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College Football Conference Rankings: How the SEC Ranks vs. the Nation's Best

Jeremy HillmanContributor IDecember 11, 2016

College Football Conference Rankings: How the SEC Ranks vs. the Nation's Best

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    With all the talk about conference realignment and potential "super" conferences, I wanted to take a look at the conferences as they actually are today and determine which ones are more super than the others.

    History means everything and nothing in these type of projections. For instance, winning the last five national championships in a row gives the SEC the obvious nod as the top conference going into the 2011 season. The main question, most people are asking, is can they make it six?

    However, instead of just looking back, I want to look at the present to rank the conferences.

    How can we break down the conferences without just looking at recent bowl records, non-conference records and the like? Those figures can be greatly skewed based on who the conference actually had to play in those bowl and out-of-conference games.

    Therefore, I am going to beak down each conference's current teams into five categories for 2011 (National Championship contenders, final AP Top 25 contenders, bowl game contenders, no bowl game but competitive, and bottom feeders) and use that snap-shot to power rank the conferences for the upcoming season.

    Important Note: Each conference is broken down based on the teams status this season and NOT broken down by the status of their overall program. 

    While I realize this is not an exact science by any means and some teams could easily swap from one bucket to another, this is just a way to get a general snapshot view of the landscape of college football and not have to rely on past performances as the only way to rank the conferences for 2011.

    Click through the following slide show to see how each conference fared...

11. Sun Belt

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    National Championship Contenders: 0

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 0

    Bowl Game Contenders: 2 (Troy, FIU)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 1 (La-Monroe)

    Bottom Feeders: 6 (Middle Tennessee, Arkansas State, North Texas, Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky, Louisiana)

    A smaller conference with just 8 teams and no teams that have a realistic shot at reaching the top 25.  In 2011, as in years past, the Sun Belt Conference appears at the bottom of the list.

10. MAC

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    National Championship Contenders: 0

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 0

    Bowl Game Contenders: 4 (Toledo, Ohio, Western Michigan, Temple)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 4 (Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Kent State, Miami)

    Bottom Feeders: 5 (Buffalo, Bowling Green, Akron, Ball State, Eastern Michigan)

    A large 13 team conference, the MAC has a few teams that could earn bowl births and it should be a fun battle in conference play this season, but they do not have a team that will show up on the national radar.  

9. WAC

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    National Championship Contenders: 0

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 0

    Bowl Game Contenders: 4 (Nevada, Fresno State, Hawaii, La Tech)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 3 (Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State)

    Bottom Feeders: 1 (New Mexico State)

    After losing Boise State this off-season, the WAC is left as a smaller and relatively unexciting conference. However, several teams are improving and all but one or two of these teams have a chance at a winning record. No one will make much noise on the national scene, but not the worst conference either.

8. C-USA

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    National Championship Contenders: 0

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 2 (Houston, Southern Miss)

    Bowl Game Contenders: 4 (Tulsa, SMU, UCF, East Carolina)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 3 (Rice, UAB, Marshall)

    Bottom Feeders: 3 (Tulane, UTEP, Memphis)

    Conference USA is a story of up and coming programs (the haves) and programs struggling to win consistently (the have nots).  Look for teams from this conference to possibly create an upset or two on the national scene this season. However, look for some of these teams to get blown out too.

7. Mountain West Conference

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    National Championship Contenders: 0

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 3 (Boise State, TCU, Air Force)

    Bowl Game Contenders: 2 (Colorado State, San Diego State)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 0

    Bottom Feeders: 3 (New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming)

    The conference added Boise State this offseason (an upgrade), but lost BYU and Utah (definite downgrade). Having five potential bowl teams out of eight programs isn't too shabby. However, there are some poor teams at the bottom of this conference that bring down the strength of the group.

6. Big East

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    National Championship Contenders: 0

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 3 (Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USF)

    Bowl Game Contenders: 2 (Cincinnati, Connecticut)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 1 (Rutgers)

    Bottom Feeders:  2 (Louisville, Syracuse)

    The top teams in the Big East should be very competitive this year. Five of their eight teams could earn a bowl bid. However, the bottom three teams in the small Big East are in rebuilding mode and bring down the conference a bit in 2011. 

5. ACC

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    National Championship Contenders: 2 (Florida State, Virginia Tech)

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 3 (NC State, Maryland, North Carolina)

    Bowl Game Contenders: 3 ( Clemson, Boston College, Georgia Tech, )

    No Bowl But Competitive: 1 (Miami)

    Bottom Feeders: 5 (Virginia, Duke, Wake Forrest)

    Before Miami's NCAA troubles arrived, the ACC would have been in the discussion of having one of the top four conferences in 2011. However, with Miami sliding down the board, and the poor teams already at the bottom of the league, the ACC is relegated to fifth. 

4. Pac-12

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    National Championship Contenders: 1 (Oregon)

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 3 (Stanford, USC, Arizona State)

    Bowl Game Contenders: 4 (Arizona, Oregon State, Washington, UCLA)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 3 (California, Utah, Colorado)

    Bottom Feeders: 1 (Washington State)

    The new "Pac-12" is a bit hard to break down, as they have new teams and new divisions. However, with eight teams in contention for a bowl bid, this conference looks competitive in 2011.  Fair or not, Oregon versus LSU in week one will set the tone for the national perception of this conference. For now, they are fourth, but they have the ability to move into the top three.

3. Big 12

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    National Championship Contenders: 1 (Oklahoma)

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 4 (Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas, Missouri)

    Bowl Game Contenders: 3 (Kansas State, Texas Tech, Baylor)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 0

    Bottom Feeders: 2 (Iowa State, Kansas)

    Losing Nebraska to the Big 10 and Colorado to the Pac-12 has dwindled this conference down to just 10 teams. The good news is eight of the 10 teams should go bowling and the conference could have as many as five teams ranked in the final AP Top 25. However, when 20 percent of your conference is listed in the bottom dwellers section, it's hard to be placed higher than third in this ranking.

2. Big Ten

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    National Championship Contenders: 2 (Nebraska, Wisconsin)

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 4 (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Iowa)

    Bowl Game Contenders: 3 (Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 2 (Purdue, Minnesota)

    Bottom Feeders: 1 (Indiana)

    With two teams with a realistic shot at playing for a national championship, six teams with a shot at a top 25 ranking in the final AP poll, and nine of the twelve teams in the conference with a probability of earning a bowl bid, the Big Ten is ready for a solid year. Stealing Nebraska away from the Big 12 leaped this conference to the No. 2 position for the 2011 season.

1. SEC

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    National Championship Contenders: 1 (Alabama)

    AP Final Top 25 Contenders: 7 (Arkansas, South Carolina, LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida, Georgia)

    Bowl Game Contenders: 3 (Tennessee, Ole Miss, Kentucky)

    No Bowl But Competitive: 0

    Bottom Feeders: 1 (Vanderbilt)

    The conference that has won the past 5 consecutive national championships is set to rule college football again in 2011. The SEC could realistically have eight teams ranked in the final AP Top 25 poll and have as many as 11 teams bowl eligible. The SEC looks to clearly be the best conference in the recent past...and in the present.

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