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The Best Conference in College Football Isn’t the SEC, Big Ten, or Pac-12

The CBS emblem during SEC games includes the words, “The Best Conference.” But the SEC lacks the edge crucial in final decision on college playoff invites.

Early last year the SEC ranked a touchdown better than every conference and talk centered on two or even three teams receiving invites. But it became acceptable to pick Ohio State after the SEC faltered and the Big Ten closed the gap (see Indiana’s win at Missouri).

Teams are graded from an “A” for performances that help their conference’s rating dramatically to “F” for a performance that hurts conference credibility. An “I” by their score means in intra-conference game that does not impact the conference rating.

This year the Big Ten ranks fourth and not far behind any conference, but the conference did not do enough to justify two playoff teams. Either No. 1 or No. 2 Michigan State or some other Big Ten team will make it but not both. The Big 12 is the top conference, and in an eight-team playoff they would be the one to deserve two teams in Baylor and TCU.

This is the last week with the big scoreboard in the final week of the conferences jockeying for position in games crucial to resumes of potential playoff teams.

ACC drops one to +7, 5th best conference
Indiana led the Big Ten past the ACC with a win over Wake Forest coupled with Boise State’s humiliation of Virginia and East Carolina beating Virginia Tech. At this stage, an ACC champ must go undefeated to have a chance to emerge from the fifth best conference and grab a playoff spot, but a Clemson win over Notre Dame next week would give the conference a better shot.

ACC Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Boston College 3 57% 17-14 C N Illinois Mid-Am -6
Clemson 0% Idle
Duke -7 28% 34-20 I Georgia Tech ACC +8
Florida St 0% Idle
Georgia Tech 7 72% 20-34 I Duke ACC +8
Louisville 28 97% 45-3 C+ Samford Big Ten +8
Miami FL 0% Idle
NC State 11 77% 63-13 A South Alabama SunB -14
North Carolina 31 99% 41-14 C Delaware FCS
Pittsburgh 0% Idle
Syracuse -18 11% 24-34 C+ LSU SEC +10
Virginia 0 50% 14-56 F- Boise St Mt West -13
Virginia Tech 3 60% 28-35 D East Carolina Amer +0
Wake Forest -3 43% 24-31 D Indiana Big Ten +8
6-4, +55 points 55 5.9 ACC Proj

American stays +0, 6th best conference
East Carolina’s second straight win over Virginia Tech of the ACC was enough for the American to hold onto a strong +0 as easily the best Group of 5 conference and only a touchdown worse than the ACC overall. This gives the eventual champ a great shot to be the one team from the Group of 5 conferences to get a major bowl bid, and a separate post makes the case that an undefeated Memphis or Temple actually would deserve a playoff spot.

American Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Cincinnati -8 33% 46-53 I Memphis Amer +0
Connecticut -11 23% 18-28 I Navy Amer +0
East Carolina -3 40% 35-28 B Virginia Tech ACC +8
Houston 17 84% 59-14 B Texas St SunB -14
Memphis 8 67% 53-46 I Cincinnati Amer +0
Navy 11 77% 28-18 I Connecticut Amer +0
SMU 9 68% 45-48 D- James Madison FCS
South Florida 0% Idle
Temple 0% Idle
Tulane 0% Idle
Tulsa 0% Idle
UCF -7 35% 14-31 C- South Carolina SEC +10
4-4, +16 points 16 4.3 Amer Proj

Big 12 stays +11, Best Conference
In the only inter-conference game West Virginia destroyed Maryland to keep the Big 12 as the No. 1 Conference in the final week for most conferences to prove themselves before conference play.

Big 12 Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Baylor 28 97% 70-17 B Rice CUSA – 8
Iowa St 0% Idle
Kansas -4 40% 14-27 C- Rutgers Big Ten +8
Kansas St 0% Idle
Oklahoma 0% Idle
Oklahoma St 1 51% 30-27 I Texas Big 12 +11
TCU 10 78% 53-48 I Texas Tech Big 12 +11
Texas -1 49% 27-30 I Oklahoma St Big 12 +11
Texas Tech -10 22% 48-53 I TCU Big 12 +11
West Virginia 16 82% 45-6 B Maryland Big Ten +8
4-3, +40 points 40 4.2 Big 12 Proj

Big Ten improves one to +8, 4th best conference
Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Nebraska survived scares from non-Power 5 teams, but they won all three and Michigan thrashing BYU and Indiana beating Wake Forest of the ACC helped them nudge ahead of the ACC by a point for 4th place.

