Power Five: Top 25
1. Alabama (SEC) 13-1: Alabama pulled an Ohio State this year, didn’t win the SEC or the even the West Division, but Bama did win the College Football Play-off, exactly what the Bucks did in 2014! The Tide rolled over Clemson, 24-6 (Sugar Bowl) and survived Georgia, in OT, 26-20 (Mercedes-Benz Stadium; Atlanta, Georgia)! A late loss to Auburn put their chances for a bid to the CFP at risk, but Georgia’s win over the Tigers and Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin, opened the flood gates and the the Tide came roaring up-top of New Orleans, Louisiana and rolled right through Atlanta, Georgia!
2. Georgia (SEC) 13-2: Georgia won the SEC West Division, then beat Auburn, 28-7, in the SEC Championship Game, Auburn had beaten Dawgs, 40-16 in the regular season. Georgia then took on and beat the B-12 Champs, Oklahoma, in the semi final, in 2 OTs, 54-48! This set the stage for an all SEC final, Georgia had their way with Bama in the 1st half, leading 13-0 and seemed on their way to magical season! Saban changed QB’s and the Georgia defense struggled to adjusted, as did the offense in the 2nd half, Alabama 26 Georgia 23!
3. Oklahoma (B-12) 12-2: Beat TCU (11-3) in the modified B-12 Championship Game, 41-17 and then fell to Georgia (13-2) in the CFP Semi, 54-48 in 2 OTs! It should be noted, the Sooners beat a 12-2 Ohio State, a 10-3 Oklahoma State, and an 11-3 TCU, twice!
4. Clemson (ACC) 12-2: Won the ACC by hammering #8 Miami (10-3) in the ACC Championship Game, 38-3 and then fell to #1 Alabama in the three-peat, 24-6, in the CFP semi-final! During the regular season, the Tigers beat #9 Auburn (10-4), 14-6, #19 South Carolina, 34-10, #22 Wake Forest, 28-14, #21 Virginia Tech, 31-17, & #23 NC State, 38-31!
5. Ohio State (B-10) 12-2: Won the B-10 by stopping an undefeated Wisconsin, 27-21, but could not overcome their 55-24 schalacking by Iowa. Beat USC, PAC 12 Champs, in one of the New Year’s 6 Bowl Game (Cotton), 24-7!
6. Wisconsin (B-10) 13-1: Won the B-10 West Division and posted a school record 13 wins. The Badgers lost the B-10 Championship Game to OSU, 27-21, but got back to their winning ways, beating the ACC runner-up, Miami, in the Orange Bowl, 34-24
7. Penn State (B-10) 11-2: Lost the B-10 East showdown to Ohio State, 39-38, @ the Horse Shoe, but played well after that disappointment, winning 4 straight, including the Fiesta Bowl, beating Washington, 35-28, in their 2017 finale!
8. Miami (ACC) 10-3: Mark Richt has the swagger back in Miami! For the first time since jointing the ACC, the Canes won the Coastal Division and played for the league championship. That said, after going 10-0, Miami ended the season with 3 straight losses! They will need to right the ship immediately in 2018, as the Hurricanes open up with LSU
9. Auburn (SEC) 10-4: Auburn had a true rollercoaster ride in 2017. They beat both teams that played in the CFP final; Georgia, 40-14 & Alabama, 26-14. Yet, ended the season with 2 straight losses, Georgia, in the SEC Championship, 28-7 and UCF, in the Peach Bowl, 34-27! All this amid rumors that Gus Malzahn was first, going to be fired and then, after beating Georgia & Bama was leaving for his home state, Arkansas, to replace the fired Bielema! Well, he’s back and Auburn had a really entertaining year in 2017!
10. USC (P-12) 11-3: The Trojans lost three games in 2017, all for different reasons; 1) Injuries to the Offensive Line vs Washington State, 20-17, 2) no shows; not sure who they sent to South Bend, but it certainly did not look like any SC team I have watched over the years, 49-14 and 3) Ohio State, who is/was simply better than USC, 24-7!
11 Notre Dame (IND) 10-3: ND had a good season in 2017, they played well against Georgia, a CFP finalist, 20-19 loss @ home. The Irish played lights out good vs SC, a 49-14 blasting of the Trojans. But, as in 2015, could not close the deal in 17′, they looked intimidated vs Miami, a 41-8 stomping by the Canes and got beat up … again, by a less talented/more physical Stanford Team, 38-20. The Irish did bounce back and beat LSU in the Citrus Bowl, 21-17! The Tigers had won 6 of their last 7, their only loss was, a competitive one, to Alabama, 24-10!
