College football conference power rankings ESPN logo
Monday, December 14, 2020

Each week, our writers rank the top college football teams in the Power 5 conferences and the Group of 5.

Check out each league below to see where things stand heading into conference championship week.

Jump to a conference:

ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | Non-Power 5


The ACC gave its top two teams, Clemson and Notre Dame, the week off to rest up for its title game, but the rest of the league got a clear look at who deserves the No. 3 spot.

North Carolina hadn't beaten a top-10 opponent since Sam Howell was 4 years old, and its season included some head-scratching losses against Florida State and Virginia. Still, when the Tar Heels are clicking, they look as good as anyone. And Saturday, they were clicking.

UNC's tailback combo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter set an FBS record with 544 yards and five TDs on the ground, embarrassing the Miami defense. Howell scored with a passing TD, a rushing TD and a receiving TD. Dyami Brown had 167 yards receiving, as well, even if it was little more than an afterthought.

It's worth wondering what might have been for the Tar Heels if they had shown a bit more consistency this season. They had a chance to beat FSU and Virginia on their final drives but already dug too deep a hole. They played tough against Notre Dame in the first half but fizzled down the stretch. If Saturday proved anything, it's that the hype for the Tar Heels was justified, if a bit premature. Next year, when the Irish are celebrating their independence once again and Trevor Lawrence is off to the NFL, there will be a lot of prognosticators wondering if someone else is finally ready to challenge for the conference's top spot. -- David Hale

1. Notre Dame

2. Clemson

3. North Carolina

4. Miami

5. NC State

6. Pitt

7. Boston College

8. Wake Forest

9. Virginia Tech

10. Virginia

11. Louisville

12. Georgia Tech

13. Florida State

14. Duke

15. Syracuse

Big 12

What was supposed to be a busy final regular-season weekend in the Big 12 quieted significantly after the Oklahoma-West Virginia and Texas-Kansas games went by the wayside because of COVID-19.

With only two games left on the schedule, Oklahoma State dominated a severely undermanned Baylor team, while TCU blew past Louisiana Tech. The Horned Frogs quietly had a strong finish to the season, winning five of their last six games.

All that's left is the Big 12 championship game: Iowa State versus Oklahoma on Dec. 19 at JerryWorld. -- Sam Khan

1. Iowa State

2. Oklahoma

3. Texas

4. Oklahoma State

5. West Virginia

6. TCU

7. Kansas State

8. Texas Tech

9. Baylor

10. Kansas

Big Ten

Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana and Purdue did not play because of coronavirus issues, but the Buckeyes will still be playing in the Big Ten title game after the conference changed its requirements for number of games played to qualify. It makes sense given the weird season -- the Buckeyes clinching a spot whether they would have won or lost and, well, they're clearly the best team in the conference.

Northwestern and Iowa remain at the No. 3 and 4 spots with victories against Illinois and Wisconsin, respectively. Iowa has looked like the best team in the Big Ten West in recent weeks, but Northwestern keeps its edge with its head-to-head win. Penn State makes the most notable move to No. 6 with a victory against Michigan State (its third in a row), sitting just below Minnesota, which beat Nebraska on the road despite having a depleted roster. -- Harry Lyles Jr.

1. Ohio State

2. Indiana

3. Northwestern

4. Iowa

5. Minnesota

6. Penn State

7. Wisconsin

8. Michigan State

9. Michigan

10. Rutgers

11. Maryland

12. Nebraska

13. Purdue

14. Illinois


There are only two spots that aren't up for debate: undefeated USC at No. 1 and winless Arizona at No. 12. Even in a regular season that spanned all of six weeks, the parity that has plagued the conference (though some say it makes it more interesting) in recent years emerged once again. The Trojans will host Washington in the title game Friday, unless, of course, the Huskies can't play, in which case they'll be replaced by Oregon. Colorado would replace USC if the Trojans are unable to go. -- Kyle Bonagura

1. USC

2. Washington

3. Colorado

4. Oregon


6. Utah

7. Stanford

8. Arizona State

9. Washington State

10. Oregon State

11. California

12. Arizona


For a long time, I thought Florida deserved to be ranked higher than Texas A&M, but I should have known better. Somehow, despite the Aggies winning the head-to-head matchup -- at home and only by a field goal -- I believed the Gators were the better team.

They had the Heisman Trophy front-runner at quarterback in Kyle Trask, a quality offensive line, weapons at receiver, and perhaps the most talented player in college football in tight end Kyle Pitts.

Surely, I thought, at some point the defense would come around, similar to how LSU did a season ago.

But it all came crumbling down Saturday. These LSU Tigers, the sub-.500 mess that they are, were able to score 37 points and beat Florida without two of their stars (receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. and tight end Arik Gilbert both opted out). Freshman Max Johnson was also able to carve up the Florida secondary at quarterback. We don't even need to talk about the shoe-throwing incident; this was a flawed team before Marco Wilson's lapse in judgment.

So, it's time to give Texas A&M the respect it probably deserved all along. While the offense isn't flashy as a whole, it has a nasty offensive line and runs the ball well, and Kellen Mond makes just enough plays at quarterback. And the defense is, for the most part, competent. Texas A&M is a complete team and Florida most certainly is not. -- Alex Scarborough

1. Alabama

2. Texas A&M

3. Florida

4. Georgia

5. Auburn

6. Missouri

7. Ole Miss

8. LSU

9. Kentucky

10. Arkansas

11. Tennessee

12. Mississippi State

13. South Carolina

14. Vanderbilt

Group of 5/Independents

It has been a mostly quiet week in the Group of 5 power rankings. Cincinnati stays in the No. 1 spot despite not playing Tulsa this week because of coronavirus issues. Coastal Carolina remains at No. 2 after a close victory against Troy to close out a perfect regular season. BYU recovered from last week's loss against the Chanticleers with a 28-14 victory over San Diego State.

This week's newcomer is San Jose State, which moved to 6-0 with a win over Nevada on Friday. The Spartans jump Buffalo (which had an easy 56-7 win versus a bad Akron team), Marshall, Liberty and App State to land at No. 7. -- Harry Lyles Jr.

1. Cincinnati

2. Coastal Carolina

3. Louisiana

4. BYU

5. Boise State

6. Tulsa

7. San Jose State

8. Liberty

9. Appalachian State

10. Buffalo

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