We are getting down to the “nitty-gritty” of the season. Three Big 12 teams are in contention for the College Football Playoffs. The Big Ten Conference also has a slew of teams in contention for the College Football Playoffs. The Big Ten West is clearly weaker than the Big Ten East.
But, what you’ll find out in these rankings is why the Big Ten West Championship is so important. It’s very much unlike the SEC East, a garbage division dominated by one team who had the championship sewn up before Halloween. The Pac-12 is officially out of the College Football Playoffs. That should have taken place long ago, but you know, money talks. Phil Knight has a lot of money. He’s the richest man in Oregon.
The ACC is also out of the College Football Playoffs. A three-loss Clemson team defeated Wake Forest. This actually dropped the ACC down in the rankings. One conference shot up a couple of spots. You can find out who moved up, why the Big Ten West championship is so important for the entire college football landscape, and the weather forecast in Denton, Texas below. Yes, we talk about the weather. Hey! We’ve got you covered here at Heartland College Sports. What more could you ask for? All of that and more on down below.
1. Big Ten Conference (33-9, 7-0 vs. FCS)
Michigan obliterated Maryland on the road. This is a victory that keeps the Big Ten Conference ahead of the Big 12 Conference. Maryland is a mid-tier team who beat West Virginia. This says that Michigan would destroy West Virginia in Morgantown. Iowa being in contention for the Big Ten West is good for both, the Big Ten and the Big 12. There are arguments to be made that could place the Big 12 in front of the Big Ten, but the Big Ten remains 2-1 against the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska played Oklahoma close. That was not a good game for the Big 12 Conference as Nebraska is a bottom feeder and Oklahoma is a six-time defending Big 12 Champion with only one loss. The most important game of the week for the Big Ten Conference is No.18 Wisconsin at Minnesota. If Wisconsin wins this game, they will go to the Big Ten Championship Game. If they defeat the winner of Michigan-Ohio State, the Big Ten could easily be shut out of the College Football Playoffs. Cincinnati defeated Notre Dame and Notre Dame defeated Wisconsin. If Wisconsin has a victory over the Big Ten East Champion, I don’t see how the Big Ten Conference places a team in the top six much less the top four. It would be in the Big Ten’s favor for Iowa to win the Big Ten East as they have a victory at Iowa State, a place where Oklahoma State lost. Thus, that September victory could be seen as a justification for the College Football Playoff committee to skyrocket the Hawkeyes up the rankings. Remember, Iowa has just two losses. Wisconsin has three. Even though the Badgers have a higher ranking currently, that third loss eliminates the Badgers. Not to mention, Wisconsin lost 41-13 at home to Notre Dame. A two-loss Iowa team who’s only lost to Big Ten teams is more insurance for the conference than a Wisconsin team with three losses at home, including that one to Notre Dame. You want the team that the committee can justify jumping three Big 12 teams, not the team who they can’t justify jumping over Notre Dame.
2. Big 12 Conference (24-6, 9-0 vs. FCS)
Baylor wins. Check! Oklahoma State wins. Check! Oklahoma wins. Check!
The top Big 12 Conference teams won. This sets up an interesting dilemma in the Big 12. Baylor hosts Texas Tech. Assuming Baylor wins, they will be scoreboard watching Bedlam intensely. The best-case scenario for the Big 12 Conference is for Oklahoma State to win out. Oklahoma State is the top-ranked team currently. They already defeated Baylor, who has two losses. Oklahoma State’s lone loss comes at an Iowa State team who is already bowl eligible. Iowa State, being at home, should beat TCU. As long as West Virginia defeats Kansas, the Cyclones will only have lost to bowl-eligible teams. If Iowa wins the Big Ten West and then pulls an upset in the Big Ten Championship Game, this will only further the argument that Oklahoma State should be in the College Football Playoffs. Baylor has an outside shot. Oklahoma has more of an outside shot. But it’s a long way to the top four for all three squads. Oklahoma State is the team with the best shot.
