Ranking the Top 5 College Football Power Conferences for 2021

By Dan Vasta in College Football
| August 7, 2021 4:12 am PDT

The 2021 college football season is getting closer, which means kickoff is nearly upon us. There has been a ton of conference realignment chatter, with the losses of Oklahoma and Texas.

The landscape of college football is certainly changing by the offseason. Sports, in general, are always fluid, but college sports are from another planet.

The Southeastern Conference has now won 11 of the past 15 national titles and will be tough to beat.

Who can slay the beast? The SEC has been all mighty in crucial spots, and Nick Saban has been licking his chops in the College Football Playoff era.

When the Crimson Tide has lost to a team like LSU, Auburn, or Florida, the opposition has reaped the benefits. The biggest winner? The Southeastern Conference. Perhaps another SEC squad can have the confetti drop on them next?

If the SEC is going to fall, a team will likely need to run the table.

To assess who could do that, let’s take a look at my rankings for the Power Five conferences entering the 2021 season.

Why the SEC Is No. 1

The balance is absurd up top in the SEC. There are often five or six teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

We saw four teams last season finish in the Top 25 and five the year prior, with four in the top eight slots. That is bonkers to think four of the best teams in the country could be from one conference.

If Florida avoided playing the two hottest teams in the nation down the stretch (Alabama, Oklahoma), we could have seen them in the top 8.

The Gators have lost a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, but the SEC West is simply flawless.

This conference as a whole has just been absurdly productive, and they’ve thrived against other Power Five teams.

SEC Vs. Power Five in Bowls Versus ACC Versus Big Ten Versus Big 12 Versus Pac-12
All-Time 50-29 (winners of last six) 59-33 (winners of seven of last ten) 33-18 (winners of three of last four) 9-7-1 (2-0 since 1990)

That type of dominance is tough to ignore, and when you look at how talented and balanced the SEC is, it’s unlikely their stranglehold on college football will loosen anytime soon.

SEC Logo

Texas A&M

Texas A&M would be a conference favorite in arguably any other conference other than the ACC and Big 12.

They are a bona fide number two behind Alabama in the West, and some feel they have what it takes to finally get over the hump and reach the College Football Playoff.

Texas A&M is a program that has been on the rise thanks to improved athletes and stellar play at the line of scrimmage.

LSU

LSU has been hot and cold, but they are capable of beating any team on their schedule. Last season was a rare 5-5 season because they have been a lock for eight-plus wins.

LSU has won at least eight games since 2000, in which a 12-game season has occurred (excludes last season).

Ole Miss

Ole Miss is improving by leaps and bounds from where they were a few seasons ago. The Rebels offense looks legit under Lane Kiffin, and it helps they have arguably the top quarterback in the SEC.

Matt Corral is a dual-threat that can buy time in the pocket and thread the needle with the best of them. His virtuoso performance against Indiana in the Outback Bowl showed his upside.

The Rebels were without their top option in Elijah Moore, and that victory will springboard to an impressive 2021 campaign.

The favorable schedule should allow Ole Miss to get eight-plus wins. It could give them the boost they need on the national radar. The SEC tradition of having multiple teams ranked in the Top 25 will soon feature the Rebels. They seem like one of the premier programs on the rise.

There are a few others, as well.

After Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M, the conference could be up for grabs.

I love Ole Miss and believe LSU will get back to winning eight or nine games again. Florida will be picked by many to be another Top 25 candidate, even after losing the entire offense.

Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi State

The teams afterward are what will make this conference elite. Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi State should all get back to the postseason. Picking which team out of that bunch is the best will be the question.

The Razorbacks are a team on the rise, and I believe Sam Pittman will have them as a Top 25 team by next season. Their talent on the perimeter is better than some Top 25 teams, and Fayetteville should be a rocking place shortly. Auburn may need time under Bryan Harsin, but Kentucky has been productive with Mark Stoops.

Dan Mullen will continue to find ways to win, and the hope is teams such as Missouri and Tennessee will improve their play.

