Nine conferences are still alive in the hunt for a New Year’s Six berth. At least five of them are guaranteed. Think about this though: Future Big 12 Conference member Cincinnati is in position to crash the College Football Playoff. Now, think about this. What if Oklahoma State actually wins Bedlam this year. I know. Tall task, right? Mike Gundy can’t seem to win Bedlam if his life depended on it. Just dream for a moment. An undefeated Cincinnati and an undefeated Oklahoma State. Two teams of the future Big 12 Conference in the College Football Playoff. How amazing would that be?
There is some movement this week. The Mountain West Conference drops two spots this week. The Sun Belt is nipping on the heels of the ACC. The Sun Belt did not make the jump this week because Coastal Carolina and Wake Forest were both idle. The Big Ten Conference weakened itself a tad this week. Most of the conferences gained strength. You’ll hear a lot about how conferences had a “good week”. The Big 12 Conference had a good week. Still, the team with the most unbeatens remains in the top spot. What is keeping a conference back? Why are so many conferences having a good week? Why would an FCS team be bowl eligible if it played in the SEC East? It’s all below.
1. Big Ten Conference (33-9, 7-0 vs. FCS)
The Big Ten took a massive hit this week. Purdue pulled off the upset and knocked Iowa from not only the unbeaten ranks, but the No. 2 spot in the AP Poll. Iowa dropped out of the top 10. Just looking at the AP Poll right now, the American gets a team into the College Football Playoff. The Big Ten, however, does not. This, despite having four teams ranked in the top 10. This, despite three teams being undefeated. Wisconsin helped the cause by defeating Army. This week’s most important game is Maryland at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers lost to a MAC team earlier this year. Maryland holds a victory over West Virginia. The teams in the AP Top 25 who represent the Big Ten are pulling for Maryland. It will only boost them up.
2. Big 12 Conference (24-6, 9-0 vs. FCS)
It was a massive week for the Big 12 Conference. Oklahoma State came from behind to beat Texas on the road. Baylor easily dispatched BYU. Oklahoma remains undefeated (yes, that’s good for the Big 12) and Texas Tech won at Kansas. The only poor result was Iowa State defeating Kansas State. Iowa State lost to Iowa while Kansas State went 3-0 in non-conference play. The most important game this week is No. 8 Oklahoma State at Iowa State. It is Brocktober (so nice of Iowa State fans to name the month in honor of me), so this could be an upset in the making. For the Big 12’s sake, we hope not. It’s not easy to win back-to-back road games against quality opponents. The Cowboys are on upset alert.
3. Southeastern Conference (35-7, 8-1 vs. FCS)
To be quite honest, I think East Tennessee State could earn a bowl bid if it played in the SEC East. Hear me out on this one: ETSU holds a 20-point victory at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt nearly won at South Carolina. It came down to the final minute for South Carolina to secure a 1-point victory over Vanderbilt. If ETSU were to play four winnable non-conference games, they’d become bowl eligible. That’s how easy it is to become bowl eligible in the SEC. Play UMass, UConn, Mississippi Valley State, Texas State, and two SEC games and you could be bowl eligible that easily. By the way, ETSU lost at Chattanooga this week. Vanderbilt isn’t even in the top 5 of its own state: Tennessee, Memphis, Middle Tennessee, Chattanooga, ETSU. I feel like I’m missing a team. This is the garbage the SEC boasts so boldly about? Okay, off my soapbox.
It will be the third Saturday in October. This means Tennessee plays Alabama. However, that’s not the most important game of the week. The most important game this week is LSU at Ole Miss. One of these teams has only lost at Alabama. The other lost at UCLA and is parting ways with their coach after the season. An Ole Miss victory makes the rest of the conference look better. An LSU victory makes UCLA look better. Right now, Oregon is two spots ahead of Ole Miss. That is pivotal for a New Year’s Six bid. Those top 10 spots help a team secure an at-large spot in case of a slip up in the conference title game. As far as results this week goes, Auburn winning by double-digits didn’t do the SEC any favors. Auburn lost to Penn State. Arkansas went undefeated in the non-conference slate. This victory says the Big Ten is better than the SEC. The Big Ten has four teams in the AP top 10. Those four teams are swimming around Alabama like piranhas ready to bite. It’s a game like that which could mean the difference between Alabama getting the No.4 spot as opposed to one of the four Big Ten teams. Guess what. Penn State is one of those four teams. If Auburn beats Alabama, it likely costs the SEC a second playoff team.
4. American Athletic Conference (22-18, 9-1 vs. FCS)
Cincinnati won to remain undefeated. SMU was idle, so the Mustangs remain undefeated. That’s all you really need to know.
However, there is one blemish this week. Tulsa continues to win. FCS school UC Davis also recently lost to Idaho State, so it’s not like Tulsa lost to the best FCS school in the world. Now, UC Davis is a solid 6-1. C’mon though. It’s still an FCS school and Tulsa still lost. It’s worth mentioning No.21 SMU at Tulane is Thursday. However, as long as Cincinnati is in the College Football Playoff conversation, they will always be the most important game for the AAC. No.2 Cincinnati goes to Navy for an early game this Saturday. It should be an easy Bearcats victory, but there is a reason these games aren’t played on paper. Speaking of, what in the world is a Bearcat?
