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USATSI

The regular season is in the books, College Football Playoff semifinals are around the corner and bowl season is kicking off this weekend. Fair or not, referendums on conference power are about to be made over the next month.

Does LSU's ascension to the top of the SEC food chain make it the best conference in America? Is a Group of Five conference better than one in the Power Five? With that in mind, let's take a closer look at each of the conference's seasons played out and who tops our list of the best across the country in our conference power rankings.

1. SEC: LSU, Georgia, Florida, Auburn and Alabama all finished the season in the top 13 of the final College Football Playoff rankings, which is far and away the most impressive showing by any conference in 2019. What's more, Kentucky found a way to be competitive after moving its best wide receiver to quarterback, Tennessee rebounded from a brutal September to finish 7-5 and Texas A&M bounced in and out of the Top 25 all season. The conference has the best teams and the best athletes, and proves it every season.

2. Big Ten: The SEC littered the top of the College Football Playoff rankings, but the Big Ten finished with the most teams in the final edition at six. Ohio State and LSU battled for the No. 1 ranking for the final month of the season. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Penn State hung around the CFP race for the majority of the season. Michigan caught fire in the second half of the season and Iowa did normal old-school Iowa things en route to a 9-3 record. It produced a top-end title contender and provided some of the most competitive football in the country on a weekly basis. 

3. Big 12: Oklahoma punched a ticket to the CFP for the fourth straight season and Baylor played in the conference championship game with CFP hopes on the line. Outside of that, though, it was a pretty mediocre year in the heartland of the country. Every other team had four or more regular season conference losses, four of the 10 teams missed bowl games and Texas failed to live up to the hype ... again. It was a wildly top-heavy league with a beefy middle that was a little undercooked. 

4. Pac-12: Oregon and Utah entered November with CFP hopes, but the Utes were the only team with a legit shot heading into championship weekend. While the Ducks were solid all season long, the late-season loss to an average Arizona State team is too difficult to ignore. Outside of the big two, USC was up-and-down and found a way to finish in the top 25. Meanwhile, five teams missed bowl games, the Washington schools underwhelmed and UCLA still can't get out of its own way.

5. AAC: That's right, a Group of Five conference cracks the top five ahead of the ACC. Why? Part of it has to do with the ACC's struggles after Clemson, but it might not have mattered considering the seasons that Memphis, Cincinnati, Navy and SMU put together. All four of those teams had double-digit wins, and UCF, Temple and Tulane were all competitive. Consider this -- former power UCF won nine games and was rendered an afterthought by the rest of the powers by the end of September. The conference is deep, talented and wildly entertaining.

6. ACC: There's Clemson, the Grand Canyon, a pit of misery and then four-loss Virginia -- the second-best team in the conference. Florida State fell further behind, Syracuse's offense fell apart, Miami (FL) couldn't get out of its own way and Boston College apparently forgot how to play defense. On a positive note, 7-5 Louisville and 6-6 North Carolina were nice surprises -- relatively speaking.

7. Mountain West: Boise State navigated through massive quarterback issues to finish No. 19, and Air Force joined the Broncos in the double-digit win club. Outside of those two, San Diego State continued its strong play under coach Rocky Long with a stifling defense and Wyoming sprung a Week 1 upset over Missouri. Seven of the 12 teams in the conference finished with seven or more wins.

8. Sun Belt: Had it not been for a mid-week loss to Georgia Southern, Appalachian State would likely have been the Group of Five team in the Cotton Bowl. But that speaks to the depth and strength of the league. Louisiana-Lafayette finished with 10 wins. Georgia State is going bowling and shocked the world in Week 1 against Tennessee. Plus, Arkansas State wide receiver Omar Bayless is one of the best players in the country.

9. Conference USA: Lane Kiffin parlayed his second conference title and another double digit-win season in his third year at FAU into the Ole Miss job. UAB continued its defensive dominance under coach Bill Clark. On top of that, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss were all highly competitive in a conference that had five division title contenders heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Eight of 14 teams will be playing in bowl games even though the basement of C-USA was pretty dirty. 

10. MAC: Miami (OH) and Central Michigan were the two top teams in the conference, but both finished with just eight wins. None of the league's 12 teams even sniffed the New Year's Six, and Akron's 0-12 debacle was one of the worst seasons in college football history. The MAC typically has at least one team that hangs around the national conversation for a couple of months. Instead, the top storyline at the end of the season was Central Michigan's turnaround from a 1-11 regular season to an 8-4 campaign in 2019. Yikes.