Overall, this conference brings a ton of national upside. Most college football betting sites have them with four of the top 12 national title contenders.

  • Alabama (first)
  • Georgia (fourth)
  • Texas A&M (seventh)
  • LSU (No. 11)

All four teams are right there making their claim for a national title. There isn’t another conference that can make the same claim.

Why The SEC May Not Be No. 1

Many conferences have this issue, but the SEC could make an argument above anybody. These five teams are struggling production.

  • Arkansas
  • Vanderbilt
  • Ole Miss
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee

Arkansas and Vanderbilt are a combined 7-44 over the past three seasons. Ole Miss has struggled as well (7-18), and this is after a solid 2020 campaign based on their expectations. South Carolina and Tennessee have had issues getting to the postseason.

Tennessee is a top 15 program, and yet they have stunk up the joint. Josh Heupel should bring them back to relevance, but the Vols have learned that there are no guarantees in Knoxville. The Vols have had crazy coaching hires, and even social media has made their mark.

The SEC East has not been an elite division, so somebody needs to help out Georgia and Florida.

These teams have not gotten it done inside the conference or out. Just look at how they’ve all fared over the last three seasons.

Team Tennessee Vanderbilt South Carolina Arkansas Ole Miss
SEC W-L 10-16 4-21 9-17 3-23 7-18
Overall W-L 16-19 9-25 13-22 7-27 23-14

Kentucky has been a steady program, but there are too many struggling programs. South Carolina and Vanderbilt have new tenures with Shane Beamer and Clark Lea, and I mentioned Heupel with Tennessee.

Those three could all miss another bowl and fail to become Top 50 programs in 2021. The SEC is not perfect. They need their lower-tier programs to be less of an easy out on Saturday.

Why The Big 10 Is No. 2

The Big Ten has been one of the top two conferences in the history of college football. Some of the more iconic programs, players, stadiums, fanbases, and coaches have come from the Midwest.

The memories overall have been enjoyable, but recently the conference has had their ups and downs.

Ohio State is arguably the best program in college football history, and certainly in the top three. The Buckeyes have appeared in all of the biggest games over the years and the amount of success has been incredible.

Ohio State remains the only program in the history of the sport without a season full of eight-plus losses.

The legendary coaches started with Woody Hayes. Earl Bruce, John Cooper, Jim Tressel, and Urban Meyer followed.

Now fast forward to the present day with Ryan Day. Throw in Luke Fickell for one rare struggling season (6-7), and Ohio State has been the model of consistency across the Big Ten.

Just look at their dominance since 2012.

Ohio State Since 2012 Record, AP Poll Finish
2020 7-1, No. 2
2019 13-1, No. 3
2018 13-1, No. 3
2017 12-2, No. 5
2016 11-2, No. 6
2015 12-1, No. 4
2014 14-1, No. 1
2013 12-2, No. 12
2012 12-0, No. 3

Getting a challenger for the Buckeyes has been the million-dollar question for years since the conference has expanded.

Michigan has had chances over the years but has not made the most of them. The program is searching for success against the Buckeyes, and any ranked squads would help. Wisconsin and Penn State seem to be at the top of the next group, but perhaps Iowa and Northwestern will continue to stay in the top three of the West.

Time will tell, but Ohio State remains a heavy favorite (-190) to win the Big Ten.

That is the second-biggest favorite among all Power Fives. Until it happens with any consistency, it is tough to view the other teams as worthy candidates.

The consistency is there in the Big Ten, but there are always sleepers that steal the national spotlight. Indiana was one of the bigger surprises in the country last season, and the Northwestern Wildcats finished No. 11 in the final AP Poll.

The conference continues to get the job done, and I would credit the coaching staff. Tom Allen has become one of the underrated coaches, and many are intrigued to see if the Hoosiers can continue the success from last season.

Big 10 Logo

Northwestern Wildcats

Pat Fitzgerald is an absolute genius of a coach due to getting the most out of his three-star prospects.

