

No. 16 Florida Gators

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    Poll points: 166

    Final record: 9-4, 6-2 SEC

    High point: Florida's goal-line stand at the end of a 16-10 win at LSU—a game that was moved from Gainesville because of a hurricane postponement—gave the Gators their second consecutive SEC East Division title.

    Low point: The Gators blew a 21-0 lead at Tennessee in late September by allowing 38 consecutive points. They had yielded only 14 combined points in the previous three games and 30 in the next three contests.

    What went right this season: Throwing against Florida proved to be difficult, as the Gators limited opponents to a 45.1 percent completion rate and just eight touchdowns on 328 attempts. The 148.5 yards allowed per game were second-fewest in FBS.

    What went wrong this season: Florida's offense played most of the season like it was in quicksand. Its 23.9 points per game tied for 107th nationally, and its 344.0 yards per game ranked 116th in the country.

No. 15 Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Poll points: 167

    Final record: 10-4, 6-2 ACC

    High point: Virginia Tech erased a 24-0 halftime deficit to beat Arkansas 35-24 in the Belk Bowl to reach 10 wins for the first time since 2011. The bowl victory capped a season in which the Hokies won the ACC's Coastal Division title for the first time in five years.

    Low point: A 30-20 home loss to Georgia Tech in mid-November saw the Hokies commit four turnovers; it was one of nine games in 2016 where they had at least two giveaways.

    What went right this season: Quarterback Jerod Evans rewrote the school record book in his one and only season in Blacksburg. The junior college transfer threw for 3,552 yards and 29 touchdowns and added 846 rushing yards and 12 scores.

    What went wrong this season: Fumbles were an epidemic for Virginia Tech with 32 in 14 games. The Hokies lost 18 of those, including eight in their losses.

No. 14 Colorado Buffaloes

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    Poll points: 169

    Final record: 10-4, 8-1 Pac-12

    High point: Colorado outlasted Utah 27-22 in its regular-season finale to win the Pac-12 South Division. The Buffaloes had gone 5-40 in their first five seasons in the conference, with a 1-8 mark in league play in 2015.

    Low point: Blowout losses to Washington in the Pac-12 title game and to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl put a stain on an otherwise breakthrough season. Colorado's four losses came to teams that were a combined 42-11.

    What went right this season: The Buffaloes defense was top-notch under coordinator Jim Leavitt, who is now in the same job at Oregon. After allowing 5.7 yards per play and 27.5 points per game in 2015, they lowered those numbers to 4.9 and 21.7. Prior to the two losses, those rates were 4.7 and 18.8.

    What went wrong this season: Quarterback Sefo Liufau couldn't stay healthy, missing two games and getting knocked out of several others. He still managed to become the school's career passing leader with 9,763 yards.

No. 13 LSU Tigers

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    Poll points: 193

    Final record: 8-4, 5-3 SEC

    High point: LSU smothered Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville in a 29-9 win in the Citrus Bowl, the first game under permanent head coach Ed Orgeron.

    Low point: An 18-13 loss at Auburn in late September—a game LSU thought it had won until replays showed the snap on its game-winning touchdown came after the clock ran outled the school to fire coach Les Miles.

    What went right this season: While Leonard Fournette struggled with an ankle sprain that held him out of five games, LSU still averaged 233.0 rushing yards per game thanks to the emergence of Derrius Guice. The sophomore ran for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns, including a school-record 285 yards with four scores in a win at Texas A&M.

    What went wrong this season: The quarterback spot remained a problem for LSU despite a few good games by Purdue transfer Danny Etling. The Tigers' 12 TD passes tied for 110th nationally.

No. 12 Stanford Cardinal

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    Poll points: 205

    Final record: 10-3, 6-3 Pac-12

    High point: Solomon Thomas' sack of North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky on a two-point conversion preserved Stanford's 25-23 win in the Sun Bowl. It was the Cardinal's sixth consecutive win to get to 10 victories for the sixth time in seven years.

    Low point: A 10-5 home loss to Colorado in October marked the program's fewest points in a game since 2007 and dropped Stanford to 4-3.

    What went right this season: He couldn't match the record-breaking numbers from 2015, but junior Christian McCaffrey had another tremendous all-purpose season. He led FBS with 211.5 yards per game, including 1,603 rushing yards with 13 touchdowns.

    What went wrong this season: The post-Kevin Hogan era was a struggle for Stanford's quarterbacks. The duo of Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst combined to average 158.2 yards per game with 15 TDs and nine interceptions. Chryst reportedly suffering a torn ACL in the Sun Bowl, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.

No. 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Poll points: 257

    Final record: 10-3, 7-2 Big 12

    High point: A 37-20 win over then-unbeaten West Virginia in late October was part of a seven-game win streak for Oklahoma State that enabled it to get to 10 victories for the fifth time since 2010.

    Low point: Trying to run out the clock, OK State quarterback Mason Rudolph threw the ball away on fourth down to secure a September home win over Central Michigan. But referees called intentional grounding and gave CMU one untimed down, which it converted into a game-winning touchdown pass thanks to a Hail Mary and a lateral. After the game, it was determined the extra play shouldn't have happened.

