Ranking Every Power Five Conference After 2019 Regular Season

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2019

Ranking Every Power Five Conference After 2019 Regular Season

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    This year in college football, there are two dominant conferences and everybody else.

    Whether you're in the SEC camp or the Big Ten camp, arguments can be made for either league about being the nation's best. The Pac-12 has enjoyed a nice rebound year with some top-heavy juice, and the Big 12 has a couple of title contenders too.

    Right now, the ACC pretty much can say, "Well, at least we have Clemson, right?" Dabo Swinney's Tigers are the defending national champions and may be the nation's top team again. They certainly are generating the least buzz of any powerhouse right now, chiefly because of their lack of competition.

    With the regular season out of the way and just ahead of conference championship week, let's revisit the power rankings of the Power Five programs.

    Depth of quality weighs heavily in this equation, as does the lack of awful teams. But the most weight is applied to the top of the conference and the title contenders it boasts. Does the Big Ten have enough title contenders to unseat the SEC?

    Let's take a look at ranking the nation's top conferences. As always, tell us why we're wrong in the comments.

5. ACC

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    In the ACC, it's the Clemson Tigers and everybody else for a second year in a row.

    There were a few signs of life from Wake Forest at the start of the season with quarterback Jamie Newman and elite receiver Sage Surratt, but the Demon Deacons petered out.

    As the season progressed, the two teams that met for the Coastal Division on Saturday—Virginia Tech and Virginia—emerged as the top two non-Clemson teams in the ACC.

    It's been a nice rebound for coach Justin Fuente's team, considering the coach was staring at a hot seat just a month ago, but a four-turnover day led to Virginia ending a 15-year losing streak and putting the Hoos in the ACC Championship Game.

    Of course, Clemson is the cream of the conference and perhaps the nation's top team. Even though the Tigers were running on empty through the first quarter of the season, they survived some bad showings. Now, they're dominating everybody.

    With offensive firepower like Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and others, who would bet against them in the College Football Playoff? Brent Venables' defense has been stellar all year too.

    There are questions about the quality of competition, but those were rampant last year as well.

    Just how bad is the ACC? Coach Scott Satterfield's Louisville Cardinals were expected to be rebuilding, but they wound up arguably the fourth-best team in the league despite failing to show up in a season-ending loss to Kentucky.

    Much of the Cardinals' success is a testament to Satterfield's coaching acumen, but there just aren't a lot of good teams.

    Pittsburgh had its moments, and North Carolina is building in the right direction under Mack Brown. Florida State got trigger-happy firing Willie Taggart, but the Seminoles are going to the postseason too.

    Still, there's a dearth of quality teams behind Dabo Swinney's Tigers.

4. Pac-12

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    All year in the Pac-12, this has been a two-team collision course tumbling toward the conference championship game.

    Utah and Oregon made sure that remained the case with cruise-control regular-season finale wins.

    When the Utes handled Colorado, it guaranteed they would be able to overcome a loss to USC and represent the South against Oregon.

    Unfortunately for the Ducks, they couldn't do their part in taking care of business a week ago. Yes, they're still going to be in Santa Clara to take on the Utes, but a shocking prime-time loss to Arizona State in Week 13 ended coach Mario Cristobal's team's chances of a national title.

    It may have hurt Utah's chances too, though Alabama's loss to Auburn opened that door again. Had the two teams met with one loss apiece, it almost certainly would have been like a quarterfinal game, but that is no longer a given. 

    After the top two teams, the Pac-12 has been just OK. Kedon Slovis stepped in for injured JT Daniels for the USC Trojans and led coach Clay Helton's team on a stellar season that improved as the year matured. 

    Arizona State's upset win probably saved its season, and coach Herm Edwards' team has the opportunity to end up with a strong finish after a major youth movement saw midseason growing pains.

    It's been a disappointing season for Washington and Washington State, as both Apple Cup participants had to replace starting quarterbacks and tons of playmakers. The Huskies dominated the Cougars to slide into the fifth-place spot in the conference rankings.

    California, Colorado and Oregon State had their moments, but there's not enough depth in the league. Still, this season was a big step forward after how bad the league has been recently.

3. Big 12

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    The Big 12 didn't shake out the way we thought it would this year.

    Yes, Lincoln Riley's Oklahoma Sooners are still at the top, so that hasn't changed. A walk-away win at Bedlam ensured they'd top the conference power rankings.

