#12 – Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3, 7-2 Big 12)
Mike “I’m a Man” Gundy’s Cowboys looked primed to upset Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, but fell prey to a deadly ball-control attack and were walloped 38-20.
Still, OKST put up tremendous numbers on offense (as usual) and looked remarkably improved on defense (at times). The ‘Boys will face PAC-12 runners-up Colorado in the Alamo Bowl.
#11 – Florida State Seminoles (9-3, 5-3 ACC)
Jimbo Fisher’s 2016-17 squad may be the most well-respected team ever to lose 3 conference games in the regular season. The Seminoles faltered early with a 63-20 loss to Louisville, then gagged in the 1st half of a 37-35 loss to North Carolina, which dropped their conference record to 0-2.
But FSU showed well in a 37-34 loss to Clemson and beat Florida in a season-capping rout. Redshirt frosh QB Deondre Francois had a 3,000+ yard campaign.
#10 Colorado Buffaloes (10-3, 8-1 PAC-12)
With a talented secondary and line-backing corps, Colorado lost to USC 21-17, but finished as division champions. The defense finished 1st in the FBS in yards-against per pass attempt. Swift LB Jimmie Gilbert recorded 10 1/2 sacks and 51 tackles, while junior DB Tedric Thompson snagged 7 interceptions.
But QB Sefo Liufau wilted with injury late in the season, and in the PAC-12 championship game, the senior was ineffectual and eventually knocked out as CU lost 41-10 to Washington.
#9 USC Trojans (9-3, 7-2 PAC-12)
Led by 6’4″ senior QB Sam Darnold, the 2016 Trojans have restored the program to relevancy. After a crushing opening-game loss to Alabama, a talented roster fought through losses to Stanford and Utah to dominate the rest of their conference schedule.
After the Trojans’ 26-13 upset win over Washington on November 12th, Chris Petersen called USC one of the most dangerous teams in the country. A fierce defense held the #4th-ranked Huskies to an incredibly low 17 yards on 27 carries, while Darnold passed for 287 yards and 2 scoring strikes.
#8 Wisconsin Badgers (10-3, 7-2 Big Ten)
The Badgers began the year by out-blocking and out-tackling LSU in a physical match-up, winning 16-14. Wisconsin ascended to 1st in the Big Ten West after RB Corey Clement rushed for 1304 yards and 14 touchdowns, and the big, bad Badger defense held Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern to a combined 30 points.
But a mid-season 2-game losing streak and a miserable Big Ten Championship loss to Penn State (in which Wisconsin enjoyed a halftime lead) were too much for the Virtual CFP committee to overlook.