Power rankings: Big 12 now at No. 2


Tim Heitman/USA Today

Trevone Boykin and TCU are contending for a College Football Playoff spot out of the Big 12.The Conference Power Rankings are back! We decided to take a few weeks off to let conference games play themselves out but have decided to bring the rankings back before Rivalry Week.

As a quick refresher, the Conference Power Rankings are a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the Associated Press poll and ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) to determine the best and worst conferences in the country. The AP Poll is designed to capture the strength at the top of the conference, while FPI is intended to capture conference depth.

After several weeks off, the order of the conference power rankings has not changed. The SEC remains the No. 1 conference, but the gap between the SEC and every other conference has narrowed. The SEC’s rankings in the Football Power Index have not changed significantly; the SEC has nine teams ranked in the top 25 of FPI, which is as many as the Big 12 (four), Big Ten (three) and ACC (two) have combined.

In the AP poll, however, the SEC has six teams in the Top 25, including three in the Top 10. The SEC had a stretch of four weeks with five AP Top 10 teams before Auburn and Ole Miss started to fall. Nonetheless, the SEC leads the Big 12 in the Conference Power Rankings, largely because of its FBS-best 48-3 record (5-2 vs Power 5) in non-conference games.

None from No. 2 among top four

The Big 12 is second in the Conference Power Rankings but currently does not have a team in the Top 4 of the College Football Playoff rankings. Could the second-best conference in the FBS be left out of the playoff?

The Big 12’s strength lies at the top of the conference. Baylor and TCU are fifth and sixth, respectively, in the AP poll. Overall, the conference has as many AP Top 25 teams (four) as the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 despite having at least two fewer conference members than those leagues.

The Pac-12 is not far behind the Big 12, and the top three conferences have almost a 20-point lead over the Big Ten and ACC. If UCLA were to make the Pac-12 Championship Game and win, the Bruins would have an argument for inclusion in the playoff based on the Pac-12’s strength and the Bruins’ non-conference schedule (second in the FBS).

Florida State is undefeated but has played arguably the easiest conference schedule of the contenders. The ACC is the weakest of the Power 5 conferences, so if Florida State were to suffer its first loss, the relative strength of an ACC schedule would be examined as the Seminoles make a push for the playoff.

The perception of the ACC can change drastically this week. All four ACC teams in the Top 25 of the AP poll – Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Louisville – face SEC opponents. Three of those teams have greater than a 60 percent chance of winning, according to FPI. If the ACC can pull off the sweep of these games, it could start to change the perception of the ACC’s conference strength.

ESPN Stats & Information Conference Power Rankings