College Football’s Conference Power Rankings (Week #5)

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Conference play kicked off this past weekend for most of the FBS.  It gives us a chance to re-evaluate where the conferences stand from the start of the season and where they can move to by the time the bowl season starts.For the past two weeks the SEC has held down the number one spot with the Big 12 following closely behind.  The PAC-12 has plays solidly all season and has moved between the #2 and #3 spots in the poll.  The fourth spot has been held each week by the ACC while the Big Ten and the Big East have been in a battle to avoid the worst AQ (automatic qualifier) conference.

When we glance at the non-AQ conferences, it is my opinion that the MAC league has played the best while other conferences like the Mountain West Conference (MWC), the Sun Belt, and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) have had teams that have made great strides so far this season.  Conference USA has struggled to match the overall success it enjoyed last season.

To add a bit more intrigue to my weekly conference rankings, I have also included my “Way Too Early Conference Title Game” Projections.  I will update these each week, and at the end we can see where I started and where I ended.

Who will be on top as we start our first week of conference games?  Who will bring up the rear?  Will you agree with who I have in the conference title games?  If not, who would you have?

Without further ado, let’s roll out the conference rankings!

 

 

September 29, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; A general view of Milan Puskar Stadium before the game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Baylor Bears at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

 

Reminder -  last week’s rankings will be in (), ↑ = trending upward, ↓ = trending downward, — = no movement:

#11 – Conference USA (10, ↓):

Its tough to write off this conference because there are some decent teams that play within, but after 1 week of conference play, there are 4 undefeated teams and 2 of them have losing records overall.  Four of the twelve teams (33%) remain win-less on the season.  That is the worst mark, by far, of any FBS conference.  The league had one final shot to impress by winning games against AQ schools and could not do it.  UCF lost at home in a close one to Missouri while Louisville came from behind in the monsoon at Southern Mississippi.  Marshall made a valiant second-half comeback at Purdue but it fell just short, and the Mustangs of SMU were downed by the Horned Frogs of TCU.  The teams of this conference are definitely down from where they were at last year.  A couple of teams are going to have to get hot if they are going to get more than 3 teams to qualify for a bowl game.

As it stands now, I would expect 3-4 teams to qualify for bowl games: Tulsa, East Carolina, Marshall, UCF (possibly)

Way Too Early Conference Title Game Projections:

East Division – East Carolina

West Division – Tulsa

Conference Champion – Tulsa

 

#10 – Western Athletic Conference (WAC) [11, ↑]:

Putting this conference at #10 and not up at #9 was a difficult one for me.  Ultimately I decided to put them at #10 because the league only has 7 members, so there is no chance for a title game AND they still sport a conference member that has not won a game on the season (Idaho – 0-5).  Perhaps those aren’t the greatest reasons, but for full disclosure, that’s why they are where they’re at.

Last weekend, UTSA and Louisiana Tech, the conference’s lone unbeaten teams on the season kept rolling.  LA Tech went to another AQ school and took them down.  Two weeks ago they went to Illinois and soundly beat them.  This past weekend, they went to Virginia and beat them as well.  This is a sleeper team that AQ schools need to keep their eye on.  UTSA opened the conference slate by traveling to New Mexico State and defeating them by a score of 35-14.

As it looks now, UTSA and LA Tech seem to be the schools to beat.  Keep your eye on San Jose State and Utah State.  Both of these schools has close encounters with quality AQ schools.  The Spartans and the Aggies are both set up with 4-1 marks overall.

As it stands now, I would expect 4 teams to be bowl eligible: UTSA, Louisiana Tech, Utah State, San Jose State

Way Too Early Conference Title Game Projections:

No Conference Championship Game!

Conference Champion – Louisiana Tech

 

#9 – Sun Belt (9, –):

The conference earns the #9 spot again this week based on the superlative win by Middle Tennessee at a suddenly reeling Georgia Tech.  Tremendous victory for a team that was 2-1 on the young season.  LA-Monroe kept up its winning ways as it blitzed Tulane by a score of 63-10.  The remainder of the teams within the conference began league play last week.  Currently, LA-Lafayette sits atop the league standings with a 2-0 mark.

