Inside the debate over the best Power-5 conference in college football is the balance that leagues seem to lack in their divisions. Most have one division that dominates in any given period and it can change from time to time.
With that in mind here are my rankings of the Power-5 divisions.
9-BIG TEN WEST: What a disappointing division. There are quality programs that have had their moments but overall this group is not close to it’s counterpart in the East. Wisconsin and Iowa have been the two most consistent, but their best has not been playoff-caliber to this point. Nebraska has not been Nebraska – and that’s been the biggest drag. If the Huskers ever get title worthy again and it will re-shape this bunch. While Minnesota and Northwestern have improved, Purdue is nowhere near being good and Illinois remains an unmitigated mess. Legends & Leaders anyone?
8-PAC 12 SOUTH: There is something missing here. If USC lives up to the hype and runs to the Playoff it will go a long way to helping this group gain respect. When the fairly new newcomers Utah and Colorado can make more noise than SC and UCLA then you have an issue. Add that something is amiss with both Arizona and Arizona State being unable to get it together. There is potential for a great division here. But just that, potential.
7-BIG 12: If Texas can make a big jump back into the national picture, if Oklahoma can continue to contend without Bob Stoops, if Oklahoma State can truly breakthrough, if TCU can stop slipping from its lofty highs, if Baylor can avoid going into the tank, if Texas Tech could play any defense, if Kansas State has something left for Bill Snyder, if Iowa State could just be solid, if Kansas could stop sucking, AND if West Virginia could be the surprise playoff contender of this season… then, maybe, this league would be higher. If it is even still together in two years.
6-ACC COASTAL: Actually this division is more balanced that its league counterpart, but the Coastal lacks a breakthrough club. Miami needs to become a true threat to win the league and live up to the hype when it joined the league. Virginia Tech has been the most consistent program, but unable to crack back into the title race. There are solid programs in UNC, Pitt and Georgia Tech and if Virginia can ever find its way back things will be better. This group needs to start rising to the challenge.
5-SEC EAST: It’s possible this division is better than it seems, but there is no denying it has grossly underachieved of late. It will continue if traditional powers like Florida, Georgia and Tennessee play just good enough to be above average. South Carolina is finally showings signs of life and Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt have actually had better moments than some of the “bigger” teams here. Show me when a club here make the Playoff.
4-PAC 12 NORTH: Washington’s back. The Huskies (not Oregon) are the traditional power of the Northwest. Oregon looks like it might be getting its footing back. Stanford is solid year in/year out. Washington State is having a nice run right now. But Cal and Oregon State are still lacking. It was a positive to see this group get to the Playoff, and it might again this season.
3-ACC ATLANTIC: This is the home of the defending national champion and a pair of powerhouses that have dominated the division (Clemson, FSU). Louisville has upped its game, but a poor finish last season lingers. NC State and Wake Forest have proven to be consistently better than expected. BC and Syracuse have moments, but little more.
2-SEC WEST: Alabama alone carries this division. Four titles in the last eight seasons, the Tide have been the dominant force in the game. It is five deep in quality clubs (Auburn, LSU most notably) but this time has a couple of clubs who’s trend line continues downward (Texas A&M, Ole Miss). It’s also hard to gauge Arkansas and Mississippi State. This division could end up the best, but it is going to have to prove it. It will get that shot early in games versus FSU, Clemson, UCLA and BYU.
1-BIG TEN EAST: Yes it is not as deep as the SEC West but again this season it has three legit threats to make the College Football Playoff. No division offers three potential national champions except this one. Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan could all wind up celebrating a crown in Atlanta. The middle of the division is OK (Maryland and Indiana are bowl caliber) with Michigan State searching for answers. Yes, Rutgers is a drag, but not enough of one that keeps the top of the division from making it the one to beat.