I ranked Fitzgerald among my top coaches in the entire country, but check out exactly where he appears in our top 10 college football head coach rankings for 2021.

The Wildcats have won the fifth-most games in the Big Ten over the last five seasons, and Fitzgerald is the reason why. Recently retired defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz deserves high praise, but the Wildcats continue to win on pure grit and knowledge.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa is in the same ballpark, but they have been so stout on defense that it is tough on opposing offenses to muster enough points on the board.

Kirk Ferentz is the longest tenure coach in the entire FBS, and he is a future Hall of Famer.

Longest Tenured FBS Coaches Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Gary Patterson, TCU Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State Kyle Whittingham, Utah Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
First Year Coached 1999 (23rd year) 2000 (22nd year) 2005 (17th year) 2005 (17th year) 2006 (16th year)

He is the last coach to replace the late-great Hayden Fry, which goes back to 1998. Fry started in 1979, so the Hawkeyes have only had two coaches in over four decades.

The Wisconsin Badgers have shown the ability to muck it up on offense and play stellar defense.

Penn State in the East division has been consistent sans their 2020 debacle (4-5). Penn State also has the benefit of James Franklin, who is arguably a Top 10 coach; especially going into last season due to posting four consecutive Top 20 finishes (2016-19).

The Nittany Lions should get back to being a Top 20 program, and they will lean on their defense.

The Nittany Lions, Badgers, Buckeyes, and Hawkeyes are all strong on defense. They are some of the better defensive programs in the nation.

Throw in Northwestern, and this conference has been relentless on that side of the ball.

Why The Big 10 May Not Be No. 2

There are positives with the Big Ten, but they have a few struggling programs near the basement. Illinois, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Michigan State, and Maryland have not done enough.

Michigan was towards the bottom last season, and that is a tough pill to swallow for the Big Ten.

The Wolverines have not even been a third wheel. They have Jim Harbaugh on the hot seat, and only winning will take pressure off of them.

To this point, he and Michigan simply haven’t gotten it done. These numbers really jump out at you.

  • 0-11 as the underdog
  • 0-11 against Top 15 teams on road/neutral
  • 0-5 vs. Ohio State
  • 6 games lost by 20+ points

Going winless in several ugly categories is no way to keep your job, and he may have run out of time. These are just a few reasons why Harbaugh ranks among the top college football head coaches on the hot seat in 2021.

Among expectations in the Big Ten, Michigan enters the season needing to win more than any other program.

Bowl Results

The Big Ten has been the closest conference to the SEC. If they can improve upon their bowl results against the SEC, the Big Ten could make an argument as the top conference in America.

The utter dominance in history has been noteworthy, but it has been rough to watch since 2010. Ohio State has knocked off Alabama and Arkansas in their last two appearances in the Sugar Bowl, but the rest of the conference has not followed.

Here’s their record against SEC in bowl games

  • 12-25 since 20210
  • 33-59 all-time

The Citrus, Outback, and Music City are the three bowls that have gone all wrong for the Big Ten. The conference has lost six of their past ten in those three bowls, and they need to be the one with a winning record to garner more recognition.

Once the conference reaches the premier bowls, winning those would help, as well.

Ohio State is 4-3 in their seven premier bowls, but Michigan has lost their last two. Wisconsin has won two of their past three premier bowls, but that is not good enough. The mid-tier and lower-ranked teams in the Big Ten have not performed well.

Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan State, Illinois, and Nebraska are still trying to find their way. The struggling teams have not performed well. The elite conferences have a handful of teams getting the job done, not just one or two.

They are still loaded with talent but have some work to do if they want to be above the SEC.

Why the ACC is No. 3

The Atlantic Coast Conference has received help from the conference champion since the College Football Playoff Era.

Going back to the final season of the BCS era (2013), the conference has had a team reach the national title in all but three seasons.

The ACC has appeared in the College Football Playoff regularly. The ACC champion has played the CFP all seven seasons thus far. Florida State achieved it in 2014, and the Clemson Tigers have done so in the past six years. It is impressive how clutch this conference has been in the biggest of games.

