Only one team gets to be college football's national champion these days, and a scant 40 get to be bowl game champions. There are simply not enough participation trophies being handed out in this sport, and it's time we make up a whole new set of them.
You know how people like to joke online about Ole Miss being college football's best X-loss team in the country? No matter how far the Rebels fall, they're considered the best team currently at their new level of sorrow. And it's funny because it's usually fair.
Well, let's look back at 2016 and find the best team at each win total.
The best one-loss team in the country: Clemson
The national champs gave Alabama its only loss. Next.
The best two-loss team in the country: Ohio State
One of OSU's losses was to the Big Ten champs on a blocked field goal. The other was [mumbles]. Washington has a case, though it had two ugly losses against a weak schedule, rather than just one against a solid schedule. Oklahoma would, but got crushed by Ohio State at home.
The best three-loss team in the country: Florida State
S&P+ still prefers Michigan, but the injured Noles beat the injured Wolverines in the Orange Bowl by one point, the most decisive of all margins. The polls say it's USC, but if we're talking about the season as a whole, the Trojans got blown out twice, rather than just once. Yeah, they switched QBs and improved, but that doesn't delete the season's first month.
The best four-loss team in the country: LSU
The computer consensus is that the Tigers would be favored over all their peers, plus plenty of two- and three-loss teams. They finished their season with a 20-point win over another final four-loss team, Louisville. I guess Florida has a case.
The best five-loss team in the country: Pitt
Polls and computers both say Auburn, whose best wins were over LSU and Arkansas. Pitt walks all over that with wins over Clemson and Penn State and only one really ugly loss, compared to Auburn's two or three.
The best six-loss team in the country: NC State
A near-win over Clemson, two other one-score losses, wins over four bowl teams, and lofty computer rankings (No. 25 in S&P+ and No. 41 in the Composite) all pale in comparison to the Wolfpack's true achievement: being the season's final Champion of Life.
The best seven-loss team in the country: Ole Miss
Since this whole joke started over the last year or two as a way of reconciling the Rebels' incredible potential with their ever-blossoming loss totals, there can be no other choice. Luckily, the computers agree. Mississippi State has a head-to-head argument and won more games, but also lost to an ehh Sun Belt team and didn't do much otherwise.
The best eight-loss team in the country: Oh buddy, it's the 4-8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
No, this is not just an excuse to remind you of Notre Dame's record. The Irish went an incredible 1-7 in one-score games and were only outclassed once all year, on the road at red-hot USC. Duke has a head-to-head advantage, but cannot come close to the Irish's buffet of competitive losses. Also, S&P+ would favor Notre Dame to beat Tennessee, San Diego State, or Western Michigan right now.
The best nine-loss team in the country: Michigan State
Also considered: Arizona, Illinois, Iowa State, and Utah State, none of which had any major wins to speak of and none of which can match MSU's near-accomplishments: making Michigan sweat it out and nearly beating Ohio State, though Arizona took Washington to overtime. Illinois did beat MSU, though.
The best 10-loss team in the country: Virginia
The other top choices are Kansas and Rutgers. UVA nearly beat Louisville. Next.
The best 11-loss team in the country: Fresno State
Also the only 11-loss team in the country.
The best winless team in the country: N/A
No FBS teams finished winless this year, making Fresno State the best team that also had the country's worst record. Congratulations to Fresno State.
(Also, there are five ACC teams on this list. This stupid exercise ended up suggesting again that it was the deepest conference in the country.)
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The NCAA might double each team's number of bye weeks, which would be good.
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At Cal, a new campus Taco Bell was far bigger news than a new football coach. That's fine.
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Seems Colorado is taking Kentucky's defensive coordinator.
A Texas high school coach is still complaining about Charlie Strong signing Florida players in his abbreviated first class.
Wednesday's four-star commits were all 2018s, with Michigan State, NC State, and Nebraska making maneuvers.
Rice's field: entirely underwater.
New podcasts: Podcast Ain't Played Nobody mailbag and Shutdown Fullcast on how not to get rhabdo (step one: don't exercise).