3. American Athletic Conference (23-19, 9-1 vs. FCS)
Cincinnati wins. Check! Houston wins. Check! UCF wins. Check!
UCF is important for two reasons: the Golden Knights clinched a winning record and they added a win to the non-conference tally by destroying a horrible Connecticut team. Houston will now play at Connecticut, so that will be important to helping the conference’s cause. However, the most important game this week is No.4 Cincinnati at East Carolina. East Carolina is a slippery team. They are on a four-game win streak. Their losses come against four teams who are bowl eligible by a total of 28 points combined. East Carolina is a team that could beat Cincinnati if the Bearcats are caught sleepwalking. Cincinnati is a 14-point favorite. It would help if they won this game by 28 points. Cincinnati needs to put the pedal to the metal and leave absolutely no doubt in the minds of the committee that they are better than East Carolina. Many people are saying that Notre Dame, a team Cincinnati defeated on the road, could surpass the Bearcats in the final standings. It’s absolutely stupid, tub as the great Gill Alexander says, “College football is not a meritocracy. It’s all about the economy.”
4. Southeastern Conference (46-7, 13-1 vs. FCS)
The SEC beat up on New Mexico State, the FBS, and the Sun Belt this week. Only one of the six non-conference games the SEC played was against a team with a winning record. That was 7-3 Prairie View A&M, a team from the dreadful SWAC. For those who don’t know, the HBCU conferences were tired of being humiliated in the FCS Playoffs, so they created their own bowl game: the Celebration Bowl. Thus, these two conferences do not receive an automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs. However, they can be selected for at-large bids. Still, this is pathetic. Someone needs to tell the SEC to stop playing these games. No one cares. They only hurt the SEC’s perception. Quite frankly, it kills the momentum going into that final weekend. The most important game this week for the SEC is No.3 Alabama at Auburn. The Auburn Tigers are on a three-game losing streak. They most recently lost at South Carolina. Yet, this Auburn team is a major reason why Ole Miss isn’t being considered for the College Football Playoff. They beat Ole Miss 31-20 at home in October. If Auburn pulls off the upset, the Tigers could be a one-team wrecking ball to the SEC’s chances at placing two teams into the College Football Playoff. An Alabama loss likely knocks them out of the top four, and it will be the Crimson Tide going to the SEC Championship instead of Ole Miss, so the Rebels can’t pick up the slack.
5. Conference USA (24-32, 14-0 vs. FCS)
UTSA is not playing well right now. This is a team that plays its home games in a dome. They will be on the road at an outdoor stadium after a cold front moves through. The forecast says “evening showers”, which anyone who lives in Texas knows that if the clouds move in earlier, these teams might be playing in the rain. Football in the rain? No big deal. Okay, now the low is set to be 44 degrees Saturday. How about cold rain with some wind? All of a sudden, UTSA is going to play a motivated North Texas team on a 4-game win streak in unfavorable conditions for a team who plays home games in a dome. Anything can happen, but the Roadrunners better be prepared for the elements. For obvious reasons, the most important game this week is No.15 UTSA at North Texas.
6. Mountain West Conference (30-19, 9-2 vs. FCS)
San Diego State should be ahead of Utah in the rankings. The Mountain West Conference is better than the Pac-12. San Diego State beat Utah. There’s absolutely no reason for any Pac-12 team to be ahead of San Diego State at this point. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the Mountain West Conference should replace the Pac-12 as the Power Five Conference in the West. I’m serious. Strip the Pac-12 Conference of their Power Five status and grant it to the Mountain West Conference. The most important game this week is Boise State at No.22 San Diego State. The Aztecs have an outside longshot bid to claim the Group of Five New Year’s Six Bowl. A lot of things have to happen, but Boise State is a respectable program and San Diego State has a victory over Utah. Some “experts” think Cincinnati could be caught sleeping on an improving East Carolina team. If they lose and then defeat Houston in the AAC Championship Game, San Diego State might pass both of them. BYU will have to lose to USC this weekend. UTSA will also have to lose. Go ahead and cue up the GIF for Dumb and Dumber’s “You’re saying there’s a chance?”
