ACC – B+
From top to bottom, I think this is the top conference in the country, even with only four teams in the conference in the Top 25. The Atlantic division is loaded with Clemson, Florida State, and Louisville. Clemson is in the driver’s seat to make the conference final. Louisville could still be the best team in the Atlantic, but will need a lot of help to reach the title game. Florida State at 5-2, still has games with Clemson and Florida on the schedule. The Coastal is North Carolina’s to lose. They could easily run the table and finish at 10-2. The winner of Thursday’s battle between Virginia Tech and Miami could sneak into the title game. Three teams that have really caught my eye this season are Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Pittsburgh. All three are in line for their best season in years. When it’s all over, I think Clemson will advance to the college football playoff.
CONFERENCE TITLE GAME: CLEMSON VERSUS NORTH CAROLINA
GOING BOWLING: Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Boston College, Syracuse, Virginia, Duke
Big 12 – C+
The Big 12 has been a train wreck to this point. Baylor and West Virginia remain undefeated, but Baylor at 6-0 has only played one team with a winning record to this point. The schedule is about to get extremely difficult for a team that has only 71 scholarship players. West Virginia has been a pleasant surprise going 5-0, but has also played a cupcake schedule. These two teams play in the final game of the regular season in what could be a showdown for the conference title. It only could be, Oklahoma is my pick to win the conference title.
GOING BOWLING: Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia, TCU, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech.
Big Ten – B
Four teams sit in the Top 10, with Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska all at 6-0. Ohio State and Michigan are clearly two of the top teams in the country, and will square off in the final game of the regular season. So far, Iowa and Michigan State have been disappointments. Wisconsin has a 4-2 record, but has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, coming up just short to both Michigan and Ohio State. When it is all over, I believe Ohio State will advance to the four team playoff.
CONFERENCE TITLE GAME: OHIO STATE VERSUS NEBRASKA
GOING BOWLING: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Indiana, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Michigan State, Rutgers, Purdue, Illinois.
Pac-12 – B-
I really thought the Pac-12 would provide more quality teams this season, but quarterback issues have set the conference back. USC and Oregon have already made quarterback changes, and UCLA’s Josh Rosen has been beaten-up. Stanford and Oregon have been disappointments, while Colorado should go bowling for the first time since 2007. Washington has been clearly the top team. The Huskies sit at 6-0 and face USC at home November 12 for what could be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship Game. A team to watch down the stretch is the Washington State Cougars. After a shaky start, the Cougars have reeled off four straight, including wins over UCLA, Oregon, and Stanford.
CONFERENCE TITLE GAME: WASHINGTON VERSUS USC
GOING BOWLING: Washington, Washington State, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Utah, Colorado, Arizona State.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: California, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona
SEC – B+
The SEC is again one of the toughest conferences in the country. The SEC West Division is once is again possibly the toughest in the country, led by 7-0 Alabama 7-0 and 6-0 Texas A&M 6-0. They are set to tangle this week in Tuscaloosa, with the winner will having the inside track to the West Division title. The East is a two team race between Florida and Tennessee. Florida has a one game edge over the Vols, but UT holds the tiebreaker over the Gators. The Gators suffered what I think is a major blow, when it was decided they would have to travel to Baton Rouge, to makeup their game with LSU. Keep your eyes on LSU — the Tigers still face Alabama, A&M and will likely decide the winner of both divisions! When the season ends, the Tide will roll into the College Football Playoff.
CONFERENCE TITLE GAME: ALABAMA VERSUS TENNESSEE
GOING BOWLING: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, South Carolina.
GROUP OF FIVE
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE – B+
Houston was the pre-season favorite to play in a New Year’s Day bowl and emerged as a playoff contender after beating Oklahoma. That dream may have been sunk with the loss at Navy. The Cougars still have a chance to represent the AAC, if they can run the table and defeat Louisville. Both Navy and Memphis are still undefeated in the AAC West. Memphis has been a pleasant surprise. The program has not taken a step back after the loss of Head Coach Justin Fuente and QB Paxton Lynch. In the East Division, South Florida at 6-1 has been dominant, with the lone loss to Florida State.
CONFERENCE TITLE GAME: SOUTH FLORIDA VERSUS HOUSTON
GOING BOWLING: South Florida, Temple, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Navy, Houston, Tulsa, Memphis.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Connecticut, East Carolina, Tulane, SMU.
CONFERENCE USA – C+
Both Marshall and Southern Mississippi have been a disappointment. I thought the Golden Eagles would be in contention for a marquee bowl game. Two early season losses to both UTSA and Troy eliminated the Eagles from that goal. The Eagles now hope to at least win the West Division title. They will host Louisiana Tech in the final regular season game, which will likely determine the division winner. In the East Division, Marshall has fallen to 2-4 overall and stands at 1-1 in conference play. Florida International is a surprising 3-0 in conference play. This division will be a dogfight down the stretch with as many as four teams in contention. I like Western Kentucky to eventually win the East.
CONFERENCE TITLE GAME: WESTERN KENTUCKY VERSUS SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
GOING BOWLING: Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, UTSA, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Florida International, Marshall, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, UTEP, Rice.
MID AMERICAN CONFERENCE – B+
I just love what the Western Michigan Broncos have done this season. The Broncos are 7-0, ranked 20th, and own wins over both Northwestern and Illinois! The “Row the Boat” slogan adopted by Head Coach P.J. Fleck has the team buying in. Quarterback Zach Terrell is sixth nationally in Total QBR. The Broncos have one big test remaining on the schedule, a home tilt with Toledo in November. The winner of that game should win the MAC West. The East should come down to a two team battle between Akron and Ohio, that takes place November 22. I expect Western Michigan to represent the Group of Five schools in a marquee bowl game on New Year’s Day. Eastern Michigan sits at 5-2 and is in line for their first bowl game since 1987.
CONFERENCE TITLE GAME: WESTERN MICHIGAN VERSUS OHIO
GOING BOWLING: Akron, Ohio, Ball State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Toledo.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Kent State, Miami Oh, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Northern Illinois
MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE – B
Boise State has long been the powerhouse, but San Diego State might have something to say about that this year. Many believe the Broncos will play in the Cotton Bowl, but I don’t share that view. The Broncos still have BYU at home, plus road games at Air Force and Wyoming. Wyoming hasn’t had a winning season since 2011, but sits at 4-2 and 2-0 in conference play. The Cowboys host Boise on October 29 in what could decide the Mountain Division. San Diego State is in command of the West division. The Aztecs are 5-1 and in prime position to finish at 11-1. Donnel Pumphrey leads the country in rushing with 1,111 yards and 11 scores. I believe he will finish the season with 2,000 yards and is my pick for the Heisman Trophy.
CONFERENCE TITLE GAME: BOISE STATE VERSUS SAN DIEGO STATE
SUN BELT CONFERENCE – C-
Troy, Appalachian State and Arkansas State are the cream of the Sun Belt. Troy is 5-1 with a six point loss to Clemson. The Trojans get both the Mountaineers and Red Wolves at home in coming weeks. I expect the Trojans to win the Sun Belt.
GOING BOWLING: Troy, Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Idaho, Georgia Southern.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: South Alabama, Texas State, Georgia State, Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana Lafayette, New Mexico State.
BYU 4-3 and Army 4-2 are both set to go bowling this season. The Cougars have lost three games by a combined seven points! The Black Knights haven’t been bowling since 2010. They still have games against Air Force and Navy, and have a shot at the Commander-in-Chief Trophy. Notre Dame sits at 2-5, needing four wins to make the post season. They will fall short. UMASS at 1-6, will also be home for the holidays.