College football title chase hits the home stretch

Gordon P Smith Roar Guru

By , Gordon P Smith is a Roar Guru

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    Last week, we took a gander at the lower half of Division 1 American college football as it hit the two-weeks-to-go mark before the playoff selection.

    This week, it’s the upper half, the ten FBS conferences, who have two weeks to go before the conference championship games take place and the final bowl and playoff selections occur.

    Generally, teams must win six games to become bowl eligible.

    Let’s look at those conferences and where their teams line up.

    Atlantic Coast (ACC)
    In the Coastal division, Miami-FL cinched the division title even before demolishing Notre Dame Saturday night, and will face Clemson, who finished its conference play at 7-1 with a win over poor Florida State and clinched the Atlantic division.

    The winner of that game has the inside track on one of the four playoff positions if they win out.

    Bowl participants: definitely Miami (currently 9-0), Clemson (9-1), North Carolina State (7-3), Virginia (6-4), Louisville (6-4), Wake Forest (6-4) and Virginia Tech (7-3); probably Boston College (projected to finish 7-5), Georgia Tech (6-5); possibly Pitt (projected 4-8), Duke (4-8), and Syracuse (4-8).

    American (AAC)
    The winner of the South Florida at Central Florida game in two weeks will be the East division champ, and Memphis has the inside track to win the West with wins over SMU and East Carolina in the next two weeks.

    The East champ is most likely going to be the New Year’s Six representative.

    Bowl participants: definitely UCF (currently 9-0), USF (8-1), Memphis (8-1), Houston (6-3), SMU (6-4), and Navy (6-3); possibly Temple (projected at 5-7), and Tulane (4-8).

    Big Ten
    Wisconsin has the chance to win out and make the College Football Playoff, with victories over Michigan, Minnesota, and the East champion (most likely Ohio State).

    They’ve got the West sewn up already; the Buckeyes have a leg up on the East division at 6-1, and with a pair of wins against Illinois and at Michigan, will clinch the East.

    Bowl participants: definitely Ohio State (8-2), Michigan (8-2), Michigan State (8-2), Penn State (7-3), Wisconsin (10-0), Northwestern (7-3), and Iowa (6-4); possibly Nebraska (projected 4-8), Minnesota (5-7), Purdue (5-7), Maryland (4-8), and Rutgers (4-8).

    Big Twelve
    Oklahoma has one spot in the pointless title game wrapped up with a win over TCU Saturday. TCU is still the leading candidate for the other slot, tied with Oklahoma State and West Virginia at 5-2.

    Despite everyone playing everyone else, the ‘XII’ has the top two play again, with the assumption that one more win looks too good for the playoff committee to pass up – forgetting that the one more loss may exclude their best candidate.

    former Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb

    We’re going to find out in three weeks!

    Bowl participants: definitely Oklahoma (9-1) Oklahoma State (8-2), TCU (8-2), West Virginia (7-3), Iowa State (6-4); probably Texas (projected 6-6); possibly Kansas State (projected 5-7), Texas Tech (projected 5-7).

    Conference USA
    Florida International goes to Florida Atlantic next week, with FAU hoping to clinch the East division crown. North Texas is 6-1 in the West and has only a bowl of Rice in front of it for a West division title.

    Bowl participants: definitely North Texas (7-3), Alabama-Birmingham (7-3… unless the state school board interferes again, as they did in 2014!), FAU (7-3), FIU (6-3), Southern Miss (6-4), and Marshall (7-3); probably Middle Tennessee (projected 6-6), Western Kentucky (7-5) and UTSA (7-5); possibly Louisiana Tech (projected 5-7).

    Mid-American (MAC)

    Ohio just beat Toledo 38-10 this past Wednesday; that’s very likely to be the match-up again in a few weeks for the MAC title, barring a slip-up from either team.

    Ohio has Akron next Tuesday, and Toledo has Western Michigan in two weeks.

    Bowl participants: definitely Ohio (8-2), Toledo (8-2), Northern Illinois (7-3), Western (6-4) and Central Michigan (6-4); probably Akron (projected 6-6); possibly Miami-Ohio (projected 5-7) and Buffalo (5-7).

    Mountain West (MWC)
    With a win over San Diego State to its credit, Fresno State would have to lose to more than just to Boise on November 25 to lose the West division crown; meanwhile, Boise State would have to lose to more than just Fresno to lose the Mountain division crown.

    What we’re saying is that those two teams will be playing two consecutive games in weeks 13 and 14. The first one will probably be completely meaningless, while the latter one will be for the title.

    That will make the first game an interesting chess match.

    Bowl participants: definitely Fresno State (7-3), San Diego State (8-2), Boise State (8-2), Colorado State (6-5), and Wyoming (7-3); probably Utah State (projected 6-6); possibly UNLV (projected 4-8) and Air Force (5-7).

    Pacific 12 (Pac-12)
    Stanford’s whipping of Washington means that Washington State is one Apple Cup win away from winning a three-way battle for the North division title; lose to UW, and Stanford hosts the title game against the already-sealed and delivered Southern Cal Trojans.

    Washington could still win if they beat WSU (‘Wazzu’) and Stanford loses to Cal-Berkeley in the ‘Big Game’ this weekend. With the cannibalisation the league has committed, and no team having less than two losses, it’s almost inconceivable that any Pac-12 team will make the final four.

    Bowl participants: definitely Washington (8-2), WSU (9-2), Stanford (7-3), Arizona (7-3), USC (9-2); probably Arizona State (projected 6-6), Oregon (6-6), Utah (6-6), UCLA (6-6); possibly Cal (projected 5-7), Colorado (5-7).