7. Atlantic Coast Conference (32-17, 12-1 vs. FCS)
Oh man, this conference is so bad. Florida State, who lost to an FCS school that is currently 5-6, could be bowl eligible with a 4-4 ACC record. They flew from Florida to a cold Massachusetts and beat Boston College. A 1-10 Wofford school managed to score 14 points against North Carolina and was in the game at halftime. Let’s not forget that Notre Dame, who lost at home to a Group of Five school, is 5-0 against the ACC. The most important game this week for the ACC is Florida State at Florida. Look, Georgia should handle Georgia Tech easily. Clemson should win at South Carolina, despite the Tigers having a down season. Kentucky is a decent team for Louisville to lose to. However, imagine a Florida State team who lost to 5-6 Jacksonville State, winning on the road over Florida. It would be the epitome of a season gone horribly wrong for the SEC East. It would prove the ACC to be a superior conference over the SEC East Division. Theoretically, the ACC could overtake the SEC this weekend in the conference rankings. Will it? Doubtful. But, the conference rankings are about the conference from top-to-bottom and the SEC East has struggled to beat FCS teams this season. If Florida State wins this game, you might as well just Vanderbilt will have gone 0-12 had they played in the Southern Conference.
8. Sun Belt Conference (21-19, 8-1 vs. FCS)
The non-conference record took a major hit this weekend. This is what happens when you place yourself on the same level as FCS schools. The Sun Belt should consider itself to be better than FCS schools. There is absolutely no reason to play the SEC in November. Stand up for yourself and tell the SEC that we’re going to play you in September, and that’s final. The Sun Belt is like that really good-looking guy who has zero confidence and just allows all the other guys to date the pretty ladies he really wants to date. This conference has zero confidence. They will continue placing themselves on the same level as the Southern Conference and the MEAC. Tell the SEC to go screw themselves. If they want to play you, they’ll play you in September. No more non-conference November games. The most important game this week is Louisiana-Monroe at Louisiana-Lafayette. Yes, Texas is a God-awful team. However, imagine how great this sounds for a Group of Five school: “The Ragin’ Cajuns only loss comes on the road against Texas and Louisiana-Lafayette scored in every quarter.” That’s good publicity for a school near the Atchafalaya Basin.
9. Pac 12 (16-19, 7-2 vs. FCS)
Every team now has at least two losses. Utah, who lost at BYU and at San Diego State won the Pac-12 South and completely humiliated Oregon. The Ducks were the lone team with a shot at the College Football Playoff. Kiss all of those hopes goodbye. What’s so pathetic is that the committee, because Phil Knight has deep pockets via Nike, is still ranked ahead of BYU. Why? Because money talks. This has nothing to do with on-field performance. Three of Oregon’s victories come against FCS teams or teams who lost to FCS teams. A fourth team, Colorado, isn’t all that great either. This is a horrible conference, and there is no reason why any of these teams should be in the top 15. The most important game this week is No.13 BYU at USC. The Pac-12 rejected BYU from joining the conference, just as the Pac-12 rejected what will be the remaining eight schools in the Big 12 once Texas and Oklahoma leave. BYU has already turned the Pac-12 into a laughing stock. Heck, Montana and Northern Arizona helped out in that regard. But now, BYU will have every reason to raise a “2021 Pac-12 Champions” banner if they defeat USC on the road. The Cougars defeated Utah by two scores. Utah humiliated Oregon. If BYU beats USC, there’s no reason why BYU wouldn’t have won the Pac-12 South, and with the way Utah destroyed Oregon, it seems BYU would have humiliated the Ducks too. Thus, for Pac-12 pride, USC is in a must-win game against BYU.
10. MAC (21-27, 11-1 vs. FCS)
When the teams with your best records have four losses, there’s not much more to say.