12. TCU (B-12) 11-3: The Frogs need to find a way to get Oklahoma off their schedule, as 2 of TCU’s 3 losses were to Oklahoma, 38-20 & 41-17 in the B-12 Championship Game! Nine of TCU’s eleven wins were by double digits, only their 7 point win over West Virginia, 31-24 and their bowl win over Stanford, 39-37 were in doubt late into the 4th quarter. TCU had another outstanding year under Gary Patterson’s leadership!
13. Oklahoma State (B-12) 10-3: Mike Gundy continues to impress! His Teams from 2009 through 2012, won 40 games in 4 years. From 2013 through 2017, they won 10 games in 4 of the 5 seasons, the only year they failed to win double digits was in 2014, yet, OSU still posted a winning record at 7-6. Gundy’s overall record @ Oklahoma State is 104-50, a winning percentage of 68, and he ranks 24th of the 130 current college coaches in winning percentage at their respective schools!
14. Mississippi State (SEC) 9-4: Danny Mullen is gone to Florida, this is a big problem for the Bulldogs. Mullen was 70-46 @ MSU, a winning percentage of 60% compared to the school’s overall winning percentage of 49! MIssissippi State’s wins over LSU, 37-7, Texas A&M, 35-14, Kentucky, 45-7, and even their 7 point loss to Alabama, 31-24 are all reflective of the coaching leadership Mullen provided in Starkville. Enter Joe Morehead, Joe has big shoes to fill, to say the least!
15. Washington (P-12) 10-3: Chris Peterson has it going in Seattle. The Huskies have won 22 games the past 2 years and made the CFP in 2016! This past year an upset loss to Arizona State, 13-7 and 30-22 loss to a physical Stanford were what kept them from returning to the play-offs in 2017! They played well vs a very good Penn State team in their bowl game, losing 35-28. The Huskies open the 2018 season against Auburn, @ Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, let the fun begin!
16. LSU (SEC) 9-4: The Tigers had another typical year, best described as, LSU fans have no idea who will show up on any given Saturday. The Louisianans are a top 4 recruiting program over the past 5 years, so why not better play on the field?. That said, from up north, it appears that coaching decisions and QB play has been the primary culprits for the inconsistency! A blowout loss to Mississippi State, 37-7 and a head scratching loss to Troy, 24-21, and @ home? Couple that with wins over Auburn, 27-23, Texas A&M, 42-27 (A&M has not beaten LSU since joining the SEC, 7 straight losses) & Ole Miss, 40-24 and the confusions grows! LSU needs to address these 2 issues and need to do so quickly, as Georgia (already), Texas A&M (Jimbo Fischer) and Florida (Danny Mullen) will hurt LSU recruiting!
17. Northwestern (B-10) 10-3: Pat Fitzgerald is one of the beat kept secrets in all of college football. Early season losses to Duke, 41-17, Wisconsin, 33-24, & Penn State, 31-7, left the Cats @ 2-3. They would not lose again in 2017! Consecutive wins over Iowa, 17-10, in OT, Michigan State, 39-31 in 3OTs, and Nebraska, 31-24 in OT was a 1st in NCAA history. These 3 OT wins were the spring board that the Wildcats used to close out their season with 8 straight wins!
18. Michigan State (B-10) 10-3: Mark Dantonio is arguably the best coach in the B-10, given their talent level compared to three other teams in the East Division. The Spartan faithful were angry about a 3-9 season in 2016, the fact is that season is no more of an anomaly then what Dantonio does year in and year out! Last year’s win over PSU, 27-24, was Dantonio at his best as MSU held the Lions to 65 yards rushing, forced 3 turnovers, and held them to 4 of 12 on 3rd down conversions!.
19. South Carolina (SEC) 9-4: Will Muschamp is doing really good work at the other, USC! He is putting the fight back in the Gamecocks. The changes at Georgia (Kirby Smart), @ Florida (Danny Mullen) and what Muschamp is doing at SC are quickly reestablishing the SEC East back to a level that is no longer miles below the SEC West. USC season opening win over NC State, 35-28 and its comeback win over Michigan in their bowl game are indicators of a slow but steady rise in SC’s play!