    The Sooners are still working the same formula with a dynamic offense and shaky defense that could keep them from having the style points the playoff committee loves. But transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts (just like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray before him) is getting the job done and distributing the ball to the stars around him like CeeDee Lamb, Charleston Rambo and Kennedy Brooks.

    After OU, though, nobody could have guessed the pecking order.

    The Baylor Bears have been a national story all year, and their one loss came when the Sooners roared back from a 21-point second-half deficit to beat them.

    Coach Matt Rhule's team will get the opportunity to rectify that in the conference title game, and it will be interesting to see if the winner of that game gets any final four love.

    Though Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State Cowboys must close the season without dual-threat quarterback Spencer Sanders, they're firmly in the No. 3 spot in the league, and running back Chuba Hubbard is a legit Heisman candidate.

    Chris Klieman's first year at Kansas State has gone pretty well, and the Wildcats added an upset win over Iowa State on Saturday to a resume that already included beating Oklahoma. The victory kept coach Matt Campbell's Cyclones from winning eight games three years in a row for the first time since 1978.

    Even with the huge disappointment Texas has been, the Big 12 held its own in the power rankings. It needs the Longhorns, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia to surge in the future to climb this list.

2. Big Ten

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    The top six in the Big Ten is strong—really, really strong. If you think the league is the best, it's tough to argue.

    If you want a powerhouse, Ohio State fits the bill. In the first year after Urban Meyer retired, the Buckeyes found a megastar in transfer quarterback Justin Fields. Running back J.K. Dobbins is one of the nation's top players, and the skill-position guys on offense and defense are talented.

    Then there's edge-rusher Chase Young, the most impactful player in the nation. They demoralized Michigan yet again in "The Game" to keep things cruising toward the College Football Playoff.

    Behind them, the league stays stout.

    Minnesota is the nation's biggest surprise, and P.J. Fleck's program doesn't appear to be going anywhere with a sophomore playmaker at quarterback in Tanner Morgan and receiver in Rashod Bateman. But Wisconsin dominated the Golden Gophers in winning Paul Bunyan's Axe on Saturday.

    The Badgers had a disappointing two-game stretch against Illinois and Ohio State, but they'll still play the Buckeyes in the title game and may be the league's second-best team.

    Penn State was in the game until the very end against the Buckeyes and has been sturdy on both sides of the ball all year. Michigan came through with a second-half rally this season, and though the Wolverines couldn't pull out an upset of the Buckeyes, it was still an OK year.

    Iowa was a steady force, and coach Kirk Ferentz's team was in every game it played. The Hawkeyes were just tough-luck losers too many times. Then there were super-surprises Indiana and Illinois.

    Even with Michigan State and Purdue having disappointing campaigns, the Big Ten had plenty of power up and down the league. Does it have the number of title contenders as the SEC? No, and that's what keeps the Big Ten in the No. 2 slot.

1. SEC

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    Entering the conference championship game extravaganza, the league everybody loves to hate still has three programs smack-dab in the thick of the College Football Playoff race. To have three teams that could still win the national championship at this juncture was too much to ignore.

    LSU is dominating everybody, and Georgia's defense is elite and keeping the Bulldogs with just a single loss. Auburn ended Alabama's hopes with a 48-45 Iron Bowl win, but the Crimson Tide still did well this year despite rampant defensive injuries and the big one to Tua Tagovailoa.

    Is the Big Ten deeper? Probably. But how much of that is because the SEC beats up on itself? Plus, the B1G doesn't have more quality teams.

    LSU's high-powered attack has impressed everybody. Joe Burrow is the runaway leader for the Heisman Trophy, receiver Ja'Marr Chase is probably the Biletnikoff Award favorite and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is one of the most underappreciated players in the nation.

    Georgia is loaded on defense with tons of playmakers and imposes its will on opponents. Yes, the Bulldogs are struggling offensively, but it hasn't mattered yet. The winner of the SEC Championship Game will be in the playoff, and another one could be too.

    Then there's Dan Mullen's Florida Gators, who have steadily stayed in the Top 10 most of the year despite losing starting quarterback Feleipe Franks. Alabama has just two losses and has been in the conversation all season.

    Auburn's vaunted defense kept the Tigers in the conversation. Tennessee won five straight to close the season after a dreadful 0-2 start and is playing good football right now. Texas A&M lost 50-7 to LSU but has matched the Vols' record, and Kentucky closed on a high note too.

    Nearly half the league is sputtering along, but the top half is so strong that you hardly notice.