Non-conference play matters. It’s how a conference proves itself worthy. The Big Ten Conference is out of unbeatens. However, it was the best in non-conference play. It’s also a big reason why the Big 12 Conference is No.2. The Big Ten Conference was not vulnerable in previous weeks, but it is now. The lack of an undefeated team makes the conference vulnerable. The ACC, on the other hand, dropped down this week. That is a conference with zero undefeated teams remaining and a less-than-stellar non-conference performance. Also, when a school plays an FCS team, it would be wise to win against the FCS team. The SEC already has one loss to an FCS school. I wouldn’t put it past the FCS to win a second game this week. How far did the ACC drop? Why is Florida in the SEC’s most important game this week? And what “important game” will I not be watching this week? It’s all below in our weekly conference rankings.
1. Big Ten Conference (33-9, 7-0 vs. FCS)
Down goes Michigan State, and just like that the Big Ten is out of unbeatens. However, the Big Ten Conference holds on to the top spot. Non-conference play is a major factor in these rankings. The Big Ten Conference holds two victories over the Big 12. Maryland defeated West Virginia. Iowa won at Iowa State. Additionally, the conference is 1-0 against the SEC. Penn State beat Auburn. Without an undefeated team, the conference Is now vulnerable for the first time in a long time. It will take a lot to unseat the conference though. The early non-conference season slate is where the Big Ten made its money. With those three victories stored in the savings account, the Big Ten was racking up interest throughout the season. The most important game this week is Purdue at No.6 Ohio State. ESPN has a love fest with the Buckeyes as we witnessed in 2014 when Ohio State was picked over TCU and Baylor to participate in the first-ever College Football Playoff. It will make ESPN look even more like a clown if they picked a two-loss Ohio State team over an unbeaten Oklahoma or unbeaten Cincinnati. Oh, you don’t think they’d do that? Remember, Oregon is No.3 this week. The Ducks lost to a Stanford team who will likely fire their coach after the season.
2. Big 12 Conference (24-6, 9-0 vs. FCS)
The non-conference record seriously helps this conference out. It also helps to have an unbeaten record against FCS teams. Remember, Vanderbilt lost by 20 points to ETSU at home. ETSU could be bowl eligible in the SEC East. TCU’s victory over Baylor was a serious gutpunch to the conference, but that’s why the Big 12 is entertaining. This kept TCU alive for a bowl game. TCU will likely beat Kansas. Even at 5-7, the APR scores can come into play. The most important game this week is No.4 Oklahoma at No.18 Baylor. The Bears have two losses. If the Sooners lose this game, it will hurt the potential significance of Bedlam.
3. American Athletic Conference (22-19, 9-1 vs. FCS)
The American continues to ride the coat tails of the future Big 12 teams. Cincinnati, Houston and UCF all secure victories this week. The Navy loss at Notre Dame hurts. This conference is only three games over .500 now. The most important game will be played on Friday. No.2 Cincinnati travels to South Florida. The Bearcats must continue to win, and it would really help them if they just completely dominated the Bulls. Cincinnati has slacked off in recent weeks. That’s not going to impress anyone. Cincinnati needs to make a statement and have this game over by the end of the first quarter.
4. Southeastern Conference (37-7, 9-1 vs. FCS)
Congratulations to Ole Miss! You beat your old coach! That’s about the only good thing that happened this week in the SEC. Georgia failed to cover the spread against Missouri. Alabama only beat LSU by six points in Tuscaloosa. This LSU team has a lame duck for a head coach. It’s already announced that Ed Orgeron will not be returning next season, and there is absolutely zero hope for that decision to be overturned. How do you only win by six points? UCLA beat LSU by more points than Alabama. That’s horrible. Meanwhile, Kentucky continues to look like a fraud. The Wildcats secured six wins against the following: vs. UL Monroe, vs. Missouri, vs. Chattanooga, at South Carolina, vs. Florida, vs. LSU. I’ve said this for several weeks. All you have to do to become bowl eligible in the SEC East is schedule four non-conference cupcakes and win two division games. Kentucky is going to win at least eight games this season considering they have a road game against Vanderbilt and a home game against New Mexico State remaining. The SEC East is a cupcake division, and Georgia should not be the No.1 team in the nation. Who have they beaten? A Clemson team with three losses? C’mon. Georgia is overrated. The most important game this week is Samford at Florida. My, my, my how embarrassing would it be if another SEC East team lost to an FCS school. Oh, you don’t think this can happen? Let me remind you that Florida lost 26-20 to an FCS school that finished 4-4 in the Southern Conference Nov. 23, 2013. That team is Georgia Southern. Florida is a vulnerable team and they could easily falter to Samford if the Gators aren’t focused. Dan Mullen’s team is on a three-game losing streak and just got destroyed by a South Carolina who beat Vanderbilt by one point at home. This is a very real possibility.
