Quinn: What we learned this CFB season

Clemson, Bama, Nebraska, and more

The 2016-17 college football season officially came to a close last night, as Clemson defeated Alabama in thrilling fashion to claim the school's second national title. 

There was a lot that stood out this year both locally and nationally, but here's a few things that rise to the top of the pile. 

Nebraska is (still) not nationally relevant

If you watched any of the national championship game last night, or either of the semifinal games, you probably have come to grips with the fact that its a whole different level of football than what the Huskers are playing right now. 

If that's not enough, its not a stretch to remember that Clemson destroyed Ohio State in the semifinal round, and the Buckeyes ran wild over Nebraska earlier this season. 

While many Husker fans still crave for the days of Dr. Tom Osborne claiming national titles by the handful in the mid 90's, the reality is before Nebraska can strive to reclaim their place atop college football, they'll have to become relevant again in their own conference.

As we sit here on January 10th, the Huskers sit squarely behind Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin. One could make a compelling case that Nebraska is also trailing behind where Michigan State has been trending recently, despite a miserable 2016 campaign. 

Even within the Big Ten West, the Huskers are not only behind the Badgers, but are (at best) on equal footing with the likes of Iowa, Northwestern, and Minnesota. 

Fans can hope and dream all they want, but if you watched any of the title game last night, you know that nationally relevant football is being played at a whole different level than what's going on in Lincoln. Not that Nebraska can't get there someday, but it's not right now. 

How many "elite" national programs are there...really? 

Lets make a list:

1. Alabama.

2. Clemson.

3. ???

This year's college football playoff results would seem to indicate the list might stop after two names.

Could Ohio State make a case to be included? Probably.

Is Michigan getting close? Perhaps. 

Might USC actually be the closest? I could make that argument. 

But does anyone else in the country really inspire the confidence that they could rise up and compete with these two programs consistently at the moment? 

Had Bama won last night, I probably wouldn't have even included Clemson on this list, but after a close loss in the title game last year followed by a win in 2017, Dabo's team clearly belongs. 

Speaking of Dabo Swinney...

You heard it here first: Alabama captures 2020 National Championship under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. 

I can't be the only one thinking this, right? 

Whenever Saban decides to hang it up (he's 65 years old, so it might be sooner than you think), Swinney has to be the top choice, doesn't he?

Swinney is an Alabama alum, and despite being under contract with Clemson until 2022, his buyout is just $5 million this year, and decreases by $1 million each subsequent season.

That amounts to pennies for a school like Alabama, who would (and will) offer to make him the highest paid coach in the country.

I doubt Swinney is done winning national titles, and I'll bet he'll win one for the Crimson Tide someday. 

The Big Ten is the best in all the land

Forget about bowl season, which was really lousy for the Big Ten, especially at the top. 

Despite sub-par performances all over the map the Big Ten finishes the year with four teams ranked in the final AP Top 25, and several others in the "receiving votes" category. Dabo can claim the ACC is the best conference in the land (and might have a point for the runner-up slot), but nobody can boast the power at the top like the Big Ten. 

It was a really bad year for the SEC

Exactly one team in the SEC finished the year with fewer than four losses.

That team? Well, they were playing last night and didn't come away with any hardware. 

For years, the SEC has made the rightful claim as the top dog in college football. This year, that simply was not the case. After Alabama, was LSU the next best? Florida? Tennessee? 

We still haven't quite gotten targeting figured out

The officials missed three pretty obvious fouls last night in my opinion, and it wasn't much better during the regular season. 

Despite attempts to clarify the rule, targeting in college football seems to be joining a catch in the NFL as things we simply can't quite get figured out. 

The intent of the rule is good, and it shouldn't simply "go away" as some would suggest, but it needs to be called with more consistency. 

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