5. Atlantic Coast Conference (28-13, 11-1 vs. FCS)
This was probably the best week the ACC has had this year. The teams with better records beat the teams with worse records. The worst result might confuse some people. Many may believe North Carolina State winning at Boston College is a positive result for the ACC. Remember though, Boston College beat Missouri during its quest to a perfect non-conference record. North Carolina State lost at Mississippi State. Thus, this hurts the ACC. Pittsburgh seems to be the conference’s front runner, but they lost to Western Michigan. There is a lot of parity in this league, which is typically a good thing. That is, unless you had a poor non-conference showing. The ACC better hope Wake Forest takes care of business during its trip to West Point this week. Army is a solid team and can very well lead to the Demon Deacons demise. No.16 Wake Forest at Army is more important than all of the conference games week, including Clemson at No.23 Pittsburgh. The ACC does not have a team in the top 15. The Pac 12 does. The Sun Belt does. The AAC does. Notre Dame doesn’t count for the ACC. Wake Forest is the conference’s ticket into the top 15. If the Demon Deacons lose and Coastal Carolina wins, expect to see the ACC drop a spot next week.
6. Sun Belt Conference (20-16, 8-1 vs. FCS)
Louisiana-Monroe was a 33 ½ point underdog to Liberty, an Independent, at home. The Warhawks won. This capped off a huge week for the Sun Belt. Louisiana-Lafayette, whose only loss is at Texas, drubbed Appalachian State. The Ragin’ Cajuns were ranked in this year’s preseason AP Poll, yet haven’t been seen since their opening week loss. Louisiana-Lafayette will likely start creeping back towards a ranking with an easy road over the next three weeks. South Alabama and Troy also defeated opponents with worse records. Finally, Coastal Carolina moved up a spot to No.14 despite having an off week. Kentucky dropped from No.11 to No.15, prompting the move. The Chanticleers visit a tough Appalachian State team Wednesday. The Sun Belt needs Coastal Carolina to remain undefeated.
7. Mountain West Conference (28-18, 9-2 vs. FCS)
When 4-0 Wyoming starts off 0-2 in conference play, that might be a good thing. When South Dakota State and Vanderbilt hold victories over one of your division leaders, that’s a problem. The Mountain West drops two spots this week thanks to Colorado State leading the Mountain Division. The Rams may get a reality check this week at Utah State. There are two reasons this conference didn’t drop below Conference USA: San Diego State and Nevada. The Aztecs are undefeated and Nevada holds a victory over a Pac 12 school. It’s only loss is against Kansas State. It’d be nice to say that No.22 San Diego State at Air Force is the most important game this week, but it’s not. The Mountain West desperately needs Colorado State to lose. Thus, Colorado State at Utah State is the most important game this week. Nobody in this conference wants the Rams to win. It’s an awful look.
8. Conference USA (23-31, 14-0 vs. FCS)
UTSA is into the AP Top 25. This is not a drill. Repeat. UTSA is into the AP Top 25.
Alright. This is a massive deal for Conference USA. It is highly unlikely the Roadrunners capture the Group of Five spot for a New Year’s Six Bowl. However, this at least places them into the conversation now. Step 1 is being ranked. These next two weeks will be tough. Louisiana Tech is better than the record says, and this game is on the road. After facing the Bulldogs, UTSA has to go to UTEP where Dana Dimel has the Miners bowl eligible. Speaking of UTEP, they’re on a four-game win streak right now. Every team with a better record won this week. Three of the five teams who entered the week with better records won on the road. The most important game of the week is No.24 UTSA at Louisiana Tech.
9. Pac-12 (16-17, 7-2 vs. FCS)
Just when you think this season couldn’t get any worse for the Pac -2, Arizona State loses to Utah. Prior to this result, Arizona State had won every conference game by double digits. There seems to be a small slither of hope for the Pac 12 to get into the College Football Playoff. I really don’t see this happening. However, people keep chirping about Oregon still having a shot. Really? The same team who slipped up against a 3-4 Stanford team? I guess the mothership needs to hype up the Oregon at UCLA game somehow. This game barely eclipses BYU at Washington State for the most important game of the week.
10. MAC (21-27, 11-1 vs. FCS)
It was a solid week for the MAC. For the most part, teams with better records defeated teams with worse records. Western Michigan and Northern Illinois picked up wins. While Ball State had a worse record than Eastern Michigan, we all know Ball State is the better team. The Cardinals won at Ypsilanti. In hindsight, that seems like a bad result, but I expect Ball State to go on a run. Thus, it will turn into a good result. Again, it was a solid week for a conference that has no shot at a New Year’s Six bowl and really doesn’t have much to play for. If we want to believe there is a most important game of the week, then we shall go with Northern Illinois at Central Michigan. At least both teams have winning records.