College football conference power rankings: Week 16

Alabama Crimson Tide. (Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)
Alabama Crimson Tide. (Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports) /

Here is how the Power 5 conferences stack up ahead of the final college football Saturday.

After the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings, it all comes down to this weekend.

While five teams should feel confident about their chances to make the four-team field, as many seven or eight may have a shot of somehow getting in. While we know two teams are getting in for sure in the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and the No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, we await the conference championship slate to see what other two college football programs will join them.

College football conference power rankings through Week 15

Despite having one undefeated team left in the No. 13 USC Trojans, the Pac-12 is the only Power 5 conference with no shot of getting a team into the College Football Playoff field. Even if USC wins the conference title bout over the unranked Oregon Ducks, it will not be enough to change the Pac-12’s awful reputation in the eyes of the Selection Committee. They are not getting in.

The shame in it all is the two best teams in the Pac-12 this season are not even playing each other, and they play in the same division! The other ranked team are the one-loss No. 25 Colorado Buffaloes. I know it sounds dumb, but wouldn’t we rather see the Trojans take on the Buffs to give us somewhat of a legitimate Pac-12 Champion we can send to the Fiesta Bowl with confidence?

The Big 12 is way ahead of the Pac-12 at No. 4, knocking on the Big Ten’s door for the No. 3 overall conference ranking. While they have the same amount of teams featured in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, the Big 12 has two dark horse contenders who might be able to get in, while the Big Ten has one team who will get in if they win on championship Saturday.

The No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones became the second team out this week. Even at two losses as well, the No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners are arguably the worst team in college football who still has somewhat of an outside shot of getting in. Even if Iowa State or Oklahoma wins the Big 12 Championship game, the winner will need a ton of help to ensure that it will crack the top four.

There is only one reason the Big Ten is even ahead of the Big 12 at this point, and that is because the Selection Committee is utterly infatuated with the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes. Despite only playing five regular-season games this year, if Ohio State beats the No. 14 Northwestern Wildcats in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, they are getting in.

Having the head-to-head tiebreaker over the No. 11 Indiana Hoosiers is a huge boost for Buckeyes as well, as Ohio State and Indiana are likely destined for New Year’s Six bowls. While the No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes have quietly had a good year in their own right, the only team that matters in the Big Ten right now is Ohio State. Their reputation has kept the Big 12’s playoff dreams alive.

The ACC is one of only two Power 5 conferences that have a shot at the top spot. While the ACC has two of the top three teams in the country in No. 2 Notre Dame and the No. 3 Clemson Tigers, as well as the most ranked teams this week with five, the SEC’s top four teams are simply better than what the ACC can shake. However, they can overtake the SEC if a few things happen.

Let’s say the two-loss No. 7 Florida Gators beat top-seeded Alabama in the SEC Championship game. That will not get the Gators in, but it would knock Alabama down a peg or two as the only SEC team to get in. As long as all five ranked teams stay in the top 25 and the ACC ties the SEC with three New Year’s Six bowl teams apiece, they have a pathway towards getting the top spot.

Until proven otherwise, the top spot in the conference power rankings will belong to the SEC. It has the best team in the country in the top-seeded Crimson Tide. The SEC also has another serious contender to make the four-team field in the No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies. Florida is not getting in at No. 7, but the Gators and the No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs can make New Year’s Six bowls.

What hurts the SEC is it is a massive fall from the top four teams in the league to No. 5. Last week, it was the Missouri Tigers, who got shelled at home by visiting Georgia. If Alabama and Texas A&M both make the playoff, the SEC will stay at No. 1. If only Alabama gets in and Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M all make New Year’s Six bowls, it will be hard for the ACC to overtake them.

So what has this college football regular season taught us? The biggest lesson we can all learn from this one-of-a-kind season is patience and flexibility. It has served the ACC, the Big 12 and the SEC to be able to crown legitimate champions, possibly the most legitimate champions in those leagues to date. Conversely, egg is all over the faces of the Big Ten and especially the Pac-12.

What conferences will be the most represented in the upcoming New Year’s Six bowls?

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