20. Stanford (P-12) 9-5: David Shaw is one of the most underrated and overlooked coaches in the in the entire country. He operates in an academic environment that ties one hand behind his back and yet expects him to recruit/compete with teams in the P-12 that have no such restrictions. This year they beat Washington (10-3), 30-22 & Notre Dame (10-3) 38-20 and had to close losses to USC (11-3) 31-28 & TCU (11-3) 39-37
21. Virginia Tech (ACC) 9-4: Justin Fuente has won 19 games at Virginia Tech in his first two seasons following the legend, Frank Beamer (238-121-2). Three of their four losses were to Clemson (12-2), 31-17, Miami, (10-3), 28-10, & Oklahoma State (10-3), 30-21 in their bowl game. Their only loss that was suspect was to Georgia Tech (5-6) 28-22.
22. Wake Forest (ACC) 8-5: Wake’s HC, Dave Clawson and NC State’s Dave Doeren are both out of the MAC, Clawson from Bowling Green, where he won 18 games his last two years in the Mid-American. He replaced Jim Grobe (73-74), who was/is regarded as one of the ACC best coaches, performing at a high level in an extremely difficult situation @ Wake. Clawson went 3-9 in his first 2 years and then, in the past two years has won 16 games and in doing so has beaten, Louisville, 42-32, NC State, 30-24 & Texas A&M, 55-52!
23. NC State (ACC) 9-4: Dave Doeren has dome a terrific job for the Wolfpack since leaving the Huskies of Northern Illinois after the 2012 season! In 2017 wins over FSU, 21-17 (an early season game when FSU was still making an effort), Louisville, 39-25 (2 words that make it impressive; Lamar & Jackson) and a bowl statement win over Arizona State, 52-31! The Pack also battled Clemson down to the wire before falling 38-31! North Carolina has some of the best high school football talent in the country & NC State is starting to attract some of that high level talent!
24. Washington State (P-12) 9-4: Mike Leach has done really great work @ Washington State. The previous coach, Paul Wulff was 9-40, an 18% winning percentage! Leach had to rebuild, he experience two 3-9 seasons early in that process, and at one point, was 12-25 @ WSU! In the past three years, the Cougars have gone 26-13 and Leach’s is now 38-38 in Pullman! Two of their 4 losses, in 2017, came in the final 2 games, one Washington, 41-14 (had they won the would have won the North Division) and to Michigan State 41-17! It should be noted the Cougars played the Spartans without QB, Luke Falk (DNP) and were without best defender, Hercules Mata’afa, in the 1st half. WSU was the only P-12 team to beat USC, 30-27, in 2017!
25. Iowa (B-10) 8-5: In 2015, Iowa went 12-0 in the regular season and then lost the B-10 Championship to Michigan State, 16-13 (The Drive by the Spartans) and then did not show up for their bowl Game, losing to Stanford, 45-16! Hawk fans and others like to say, what’s happened to the Hawks? The answer is nothing! In 2012, the Hawks won 7 of their 12 wins by single digits! In the past 2 seasons, Iowa has lost 10 games, 7 of the losses were by single digits. In other words, they won close games in 2015 and lost them in 2016 & 2017. Do the math, add those 7 losses to the 16 wins they had in 2016 & 17 and you get 23 wins, now / by 2 and you are at 11.5 wins or 11 and or 12 wins in each of those seasons. Iowa is good not great and the win discrepancy between 2015 and 16 & 17 is deceptive!
25. Michigan (B-10) 8-5: Harbaugh has a growing list of critics, as they like to say, “8-5 won’t ‘cut it’ @ Michigan”! That said, the reality is/was that Michigan’s most talented (not best, but most talented) players, a year ago, were freshman, redshirt freshman, or sophomores and as the season progressed, they wore down. They played three QBs, none of whom were at the level of the talent around them and yet won 8 of their first 10 games. True, they lost their last three outings, but to whom? Let’s take a peek, a 13-1 Wisconsin, 24-10, a 12-2 Ohio State, 31-20, and then could not hold a 19-3 halftime lead against South Carolina, as they turned the ball over 5 times and were out scored 23 -0 in the second half! If Shea Patterson, a QB transfer from Ole Miss to Michigan, is declared eligible, then that opening Michigan game at ND is going to become one of, if not, the game on opening weekend!
Group of Five: Top 15
1. Central Florida (AAC) 13-0: Won the American Athletic Conference, East Division, then beat Memphis, 62-55, in 2 OT to win the AAC Championship, beat 1 P5, Maryland, (B-10), 38-10, and then beat Auburn (SEC), 34-27 in a New Years 6 Bowl
2. South Florida (AAC) 10-2: Finished 2nd in the American East Division to UCF, losing to the Knights, 49-42, in a wild game. Beat 1 P5 in the regular season, Illinois (B-10), 47-23, and another, Texas Tech, in their Bowl Game, 38-34!