This conference also does not have a league championship game as there are 10 teams in the league (NCAA rules do not permit a title game with less than 12 teams).  All league members have at least 1 overall win, but no team is undefeated.

Louisiana-Lafayette, Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe, and Middle Tennessee appear to be the front runners to win the league.  A big league game this weekend has the Warhawks of UL-Monroe traveling to the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee.

As it stands now, I would expect 4-5 teams to be bowl eligible: UL-Lafayette, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, UL-Monroe, Troy (possibly)

Way Too Early Conference Title Game Projections:

No Conference Championship Game!

Conference Champion – UL-Monroe

 

#8 – Mountain West Conference (MWC) [8, --]:

The strength of this conference lies with its national “horse”, Boise State.  But, don’t look now, another team is jockeying for some national recognition, Nevada.  Nevada has been playing well and putting up large big numbers.  I would say that the conference is a two-horse race at this point, Boise State and Nevada.  Other schools like Fresno State and Air Force could make some waves in league play, but probably don’t have enough to win the league outright.

There is no conference title game as the league only has 10 members.  The game to watch is December 1st as the Broncos of Boise State travels to Nevada to take on the Wolfpack.  It should be the game to determine the league winner.

As it stands now, I would expect 3-4 teams to be bowl eligible: Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State, Air Force (possibly)

Way Too Early Conference Title Game Projections:

No Conference Championship Game!

Conference Champion – Nevada

 

#7 – Mid-American Conference (MAC) [7, --]:

I would argue that this is the best non-AQ conference in the FBS.  While many teams are not exactly household names across the USA, they are willing to take on the former Fresno State head coach Pat Hill’s motto: “travel anywhere and play anyone.”

In the MAC-East, Ohio University is leading the way with a perfect 5-0 overall mark.  Within the division, other teams like Kent State and Miami (OH) have also made their intentions known that they are also to be considered.  Both teams are 2-0 in the league while Ohio is 1-0.  Ohio may not have it easy though as they have to travel to both Miami (OH) and Kent State.  This past weekend saw the Bobcats struggle at the Minutemen of Massachusetts, but they were able to come away with the hard-fought victory.

Over in the MAC-West, Toledo and Northern Illinois seem likely to collide to see who will emerge from that division.  The game between the two Nov. 14 at Northern Illinois should be a classic and give us the winner of the MAC-West.

As it stands now, I would expect 6-9 teams to be bowl eligible: Ohio, Kent State, Miami (OH), Toledo, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Bowling Green (possibly), Central Michigan (possibly), Western Michigan (possibly)

Way Too Early Conference Title Game Projections:

East Division – Ohio

West Division – Northern Illinois

Conference Champion – Ohio

 

#6 – Big East (6, –):

While the Big East is duking it out with the Big Ten for the bottom of the AQ conferences, the Big East just doesn’t have the marquee teams, nor the marquee match-ups that would allow them to move ahead of the Big Ten.  To be sure, the Big East has some teams that can make some noise nationally, but no matter who comes out of the league as champion, they aren’t going to engender fear in opponents like West Virginia (Big East Champion last season) was able to do.

The Big East does not have a title game as there are only eight teams in the league.  All teams have at least 1 victory and the league maintains 3 undefeated teams overall.  The conference is led by Rutgers, Louisville, and Cincinnati.

This past weekend, the Big East was nearly undefeated.  The biggest win of the weekend belonged to the Cincinnati Bearcats and one of the coolest names going, Munchie Legaux (pronounced La go).  The Bearcats defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies from the ACC.  South Florida tried to one-up the Florida State Seminoles, but they were unable to get the job done.

Doesn’t this conference seemingly have a three-team race every year?  Well, this year the race to win the conference seems to be heading in the direction of Rutgers, Cincinnati, and Louisville.  Perhaps the game of the league is the Louisville at Rutgers contest on Nov. 29.  Chances are good, the winner of that game will be the automatic BCS qualifier.

As it stands now, I would expect 3-5 teams to be bowl eligible: Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, Connecticut(possibly), South Florida (possibly)

Way Too Early Conference Title Game Projections:

No Conference Championship Game!

Conference Champion – Louisville

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