It looked for years as if this day might never come. It wasn't just that the SEC dominated college football. It was that the Big Ten didn't put up much of a fight. That's over. Three Big Ten teams are among the top seven in the final College Football Playoff rankings. And five different Big Ten teams supplied players to the 2015 ESPN.com All-America Team.
Remember when the SEC meant defense? Only Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland is among the 11 best defenders in the nation. Meanwhile, the Big Ten supplied four defenders and the ACC three.
No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama each supplied three players to the overall team. So did Baylor, which ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP poll until injuries and that backloaded schedule combined to knock down the Bears in three of their last four games.
In an era when underclassmen dominated the skill positions -- sophomores Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette are early favorites for the 2016 Heisman -- coaches still love to redshirt offensive linemen. Logic and genetics, not to mention their outstanding play, dictate that all five offensive linemen would be seniors. -- Ivan Maisel
Ask Deshaun Watson for his most impressive stat, and he'll say it's the zero in the loss column. But he amassed 4,399 total yards (fourth nationally), completed 70 percent of his passes (third) and accounted for 41 total touchdowns (fifth). Watson's combination of weapons -- from his ability to scramble to his deep-ball accuracy -- made the Tigers' offense one of the most prolific in the nation. -- David M. Hale
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
Henry led the country in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Not only that, the Heisman Trophy winner broke Herschel Walker's SEC record for rushing yards in a single season. -- Alex Scarborough
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
Fournette got off to a roaring start, rushing for 200-plus yards in three straight September games and reaching 1,000 by Game 5. Although he lost Heisman front-runner status in a November loss to Alabama, Fournette's 1,741 rushing yards still have him on pace for one of the best rushing seasons in SEC history. -- David Ching
WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
The 2015 Biletnikoff Award winner was nearly unstoppable with 74 receptions for 1,363 yards and an FBS-best 20 touchdowns. Coleman's combination of strength, speed and open-field elusiveness made him every defensive back's nightmare. He set a Big 12 record with multiple touchdown receptions in seven straight games. -- Brandon Chatmon
Baker Mayfield's top target was at his best in big games with 39 receptions for 449 yards and six touchdowns combined in wins over Tennessee, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State. Shepard's big plays and overall passion set the tone for the Sooners' passing game and offense. -- B.C.
TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas
The John Mackey Award winner led all FBS tight ends with 647 receiving yards and 32 catches that went for first downs. Henry also led all SEC tight ends with 46 receptions and played a key role in the "Hog and Ladder" play that kept the Razorbacks alive in an overtime win against Ole Miss. -- D.C.
OT Spencer Drango, Baylor
Rarely beaten in one-on-one situations, the Big 12's best offensive lineman has set the standard for Baylor's offensive line for four straight seasons (47 career starts). With Drango leading the way, Baylor allowed the fewest sacks in the Big 12 (15) and led the conference in rushing (300.17). -- B.C.
After putting off the NFL for an extra year, Stanley was the leader of a line that was instrumental in a proficient Irish ground attack that averaged 215.7 rushing yards per game. Stanley had a 97.3 percent block success rate, and he is expected to be a first-round pick come this spring. -- Matt Fortuna
OG Dan Feeney, Indiana
It can sometimes be difficult to quantify the value of an offensive lineman, but Feeney's play has been remarkable. He has allowed only one sack in 36 career starts while playing on one of the Big Ten's most potent offensive teams. -- Jesse Temple
When Christian McCaffrey needed to break a big play, or goal-line back Remound Wright needed one yard, Garnett was the guy whom Stanford's backs would run behind. The 6-5, 321-pound Outland Trophy winner is widely considered the best pulling guard in the nation and in 2015 he lived up to the preseason All-America hype. -- Kevin Gemmell
Derrick Henry didn't pick up all those yards on his own. Kelly, who won the Rimington Award, paved the way at center, keeping an offensive line together that broke in three new starters. -- A.S.
Nassib's remarkable rise was one of the feel-good stories of college football. He began his career as a walk-on and finished as the Lombardi Award winner as the nation's top defensive lineman or linebacker. He closed the regular season with 46 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss. His 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles both led the country. -- J.T.
DL Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Statistics don't indicate Bosa's impact on a game. Bosa registered 16 tackles for loss with five sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. But the true measure of his talent was the way in which teams planned specifically to stop him with double-teams, which allowed other defenders to work free. His speed, power and energy make him one of the best linemen in the country. -- J.T.
DL Shaq Lawson, Clemson
Lawson faced the difficult task of replacing first-round pick Vic Beasley on the Clemson defensive line this season, but he did not miss a beat. The junior leads the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss and has 9.5 sacks, and was a finalist for the Lombardi Award. -- Andrea Adelson
The Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year was the conference's most disruptive interior force with 5.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Billings combines unbelievable strength with terrific quickness to force double-teams. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen called him "the best nose guard I've ever gone against." -- B.C.
He's the most productive player on arguably the best defense in the country, leading the team in tackles. He not only coordinates everything at middle linebacker, he's the unit's spark plug, delivering a slew of hair-raising hits this season. -- A.S.
It is hard to pinpoint a more important player in this program's history. Matakevich is ninth on the FBS career list for tackles with 481. He is the only FBS player to lead his team in tackles in every game this season. His 2015 tally: 126 tackles, including 15 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. He has five picks, too, to lead all linebackers in that category. -- M.F.
The Big Ten linebacker of the year was a disruptive force on a team that ranks No. 1 nationally in scoring defense and No. 3 in total defense. He tallied 18.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks and also tied Wisconsin's single-season record for forced fumbles with five, which ranks him No. 2 nationally this season. -- J.T.
Ramsey switched positions again before the season began, but the move to the outside put the junior in his natural position. He flourished at cornerback, exhibiting the coverage skills, makeup speed and athleticism coaches covet. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound defensive back also flaunted his physicality, often punishing opposing receivers before exhibiting maybe his biggest talent: his trash-talking. -- Jared Shanker
CB Desmond King, Iowa
Quarterbacks who threw in King's direction often regretted the decision. King intercepted a school-record eight passes, which ranks second nationally. The Jim Thorpe Award winner for the nation's top defensive back added 67 tackles and 12 pass breakups. He also was a deft kick return man whose 25.6 yards-per-kick average ranked fifth in the Big Ten. -- J.T.
S Jeremy Cash, Duke
The ACC Defensive Player of the Year made plays all over the field. Cash had 101 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, eight quarterback pressures, four pass breakups and three caused fumbles this season, and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Thorpe Awards. -- A.A.
At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Jayron Kearse is a nightmare matchup for any offense, and he used his rare combination of size and speed this season to help Clemson's defense finish the regular season fifth in passing defense and first in opposing completion percentage. Kearse had 52 tackles -- including 6.5 for a loss -- broke up six passes, had three QB hurries and forced two turnovers. -- D.H.
The NCAA's single-season all-purpose record holder (3,496 yards), McCaffrey ran, caught and returned his way to New York, where he finished second in the Heisman voting. The sophomore was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for almost every major offensive award. -- K.G.
Elliott was a model of consistency, leading all FBS kickers in scoring during the regular season with 128 points (22-for-26 FGs, 62-62 PATs) and becoming a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. He also booted 75 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. -- D.C.
P Tom Hackett, Utah
The 2014 and 2015 Ray Guy winner is just as popular for his quick Australian wit as he is for his punting accuracy. He placed 21 punts inside of the 20-yard line (43.8 percent), 11 inside of the 10 and two inside of the 5. His average of 47.8 yards per punt was second nationally, while the Utes led the Pac-12 with a net gain of 43.7 yards per punt. -- K.G.