Big Ten Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Illinois 12 76% 27-25 C- MTSU CUSA – 8
Indiana 3 57% 31-24 B Wake Forest ACC +8
Iowa 31 99% 62-16 C+ North Texas CUSA – 8
Maryland -16 18% 6-45 D West Virginia Big 12 +11
Michigan -2 47% 31-0 A BYU ind +0
Michigan St 25 95% 30-10 C C Michigan Mid-Am -6
Minnesota 9 68% 27-24 C- Ohio Mid-Am -6
Nebraska 27 96% 36-28 D Southern Miss CUSA – 8
Northwestern 21 94% 24-19 C- Ball St Mid-Am -6
Ohio St 28 97% 38-12 C W Michigan Mid-Am -6
Penn St 17 87% 37-21 C San Diego St Mt West -13
Purdue -2 47% 28-35 C- Bowling Green Mid-Am -6
Rutgers 4 60% 27-14 C+ Kansas Big 12 +11
Wisconsin 30 98% 28-0 C Hawaii Mt West -13
10-4, +187 points 187 10.4 Indiana road huge

Conference USA drops one to -9, 8th best conference
No disasters, but Marshall and UTEP barely pulled out wins and Rice and Old Dominion were destroyed by a combined 139-17.

CUSA Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Charlotte -6 33% 7-17 I FL Atlantic CUSA – 8
FL Atlantic 6 67% 17-7 I Charlotte CUSA – 8
Florida Intl -18 12% 17-27 I Louisiana Tech CUSA – 8
Louisiana Tech 18 88% 27-17 I Florida Intl CUSA – 8
Marshall 9 75% 36-29 OT D Kent Mid-Am -6
MTSU -12 24% 25-27 C+ Illinois Big Ten +8
North Texas -31 1% 16-62 C- Iowa Big Ten +8
Old Dominion -8 27% 0-49 D Appalachian St SunB -14
Rice -28 3% 17-70 D Baylor Big 12 +11
Southern Miss -27 4% 28-36 B Nebraska Big Ten +8
UT San Antonio -7 31% 31-33 C+ Colorado St Mt West -13
UTEP 31 99% 27-17 D Incarnate Word FCS
W Kentucky 9 68% 56-14 B Miami OH Mid-Am -6
5-8, -64 points (64) 5.3 CUSA Proj

Independents and FCS teams playing FBS

Ind. And FCS Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Army 1 52% 58-36 B E Michigan Mid-Am -6
BYU 2 53% 0-31 F Michigan Big Ten +8
Delaware -31 1% 14-41 C North Carolina ACC +8
Idaho St 0 50% 8-80 F UNLV Mt West -13
Incarnate Word -31 1% 17-27 B UTEP CUSA – 8
James Madison -9 32% 48-45 B+ SMU Amer +0
Nicholls St -49 0% 0-48 C Colorado Pac 12 +10
Notre Dame 29 98% 62-27 C Massachusetts Mid-Am -6
Samford -28 3% 3-42 C- Louisville ACC +8
Southern Univ -53 0% 6-48 C Georgia SEC +10

Mid-American stays at -6, 7th ranked conference

Mid-American Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Akron -10 27% 35-14 A ULL SunB -14
Ball St -21 6% 19-24 C+ Northwestern Big Ten +8
Bowling Green 2 53% 35-28 C+ Purdue Big Ten +8
Buffalo 8 67% 21-24 D Nevada Mt West -13
C Michigan -25 5% 10-30 C Michigan St Big Ten +8
E Michigan -1 48% 36-58 D Army ind +0
Kent -9 25% 29-36 OT D Marshall CUSA – 8
Massachusetts -29 2% 27-62 C Notre Dame Ind +0
Miami OH -9 32% 14-56 D W Kentucky CUSA – 8
N Illinois -3 43% 14-17 C Boston College ACC +8
Ohio -9 32% 24-27 C+ Minnesota Big Ten +8
Toledo 11 75% 37-7 B Arkansas St SunB -14
W Michigan -28 3% 12-38 C Ohio St Big Ten +8
4-9, -123 Points (123) 4.2 Mid-Am Proj

Mountain West improves THREE to -10, 9th best conference
After two dreadful weeks with only three total wins, the conference erupted. Boise State looked like a contender for the non-Power 5 spot with a 56-14 blowout of Virginia in a toss-up game. Nevada pulled off a big win over the Mid-American Buffao, and UNLV destroyed an Idaho State team that is actually very good.