Jimbo Fisher started it off in 2014, and Dabo Swinney has since dominated. FSU won the final national championship in the BCS era, and Clemson has dominated while winning two national championships with four appearances.

Florida State once upon a time dominated college football like we have not seen very often. Clemson is now producing similar results, but we shall see how long the dominance continues.

Will Swinney put together a few more national titles? Time will tell, but the recruiting classes have spoken volumes.

National Recruiting Rankings for Clemson National Rank
2021 5
2020 3
2019 10
2018 7
2017 16
2016 7
2015 9
2014 (All Via 247 Sports) 16

The SEC and Big Ten have been known for their head coaches and prestigious programs, but the ACC can claim winning national titles and having elite quarterbacks over the years.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is 18-3 atop the AP Poll, and the three losses were quite the games.

Two of them have come against Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Their 2015 loss in Glendale was for the national title.

The 2017 debacle was with Kelly Bryant at quarterback in the national semifinal. The third and final loss was in a night game on the road. It was against Notre Dame without Trevor Lawrence, and they nearly pulled it off before going quietly in the night in double overtime with a true frosh under center.

ACC Logo

Star Quarterbacks

The star quarterbacks in the ACC have been remarkable to follow.

Florida State, Jameis Winston, put on a show during his Heisman and national title-winning campaign in 2013. He’s just one of many, though.

ACC Star QB’s Jameis Winston Deshaun Watson Trevor Lawrence
Won Heisman? Yes No No
Won Natty? Yes Yes Yes
Career Record 26-1 33-5 34-2
Selection in Draft 1st Overall, 2015 No. 12 Overall, 2017 1st Overall, 2021

Winston made his debut on Labor Day night at Heinz Field. Winston was cool as a cucumber completing his first 11 passes of the night. When the night was complete, Winston ended up with 381 yards and five total touchdowns in a 41-13 beatdown over Pittsburgh.

Clemson had a few legendary players on campus. Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence were superstars during their time in college, and they each brought a national title to the Tigers.

Now it’s DJ Uiagalelei’s turn, and he has the arsenal to continue the success Clemson has been achieving over the years.

ACC Network’s Eric Mac Lain made a bold proclamation about Uiagalelei, saying he’ll win the Heisman this year.

“It’s gonna be DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson’s first ever Heisman Trophy winner.”

That may be true, but he’s still one of many viable contenders. Be sure to check out the top threats to win the 2021 Heisman Trophy before placing any bets.

Regardless, the future looks bright with Swinney still calling the shots.

Miami has their best quarterback in seemingly a quarter-century with D’Eriq King. King is the best signal-caller the program has had since Ken Dorsey left in 2002.

North Carolina has Sam Howell, who could become the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Howell has been dropping pigskins in buckets during his time in Chapel Hill. He has also played his best in crucial games.

As a true freshman in the Military Bowl, Howell put it on the Temple Owls. They dropped a 50-burger, and he looked the part against the fourth-best team in college last season in the Orange Bowl.

Howell was threading the needle to backups. UNC had not used some of their players in the bowl game that we saw throughout the regular season, but Howell still passed the eye test.

The sleeper among all quarterbacks and teams in the ACC and nationally is Boston College.

Star quarterback Phil Jurkovec was a godsend last season. Throwing for over 2,500 yards with 17 passing touchdowns in 11 games was impressive. Jurkovec, a former Notre Dame signal-caller, could be a future starter in the NFL if he continues to improve.

Coach Jeff Hafley showed up at Boston last year, and the expectations were low, but the 6-5 season now has the folks starving for more success.

It surely helps that the schedule is favorable this season, so be on the lookout for a near double-digit season for Boston. They seem poised to finish the season as a Top 25 squad despite flying under the radar.

Sam Hartman, McKenzie Milton, Malik Cunningham, Kenny Pickett, and Jeff Sims are all capable. The talent level is far from bare in the ACC, and points will be flowing in 2021.

