People wearing the SEC hat, and especially my DudeYouPodcast partner-in-crime Daniel Palmer, love to belittle the notion that other conferences exist on the basis that the SEC is the best. While that’s fair, there are over 100 FCS teams NOT playing in the SEC, meaning that there is a minimum of 50 games you could be watching on a second TV, iPad, or phone while the SEC is playing on the big screen!
In the conference cannibalism era, we are down to just 10 conferences, so I am only really taking fliers on four conferences (C-USA, MAC, Sun Belt, MWC), making this the most efficient non-SEC conference champ declaration post of my life. No need to detail how many others there have actually been.
Pac-12: Stanford. I love the way this team is built, and they are my pick to face the winner of the conference I’m not talking about in this column in the National Championship, where they likely get exposed. They get Oregon at home on Nov. 7 (mark your calendars) and face one dangerous game in-conference, as they’re at USC the next week.
B1G: Ohio State Buckeyes. I hate this pick. I hate myself for making this pick. I don’t fully trust this pick. However, Urban Meyer is 34-3 (20-3) in his second year at his previous 3 stops, with a Fiesta Bowl and a National Championship to his credit. Even more to the point, they play in a division with a Wisconsin team coming off of 7 losses (if you include the loss of Bieliema to Arkansas as one), two schools in Indiana, Illinois, and the team from Neverland Valley. My gut pick is for Michigan State to take the Legends (WTF) Division and face them in Indianapolis.
XII (Ten): Oklahoma St. I know everybody is high on Texas, and I even picked them to hit the over on 9.5 wins, but I just don’t trust a team with a defensive calling card when they gave up 34 points per game in conference last year. “But Chad,” you say, “Okie State gave up 30 per,” (you won’t say that)… difference being, the Cowboys can put them up faster than they can give ‘em up. Oklahoma COULD compete, and if it gets blown wide open TCU and Baylor (yes, Baylor) could sneak into the spacecraft in Glendale, AZ. But I’m going Cowboys.
ACC: Florida State Seminoles. I’m nervous about this one because they lost their QB and half their coaching staff (to Kentucky). That said, there are five years’ worth of top-10 recruiting classes in the cupboard for the Noles waiting to pay dividends, an experienced and talented O-line and secondary, and ride the momentum from that rousing Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois past Clemson to the SEC crown. No telling who they’re gonna face from the Coastal Division in the ACC ‘Ship, but the odds of it being Ga. Tech, Miami, UNC, or VT are all greater than 20%.
Writer’s note: My knowledge drops off here, as I didn’t know some of these teams were in some of these conferences. So I will endeavor to inform you of the ones that look like weird fits.
American Athletic: Teams you may not expect to see: UCF, Houston, SMU, Memphis. Apparently Garrett Gilbert, the former Texas QB who had a decent Rose Bowl vs. Alabama then fell off the map, is the QB at SMU. Next year, the conference adds Tulsa, Tulane, and ECU (arrrgh– YouTube video not available) while losing Rutgers and Louisville. Cincinnati and Connecticut get to go down with the ship (see ECU comment above, see what I did there?)
Anyway, Louisville is gonna win this carpetbagger conference, and get a BCS Bowl bid that doesn’t feel quite right out of it. Hey, it worked out last year.
Mountain West: So apparently Boise St. and SDSU were supposed to be part of the (aptly named, had this come to pass) American Athletic, but chose to stay in the MWC when they realized what everyone else did: that that conference is a joke. In keeping up with the times, the MWC appropriately named its divisions the “Mountain” and “West”, which thankfully make geographic sense. Seriously, all the teams in the Mountain division are also in the Mountain Time Zone. Ditto for the ones in the West. Knowing that, try to name more than 6 teams in the conference.
I got 8 off the top of my head, forgetting stalwarts such as Hawai’i, UNLV, and New Mexico. Although I want to take Utah State in the Mountain division to do something trendy, give me Boise from there, and I’ll take them losing to San Diego State, who still has my favorite helmets in the country.
C-USA: Still reading? Good for you. Experts seem to like Marshall, who went 5-7 last year. I like Southern Miss to rebound in a big way, but they went 0-12. The league brought in 6 teams from the Sun Belt, which I couldn’t have differentiated from C-USA anyway. Hell, give me Tulsa over ECU for the title.
MAC: With the trademark for #MACtion process underway, the MAC is my favorite Tuesday night football league. I’m going to take Buffalo over Ball St. for the title, but again I know nothing.
Sun Belt: They still have ULM, the beneficiary of Bobby Petrino’s unfortunate motorcycle accident (via the win at Arkansas). Well hold on to your (motorcycle) helmets, folks, because the head hawg is now the coach at Western Kentucky. I’m taking the Hilltoppers on the strength of this coaching hire and the finest mascot in all of college sports.