Mt. West Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Air Force 0% Idle
Boise St 0 50% 56-14 A+ Virginia ACC +8
Colorado St 7 69% 33-31 C- UT San Antonio CUSA – 8
Fresno St 1 52% 23-49 I San Jose St Mt West -13
Hawaii -30 2% 0-28 C Wisconsin Big Ten +8
Nevada -8 33% 24-21 B Buffalo Mid-Am -6
New Mexico 3 58% 38-28 I Wyoming Mt West -13
San Diego St -17 13% 21-37 C Penn St Big Ten +8
San Jose St -1 48% 49-23 I Fresno St Mt West -13
UNLV 0 50% 80-8 A Idaho St FCS
Utah St 0% Idle
Wyoming -3 42% 28-38 I New Mexico Mt West -13
4-6, -48 Points (48) 4.2 Mt West Proj

Pac-12 stays at +10, tied for 2nd best conference
The Pac-12 starts conference play a week earlier than the others, and the only non-conference was almost exactly as expected. We had Colorado as a 49-point favorite over Nicholls State and they won 48-0. Our preseason pick of UCLA as the surprise conference champion looked good after Saturday, and we have them as the fourth team in the playoffs.

Pac 12 Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Arizona -3 40% 30-56 I UCLA Pac 12 +10
Arizona St -2 47% 14-42 I USC Pac 12 +10
California -5 37% 30-24 I Washington Pac 12 +10
Colorado 49 100% 48-0 C Nicholls St FCS
Oregon 13 80% 20-62 I Utah Pac 12 +10
Oregon St -17 13% 24-42 I Stanford Pac 12 +10
Stanford 17 87% 42-24 I Oregon St Pac 12 +10
UCLA 3 60% 56-30 I Arizona Pac 12 +10
USC 2 53% 42-14 I Arizona St Pac 12 +10
Utah -13 20% 62-20 I Oregon Pac 12 +10
Washington 5 63% 24-30 I California Pac 12 +10
Washington St 0% Idle
6-5, +49 Points 49 6.0 Pac-12 Proj

SEC stays at +10, tied for 2nd best conference
The SEC may end up as the top conference, but they did not outperform the Big 12 or Pac-12 in early inter-conference games. If LSU and Mississippi posses the best shot at the national title, consider that LSU struggled to beat Syracuse and Mississippi struggled to beat a Vanderbilt team that SEC fans assured me was a doormat when they lost their opener to a non-Power 5 team.

SEC Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Alabama 31 99% 34-0 C ULM SunB -14
Arkansas -6 35% 21-28 OT I Texas A&M SEC +10
Auburn 2 53% 9-17 I Mississippi St SEC +10
Florida 1 52% 28-27 I Tennessee SEC +10
Georgia 53 100% 48-6 C Southern Univ FCS
Kentucky -5 37% 21-13 I Missouri SEC +10
LSU 18 89% 34-24 C- Syracuse ACC +8
Mississippi 28 97% 27-16 I Vanderbilt SEC +10
Mississippi St -2 47% 17-9 I Auburn SEC +10
Missouri 5 63% 13-21 I Kentucky SEC +10
South Carolina 7 65% 31-14 C+ UCF Amer +0
Tennessee -1 48% 27-28 I Florida SEC +10
Texas A&M 6 65% 28-21 OT I Arkansas SEC +10
Vanderbilt -28 3% 16-27 I Mississippi SEC +10
8.5-5.5, +109 points 109 8.5 SEC Proj

Sun Belt drops three to -17 to be worst of 10 conferences
The Sun Belt fell so far behind all other conferences this weekend, they could be left out of a tournament of the Group of 5 to determine a college playoff team – as outlined in another post. Arkansas State, South Alabama and Texas State embarrassed the conference this past week.

Sun Belt Pred Pwin Score/Conf Grade Opponent Opp Conf
Appalachian St 8 73% 49-0 B Old Dominion CUSA – 8
Arkansas St -11 25% 7-37 D Toledo Mid-Am -6
Ga Southern 18 89% 44-20 I Idaho SunB -14
Georgia St 0% Idle
Idaho -18 11% 20-44 I Ga Southern SunB -14
New Mexico St 0% Idle
South Alabama -11 23% 13-63 F NC State ACC +8
Texas St -17 16% 14-59 D Houston Amer +0
Troy 0% Idle
ULL 10 73% 14-35 F Akron Mid-Am -6
ULM -31 1% 0-34 C Alabama SEC +10
3-4, -52 points (52) 3.1 SunB Proj

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