It’s bowl season. A fresh start for many conferences. The MAC finally receives an opportunity to prove it is not the worst conference in the nation. The AAC has a chance to prove its “Power Six Conference” moniker to be true. The Big Ten has a golden opportunity to reign supreme.
As for the Big 12? They drop down a spot, but not to worry, there are plenty of bowl games for the conference to prove it truly is the best conference in the nation.
The rankings entering bowl season are below.
1. Big Ten Conference (33-9, 7-0 vs. FCS)
Michigan moves back into the top spot after Championship Week. The Wolverines may be the best team in the nation, and my God, they might be the most underrated team at that. Their only loss comes on the road against their arch-rival. They didn’t pout or cry. They put their gear back on and outscored opponents 193-72. All of those teams, except for Indiana, are bowl-eligible. Three of those games were not played in the State of Michigan. If the Big Ten wants to reclaim its glory days and reign supreme as “the best conference in the nation”, Michigan needs to beat Georgia. If the Wolverines lose to Georgia, then the Big Ten just looks foolish. Georgia hasn’t beaten anybody. Their best victory comes against a 3-loss ACC team who couldn’t even win their division.
It also helps the Big Ten that Iowa lost to Michigan. Had Iowa defeated Michigan, the Big 12 could make an argument that many of its teams are better than the Big Ten’s best teams. For crying out loud, a Texas Tech team with an interim head coach beat Iowa State.
2. Big 12 Conference (24-6, 9-0 vs. FCS)
The Big 12 Conference and the American Athletic Conference are neck-and-neck with each other. The Big 12 stays in the No.2 position by a nose. Texas Tech beat Houston in the season opener this season. Houston won a division championship while Texas Tech limped into bowl eligibility. This game was played in Houston, making it very much like a home game for the Cougars. SMU defeated a TCU team that failed to make it to a bowl game. Add on to the fact that the Big 12 has four times as many non-conference victories as it does losses. Whereas the AAC lost to an FCS school plus is just six games over .500. However, bowl season can quickly turn these rankings around. It shall be interesting.
3. American Athletic Conference (25-19, 9-1 vs. FCS)
Cincinnati is into the College Football Playoff. Congratulations to the AAC on being the first Group of Five conference to break down the barriers. The AAC rides the back of the future Big 12 Conference, but hey, you know what? They’ll take it. Yes, Cincinnati, is considered a team from the American Athletic Conference. This conference will reap the benefits of the appearance. Even more good news for the AAC. They’ve been claiming that they are a “Power Six Conference”, well here’s your shot to prove it. Five of your seven bowl games are against Power Five Conference teams. Yes, three of these teams are leaving for the Big 12 Conference. In addition to Cincinnati’s matchup against Alabama, Houston plays Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl. UCF plays Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl. The other two games pit SMU against Virginia in the Fenway Bowl, while East Carolina plays Boston College in the Military Bowl. There are no excuses for either side to lose these games. Cry me a river if your head coach isn’t around (I’m looking at you, SMU vs. Virginia). Cry me a river, Power Five schools, if you have to play a Group of Five school. Cry me a river if you are a Group of Five school and say “but we lost to a Power Five school”, you have been asking to be considered a “Power Six Conference” ever since the American Athletic Conference was born into existence. I don’t want to hear any excuses by any teams in any matchups with the AAC playing in it. That also goes for the Myrtle Beach Bowl and the Hawai’i Bowl. Tulsa shouldn’t be in a bowl because it lost to an FCS school. Memphis is only in a bowl thanks to one of the worst gaffes by referees in college football this season.
4. Southeastern Conference (49-8, 13-1 vs. FCS)
So much for how “dominant” Georgia is. The Bulldogs were embarrassed by Alabama, just proving that their division truly is the SEC Least. The College Football Playoff selection committee was saved from having controversy at the four-spot because Alabama, Michigan, and Baylor all won the conference titles. If these rankings were based on marketing, the SEC would undoubtedly be No.1. However, these rankings are based on results. The proof is in the pudding. East Tennessee State could be bowl eligible in the SEC Least. Heck, if Florida is bowl eligible, maybe Samford could even make it to a bowl. This conference is overrated, and the way they place teams into bowl games is dishonorable. Why does the SEC get to wait for other conferences to show their cards first before placing its teams up against them? It’s specifically the reason why we never saw Texas A&M play against any schools from the State of Texas in a bowl game, which is what would be great for college football.
5. Mountain West Conference (30-19, 9-2 vs. FCS)
Utah State must be the quietest 10-win team in the FBS. They haven’t been ranked all season, but that’s because of a slip-up against Wyoming late in the year. They received 12 votes in the Week 12 AP Poll after early-season losses against Boise State and BYU. Following the upset of San Diego State to win the Mountain West Conference, Utah State went from zero votes to receiving 150 and being the first team outside the AP Top 25. The Aggies are the team who can push the Mountain West Conference to a winning record against the Pac-12. The conferences are 5-5 against each other and Utah State plays Oregon State in the LA Bowl. The Aggies have already won at Washington State this season, and that came before Nick Rolovich was fired. It’ll just serve as more proof that BYU, Boise State, San Diego State, and Utah State could have won the Pac-12 Conference this season. Thus, why the Mountain West Conference is ranked so far ahead of the Pac-12.
6. Atlantic Coast Conference (33-20, 12-1 vs. FCS)
The best news for Pitt is that they aren’t playing at home. ACC Champion Pitt lost at home this season to Miami (FL) and the MAC’s Western Michigan. This game is a golden opportunity for the ACC. If Pitt can beat Michigan State, It’ll show a chink in the armor of the Big Ten Conference. The ACC needs a good showing in the bowl games. Three of the ACC’s bowls are against Group of Five schools. The ACC needs to put its foot down on those games and prove that there is a reason those schools are Group of Five and that the ACC is a superior conference as a member of the Power Five.
7. Conference USA (24-32, 14-0 vs. FCS)
Well, at least one of these Group of Five bowls will be worth watching. Two teams with at least 11 victories, including one over a Power Five school will play each other. I don’t know about you, but I’m more excited to watch the Frisco Bowl than I am the Rose Bowl. Who wants to see two losers in Ohio State vs. Utah anyways? San Diego State beat Utah. Why the Hell isn’t Utah in this Group of Five bowl?
8. Sun Belt Conference (21-19, 8-1 vs. FCS)
Unfortunately, this conference doesn’t get the opportunity to see its best teams play Power Five conference schools during the bowl season. An 11-win Louisiana-Lafayette team is playing 7-5 Marshall in the New Orleans Bowl. If you win a Group of Five conference, you’ve earned the right to play with the big boys. Enough with this foolishness. Each Group of Five Champion should receive an automatic bid to play a Power Five team.
9. Pac 12 (16-21, 7-2 vs. FCS)
I will not shy away from the fact that BYU won this conference’s championship. The fact that Utah is in a New Year’s Six Bowl and BYU is in the Independence Bowl is a disgrace to college football, and really to sports in general. It’s an abomination. Watch Ohio State blow the doors off Utah now that they’ve been reminded of their humiliation at the hands of Oregon all season. BYU could defeat all three of these teams.
10. MAC (21-27, 11-1 vs. FCS)
The MAC was horrible during non-conference play in the regular season. All of its teams finished with at least four losses this season. Its best team failed to reach double-digit victories even with a victory in the conference championship. The MAC couldn’t be happier to get to bowl season. This provides the conference their first true opportunity to dig out of the cellar.