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 Ten Conference (32-9, 7-0 vs. FCS)
Michigan State and Illinois defeated their Conference USA opponents this week. That always helps. It also helps that Michigan and Penn State remained undefeated. There are four undefeated teams in the Big Ten still. Three of those are in the East Division. It helps that Maryland’s only loss is to undefeated Iowa. Sadly for Big Ten fans, another unbeaten goes down this week. Iowa will face Penn State. The Big Ten Conference has four teams in the AP Top 10 and a fifth at No.11. This is an excellent conference.
2. Big 12 Conference (23-6, 9-0 vs. FCS)
Bedlam looks like a fun time right now. Both Oklahoma schools are unbeaten. Texas Tech winning at West Virginia looks more like it is good for the Big 12 than it is bad. Of course, if Tech loses seven of its final eight games, this will wind up being a bad result for the Big 12. Tech needs to defeat TCU this weekend. If it does, Matt Wells likely keeps his job as Kansas could be Tech’s sixth victory.
The teams who lost in non-conference played each other this week, so they couldn’t hurt the conference too bad. However, Arkansas made Texas look pitiful in its nationally televised game against Georgia. How will the Longhorns ever compete with an SEC team? Well, maybe if Steve Sarkisian didn’t start a freshman on the road, Texas might not have lost that game. The best thing for the Big 12 this week is: Tech over TCU, Baylor over West Virginia, and Oklahoma over Texas. The trend is that teams who finished non-conference play undefeated are the teams the Big 12 wants to win.
3. Southeastern Conference (34-7, 8-1 vs. FCS)
Vanderbilt 30 UConn 28.
That was the score of a game in Nashville. Here are UConn’s other results
Fresno State 45 UConn 0, Fresno, CA
FCS Holy Cross 38 UConn 28, Storrs, CT
Purdue 49 UConn 0, Storrs, CT
Army 52 UConn 21, West Point, NY
Wyoming 24 UConn 22, Storrs, CT
Can we please stop pretending that Vanderbilt is a Power Five team? Kansas could beat the Commodores by three touchdowns. Oh, and here is my weekly obligation: ETSU won at Vanderbilt by 20 points. I’m not letting go of this.
4. American Athletic Conference (22-18, 9-1 vs. FCS)
It was an excellent week for the American. SMU remained undefeated with a 41-17 shellacking of South Florida. East Carolina continued picking up wins by beating Tulane. Navy knocked off UCF…..wait a second. So, in hindsight, this absolutely makes the American feel good about itself. However, it hurts the American as far as this season goes. Navy probably isn’t going to make it to a bowl game. UCF is still in the American, thus UCF losing hurts the ratings for the American this season.
Oh, but then there’s Cincinnati invading the Golden Dome and leaving South Bend with its undefeated record still in tact and a victory over a top five team. If both teams can survive UCF and SMU can survive Houston too, the Mustangs and Bearcats may very well meet in November with undefeated records. Thanks to Cincinnati’s road win over Notre Dame and SMU adding an extra undefeated team, the American moves up two spots this week. The AAC has steam rolling and momentum going.
5. Mountain West Conference (26-18, 9-2 vs. FCS)
The Mountain West had a week that is about as bad as it gets. Your darling, Boise State, lost to Nevada. Fresno State flew to Hawai’I and must’ve been distracted by the Hula Girls, as it suffered a 27-24 defeat. Former member BYU knocked off Utah State. The conference finished the week with a 1-2 non-conference record. This week was so bad, the Mountain West had to drop down a spot.
6. Atlantic Coast Conference (28-12, 11-1 vs. FCS)
This conference cannot get out of its own way. One unbeaten remains after Boston College lost at Clemson. Even with the victory, Clemson dropped out of the AP Top 25 this week. Wake Forest is the lone unbeaten remaining in this conference. Heck, even Notre Dame, who is a member in every other sport, lost this week. It’s been an awful week for the ACC. Add in the fact that Florida State knocked off Syracuse and this conference just wreaks of despair. It deserves a spot drop this week. If Wake Forest goes down, the Sun Belt might just jump it too. Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State and Louisiana are looking pretty good right now.
7. Sun Belt Conference (19-16, 8-1 vs. FCS)
The best teams won this week. That’s a victory for the Sun Belt. Coastal Carolina is still undefeated. Appalachian State and Louisiana-Lafayette picked up road victories. It’s a solid conference. The one blemish this week: Troy’s non-conference loss to South Carolina. To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. Troy came up nine points short this week.
8. Conference USA (23-29, 14-0 vs. FCS)
Conference USA finished 1-4 against non-conference opponents this week. The biggest hit came when UAB was drilled by independent Liberty. On the other hand, UTSA keeps on winning. Jeff Traylor has the Roadrunners at 5-0 after defeating the Mountain West’s UNLV. Charlotte’s loss to Illinois also strengthens UTSA as the 49ers do not play the Roadrunners this season. UTSA scored a road victory over Illinois early this season. Conference USA would typically drop this week, but there’s a reason the Pac-12 doesn’t move up. Let’s face it. The MAC just isn’t that good either.
9. Pac 12 (16-17, 7-2 vs. FCS)
Stanford all but eliminated the Pac 12 from the College Football Playoffs. The Cardinal upset Oregon, the only remaining unbeaten from the Pac 12. Arizona State only strengthened BYU’s profile by pulling off the road upset over UCLA. Additionally, Washington State might fire head coach Nick Rolovich in a couple of weeks depending on his vaccination status. If Rolovich is fired, any loss to Washington State is going to sting this conference. California just lost to the Cougars. Ouch! What this means is that Washington State will probably lose out if Rolovich is fired, which only hurts the rest of the conference, specifically the teams who lost to the Cougars. California lost to Washington State this week.
10. MAC (21-27, 11-1 vs. FCS)
The MAC helped its cause this week by going 2-0 against independents. One of those victories saw 1-3 Ball State, a team who had only defeated FCS team Western Illinois, knock Army from the ranks of the unbeatens. This is a massive victory for the MAC. Additionally, Western Michigan won at Buffalo. The Broncos hold a road victory over Pitt, thus strengthening its profile.