Why The ACC May Not Be No. 3

The Clemson Tigers are juggernauts, and there may not be another team quite like them outside of Alabama.

The Tigers have appeared in and won the last six ACC crowns. Nobody has come overly close despite 2015 and 2016 having competitive matchups.

Clemson has been unstoppable with Swinney leading the charge, but the inability of other teams to step up has cost this conference.

The lack of Top 10 teams has been the theme.

North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina played in their first-ever BCS/NY6 bowl in program history since the BCS era began in 1998-99. The previous major bowl they had appeared in was the 1949 Sugar Bowl!

The program appeared in a ton of Peach Bowls, but they were never part of the major bowls. The Tar Heels appeared in their first-ever Orange Bowl, and many are banking on a return to a premier bowl.

Miami Hurricanes

The Miami Hurricanes are back better than ever. Well, not exactly, but Miami should be ranked in the preseason top 15 as they look to get back in the national title picture.

The last time Miami finished a season in the AP Top 10 was 2003. That was also the last time they reached 11+ wins.

Year Record AP Top 10 Finish
2003 11-2 5
2002 12-1 2
2001 12-0 1
2000 11-1 2

Ken Dorsey was the quarterback, and Larry Coker was still the head coach.

College football has changed since those days. The lack of a star signal-caller for Miami has been one of their liabilities. Manny Diaz still has question marks on his defense in the front seven, but the athletes are getting legit on the perimeter.

The hope is King will help keep them as a balanced attack. The Canes should be as potent on the ground as they are when they pass.

Overall, this is the most talented roster they have in a decade-plus.

The next bunch of teams is more of a mystery, but the talent has improved across both divisions.

When you have arguably the second-best program in college football with others on the rise, that automatically puts your conference in the upper-echelon of the Power Five. It really will come down to the mid-tier and bottom-tier squads.

Duke and Syracuse

Duke and Syracuse are two teams likely to struggle mightily this season.

It has been rough for the past few seasons. It was just two seasons ago when they went to the Orange Bowl. They fell apart and went 5-7. Syracuse has not come close to a bowl game since their 10-3 campaign in 2018.

Duke was brutal last year, and the same trend should continue with challenging non-conference games. The ACC schedule is manageable, but the team has the worst defense in the entire conference entering the season.

The third and final program is Florida State.

Florida State Seminoles

The Seminoles have fallen on hard times. The Willie Taggart experience was tough to endure after becoming a clear-cut top five program under Jimbo Fisher.

Three seasons in a row of seven wins or fewer is not what Tallahassee was planning.

FSU Woes Jimbo Fisher Record (2011-16) Since 2017
W-L Record 68-13 (6 seasons) 21-26 (Last 4 seasons)

They prefer to contend for ACC and national titles.

The second season of the Mike Norvell era should be a much-improved year for the Seminoles. After miraculously upsetting North Carolina, you wonder if they have any magic in store for 2021?

They will have a chance to play the best teams in the country throughout the season. The season opener at Doak Campbell against Notre Dame could be a fun one.

The schedule gets scary with trips to Clemson, North Carolina, and Florida. That could be four losses without counting any of their divisional games. There are easy wins on paper elsewhere.

For the ACC to threaten the SEC and Big Ten, the Seminoles will need to regain momentum and become a relevant Top 25 program.

Until that occurs, there are too many holes in the ACC standings.

Getting several bowl teams is respectable, but most of them are all stuck on six or seven victories. The folks are hopeful for an improvement before the conference drops even further in the national pecking order.

Why the Big 12 Is No. 4

Many view this as both a good and bad omen. Oklahoma has dominated since Lincoln Riley took over for Bob Stoops. Back in the 1990s, before Bob Stoops took over, the program was struggling miserably.

The Sooners are a clear-cut, top five program with their eyes set on winning a national title.

Winning a game in the College Football Playoff would be a start (0-4), but Riley has been nearly flawless.

The quarterback whisperer helped develop three quarterbacks into superstars when their time came in Norman. Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts have all been world-beaters. Their video game-like production was off the charts.