5. Conference USA (24-32, 14-0 vs. FCS)
UTSA produced a convincing victory at UTEP. Jeff Traylor now has the Roadrunners in the top 15 in the AP Poll. They are just one spot behind BYU. Ole Miss and Texas A&M are playing each other, so UTSA is almost guaranteed to move ahead of the losing team. The toughest challenge ahead for UTSA in the regular season is a home game against UAB. Unfortunately, for UTSA, the College Football Playoff rankings may bounce them out of the Top 25 even if the Roadrunners beat a one-win Southern Miss team by 100 points. Conference USA has a partnership with CBS Sports, so ESPN can’t afford to give these guys anymore publicity. This is a big reason six teams are bolting from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference. If you don’t think ESPN is playing a role in conference realignment, you are a fool. It’s all about the money. For obvious reasons, the most important game is Southern Miss at No.15 UTSA.
6. Atlantic Coast Conference (30-15, 11-1 vs. FCS)
Wake Forest goes down. Every other ACC team has at least two losses. The ACC is a disaster. Boston College finally picked up a conference victory. Kiss the College Football Playoff goodbye. Even with ESPN banking off the ACC Network, this conference can’t even sniff the College Football Playoff. That’s how bad this conference is. BYU could win this conference. Cincinnati could win this conference. Heck, I think Houston could win this conference. I won’t say any Sun Belt teams would win. After all, Appalachian State lost at Miami (FL) and they beat Coastal Carolina. This is a horrible conference. They move down a spot this week, because UTSA is undefeated. They stay ahead of the Sun Belt for one reason: Miami (FL) 25 Appalachian State 23. When a bottomfeeder beats one of your best teams, I can’t justify moving you up. The most important game is No.7 Notre Dame at Virginia. And yes, the ACC would like for Virginia to beat Notre Dame. It doesn’t help the ACC when independent Notre Dame achieves success. Whom it helps is Notre Dame and NBC.
7. Sun Belt Conference (20-16, 8-1 vs. FCS)
The top three all won which is good for the conference. Two teams are ranked in the AP Top 25. I’m not certain why Appalachian State didn’t even receive a vote, but they do have two losses thanks to a road game against Miami (FL) earlier this season. And granted, Miami (FL) is not a good team. Therefore, can I really argue against the writers? UL Monroe really hurt this conference by losing at Texas State. The Bobcats aren’t going to a bowl game. The Warhawks had a golden opportunity to pick up their fifth victory. The loss leaves them at 4-5, with LSU and Loisiana-Lafayette remaining on the schedule. Arkansas State and UL Monroe are about on the same footing, so there is a solid chance UL Monroe loses out. Being 5-4 would have provided the Warhawks plenty of hope against the Red Wolves. I don’t think UL Monroe gets across the hump. The most important game this week is Louisiana-Lafayette at Troy. The Ragin’ Cajuns have just one loss: at Texas. This is a road game against a Troy team who can hold its own. The Trojans will be a test for Louisiana-Lafayette.
8. Mountain West Conference (30-19, 9-2 vs. FCS)
San Diego State is the lonely hope for this conference to reach a New Year’s Six Bowl, and that’s a longshot. Fresno State, at home, was destroyed by Boise State. This conference also suffered defeat when Army defeated Air Force in the Commander’s Classic. Utah State did help the non-conference record with a win at New Mexico State, but that’s not an impressive victory. Oh, by the way, Marcus Arroyo picked up his first victory as UNLV head coach. The Rebels beat New Mexico on the road. This conference is trippy and that’s not a good thing. We’ll pretend that the most important game of the week is Nevada at San Diego State. This game is about as important as North Carolina State at Wake Forest is for the ACC. Not really all that important, but it’s fun to think it is.
9. Pac 12 (16-19, 7-2 vs. FCS)
This conference is downright awful. Arizona, who lost to FCS team Northern Arizona, finally has a win. Colorado, whose only victory is over Northern Colorado, finally has a conference win. Washington, who lost to FCS team Montana, had Oregon on the ropes for a quarter and battled them the entire game. There is only one reason Oregon is in No.3 in the College Football Playoffs. ESPN is desperate for eyeballs. They intentionally make these rankings controversial. If Oregon wasn’t in the top four, and they shouldn’t be anywhere near the top four, ESPN would lose the entire West Coast. And for how they’ve treated conferences west of the Mississippi River, they deserve to lose those eyeballs. Just so everyone remembers, Oregon lost to a Stanford team who is 3-5 and lost 24-7 to Kansas State. Stanford also lost to Washington. If Oregon is No.3, does that mean FCS Montana should be No.1 or No.2? The fraudulent most important game of the week is on what channel? ESPN. Why is it so important? Because ESPN holds the rights to the College Football Playoff. What is the most important game for the Pac-12? Washington State, who fired their head coach earlier this season, at No.5 Oregon. I won’t be watching.
10. MAC (21-27, 11-1 vs. FCS)
What’s the point? Again, all MACtion is over this week. For some odd reason, the MAC believes you’d prefer to watch them over opening night college hoops. It’s a bold strategy, Cotton.