3. Boise State (MWC) 11-3: Won the Mountain West Conference, Mountain Division, then beat Fresno State in the MWC Championship Game, 14-7, to win the Conference. Boise played 4 P5’s, losing to Washington State (P-12), 47-44 in 3 OTs and Virginia (ACC), 42-23, while beating BYU (IND), 24-7 (so classified on SCFP) and Oregon (P-12), in their bowl Game, 38-28!
4. Troy (AAC) 11-2: Tied Appalachian State for the Sun Belt Championship, this conference does not have divisions and Appalachian State and Troy did not play in 2017! Troy beat LSU (SEC), 24-21 in the regular season, and won their Bowl Game vs North Texas, 50-30!
5. Florida Atlantic (C-USA) 11-3: Lane forever baby! Kiffin has gone from problem child to rock star in a few short years. FAU, lost 3 of its first 4 games and then ripped off 10 straight wins. In doing do, won the East Division of Conference USA and then hammered North Texas in C-USA Championship, 41-17! FAU annihalated Akron, 50-3, in their bowl game!
6. Fresno State (MWC) 10-4: Tim DeRuyter is gome and Jeff Tedford (former Cal coach) has brought back the old, Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere, spirit of Pat Hill. Fresno State won the West Division of the MWC and while losing the Championship Game to Boise State, 17-14, actually beat Boise the week before @ home, 28-17! Fresno then beat Houston, 33-27 in the Bowl Game!
7. Memphis (AAC) 10-3: Won the West Division of the American and then lost the AAC Championship Game to UCF, in 2 OT’s, 62-55! Played 2 P5’s opponents, beat UCLA (P-12) in the regular season, 48-45 and lost to Iowa State (ACC) in their bowl game, 21-20 (Matty Campbell, ISU head coach, another former MAC coach, this one from Toledo, beat Oklahoma, 38-31 & TCU 14-7 in 2017)
8. San Diego State (MWC) 10-3: My early pick to represent the G5’s in the New Year’s 6 Bowl games! The Aztecs beat Arizona State (P-12), 30-20 & Stanford (P-12), 20-17 in back to back weeks in September. Then lost, in back to back weeks, 2 conference games that sealed their MWC fate, Boise, 31-14 & Fresno, 27-3, both of these games were in San Diego! SDSU was then upset by Army in their bowl outing, 42-35!
9. Appalachian State (SBC) 9-4: Tied Troy at 7-1 for the SBC Championship (Teams did not play inn 2017), lost their 2 P5 encounters to Georgia (SEC), 31-10 & Wake Forest (ACC) 20-19! The Mountaineers saved their best for last, hammering MAC champion, Toledo, 34-0, in their Bowl Game!
10. Ohio (MAC) 9-4: I believe Frank Solich had the best team in the MAC in 2017, 2 late losses to Akron, 37-34 & Buffalo, 31-24 cost them a 12 win season. They should have won those road games, won the East Division and played for the MAC Championship against Toledo, a team they had beaten, 38-10 in the regular season. The Bobcats split their P5 games, losing to Purdue (B-10), 44-21 & beat Kansas,(B-12) 42-30. Ohio won their bowl game, beating UAB, 41-6!
11. Toledo (MAC) 11-3: The Rockets won the West Division of the MAC and then, beat Terry Bowden’s Akron, in the MAC Championship Game, 45-28! They lost their one P5 game to Miami (FL), 52-30 and were embarrassed in their Bowl Game by Appalachian State, 34-0
12. Army (IND) 9-4: Army’s Coach, Jeff Monken, is from my home town, Joliet (IL) and I am proud to say; he has, in 3 years, given direction to a program that has been lost for more then a decade! In year 3, army had a winning record, made & won a bowl game, and most important, beat Navy, 21-17!!! This year, they beat Navy, again, 14-13 and split their 2 P5 games losing to Ohio State, 38-7, while beating Duke, 21-16! The Cadets also won their 2nd bowl game in a row, shocking, a very good San Diego State team, 42-35!
13. North Texas (C-USA) 9-5: Won the West Division of C-USA and then lost to FAU in the Championship Game, 41-17!, The Mean Green lost their one P5 game to Iowa (B-10), 31-14 and then fell to Troy in their Bowl Game, 50-30!
14. Wyoming (AAC) 8-5: Finished 5-3 in MWC play, losing to Boise State, 24-14 & Fresno State, 13-7. The Cowboy’s QB, Josh Allen, struggled with injuries much of the season, which may explain the season ending loss to San Jose, 20-17. Allen showed up big in their bowl game, leading the Cowboys past Central Michigan, 37-14!
