2018 College Football Conference Power Rankings: SEC back on top, but where does the Big Ten land?

The 2018 regular season has wrapped up, which means it's time to hand out some awards. On today's agenda: conference power rankings. 

With bowl games and national championships on the horizon, there's still a lot left that could influence how each conference stands heading into the offseason. But after three months of football, the mystery of 2018 conference superiority has cleared up quite a bit. Let's see how they stack up. 

1. SEC: This shouldn't be a surprise, even though SEC detractors won't be pleased with it. No. 1 Alabama went wire-to-wire with the top ranking in the land, No. 5 Georgia was the first team out of the CFP and went toe-to-toe with the Tide in an SEC Championship Game for the ages. In addition to the two superpowers, Florida, LSU and Kentucky all finished in the top 15 in the final CFP rankings, Mississippi State and Texas A&M landed in the top 20 and Missouri squeaked in at No. 24. The only massive disappointment in the SEC in 2018 was Auburn's fall from preseason No. 9 to unranked and a 7-5 final record.

2. Big Ten: Prior to the season, it seemed like the Big Ten might rule the college football world. But preseason No. 4 Wisconsin tanked, Penn State never really factored into the national title race and Michigan State turned out to be extremely average. Ohio State was all over the place all season, but still found a way to be in the CFP conversation at the end thanks to a dominating win over fellow top-10 team Michigan on rivalry weekend. Penn State (No. 12) and Northwestern (No. 22) were the only other Big Ten teams to finish the season ranked. 

3. Big 12: Oklahoma slid into the College Football Playoff for the third straight year after avenging its only loss by topping Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game. But the mere fact that the Longhorns were there speaks to the rise of the Big 12 in 2018. Tom Herman's crew was solid all year long, West Virginia was in the thick of the CFP race until the bitter end and Iowa State finished the season ranked No. 24. There was a big drop off after the big four, which hurt the Big 12 in terms of overall conference power.

4. Pac-12: It came into the season as the punchline to every Power Five joke, and didn't do much to eliminate the stench of the wretched 1-8 bowl record last winter. But it was at least slightly better than expected. Washington State was on the fringe of the College Football Playoff discussion until rivalry weekend, Washington spoiled it to make the Rose Bowl and Utah was stout up until star running back Zack Moss and quarterback Tyler Huntley went down with injuries. Toss in Oregon and Stanford, and the top half of the Pac-12 was at least decent. The back end, on the other hand, was not. That's on you, USC.

5. ACC: Clemson ran the table in a surprisingly weak conference, thanks to Miami's tumble from the preseason top 10 and Florida State and Virginia Tech's swift exits from the top 25. Dino Babers and Syracuse provided a bit of a spark down the stretch and NC State proved to be competitive. But when the fourth-best team in the conference is a non-factor, it's a problem that Clemson's CFP berth can't even overcome. 

6. AAC: UCF finished a second-straight year unblemished, and topped a very good Memphis team for the second time this season in the conference title game. It also produced an electric Houston squad that included Ed Oliver and D'Eriq King, a 10-win Cincinnati that finished No. 25 in the CBS Sports 129, and an 8-4 Temple that ranked No. 34. The AAC touts itself as a "Power Six" conference, and it has had the sixth spot in conference power rankings locked down for two consecutive years.

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UCF head coach Josh Heupel USATSI

7. Mountain West: It's the only Group of Five conference to finish with two teams ranked in the final CFP rankings (No. 21 Fresno State and No. 25 Boise State). Utah State spent the second half of the season as one of the nation's top 25 teams as well before falling to the Broncos on the final weekend of the regular season and missing the Mountain West Championship Game. Behind the big three, Hawaii (8-5) had a surprising season which helped boost the MWC in these rankings.

8. Sun Belt: Four teams in the Sun Belt finished with eight or more wins -- Appalachian State (10-2), Troy (9-3), Georgia Southern (9-3) and Arkansas State (8-4). A fifth, Louisiana-Lafayette, won the West Division of the Sun Belt with a 7-5 record and 5-3 record in conference play. Louisiana-Monroe finished 6-6 but was left out of a bowl, and the other four teams in the conference finished with a triple-digit ranking in the CBS Sports 129.

9. MAC: Northern Illinois (8-5) won a thriller over Buffalo (10-3) in the MAC Championship Game, and both programs were stout from start to finish. Five other teams earned bowl games out of the MAC. The bad news is that the other five teams finished 100th or worse in the CBS Sports 129.

10: Conference USA: It was buoyed by UAB, North Texas and Middle Tennessee. The Blazers won 10 games and the conference title in just their second year back from the shutdown, the Mean Green went 9-3 and dominated Arkansas out of the SEC, and Middle Tennessee went 7-1 in conference play to win the East. After that, though, C-USA struggled. Five teams are ranked 100th or worse in the CBS Sports 129, including UTEP -- which finished dead last. 

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, analyst for CBS Sports HQ and host for the SiriusXM college... Full Bio

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