Preseason Conference Rankings. How Do The Leagues Rank From Top To Bottom?
After a lot of noise and a lot of chest-thumping so far during media days about which conference is best, really, which conference is the best going into the season? Check out the conference rankings.
Preview 2017: Conference Rankings
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My conference is better than your conference.
The argument matters.
It might seem nothing more than a get-through-the-day waste of time on social media and message boards across the geeked out college football fan world, but in terms of strength of schedule, the end of the season respect, and the College Football Playoff, yeah, it’s a big deal.
At least it should be. The Pac-12 stunk last year, but its champion got into the CFP, while the Big Ten’s didn’t. In a sport that still relies on judges to get teams into the post-season tournament, the conference strength needs to factor into the equation at every committee vote.
And now the rhetoric has cranked up with media days in full swing.
The ACC was all chirp, chirp, chirp about being the best league going, the SEC assumes it’s the star of the college football show, and the Big Ten will spend a few days patting itself on the back.
But which conference really is the best going into the season?
Based on our previews and how we analyzed and figured out where to put the teams for our preseason rankings – based on talent level – here’s where the conferences averaged out.
For example, No. 1 Alabama – when all the units, coaches, and special teams were scored and added up – got a 67. A team like Nevada got a 47.25. So the conferences are ranked on the average score of all the teams.
What did we learn? When you look at the average scores, there’s almost no difference between the No. 1 Power Five conference and the fifth-ranked one.
11. Sun Belt
Average Score: 43.16
– Sun Belt Preseason Rankings By Team
The addition of Coastal Carolina doesn’t help the overall cause when it comes to the average team score. New Mexico State and Texas State aren’t exactly doing much to boost things up, either. Appalachian State, Troy and Arkansas State might be good up top – and don’t sleep on Georgia Southern – but they’re not enough to carry the league out of the preseason last spot.
– 2017 Sun Belt Preview | Predicting Every Sun Belt Game
Average Score: 44.98
– MAC Preseason Rankings By Team
To be honest, this is a little bit of a shocker – it should be a better league overall than last season. However, it’s mostly a decisively mediocre conference from just Toledo and Western Michigan to the bottom. The bad teams aren’t quite as miserable as normal, but they’re still not enough to push out of the No. 10 spot.
– 2017 MAC Preview | Predicting Every MAC Game
9. Conference USA
Average Score: 45.18
– Conference USA Preseason Rankings By Team
There’s a ton of dead weight teams to bring down the overall conference score. In theory, Florida Atlantic and FIU should be better with Lane Kiffin and Butch Davis, respectively, but that’s not a given. UAB, Charlotte and Rice are problems, while the top teams aren’t quite as strong as last year.
– 2017 Conference USA Preview | Predicting Every Conference USA Game
8. American Athletic
Average Score: 49.79
– American Athletic Preseason Rankings By Team
Don’t be surprised if this is way low compared to how the final outcome will be. If Cincinnati is as strong as expected, and if UCF can rise up a bit and Houston, Memphis, Navy and Tulsa make the West a bear, there’s a good chance to finish as the top Group of Fiver.
– 2017 AAC Preview | Predicting Every AAC Game
Average Score: 50.38
– Independent Preseason Rankings By Team
Always a dividing line, the Independents are helped by an improved Notre Dame and good BYU, and UMass will be better than the final record will make it appear. Army being good isn’t a problem, either.
– 2017 Independent Preview | Predicting Every Independent Game
6. Mountain West
Average Score: 52.26
– Mountain West Preseason Rankings By Team
There are still problem teams to keep the score down – San Jose State and Fresno State need a while with their new coaching staffs – but there aren’t a whole lot of duds. There’s a terrific midsection now with Wyoming, UNLV, and Hawaii stronger, and Boise State, San Diego State, and Colorado State make this the top Group of Five conference by far.
– 2017 Mountain West Preview | Predicting Every Mountain West Game
Average Score: 58.54
– ACC Preseason Rankings By Team
So much for all of the bluster and blather coming out of ACC media days.
Of course Florida State, Clemson, Louisville and Miami are terrific, and NC State will make a whole bunch of noise, but Virginia, Duke, and Wake Forest are a problem, and Syracuse and Pitt are just okay.
It’s a razor-thin margin between first and last among the Power Five conferences, but in terms of how the teams look to start the season, nope – the ACC doesn’t quite measure up.
– 2017 ACC Preview | Predicting Every ACC Game
4. Big Ten
Average Score: 58.64
– Big Ten Preseason Rankings By Team
While it’ll be a great-looking conference coming into the season, there’s a whole bunch of uncertainty.
Rutgers, Purdue and Illinois are the obvious culprits to keep the Big Ten out of the top three, but it’s a relatively mediocre-looking Nebraska and just okay Indiana and Maryland teams that are the bigger problem.
And Michigan State not being the Michigan State of a few years ago isn’t helping.
Oh sure, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin will do their part to make the conference shine, but it’s not going to be like last season when the Big Ten came up with its best overall campaign in years.
– 2017 Big Ten Preview | Predicting Every Big Ten Game
3. Big 12
Average Score: 58.65
– Big 12 Preseason Rankings By Team
If the Big Ten might end up being bigger and better than it ranks to start the season, the Big 12 could be the opposite if it gets ugly.
Admittedly, this could be very, very wrong.
This is going under the assumption that Texas really is that talented and it really is ready to rise up and become a national thing again. It’s also assuming that TCU is back to form, West Virginia will be terrific with Will Grier at the helm, and everyone else will make up for Kansas and Iowa State accounting for a fifth of the conference.
Average Score: 58.75
– Pac-12 Preseason Rankings By Team
The Pac-12 stunk last season. It might not have seemed like it, but it did, especially in non-conference play early on. That’s about to change from top to bottom.
Where’s the free space?
No, really, where’s the team that looks like it could be absolutely miserable coming into the season?
Cal might struggle and Oregon State is still missing a positive identity, but even they’re going to be tough outs for everyone else in the Pac-12.
Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA’s injury issues and Oregon’s clunker gave the Pac-12 problems in non-conference play last season, but all four of those teams should be better.
Average Score: 58.84
– SEC Preseason Rankings By Team
Alabama, Alabama, Alabama.
Bama is still the big dog who brings everyone else in the conference along for the ride, but the rest of the SEC is doing its part.
It helps when the worst teams – Vanderbilt and Kentucky – went bowling last season, and Ole Miss, South Carolina and Missouri qualify as the mediocre teams in the conference.
LSU might not be quite as good as many will think, but Auburn should be better with a potentially unstoppable offense. In the East, Florida and Georgia are about to be terrific. They might not be as good as everyone wants, but the standards are higher for brand name SEC teams.
It might be easy to rip on Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas A&M, but the perennial also-rans would be killers this year if they got their shot at the Big Ten West or the ACC Coastal.
And then there’s Alabama. The Crimson Tide come into the season far ahead of just about everyone else but Florida State and maybe Ohio State, maybe Washington, and maybe Oklahoma.
– 2017 SEC Preview | Predicting Every SEC Game