Conference Ranking for 2017

What was unthinkable 5 years ago happened in 2016… the ACC was the best conference in college football. The top of the conference could not have done more, going 3-0 in the NY6/playoffs, defeating Saban, Meyer and Harbaugh along the way and closed the post-season by hoisting the National Championship Trophy. The middle teams were good too as evidenced by the 9-3 bowl record, which ties for the most bowl wins by any conference in history. The overall depth of the conference was evident in the 17-9 record against the other Power 5 teams, not only the best but the only conference with a record over .500/.

But 2017 is a new year. Several of the ACC’s top players, in particular on offense are now in the NFL including QB Deshaun Watson, QB Mitch Tribinsky and RB Dalvin Cook. The SEC did not have great QB play in 2016 but returns many young QBs that could have big years this season. The Pac 12 probably has the best collection of QBs and although the Big 12 appears the least talented, expected improvements at Texas and TCU should improve the depth there. Each conference has 2 teams that could make the playoffs (although its in the SEC that its the hardest to find that 2nd team) and no conference will be much stronger or much weaker than the others… a much smaller spread in the conference rankings than has happened in the past.

Conference Rankings for 2017
1. SEC – even though the ACC had the best year in 2016, the SEC still produced the most picks in the NFL draft and given the resources spent on recruiting and the location in the footprint of the best high school players, the SEC still has the best collection of talent. Improved QB play and the emergence of some consenters to Alabama should elevate the SEC back up to number 1 among the conferences.
2. Big Ten – the depth at the top of the Big Ten is probably better than the SEC’s but the bad teams at the bottom hurt the conference’s top to bottom ranking. If Michigan reloads better than expected and another contender comes out of the West division, the Big 10 could best the SEC.
3. ACC – the drop off in QB play will be somewhat offset by what could be one great defensive front after another from Clemson to Miami to FSU to NC State and others. The hires the AD’s have made in recent years have dramatically improved the quality of the coaching in the conference, but given the resources are the most limited overall of all the power conference, just a middle of the pack rating is still a solid accomplishment.
4. Pac 12 – USC and Washington are playoff contenders and Stanford and Washington State should be solid (in very different ways). The struggles of the middle programs like Arizona and Arizona State hurt just as did Oregon’s collapse to 4-8 in 2016. While the Ducks should be improved, Colorado may come back down after a surprising season.
5. Big 12 – the amalgamation of the old Southwest Conference and Big 8 has taken its lumps in recent years from the lack of success in the playoff era to the freakishly few draft picks (less than the American in 2016). The struggles at Texas have really hurt the conference but Herman should show some improvement right away, and if TCU and Baylor improve too the conference can have a better overall season. Does the new Conference Championship Game knock out their playoff contender with an upset?