The SEC ranks No. 1 in the conference power rankings for 2020
College football's conference power rankings once again feature the SEC at No. 1 and the Big Ten at No. 2. The 2020 season isn't likely to feature many changes in the next tier of conference power rankings, as Clemson bolsters the ACC to the No. 3 spot, followed by the Big 12 at No. 4 and the Pac-12 at No. 5. The American Athletic Conference checks in at No. 6 and once again ranks as the top Group of 5 league for 2020. The Mountain West isn't far behind at No. 7, with Conference USA, the Sun Belt and MAC rounding out the final tier.
How do the 10 conferences stack up for 2020? Athlon Sports ranks all 10 leagues from best to worst.
College Football 2020 Conference Power Rankings
The SEC, which has sent at least one team to the College Football Playoff every season, remains the top conference in the nation. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise — nor should the fact that Alabama is the pick to win the West. There is a bit more intrigue in the East, where surging Florida is poised to unseat Georgia and win its first division title since 2016. Dan Mullen has engineered a quick turnaround in Gainesville; this is the year the Gators could make the move from good to great. Retooled LSU and still-building Texas A&M figure to battle for second place in the West, but never count out the schizophrenic Auburn Tigers.
Related: SEC Predictions for 2020
2. Big Ten
Ohio State didn’t miss a beat in the transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day, and the Buckeyes should once again be the best team in the Big Ten. But don’t count out Penn State, which has stockpiled top-flight recruiting classes and has a roster that’s good enough to compete with Ohio State. Michigan will be a factor as well, though the Wolverines have to improve at quarterback. P.J. Fleck and Minnesota have elbowed their way into the top tier of the West Division and appear to have staying power. Wisconsin and Iowa, as usual, will also contend.
Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2020
It’s a similar story in the ACC, where Clemson is the overwhelming favorite to win the Atlantic Division, while the Coastal is up for grabs. North Carolina, which is recruiting like crazy, is our pick to win the Coastal in Mack Brown’s second season in his second stint at UNC. Virginia Tech, Miami and Virginia will also be in the mix. Scott Satterfield did a great job in his first season at Louisville and should have the Cardinals battling Florida State — under first-year coach Mike Norvell — for second place behind Clemson in the Atlantic.
Related: ACC Predictions for 2020
4. Big 12
There will be a new quarterback at Oklahoma — likely redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler — but it’s clear that the Sooners will once again feature one of the top offenses in the nation. If the defense continues to improve, OU can be taken seriously as a true national title contender. Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma State are each rock-solid at quarterback and should be the next-best teams in the league. One of them will have two shots at Oklahoma in 2020. Baylor and TCU headline the next tier, followed by Kansas State and West Virginia.
Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2020
Times are not great in the Pac-12, which has only two teams in our projected Top 25 for 2020 — USC and Oregon. Washington and California will be Oregon’s biggest threats in the North. Utah, which lost a ton of talent off of last year’s breakthrough team, and Arizona State are next in line in the South. The pressure is on Chip Kelly to get things turned around at UCLA.
Related: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2020
The AAC has scrapped divisions after UConn declared its independence (in football). Memphis, under first-year head coach Ryan Silverfield, UCF and Cincinnati are the top three teams in the league, but Navy and Tulane are both intriguing clubs with outstanding coaches. Houston should be better in coach Dana Holgorsen's second season.
7. Mountain West
Boise State is once again the best team in the Mountain West — and the gap is pretty wide. Wyoming and Air Force, also in the Mountain Division, might be better than any team in the wide-open West. San Diego State welcomes back Brady Hoke for his second tour of duty with the Aztecs. Nevada is Athlon's pick to win the West, but there's little separation between the Wolf Pack, San Diego State, Fresno State and Hawaii. The West Division also features four new coaches for 2020.
8. Conference USA
UAB, which somehow manages to hold on to head coach Bill Clark every offseason, is the class of the West Division, though Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss are both solid teams that will be a factor. Each of the top three teams in the East — WKU, Marshall and FAU — has significant question marks. Charlotte’s progress in Year 2 under Will Healy will be worth monitoring. FIU and MTSU should push for a bowl in 2020.
9. Sun Belt
The Sun Belt boasts two of the top mid-majors in the nation in Appalachian State and Louisiana and two other bowl-quality teams in Arkansas State and Georgia Southern. The next tier features Georgia State, Coastal Carolina and Troy.
There doesn’t appear to be a true standout team in the MAC in 2020 — and that’s the reason the league has slid behind the Sun Belt as the worst of the FBS leagues. Buffalo, Ohio and Miami appear to be the top teams in the East. Central Michigan and Toledo are the class of the West.
Related: MAC Football Predictions for 2020