    Southeastern (SEC)
    With Georgia’s loss to Auburn, the stage is set for next week’s Iron Bowl between 10-0 Alabama and 8-2 Auburn, the winner becoming the West division titlist and getting a possible rematch with Georgia for the SEC title.

    It sure looks like the Iron Bowl winner would have to be one of the four CFP favourites at the moment, and if the winner beats Georgia again, that’s a certainty.

    Bowl participants: definitely Alabama, Auburn, Georgia (9-1), Kentucky (7-3), South Carolina (7-3), LSU (7-3), Mississippi State (7-3), and Texas Aandamp;M (6-4); probably Missouri (projected 7-5 after a terrible start); possibly Tennessee (projected 5-7), Vanderbilt (4-8), Arkansas (4-8); Ole Miss is ineligible despite their current 5-5 record.

    Sun Belt
    Four teams now have one conference loss, and with no title game, it seems very likely that co-champions might happen. But looking at the upcoming schedules where Troy hosts Arkansas State and App St plays Georgia State, it looks like the most likely outcome involves a tie between Appalachian State and Troy.

    Since they don’t play each other this year, they seem likely to finish co-champs. No title game, no complete round-robin. It’s the opposite stupidity of the Big Twelve’s stupidity.

    Bowl participants: definitely Troy (8-2), Appalachian State (6-4), and Georgia State (6-3); probably Arkansas State (projected 8-3) and New Mexico State (7-5); possibly UL-Lafayette (projected 5-7), UL-Monroe (4-7), Idaho (4-8) and South Alabama (4-8).

    Independent teams
    Notre Dame is 8-2 and was virtually guaranteed a final four playoff spot until their rout at undefeated Miami Saturday. But they lost to 9-1 Georgia by just one point and have wins against Temple, Boston College, Michigan State, USC, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest; add the Midshipmen and Cardinal to that list and they might still get into the finals, particularly if Miami goes in undefeated.

    Army is 8-2 and guaranteed a bowl bid, while UMass and BYU together don’t have enough wins to qualify.

    So, our current projections with two weeks to go before conference title games?

    Our four CFP finalists would be Alabama (SEC), Oklahoma (Big Twelve), Wisconsin (Big Ten), and the Clemson – Miami winner (ACC), assuming wins go their way in November.

    And the clamouring for an eight-team playoff increases exponentially if either Notre Dame makes it or a second ACC or SEC team makes the playoffs.

    American Football players line up Canadian football. CFL. Image: Wikicommons generic

    Personally, we hate the idea of expansion, but money says that the five Power Five conferences will not continue with a contract that automatically prevents at least one and in this case up to three of them from getting a cut of the biggest pie.

    Expect to see an eight-team finals with the five Power Five champs guaranteed a spot and three wild cards when the next contract comes up; and if there’s any justice in the world, one of those spots would be guaranteed to a Group of Five team.

    But if they actually do that, we’ll faint.

    As for the conference champions? In order, we expect them to be Clemson (ACC), Central Florida (Adam Ashley-Cooper), Ohio State (Big Ten), Oklahoma (Big Twelve), FIU (Conference USA), Ohio (MAC), Boise State (MWC), USC (Pac 12), Alabama (SEC), and Appalachian State / Troy (Sun Belt).

    Finally, there are 39 FBS bowl games this year, not counting the title game, so there need to be 78 teams that qualify for bowl games to fill those slots. Qualifying traditionally means six wins against FBS competition.

    We just listed 98 teams who could possibly make that goal, but only 72 who probably will make that target. In that situation, the six teams at 5-7 (or 5-6) which have the best academic scores will be invited to fill out those remaining openings in bowl games.

    Last year, I believe all five such teams won their bowls. Maybe they went 4-1, but it was impressive nonetheless.

    Next week’s top games look like this:

    Michigan at Wisconsin, the toughest test for the Badgers before the B1G title game. We favour the home Badgers on our ELO-Following Football rating system by 11 points.

    Two traditional Pac-12 match-ups in California: UCLA at USC and Cal ar Stanford. USC by 16 and Stanford by 14.

    Missouri at Vanderbilt and Texas A&M at Ole Miss, two SEC games for bowl eligibility. Mizzou by 7 and A&M by 2.

    FIU at Florida Atlantic for the C-USA East laurels. Remarkably, FAU is favoured by 17.

    James Madison at Elon for the Colonial AA title. Elon, like all the rest of JMU’s opponents this season, is a 2-3 touchdown underdog.

    Austin Peay at Eastern Illinois in the Ohio Valley, very possibly for an FCS playoff spot. APU is a 2-point underdog, but has won all four games we’ve had them as single-digit underdogs this season.

    We’d bet on the Governors to go 8-4, 8-1 against FCS foes.

    Lafayette at Lehigh to decide the Patriot League title. If Lehigh fails to hold its 13-point spread, then Colgate wins the title.

    NC Central at NC A&T to decide the MEAC crown; if Central upsets A&T (a 16-point favourite), then Howard University can tie them with a win over rival Hampton.

    Four teams in the Southern Conference go up a level or three to prepare for possible playoff bids: Wofford at South Carolina, Western Carolina at UNC, the Citadel at Clemson, and Mercer at Alabama.

    If any of them win, that’ll be a huge upset. Even so, they’re all good FCS teams.

    And ‘The Game’ (that’s its name): Harvard at Yale.

    If Yale wins (a 7-point favourite), they take the Ivy League title all alone; if not, Dartmouth (by 1) and Colombia (by 17) are favoured to tie them for the title.

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