Sooner Stars Baker Mayfield (2017) Kyler Murray (2018) Jalen Hurts (2019)
Total Yards (Rush/Pass/Rec) 4,940 5,362 5,149
Total TD 49 54 53
Won Heisman? Yes Yes No

Riley has reaped all the benefits, and he has turned the offensive fireworks up a notch after every season.

When you think it cannot get any better, he keeps finding creative ways to light the world on fire.

Big 12 Logo

Heisman Favorite

Now it is time for Spencer Rattler to take the next step of greatness and become a Heisman-like quarterback. He is the preseason Heisman favorite, which could be a kiss of death.

However, he has both the individual skills and talent at his disposal to follow in the footsteps of prior Sooner stars.

I believe that Rattler will put together a Heisman-like season, especially coming off a sensational finish to the 2020 campaign.

After looking like an inexperienced player against Iowa State early in the season, the Sooner star quarterback got revenge against the Cyclones in the Big 12 title game.

Rattler finished with two scores and nearly 300 yards of offense in the 27-21 victory. The win over Iowa State gave Oklahoma their sixth straight conference crown. Somebody has to step up and challenge this program like we have not seen in a while.

Outside of a rare Oklahoma State conference title in 2011 and Baylor in 2013-14, the Sooners have won a share of the Big 12 going back to 2010.

Texas Longhorns

It was the 2009 Texas Longhorns under Colt McCoy that last took the nation by storm. That seems like a quarter-century ago, but the Longhorns bring upside heading into the 2021 season under Steve Sarkisian.

There are not lofty expectations in the preseason in terms of the polls. They will be ranked well outside the Top 10, and they might only be the fourth-best team in the conference.

Iowa State Cyclones

That is due to the emergence of Iowa State under Matt Campbell. One of the main reasons why the Big 12 could be the third-best conference in America is thanks to what Campbell has brought to Ames. Several premier victories, but the overall consistency he has instilled upon the program is national newsworthy.

The Cyclone defense has been coming up big over the years. They knocked off Oklahoma in the regular season and played well against them in the Big 12 title despite some sloppy play by Brock Purdy. They then dominated the second half against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Nearly the entire team is back from the 2020 historic season.

The schedule sets everything up for another Top 10 type of season.

It is crazy to think the program only had two Top 25 finishes ever as a program, and now they have their first-ever Top 10 finish.

Getting to a bowl was an achievement back in the day for Iowa State football, but Campbell has raised the bar. The talent level and expectations are sky-high, but it has elevated the play of the conference as a whole.

If Oklahoma were to reach the College Football Playoff, a second team from the conference would automatically earn a bid to a premier New Year Six bowl.

Last season, nobody made it to the CFP. Luckily, the Cyclones were able to sneak into the Fiesta Bowl, and they represented the Big 12 well in that game.

TCU Horned Frogs

TCU is a dark horse that may not even start the season in the Top 25. Their schedule is not brutal in the non-conference slate. Thus, TCU will have a chance to reach double-digit victories.

Road games against Oklahoma and Iowa State could be losses, but the rest of the slate opens up.

SMU and California come to Fort Worth in the non-conference, which should both be double-digit point wins. Trips to Stillwater and Manhattan could be traps, but the Horned Frogs have one of the better defenses to lead them all season.

Oklahoma State under Gundy should have an improved defense, and the offense will remain solid. That would give Oklahoma and Iowa State the additional help they desperately need.

If the rest of the conference continues to make strides (see Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech), the Big 12 could collectively have a better year than the ACC.

Why the Big 12 May Not Be No. 4

The Sooners have made the CFP four times since its inception in 2014. Unfortunately, Oklahoma is 0-4, and most of the games have been ugly. The average margin of defeat is 18 points per game.

The committee members and poll voters try to avoid looking at past results, but it is not easy to pass on the eye test when the rest of the conference has struggled. The media and fans enjoy piling on the mistakes the Big 12 has made over the years.