    What went right this season: The Cowboys had their best team rushing performance since 2013 and found their running back of the future in Justice Hill. He ran for 1,142 yards, breaking Thurman Thomas' school record for a freshman.

    What went wrong this season: The inability to stop the run in key situations kept OK State from being able to win the Big 12. It allowed 193.5 rushing yards per game, with Oklahoma gaining 341 in the regular-season finale that decided the conference title.

No. 10 Michigan Wolverines

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    Poll points: 293

    Final record: 10-3, 7-2 Big Ten

    High point: Michigan's 32-23 win at Michigan State avenged last year's shocking home loss to its in-state rival and snapped a three-game skid to the Spartans. The victory was Michigan's eighth straight during a 9-0 start, its best since 2006.

    Low point: The Wolverines couldn't keep Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett from converting on 4th-and-1 in the second overtime of their regular-season finale. Right after, the Buckeyes scored to win 30-27 and keep Michigan from winning the Big Ten's East Division title.

    What went right this season: Michigan had one of the most impenetrable defenses in the country, allowing 261.8 yards and 14.1 points per game. Each ranked second nationally to Alabama entering the national championship game.

    What went wrong this season: Close games were the Wolverines' undoing in 2016, as their three losses were by a combined five points. Only two of their 10 wins were by nine or fewer points.

No. 9 Florida State Seminoles

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    Poll points: 295

    Final record: 10-3, 5-3 ACC

    High point: Florida State had just blown a 12-point fourth-quarter lead to Michigan in the Orange Bowl, but then some of the Seminoles' young stars came up huge to pull out a 33-32 win. After freshman Keith Gavin returned a kickoff 66 yards, redshirt freshman Deondre Francois completed two of three passes, including a game-winning 12-yard touchdown to sophomore Nyqwan Murray.

    Low point: The 'Noles lost three ACC games, their highest number since 2011, but the first was the most troubling. Then-No. 2 Florida State got blitzed 63-20 at Louisville in one of the worst losses ever for a team ranked so high.

    What went right this season: Despite several youthful bumps, Francois put together a strong debut season, throwing for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns. Running back Dalvin Cook, now headed to the NFL, became FSU's career rushing leader with 4,464 yards, including a school-best 1,765 in 2016.

    What went wrong this season: FSU played many of the nation's top offensive teams, and that showed in its defensive stats. The 'Noles allowed at least 30 points six times, the most it's done so since 1973.

No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Poll points: 305

    Final record: 11-3, 8-1 Big Ten

    High point: Penn State rallied from a 21-point deficit in the first half to beat Wisconsin 38-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game. Comebacks were a huge part of the Nittany Lions' rise, as the team went from 2-2 to 11-2 despite trailing at the half several times.

    Low point: A 49-10 loss at Michigan to open conference play dropped the Lions to 2-2. It was their seventh straight loss to a ranked team and the seventh in a row on the road, but after that Penn State beat Ohio State and Wisconsin and won three straight road games.

    What went right this season: Quarterback Trace McSorley emerged as one of the top big-play passers in the country. His 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdowns included 23 completions of 40 or more yards, second-most in FBS.

    What went wrong this season: Part of the reason Penn State had to make so many second-half comebacks was its struggles to score in the red zone early on. The Lions had touchdowns on only 55.2 percent of their possessions, which was 102nd in the country.

No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers

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    Poll points: 329

    Final record: 11-3, 7-2 Big Ten

    High point: Wisconsin's 24-16 win over Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl completed one of the most difficult schedules in college football history. The Badgers faced seven teams that were ranked at the time of play, including six Top 10 squads. However, their losses came by only 21 total points.

    Low point: The Badgers blew a 21-point lead to Penn State in the Big Ten Championship Game, coming up short of their first conference title since 2012.

    What went right this season: Wisconsin had another ironclad defense in 2016, allowing 15.6 points per game. Four opponents failed to score double digits, and only three reached the 20-point mark.

    What went wrong this season: The passing game remains an issue in Madison, as the Badgers' 14 touchdown passes were among the fewest in the country. Wisconsin has only 43 TD passes in the past three seasons—fewer than all but 21 FBS schools.

No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners

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    Poll points: 340

    Final record: 11-2, 9-0 Big 12

    High point: A 38-20 win over rival Oklahoma State in early December clinched a second consecutive Big 12 title for the Sooners, who have won 16 straight conference games and were the first Big 12 school to run the table since 2009. Oklahoma enters 2017 on a 10-game win streak, its best since tallying 11 in a row in 2010-11.

    Low point: A 45-24 home loss to Ohio State in mid-September dropped Oklahoma to 1-2 and effectively eliminated it from the playoff race. By going on to win the Big 12, it kept the league out of the playoffs for the second time in three years.

    What went right this season: Oklahoma's offense clicked like no other, in part because it was one of seven teams in the FBS to score at least 23 points in every game. The Sooners had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, with Perine becoming the school's career rushing leader during the Sugar Bowl win over Auburn. Meanwhile, quarterback Baker Mayfield and receiver Dede Westbrook parlayed their performances into being Heisman Trophy finalists.

