We have two weeks left in the regular season. I think this is a good time to dive into the conference races and give final predictions on who will win each championship and what teams will go bowling for 2019. There are 78 teams that will go bowling this season. At this point only 64 teams have qualified. There are 42 teams that still have eyes on the post-season. The losses by both Baylor and Minnesota caused significant turmoil in the top 25. The biggest loser in the poll was Minnesota who fell four spots to number eleven. Iowa jumped four spots to number 19. Three teams fell out of the polls, they were Navy, Texas and Indiana. Moving into the top 25 was Appalachian State, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Below are predictions on each conference title games. and who will partake in bowl action.
Clemson moved to 11-0 with a resounding 52-3 win over Wake Forest Saturday. The Tigers have simply destroyed the competition since the September clunker against North Carolina, where they escaped with a 21-20 win. Since then the Tigers have scored over 45 points in each game. The defense has also turned it up a notch allowing only 58 points. They enjoy a full three game lead over Louisville in the Atlantic. The Coastal race is actually a four-team donnybrook. Virginia, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech all have two losses. Miami sits at 4-3. The Hokies will travel to Virginia in two weeks to decide the Coastal. Virginia Tech will complete what many thought would be an impossible task, with their horrific start to the season. The Hokies will meet Clemson in Charlotte.
GOING BOWLING….. CLEMSOM, LOUISVILLE, FLORIDA STATE, WAKE FOREST, VIRGINIA, MIAMI, VIRGINIA TECH, PITTSBURGH,
IN THE HUNT….. NORTH CAROLINA, DUKE, NORTH CAROLINA STATE.
GETTING IN….. NORTH CAROLINA
Ohio State continues to be my top team in the country. The Buckeyes have scored 352 points this season and just given up 72. I realize they haven’t been tested since their game against a good Wisconsin team. That’s about to change with games against Penn State and Michigan to close the regular season. Penn State had a good bounce back win over Indiana on Saturday 34-27. A win over Ohio State would put them in the BIG-10 championship game. The West division got a lot more interesting over the weekend. Minnesota failed to “Row the Boat”, in Iowa, falling 23-19. Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska 37-21 put the Badgers in prime position to claim the West, if they can beat the Gophers in two weeks. I believe that will happen, setting the stage for a rematch with Ohio State in Indianapolis.
GOING BOWLING….. OHIO TATE, PENN STATE, MICHIGAN, INDIANA, MINNESOTA, WISCONSIN, IOWA, ILLINOIS.
IN THE HUNT….. NEBRASKA, MICHIGAN STATE, PURDUE.
GETTING IN….. MICHIGAN STATE
I was on the phone at halftime of the Baylor-Oklahoma game with a friend. He said to me this game is over. I laughed and said Oklahoma would come back and win the game. That’s exactly what happened, as Sooner quarterback Jalen Hurts put on a show guiding Oklahoma to a 34-31 victory. Both the Sooners and Bears are now 9-1 with a two-game lead in the BIG 12 standings. This means these two will likely meet again in Dallas in three weeks. Oklahoma State and Texas still have a shot at making the championship game, but they both would need to win out, and have Baylor and Oklahoma lose their remaining games. I actually love the BIG 12 format. There are no divisions, and each team plays every other team in the conference. The top two teams then meet in the championship game.
GOING BOWLING….. OKLAHOMA, BAYLOR, OKLAHOMA STATE, IOWA STATE, TEXAS, KANSAS STATE.
IN THE HUNT….. TCU, WEST VIRGINIA, TEXAS TECH.
GETTING IN….. TCU
There are only six schools that play in the independents rank. BYU accepted a bowl bid on Saturday night to play in the SoFi Hawaii bowl. They will face a team from the AAC or Mountain West Conference. Notre Dame played their best game of the season on Saturday, blasting Navy 52-20. The Irish have games remaining with Boston College and Stanford. A 10-2 finish would likely put Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. Liberty will be making their bowl debut. The Flames have only been playing at the FBS level for two years. The only other team that has a shot at a bowl is Army. The Knights sit at 5-6 with two games left. They actually need to win both games since they play a rare 13 game schedule. They close the season at Hawwaii and then play Navy. New Mexico State and UMASS will sit the bowl season out.
A few years ago, the University of Miami introduced the turnover chain. This is a celebration for the defensive player who causes a turnover during the game. This has caught on, and now most teams have a certain celebration. I have two favorites. The Boise State Broncos, actually have a turnover throne. The player is allowed to get on the throne and is treated like a king. My favorite though, is the turnover chainsaw at Oregon State. When the player lifts it, the chainsaw can be heard all through the stadium, firing up the crowd.
Oregon continued on their march toward a PAC-12 title and possible CFP appearance by throttling Arizona 34-6. The Ducks have a three-game lead in the North division and are assured of meeting the South winner in December. Oregon State sits in second place after defeating Arizona State 35-34. The Beavers at (5-5) need just one more victory to go bowling. In the South, Utah walloped UCLA 49-3. they hold a one-game lead over USC, who kept pace by drubbing California 41-17. Trojan quarterback Kedon Slovis passed for 406 yards in the win. Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon dissected Stanford’s defense throwing for 520 yards and five touchdown passes in the Cougars 49-22 win over Stanford. The Cougars need one more win to go bowling. The Utes and Ducks are on a collision coarse for the PAC-12 title game.
GOING BOWLING….. OREGON, WASHINGTON, UTAH, USC.
IN THE HUNT….. OREGON STATE, STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, WASHINGTON STATE, UCLA, ARIZONA STATE, COLORADO, ARIZONA.