In the three seasons that the conference did not reach the CFP, the others could not get over the hump.

The 2014-15 Big 12 conference fell short despite having two exceptional squads in Baylor and TCU. Both were one-loss teams that looked the part throughout the season.

The 2016-17 season had a two-loss Oklahoma team that fell short, albeit they did thump Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

Last season the Sooners were the hottest team in the country down the stretch but had endured two losses early in the season that prevented them from having much of a realistic chance of making it.

The conference last won a national championship in 2005-06 when Texas had Vince Young wreaking havoc on the opposition.

The game-breakers have been lacking in Austin, and the Big 12 has suffered.

The conference as a unit could be on its last legs this summer. Oklahoma and Texas are on their way to the SEC, likely eventually ending the Big 12 as a worthy conference. Whether they even stay as a Power Five conference is one thing.

Will there be any relevant teams left? Will the Big 12 become extinct like the Big East? Some have pondered that.

Oklahoma and Texas Needed as Title Contenders

The bottom line is the conference needs both Oklahoma and Texas as title contenders.

The Big 12 has lost its luster.

The majority of the premier squads could be difficult to watch on defense, but the Sooners have improved recently. Even with Oklahoma dominating, the conference has had major woes developing national titles.

During the BCS era (1998-2013), the Big 12 fell apart.

Big 12 Struggles BCS W-L BCS Title Record New Year’s Six W-L College Football Playoff W-L
BCS Era 10-12 2-5
CFP Era 5-7 0-4

The issue comes down to their lack of third, fourth, and fifth programs. The conference has gone 17-28 back to the BCS era in all the premier bowls (Rose, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta, Sugar, and Peach). That record is atrocious compared to the SEC and the Big Ten, especially since many of the losses were against those conferences.

Another issue with the conference is the lack of depth.

The Big 12 only has ten teams. The Big Ten, SEC, and ACC have 14 squads. The SEC has seen six to seven teams end up ranking in the Top 25 during a season. The same can be said for the Big Ten as several consistent teams are near the Top 25. We have seen half of the ranked clubs come from the SEC and Big Ten dominate the polls. The Big 12 doesn’t have enough teams to make that claim on a consistent basis.

Even the best Oklahoma teams have fallen short in crucial games like the 2009 national title.

Urban Meyer and Florida knocked off the top-ranked Sooners. Then in the following season, Texas suffered a loss to a different SEC squad. Alabama began its dominance, and the Big 12 was getting accustomed to losing in the primetime.

Sadly, nothing is going to change unless the Sooners somehow win the national title this upcoming season. That would be quite the exit for the Big 12 and Oklahoma. Until we see another national title victory, it makes life difficult to make a case for this conference.

Why the Pac-12 Is No. 5

The College Football Playoff is entering its eighth season, and yet the Pac-12 is still late to the party. The conference has just two College Football Playoff appearances, but they have struggled in the New Year’s Six matchups as well.

If you count all of the games through seven years, the total amount of games equates to 42.

Subtract the 14 games worth seven years of semifinals, and there are 28 non-playoff games. That is four every year, but there is a bowl or two every season that conferences do not appear in based on conference ties.

The Rose Bowl on most years is only for the Big Ten and the Pac-12, so that prevents the SEC from having several teams in the NY6.

There are plenty of other choices for the conference to grab other bids like the Fiesta, Peach, and Sugar. The trouble is the results haven’t been great.

Pac-12 Bowl Woes Since 2014 Rose Orange Fiesta Cotton Peach Sugar Title Game Record
Appearances Five Zero Three One One Zero One 4-7

It is inexcusable to see two premier bowls without an appearance from the Pac-12.

The Sugar Bowl is not easy to appear in since it will be the Big 12 versus the SEC in the years it is not part of the College Football Playoff. Still, they are allowed to play in the CFP. That has not occurred at all as of late.

The Orange Bowl is another bowl that usually features the ACC and the Big Ten. The Pac-12 only has appeared in three stinking Fiesta Bowls in eight seasons!