    What went wrong this season: The Sooners had to score a lot to make up for their worst defense in years. The 28.8 points per game allowed was their highest rate since 1997.

No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Poll points: 344

    Final record: 11-2, 8-1 Big Ten

    High point: J.T. Barrett's second effort on fourth down in double overtime kept Ohio State's game-winning drive alive vs. Michigan on Nov. 26. Curtis Samuel then scored immediately after to give the Buckeyes a 30-27 win to clinch a spot in the CFP.

    Low point: Making the semifinals and doing well there were two different things for the Buckeyes, who lost 31-0 to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. It was OSU's first shutout loss since 1993 and marked the first time in coach Urban Meyer's 194-game career his team didn't score.

    What went right this season: Opponents that tried to throw against the Buckeyes learned that was a bad idea, as OSU intercepted 21 passes (tied for fourth in the FBS) and returned seven of those for touchdowns. Three of those were by redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker, who had seven picks overall.

    What went wrong this season: Ohio State averaged 39.4 points per game and 6.02 yards per play, but late in the year the play-callers struggled. The Buckeyes averaged 15.7 points and 4.17 yards during their final three games.

No. 4 USC Trojans

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    Poll points: 355

    Final record: 10-3, 7-2 Pac-12

    High point: Matt Boermeester's 46-yard field goal as time expired gave USC a 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl, a game that saw the Trojans rally from a 14-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter. It was USC's ninth consecutive victory—its best streak since winning 12 in a row in 2008-09.

    Low point: A 31-27 loss at Utah in late September dropped the Trojans to 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-12. That start included losses to Stanford and Alabama, the latter defeat coming by 46 points to open the campaign.

    What went right this season: Switching quarterbacks and going to redshirt freshman Sam Darnold in the fourth game turned everything around. Darnold threw for 2,950 yards and 29 touchdowns in his 10 starts; he had three five-TD games, including a Rose Bowl-record five scoring passes.

    What went wrong this season: A lack of experience in its front seven made it tough for USC to cause chaos in opponents' backfields. The Trojans averaged 5.46 tackles for loss per game, which was tied for 85th in the FBS and was their worst rate since 2011.

No. 3 Washington Huskies

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    Poll points: 365

    Final record: 12-2, 8-1 Pac-12

    High point: Washington's 44-6 home win over Stanford was its signature victory during a 9-0 start, its best since 1991. During that streak, the Huskies scored 70 points to beat Oregon for the first time in 13 years.

    Low point: Despite taking a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter, Washington didn't score again in losing 24-7 to Alabama in the Peach Bowl national semifinal. It had three turnovers, which is the most it's given up in any game this season.

    What went right this season: Washington's defense rarely bent, recording 19 interceptions and at least one in 11 different games. It also held 11 opponents to fewer than 400 yards. Overall the Huskies allowed 17.7 points per game, their best performance since 1992.

    What went wrong this season: If the Huskies got behind the sticks on offense, bad things tended to happen. While they converted 44.1 percent of their third downs, which tied for 30th in the country, on 3rd-and-long (seven yards or more), they were 15-of-67. Five of quarterback Jake Browning's nine interceptions came in that situation.

No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Poll points: 407

    Final 2016-17 record: 14-1, 8-0 SEC

    High point: A 24-7 win over Washington in the Peach Bowl allowed Alabama to play in a second consecutive title game, the first team to appear in two straight championship finals since Alabama won consecutive titles in 2012-13.

    Low point: Alabama's 26-game win streak came to an end in Monday's national championship game, losing 35-31 to Clemson in the final seconds in its quest to repeat as champs. The Crimson Tide led 14-0 in the game but lost for only the third time since 2008 in games in which it led by at least 14 points.

    What went right this season: Alabama's defense scored 11 touchdowns in 2016-17, including one in the semifinals, forcing 29 turnovers all season. It scored 15 none-offensive TDs compared to just 21 it allowed in 15 games.

    What went wrong this season: Leading 14-0 against Clemson in the final, Alabama was forced to punt on eight of its final 12 possessions and was outgained 511-376 in the championship. 

No. 1 Clemson Tigers

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    Poll points: 425 (17 first-place votes)

    Final 2016-17 record: 14-1, 7-1 ACC

    High point: Clemson won its first national title in 36 years, battling back from a 14-0 deficit to beat Alabama in the championship game to avenge last season's final.

    Low point: A 43-42 home loss to Pittsburgh briefly put the Tigers' push to get back to the playoffs in doubt, but they repeated as ACC champions to get another shot at the national title.

    What went right this season: Deshaun Watson was a Heisman finalist for the second year in a row. His 463 yards of total offense and four total touchdowns in the title game gave him 5,222 yards and 50 scores. Clemson averaged 39.2 points per game, 13th-best in FBS and just ahead of the Alabama team it beat in the final game.

    What went wrong this season: Turnovers were all that kept Clemson from being completely dominant. It gave the ball away twice in the championship game, 28 times all season and lost the turnover battle six times.