The regular season is in the books, College Football Playoff tickets have been punched and the coaching silly season is in full swing. That means ranking season is here, and the first order of business is to run down all 10 FBS conferences.
Let's run them down.
1. SEC: Order has been restored in the college football world, and the once-powerful Southeastern Conference has ascended back to its throne after a brief hiatus. The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide both spent time in the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 in 2017, Auburn was a playoff contender until the bitter end, LSU got right and finished in the top 20 and Mississippi State enjoyed one of its best seasons of the modern era before star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was knocked out early in the regular-season finale. Yes, Florida and Tennessee tanked, but two teams in the CFP and a third that played in the SEC Championship Game with a playoff berth on the line result in the SEC regaining its throne as best conference in the land in 2017. (Preseason: 2)
2. Big Ten: No, the Big Ten didn't get a team in the CFP, but it was the clear-cut second-best conference in 2017. Ohio State and Wisconsin finished fifth and sixth in the final CFP Rankings, Penn State was ninth and Michigan State surprised everybody at No. 16 by finishing 9-3. That doesn't even factor in Iowa's ability to get up for big games -- including its 31-point victory over the Buckeyes -- or Northwestern's peskiness. The Big Ten didn't get a team in the playoff but that shouldn't take away from how strong it was this season. (3)
3. Big 12: Just excuse Baylor and Kansas for a moment. Have you looked around the rest of the Big 12? It's loaded. Obviously, Oklahoma is the king of the hill with its conference championship, but TCU and Oklahoma State were just a hair behind the Sooners throughout 2017. West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State were all solid, and the conference sent 80 percent of its teams to bowl games. (4)
4. Pac-12: USC was relevant in the national picture through conference championship weekend, Washington made a New Year's Six Bowl, Stanford and Washington State finished in the top 20 in the final CFP Rankings, Oregon went 6-1 when quarterback Justin Herbert was healthy and the two Arizona schools showed flashes of brilliance. No, it didn't produce a playoff team, but the Pac-12 was the college football equivalent of a $19 hamburger at a nice steakhouse. It's not the best thing on the menu by any stretch, but you're not going to go wrong if you choose it. (5)
5. ACC: If the SEC was top-heavy in 2016, the ACC was close to toppling over in 2017. Sure, Clemson is a monster. But Miami turned out to be a bit of a paper tiger down the stretch, Virginia Tech and NC State were decent and Florida State fell off a cliff (no, it wasn't just the loss of quarterback Deondre Francois that caused it). Only four of the 14 ACC schools finished above .500 in conference play. (1)
6. AAC: The American Athletic Conference likes to refer to itself as the sixth conference in the "Power Six," and it proved as much in 2017. UCF ran the table and will play in a New Year's Six game, Memphis was an offensive juggernaut (as was South Florida), and seven of the 12 programs will play in the postseason. (6)
7. Mountain West: The Mountain West quietly put together a solid season. Boise State ended the year ranked 25th in the CFP Rankings, Fresno State peeked its head in those very same rankings the week before the conference title game and San Diego State spent time with a number next to its name as well -- including after its upset of Stanford on Sept. 16. Six teams from the Mountain West will go bowling in 2017. (NR)
8. Conference USA: Led by Lane Kiffin and the resurgent Florida Atlantic Owls, C-USA became one of the most interesting conferences in the country in 2017. Five C-USA teams had eight or more regular-season wins, including UAB -- which was in its first season back after a two-year shutdown. Nine C-USA teams will play in the postseason, culminating with Southern Miss' Independence Bowl matchup with Florida State. Why isn't it higher? Well, UTEP and Charlotte finishing in the Final Four of is a big reason. (NR)
9. MAC: Yes, we all love #MACtion during weeknights in November -- especially when it involved 11-2 Toledo. But outside of the Rockets, the MAC was just sort of average at best. Akron was Toldeo's opponent in the conference championship game but finished 7-6, along with Northern Illinois and Ohio. Outside of the top of the conference, the MAC was mediocre at best in 2017. (NR)
10. Sun Belt: While Troy was the talk of the conference with its 10-2 record and upset over LSU in Death Valley, the bottom of the Sun Belt really weighed the league down. Only three teams had more than six wins -- 8-4 Appalachian State and 7-4 Arkansas State being the only two other than the Trojans. When Georgia Southern and South Alabama -- two teams who should be able to be ultra-competitive in the Sun Belt simply by recruiting the five counties surrounding campus -- can't be competitive, something went very wrong. (NR)