It’s the most important piece to the College Football Playoff puzzle. How good is your conference? It is a major determination in the perception of a team’s strength of schedule. If your conference plays well in the non-conference slate, you will likely be rewarded. However, if the conference stumbles in the non-conference slate, your CFB Playoff chances could be doomed even if you go 12-0. Just one small blemish could eliminate you in week one and you don’t even realize it. Thus, we rank the conferences. Who is the best conference? Who is the worst conference? The rankings are below.
1. Big 12 Conference (9-1)
Call me biased, but facts don’t care about your feelings. The Big 12 Conference had just one blemish and it came on the road against a team in the No. 2 conference. Additionally, Kansas State was three minutes away from shutting out Stanford. Oh, and a trend you will see is these rankings are highly based on results against FCS schools. Guess who didn’t lose to an FCS school: the Big 12 Conference. Guess who is in the Big 12 Conference: Kansas. KANSAS WON! You’re only as good as your weakest link.
2. Big Ten Conference (5-1)
One team. Just one team killed the Big Ten’s chances of becoming the top conference. The Big Ten had quite the plan too! Five conference games are already final. That left the conference with just six non-conference games. The Big Ten performed well. Maryland defeated West Virginia. Purdue defeated Oregon State. Everything was going great until Illinois gave up 14 points in the fourth quarter to drop a home game against Conference USA’s UTSA. That was the one blemish the Big Ten Conference had and it was a massive black eye to the conference. Outside of that loss, the Big Ten is in excellent position.
3. Southeastern Conference (12-2)
It’s absolutely clear. The SEC is better than the ACC and all Group of Five conferences. However, they 0-1 against all other FBS conferences. LSU dropped its game to the Pac-12’s UCLA. The SEC went 3-0 against the ACC. While we know the SEC is better than the ACC, we’re uncertain if the SEC is better than the FCS. It’s hard to tell when you go 1-1 against the FCS. South Carolina shutout Eastern Illinois, but Vanderbilt was humiliated at home 23-3 by East Tennessee State. The Commodores couldn’t even score a touchdown. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Quick! Have Kansas schedule Vanderbilt.
4. Conference USA (10-5)
Generally considered the worst conference in recent years, Conference USA had a really good first week. Had Louisiana Tech not been Mike Leach’d (Leach is famous for record breaking comebacks) by Mississippi State, Conference USA would have finished 3-3 against Power Five Conference teams. Charlotte defeated Duke and UTSA came from behind to upset Illinois on the road. Additionally, Marshall completely humiliated Navy on the road. As if this week couldn’t be any better for Conference USA, their worst team is now 2-0. UTEP has already matched their total amount of wins this year as their first two seasons under Dana Dimel. And no, we’re not going to count that pathetic excuse of a “season” thrown together in 2020. Things are looking up in Conference USA.
5. Sun Belt Conference (6-4)
For the longest time, the Sun Belt was generally considered the worst conference. Now, it has two teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25. One of those teams is going to drop out after losing to Texas in Austin. The Sun Belt went a dismal 2-4 against FBS schools, but they did not lose to an FCS school like the majority of the conferences below them. Also, Texas State played Baylor close.
6. Atlantic Coast Conference (6-6)
The SEC hurt this conference bad. Georgia took down its best team in Clemson. Miami (FL) was no match for Alabama. Ole Miss used a 24-0 first half lead to propel themselves past Louisville. The ACC could have easily been 9-3, but three games came down to the final minute and the ACC dropped all three. Duke could not escape Charlotte. Georgia Tech lost at home to Northern Illinois on a controversial two-point conversion. Whether you like it or not, Notre Dame is NOT an ACC team. Thus, their victory over Florida State in overtime counts as a strike against the ACC. This conference is at No.6 for the mere fact it didn’t lose to an FCS team. Had Washington defeated Montana, the ACC would probably be further down.
7. Pac 12 (7-6)
The Pac-12 had an excellent start propelled by UCLA’s home victories over Hawai’i and LSU. Stanford was an early stumble Saturday, but every Big 12 fan knows Kansas State will slaughter anyone who overlooks them. The Wildcats did not disappoint. Where the stumbling happened came late Saturday night. Disaster ensued starting with FCS Montana upsetting No.20 Washington. It was expected for BYU to defeat Arizona, which just makes the Pac-12 look silly for not expanding. But, then the Mountain West started taking down Pac-12 teams. Nevada went into Berkeley and took out California. Utah State pulled off the upset of Washington State. It didn’t help that Oregon State visited Purdue and suffered a loss there. For the Pac-12’s sake, UCLA and Southern California need to destroy every team in their way so one of them has a shot at the CFB Playoff.
8. MAC (5-7)
Typically, the MAC is known for these first week upsets. They weren’t nearly as pesky as they usually are. However, Northern Illinois came from behind to upset Georgia Tech on the road. The record isn’t as bad as it seems. Let’s put it this way: With the exception of Northern Illinois, they defeated the teams they were supposed to and got shellacked by the teams that were supposed to shellack them. You just hope the schools who got shellacked got a nice pay day.
9. Mountain West Conference (9-6)
When I first started this, I thought it was a no-brainer to place the Mountain West Conference at the bottom. Not just one, but two of its teams lost to FCS schools. Colorado State was embarrassed by South Dakota State on national television. UNLV dropped a game to Eastern Washington. However, late Saturday night, they wreaked havoc on the Pac-12. Nevada won at California and Utah State pulled the upset off at Washington State. This salvaged an otherwise miserable week for the Mountain West Conference.
10. American Athletic Conference (4-7)
Half of the victories came against FCS schools. The two schools who took care of business (UCF, Cincinnati) are reportedly applying to join the Big 12 Conference. Those are the positives, which are underwhelming compared to the negatives. Tulsa lost to FCS UC Davis. Houston gave up 31 unanswered points, which prompted our own Pete Mundo to place Texas Tech at No.3 in the Power Rankings (Are the Red Raiders seriously contenders for the Big 12 Championship Game after beating an unranked Houston team?). Navy was embarrassed by Marshall. Temple was trampled by Rutgers. East Carolina was clearly outmatched by Appalachian State. Finally, South Florida was shutout. This is a bad conference.