15. Houston (MAC) 7-6: A really talented team in the American, who, I believe, underachieved in the 2017 season. The Cougars finished 2nd in the West Division @ 5-3 behind Memphis, who won it, @ 7-1. Houston played 2 P5 opponents, they beat Arizona (p-12), 19-16 and lost to Texas Tech (B-12), 27-24! It should be noted that the Cougars beat South Florida (10-2 Record), 28-24, and did so @ South Florida, and then inexplicability, lost 2 conference games to Tulsa (2-10 record), 45-17 & Tulane (5-7 record) 20-17! This should not have happened! Houston played well in their bowl game, yet lost to Fresno State, 33-27!
FCS: Top 10
1. N. Dakota St. (MVFC) 14-1: Won the Missouri Valley Football Conference @ 7-1, did not play an FBS opponent, and won the FCS Tourney, by beating, James Madison in the final, 17-13! (Also beat San Diego, 38-3, Wofford, 42-10, & Sam Houston, 55-13 in that Play-offs)!
2. James Madison (CAA) 14-1: Won the Colonial Athletic Association @ 9-0, Played and beat 1 FBS opponent, East Carolina, 34-14, lost in the FCS final to ND State, 17-13 (in the FCS Tourney beat Stony Brook, 26-7, Weber State, 31-28, & SD State, 51-16)!
3. South Dakota State (MVFC) 11-3: Finished 2nd in the Missouri Valley Football Conference @ 6-2, although they did beat ND State, 33-21, did not play a FBS opponents, lost in the semi finals to James Madison, 51-16.
4. Sam Houston State (SLC) 12-2: Finished 2nd in the Southland Conference @ 8-1, Did not play an FBS opponent, lost in the FCS semi finals to ND State, 55-13
5. North Carolina A&T (MEAC) 12-0: Won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference @ 8-0, The MEAC voted to play in the Celebration Bowl (6 year deal with ESPN) in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome vs the SWAC Champ, televised by ESPN, as opposed to playing in the FCS Tourney. Played 1 FBS opponent, beat UNC Charlotte, 35-31, won the Celebration Bowl, 21-14, over Grambling.
6. Kennesaw State 12-2 (BSC): Won the Big South Conference @ 5-0, did not play an FBS opponent, lost in the FCS tourney’s 3rd round, to Sam Houston, 34-27
7. Jacksonville State (OVC) 10-2: Won the Ohio Valley @ 8-0, lost to P5, Georgia Tech, 37-10, lost in the 2nd round of the FCS Tourney to Kennesaw State, 17-7
8. Stony Brook (CAA) 10-3: Tied for second in the Colonial Athletic Association @ 6-2, played and lost to 1 FBS opponent, South Florida, 31-17, lost in the FCS Tourney’s 2nd round to James Madison, 26-7
9. Weber State (MVFC) 11-3: Tied for the Big Sky @ 7-1, Played 1 FBS team, California and lost, 33-20, made the FCS Tourney, lost in the 3rd round to James Madison, 31-28!
10. New Hampshire (CAA) 9-5: Tied for 4th place in the CAA @ 5-3, played 1 FBS opponent, beat Georgia Southern, 22-12, made the FCS tourney, lost in the 3rd round to SD State, 56-14.
11. San Diego (Pioneer) 10-3: Won the Pioneer Conference @ 8-0, did not play an FBS opponent, lost in the 2nd round of the FCS Tourney to, ND State, 38-3
12. Wofford (SoCon) 10-3: Won the SoCon at 8-1, played one FBS opponent, South Carolina, lost 31-10; made the FCS Tourney, lost in the 3rd round to ND State, 42-10
13. Central Arkansas (SLC) 10-2: Won the Southland Conference @ 9-0; played 1 FBS opponent, Kansas State, lost 55-10, made 2nd Round of the FCS Tourney, lost to New Hampshire, 21-15
14. Yale (IVY) 9-1: Won the IVY League out-right for the first time since 1980, with a 6-1 record. Yale did not play a FBS opponent in the 2017 season. Finally, it should be noted, the Ivy League does not participate in the FCS Tourney, due to academic considerations!
15. Grambling State (SWAC) 11-2: Grambling won the Southwestern Athletic Conference @ 9-0, played 1 FBS opponent, Tulane, lost 43-14. The SWAC does not participate in the FCS Tourney, but, as mentioned, does play the MEAC Champ in the Celebration Bowl, where Grambling lost to North Carolina A&T, 21-14.