At the end of November, when the regular season had come to an end, and the conference championships were yet to be played, I warned you this could happen. I told you that, based on the data that had accumulated to that point in the season, it was entirely possible that even if Alabama Crimson Tide didn’t win the national title, it could finish the season ranked No. 1 in these rankings.
At the time, there were still two possible losses in Alabama’s future. It could have lost the SEC championship, and after that, it could have lost its College Football Playoff semifinal. Had that happened, it was entirely possible that the two losses would knock the Tide from No. 1 in these rankings, but they didn’t.
Alabama won the SEC championship and it won its semifinal matchup with a Washington Huskies team that was ranked No. 2 in these rankings. Then, on Monday night in Tampa, Alabama finally lost a game.
It lost by four points to Clemson Tigers on a touchdown with one second left to play.
Apparently that wasn’t enough to erase the season’s worth of dominance, because even with the loss, Alabama finishes the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Fornelli 50, and the gap between it and the No. 2 team — yes, Clemson — is still pretty significant.
Now, as I’ve said before here a few times, just because my name is on the rankings, and I created the mathematical formula used to compile them, that doesn’t mean I always agree with what comes out in the end. This is one of those times, because if I were turning in a final set of rankings based on nothing but what I saw, I’d honor the fact that Clemson won the playoff and put it at No. 1.
Having said that, I don’t entirely disagree with the formula’s results, either.
Alabama lost. It didn’t lose in a way that convinces me that it’s clearly the lesser team. Clemson is our champion, and Alabama may be the best team. These are two things that can exist in the same universe.
Anyway, before we get to the entire Fornelli 50, I will remind you once again about how this entire process works.
1. My opinion has absolutely nothing to do with the rankings. They are based on a mathematical formula of my creation. So keep this in mind before you call me an idiot, which I know you will.
2. There is true equality to start. The math doesn’t play favorites. Before the season began, defending national champion Alabama was just as good as our defending Bottom 25 champion Central Florida. The only factor that matters in the rankings is how you performed on the field in 2016.
3. Wins and losses mean more than anything. I have a lot of different statistics involved, and I factor in strength of schedule, but at the end of the day whether you won or lost is going to mean more than anything else. Also, just because it’s too difficult for me to rank FCS teams as well, my formula doesn’t have much respect for FCS schools. If you beat one it won’t mean much, and if you lose to one, well, you might show up in The Bottom 25.
4. The formula is in no way predictive. It is based on nothing but what has occurred in the season to this point in time. Just because a team is currently ranked No. 15 does not mean it’s better or that it’s going to beat a team ranked No. 35. It just means that, to this point, it has been the 15th-best team in the country. Think of it as a meritocracy in its purest form. The math plays no favorites. I put this here every week, but my inbox and Twitter mentions make it pretty clear you don’t read it.
5. I won’t share the formula. I just don’t want to. I’m not a mathematician. I know my formula isn’t perfect. I don’t think a perfect formula can exist, so I don’t share it because I don’t care what anybody thinks. So don’t ask. Just know that, even if you don’t agree with it right now, at the end of the season, it has been startlingly accurate.
And now, the final rankings of the 2016 college football season.
1. Alabama 14-1 (Last week: 1)
2. Clemson 14-1 (5)
3. Washington 12-2 (2)
4. Ohio State Buckeyes 11-2 (3)
5. Michigan Wolverines 10-3 (4)
6. Western Michigan 13-1 (6)
7. Penn State Nittany Lions 11-3 (7)
8. Oklahoma Sooners 11-2 (11)
9. Louisville Cardinals 9-4 (8)
10. Southern California Trojans 10-3 (9)
11. Western Kentucky 11-3 (13)
12. Wisconsin Badgers 11-3 (15)
13. Florida State Seminoles 10-3 (18)
14. Appalachian State Mountaineers 10-3 (14)
15. Boise State Broncos 10-3 (10)
16. LSU Tigers 8-4 (25)
17. Oklahoma State Cowboys 10-3 (24)
18. San Diego State Aztecs 11-3 (20)
19. South Florida Bulls 11-2 (19)
20. Miami 9-4 (28)
21. West Virginia Mountaineers 10-3 (16)
22. Stanford Cardinal 10-3 (26)
23. Virginia Tech Hokies 10-4 (23)
24. Temple Owls 10-4 (12)
25. Tulsa Golden Hurricane 10-3 (33)
26. Florida 9-4 (32)
27. Colorado Buffaloes 10-4 (17)
28. Troy Trojans 10-3 (34)
29. Air Force Falcons 10-3 (36)
30. Auburn Tigers 8-5 (22)
31. Houston Cougars 9-4 (21)
32. Minnesota Golden Gophers 9-4 (37)
33. Nebraska Cornhuskers 9-4 (27)
34. Kansas State Wildcats 9-4 (40)
35. Washington State Cougars 8-5 (30)
36. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 9-4 (44)
37. Old Dominion Monarchs 10-3 (39)
38. Tennessee Volunteers 9-4 (46)
39. Toledo Rockets 9-4 (31)
40. Utah Utes 9-4 (47)
41. Iowa Hawkeyes 8-5 (29)
42. Texas A&M 8-5 (35)
43. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 9-5 (45)
44. North Carolina Tar Heels 8-5 (38)
45. Brigham Young Cougars 9-4 (48)
46. Pittsburgh Panthers 8-5 (41)
47. Memphis Tigers 8-5 (43)
48. Navy Midshipmen 9-5 (42)
49. New Mexico Lobos 9-4 (Not Ranked)
50. Arkansas State Red Wolves 8-5 (NR)
No Longer Ranked: Ohio Bobcats (49), Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (50)
Source: General Sports