There were intriguing matchups galore on the Week 3 college football slate, and the results gave us more clarity when it comes to the nation’s best conference.
That, of course, is the Big Ten, but the rest of the rankings aren’t as clear, although we gave it our best shot below.
1. Big Ten
If you guessed before the season which conference would have four teams ranked in the top 11 almost one month in, you probably would have guessed the SEC — it’s OK, because we would have, too. Instead, the Big Ten has dominated the 2016 season so far, as evidenced by No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Michigan, No. 8 Michigan State and No. 11 Wisconsin all being in the top 11. Yes, Iowa had an embarrassing home loss to FCS North Dakota State, but the SEC has endured plenty of bad defeats, too. But Nebraska appears to be picking up the slack in the Big Ten West after a thrilling win over Oregon.
The SEC still has the country’s best team in Alabama, which finally found a way to beat Ole Miss on Saturday, and it has eight teams ranked in the Top 25. But until more of those other seven ranked teams start proving they are serious College Football Playoff contenders, the SEC will remain below the Big Ten in these rankings.
It’s tough to weigh which conference is better between the ACC and Pac-12. The ACC’s strength is it’s top heavy with multiple College Football Playoff contenders, while the Pac-12 has more balance from top to bottom. But this week we’ll go with the top-heavy conference at No. 3. The country’s best player might be Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, as he led the Cardinals to a rout of Florida State. The No. 3 Cardinals and No. 5 Clemson Tigers are title contenders, and the No. 13 Seminoles still have plenty of time to rebound and earn one of the four playoff slots. And you’d better watch out for those No. 15 Miami Hurricanes in the ACC Coastal.
The Pac-12 doesn’t have the likes of Boston College, Syracuse and Virginia weighing it down, but some of the teams expected to be in the Top 25 — Oregon, USC and UCLA — haven’t exactly impressed so far. The good news for the conference, though, is both No. 7 Stanford and No. 9 Washington look like real title threats.
5. Big 12
So, we really want to put one or even two Group of Five conferences ahead of the disastrous Big 12, but we’re not quite ready to pull the trigger. Texas appeared to be the Big 12’s best hope, but it lost on the road to California. No. 16 Baylor is the conference’s highest-ranked team, and Oklahoma is fading fast after two non-conference losses. But TCU, Oklahoma State and West Virginia still could make some noise.
6. American Athletic
No. 6 Houston still is the highest-ranked Group of Five team, so the American is safe in this spot for now. But…
7. Mountain West
… The Mountain West isn’t far behind. If the Cougars falter along the way, No. 22 San Diego State is ready to take over the Group of Five spot.
#MACtion took another victim when Western Michigan beat Illinois, and Ohio nearly had another upset against Tennessee.
9t. Sun Belt and Conference USA
Not much to see here — again.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images