The Fiesta Bowl had Iowa State handle Oregon most recently. The Big 12 has not played in the Fiesta Bowl often. That needs to change if respect wants to be won.

The Pac-12 has major woes finishing with double-digit victories over the seasons, and it has cost the conference millions of dollars.

Last season, the non-playoff games had a payout of $4 million per conference that appeared in the bowl.

Appearing in 11 of these premier major bowls in eight years is impossible to fathom. That means the conference is not getting any teams as an at-large bid into the matchups. The homers of the Pac-12 say it is west coast bias, but they have simply not played well.

The College Football Playoff and AP Top 10 receive respect for the major bowls, and sadly the conference has failed to sniff relevant teams.

Pac-12 Major Bowl Woes 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Teams in NY6 Bowl 2 1 2 2 1 1 1

If the conference wants to join the big boy party with the rest of the top teams in the country, they need to play like it on the field against each other.

The conference has cannibalized each other, but the 2021 campaign could feature a few double-digit teams. They are overdue for success after years of struggles.

Keep the faith since the future should be brighter shortly.

PAC 12 Logo

Why the Pac-12 May Not Be No. 5

So, you are telling me there’s a chance? The conference can play in at least two premier bowls this upcoming season. Washington, USC, and Utah all have favorable slates.

Unfortunately, two of those teams are in the South division.

Utah is capable of winning all of their games outside of the matchup against the Trojans. USC has a more challenging slate with road trips against Arizona State and Notre Dame.

The Trojans have their most explosive offense in years. Clay Helton has pressure to win this season, or else he will get relieved from his coaching duties. The Trojans have had a few struggling seasons, and the time is now or never for Helton.

Oregon under Mario Cristobal has brought in the most talented roster into the conference, and they have expectations to become a dark horse in the playoff discussion.

Washington is the team I believe can make the most impact.

They are loaded in the trenches and have the perfect game to grab the attention of America. Going to the Big House in a nationally televised atmosphere in Ann Arbor will be a treat.

The Big Four in the Pac-12

The big four from the Pac-12 need to emerge as national contenders. Washington, Oregon, and Utah should be exceptional on defense.

All three have some concerns going into the season, but USC has a star quarterback that can bail them out of difficult situations.

The improvements from Washington State, Arizona State, and UCLA could pay off this season. There is an upside at the quarterback position. We could see as many as five teams in the Top 25.

UCLA or Arizona State could join Washington, Oregon, USC, and Utah as nationally relevant programs.

I foresee USC or Utah getting to a premier bowl matchup, with a team from the North grabbing one as well. Washington hosts Oregon, so I give a slight nod to the Huskies. Plus, Oregon has a likely loss coming at Ohio State early in the season, and I mentioned that I lean Washington over Michigan in their non-conference showdown.

Is that enough to move them up to the third or the fourth-best conference in America? Maybe.

Getting a team in the playoffs would likely be a requirement to put that statement to rest. Still, this should be their best chance in years to get back into the playoff discussion. They failed to finish last season off on a positive note with a shortened season, but everybody is playing 12-plus games this season.

Perhaps we will get a fun surprise from the West coast.

Why the SEC is the Best Power 5 Conference in 2021

The Southeastern Conference is one of the most entertaining conferences in all of sports.

Many argue that the ACC in basketball is more impressive, but the SEC has dominated in football. This conference has had positive and negative vibes over the years in terms of dominance between the divisions.

Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia were all Top 10 programs simultaneously. Alabama, since the beginning of time, has not dominated the West. We have seen Auburn and LSU sharing time in the spotlight.

The line of scrimmage is often where football games are won and lost. The SEC has dominated in that department, and that will continue. Having the benefit of playing in at least premier bowls in late December, early January has helped.

The College Football Playoff has been enjoyable for most SEC fans, with the conference producing four of the last six national champions.

Alabama continues to win it all and live up to their hype.

Alabama and Georgia are the toughest outs in the SEC for 2021, and it’s likely the 2021 College Football Playoff winners comes from this conference.

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