GETTING IN….. CALIFORNIA, WASHINGTON STATE, ARIZONA STATE.
The loss of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is devastating for both the Tide and college football in general. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the lefty carve up defenses with both his arm and his legs. I will surely miss watching him. Alabama now faces a tough challenge going forward. Mac Jones will get a week of action before the Iron Bowl with Auburn. The Alabama defense looks like a liability to me. Injuries have also crippled that unit for the Tide. LSU disposed of Ole Miss 58-37 on Saturday. Quarterback Joe Burrow had another banner day tossing for 489 yards. The Tigers will meet Georgia for the SEC crown in Atlanta in three weeks. The Bulldogs wrapped up the East by beating Auburn 21-14. Auburn is the best three loss team in the country!
GOING BOWLING….. GEORGIA, FLORIDA, LSU, ALABAMA, TEXAS A&M, AUBURN.
IN THE HUNT….. TENNESSEE, KENTUCKY, MISSOURI, MISSISSIPPI STATE,
GETTING IN….. TENNESSEE, MISSOURI, KENTUCKY.
GROUP OF FIVE
The AAC is loaded with good football teams. There have been as many as six teams ranked in the top 25 this season. I believe a team from the AAC will represent the conference in the Cotton Bowl. The Cincinnati Bearcats are (9-1) on the season and (6-0) in conference play. They have clinched the Eastern Division. The West is a three-team race between Memphis, SMU and Navy. All three teams have identical (5-1) records. SMU and Navy will square off this weekend in Annapolis, likely eliminating the loser from the championship game. I think Memphis will come out of the West. The schedule favors the Tigers who travel to South Florida and then draw Cincinnati at home in the season finale. A one loss champion should get a cotton bowl invitation.
GOING BOWLING….. CINCINNATI, CENTRAL FLORIDA, TEMPLE, MEMPHIS, SMU, NAVY, TULANE.
IN THE HUNT….. SOUTH FLORIDA
GETTING IN….. NONE
This is perhaps one of the best conference races in the FBS. Both the East and West divisions have tighly contested races ongoing. It’s a three-team race in the East. Both Marshall and Florida Atlantic are tied with (5-1) records. Western Kentucky is a game back. All three teams have at least one tough conference opponent left on their schedule. Marshall has the inside track, by virtue of their 36-31 win over FAU back in October. I actually like FAU to win out, and subsequently win the division. The west is in a similar situation. Louisiana Tech and Southern Mississippi are (5-1). UAB sits in second place at (4-2). The Bulldogs have suspended six players for breaking team rules. Quarterback J’Mar Smith was one of the casualties. He missed Saturdays game against Marshall and will miss this week at UAB. His suspension will cost his team a shot at playing in the championship game. I’ll go with Southern Mississippi playing Florida Atlantic in the title game. Ironically both teams will also meet in the season finale for both teams.
GOING BOWLING….. MARSHALL, FLORIDA ATLANTIC, WESTERN KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA TECH, SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI, UAB.
IN THE HUNT….. CHARLOTTE, FIU, NORHT TEXAS, UTSA.
GETTING IN….. CHARLOTTE, NORTH TEXAS
The Miami Redhawks have already clinched the MAC East. They are led by quarterback Brett Gabbert who is a true freshman. Gabbert brother tosses passes in the NFL. The MAC West is a complete mess. Five teams still have a chance to claim a division title. Only Eastern Michigan at (2-4) is out of the race. Western Michigan and Central Michigan are both tied at (5-2) in the standings. The key here is that the Broncos beat the Chippewas 31-15, thus owning the tie-breaker. I look for the Broncos to face the Redhawks in Detroit.
GOING BOWLING….. MIAMI, WESTERN MICHIGAN, CENTRAL MICHIGAN, TOLEDO.
IN THE HUNT….. OHIO, KENT STATE, BUFFALO, BALL STATE, NORTHERN ILLINOIS, EASTERN MICHIGAN.
GETTING IN….. OHIO, BUFFALO, EASTERN MICHIGAN.
Boise state routed New Mexico 42-9 on Saturday night. The win keeps the Broncos one game ahead of both Air Force and Utah State in the Mountain division. Boise has already defeated Air Force, but must face Utah State on the road Saturday. A win will seal the deal for the Broncos. I think they will get it. The West division is still up for grabs. San Diego State owns a one game lead over both Hawaii and Nevada. The Aztecs will travel to Hawaii on Saturday. The winner will punch a ticket to the MWC title game. I like the Warriors to pull off an upset in this game.
GOING BOWLING….. BOISE, AIR FORCE, UTAH STATE, WYOMING, SAN DIEGO STATE, HAWAII, NEVADA.
IN THE HUNT….. COLORADO STATE, FRESNO, SAN JOSE STATE.
GETTING IN….. FRESNO
Many think that Appalachian State still has a shot to go to the Cotton Bowl. I know they own two victories over Power Five schools in both North and South Carolina. I just don’t think they can overcome a one-loss AAC champion. The mountaineers still must win out, to win the East division. Georgia Southern is only one game behind the Mountaineers and they own the tie breaker. The West division is a two-way battle between Arkansas State and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. The Cajuns have a dynamic rushing attack and are my favorite to win the West. A ULL versus Appalachian State final would be a classic.
GOING BOWLING….. APPALACHIAN STATE, GEORGIA SOUTHERN, GOERGIA STATE, ULL, ARKANSAS STATE.
IN THE HUNT….. COASTAL CAROLINA, TROY, UL MONROE.
GETTING ON….. TROY.