The 2016 college football regular season is over, and in true blog style, we've ranked just about everything we can rank over the past few months.

Just about.

Now that there's a full arsenal of information available, it's time for a run down of how each conference compared to its counterparts. And so we ask: Which conference was the best in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision?

We can say this much: It wasn't the SEC. Alabama may be the No. 1 team in college football, but there was a sizable gap between the Crimson Tide and the rest of the conference.

But before getting into the whole list, here are a few disclaimers ...

1. Like Tom Fornelli's Bottom 25/Fornelli 50, I put together an algorithm (see below) to make baseline comparisons. Unlike the aforementioned pieces, though, my opinion is used to interpret the results for ranking purposes.

2. The algorithm to judge each conference includes: the number of top-25 teams in the F/+ rankings from Football Outsiders and that percentage within the entire conference, divisional rankings from Jeff Sagarin and conference strength-of-schedule averages from BCF Toys. Additionally, there are bonus points for the number of College Football Playoff and New Year's Six teams.

The algorithm does not, however, include individual head-to-head results from non-conference play. There's a simple reason for this: It will make your head explode.


3. No formula is perfect. While advanced stats mitigate some of the subjectivity, there are inherent biases because of the disparity of access within major college football. For example, the Big Ten will get a monster boost based on the number of teams it has in the New Year's Six and College Football Playoff compared to, say, the Mid-American Conference. And, of course, those selections are based on the human opinions of the playoff committee. Thems the breaks, but we can also safely assume the Big Ten was better than the MAC regardless.

4. The rankings are a summary of the regular season, not a projection of which conferences will dominate bowl season. There are many factors that determine a conference's record in the postseason, almost none of which apply here. (In short, don't @ me.)

With the fine print out of the way, here's how each conference ranked with their individual results and explanation.


1. Big Ten

F/+ Top 25 teams: 5 (35.7 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: No. 3 (East division), No. 6 (West division)
Average strength of schedule rank: 23.3

New Year's Six teams: 3
Playoff teams: 1

The Big Ten had 10 bowl-eligible teams out of 14, but what separated it from other Power Five conferences was how good it was at the top. Four of the five teams ranked in the F/+ Top 25 were ranked in the top 12. Additionally, each division was rated highly. Entering the final week of the season, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin were all in the playoff hunt. Each of those teams either made a New Year's Six or College Football Playoff game. The bottom of the Big Ten was bad, but overall this was the strongest league from a strength-of-schedule perspective.

2. Pac-12

F/+ Top 25 teams: 3 (25 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: No. 2 (North division), No. 4 (South division)
Average strength of schedule rank: 32.3

New Year's Six teams: 1
Playoff teams: 1

The Big Ten may have had the highest number of top-end teams, but the gap between the best team and the worst team in the Pac-12 was smaller. (In fact, the conference's best team, Washington, needed overtime to beat its worst team, Arizona.) The Pac-12 also had an even split between its top six teams and its bottom six. Overall, this was a strong, and deep, conference.

3. ACC

F/+ Top 25 teams: 7 (50 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: No. 5 (Coastal division), No. 7 (Atlantic division)
Average strength of schedule rank:
41.3
New Year's Six teams: 1
Playoff teams: 1

The most impressive thing about the ACC was the number of top-25 teams in the F/+ rankings. Seven was the highest number of any conference. However, the ACC's overall strength of schedule was lower, as were the divisional rankings. This was a league with one elite team (Clemson) and several good to very good teams.

4. SEC

F/+ Top 25 teams: 4 (28.6 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: No. 1 (West division), No. 10 (East division)
Average strength of schedule rank:
28.9
New Year's Six teams: 1
Playoff teams: 1

It's shocking to see the SEC, long considered the best conference in college football, plunge to No. 4, but there's a simple reason for it. Alabama was unquestionably the best team in college football, but the rest of the conference simply didn't match up. The SEC East was particularly bad and ranked the 10th-best division, lowest among any Power Five division. The West division was strong and the schedules were tough, but the conference was really dragged down by that East division.

5. Big 12

F/+ Top 25 teams: 1 (10 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: No. 8 (conference)
Average strength of schedule rank:
69.6
New Year's Six teams: 1
Playoff teams: 0

The Big 12 was the weakest Power Five conference. It had one top-tier team (Oklahoma), two decent teams (Oklahoma State and West Virginia) and a handful of average to below average teams. Having only 10 members hurts the Big 12's chances to have multiple elite teams, but there have been recent years in which the conference was able to flex its depth. This was not one of them.

6. AAC

F/+ Top 25 teams: 2 (16.7 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: No. 9 (West division), No. 12 (East division)
Average strength of schedule rank:
75.4
New Year's Six teams: 0
Playoff teams: 0

There wasn't much separation between the Big 12 and the AAC. The top of the American, in fact, was a bit stronger. However, the strength of schedule was lower -- albeit only slightly -- and power programs like Houston and Navy weren't able to crack the New Year's Six spot. Otherwise, these spots probably would have been flipped.

7. Mountain West

F/+ Top 25 teams: 1 (8.3 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: No. 11 (Mountain division), No. 18 (West division)
Average strength of schedule rank:
93.6
New Year's Six teams: 0
Playoff teams: 0

This is where the statistical drop-off happens. The Mountain West didn't have a New Year's Six and its most well-known program, Boise State, didn't even win its division. However, half of the conference did have winning records -- five in the Mountain division alone -- and two 10-win teams. The overall depth was the tiebreaker here over the MAC.

8. MAC

F/+ Top 25 teams: 1 (8.3 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: No. 14 (West division), No. 20 (East division)
Average strength of schedule rank:
86.6
New Year's Six teams: 1
Playoff teams: 0

There wasn't much to distinguish between the MAC and the Mountain West. Both conferences had a bell cow team, but neither had particularly strong divisions -- both, in fact, had an especially weak one -- or strength of schedule ratings. The MAC did have undefeated Western Michigan, but the rest of the conference was weak.

9. Conference USA

F/+ Top 25 teams: 1 (7.7 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: No. 17 (East division), No. 19 (West division)
Average strength of schedule rank:
107.2
New Year's Six teams: 0
Playoff teams: 0

Similar to the MAC and Mountain West, Conference USA had a top-25 caliber team in Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers actually played a fairly tough schedule, too, and still won 10 games. Outside of that, there isn't much. The likes of Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech gave the conference some good teams at the top, but the gap between them and the rest of the group was sizable.

10. Sun Belt

F/+ Top 25 teams: 0 (0 percent)
Sagarin divisional ranks: 16 (conference)
Average strength of schedule rank:
94
New Year's Six teams: 0
Playoff teams: 0

Someone has to bring up the rear. The Sun Belt had some good teams (Appalachian State, Troy) and some terrible ones (New Mexico State, Texas State) with some bad strength of schedules to boot. The lack of a Western Kentucky-caliber team hurt the Sun Belt here.