05 October 2013

NCAA Football after September 2013

I have made the following observations about college football after the conclusion of the first month of this season. 

Louisville stands out as the class of the newly re-invented American Athletic Conference. The Cardinals' hopes to advance to the BCS title game depends greatly on the win total of this amalgamation of the remnants of the currently basketball-only Big East plus defectors from Conference USA. The AAC took two steps forward in terms of national respect by winning two of four matches versus the Big Ten and SEC respectively. However, two 1osses to FCS members resulted in two steps back to the perception that this conference does not deserve an automatic bid to the BCS. In short, Louisville has to hope for a chaotic season like 2007 with the Cardinals as the sole undefeated team. 

A quick glance at the ACC standings seems to indicate Clemson and Florida State  playing a de facto conference title game in the middle of October. However, Miami has started impressively but has yet to play within the conference. Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh can still pose as an obstacle to the Hurricanes return to national prominence by seizing the Coastal Division crown away from Miami's clutches. 

A quick glance at the standings might make the viewer think that the Big Ten has returned to the 1970s when Michigan and Ohio State dominated the conference. The 2-3 record versus the Pacific Twelve also recalls that era of frustration for Bo and Woody in the Rose Bowl.  However, the fact that Northwestern is also undefeated after September clarifies that misconception. Ohio State has to finish undefeated to fight against the talk that its schedule is too soft to play for the BCS title. Michigan must finish the same way in order to quiet speculation that two narrow escapes did not expose the Wolverines as overrated. 
The Big Twelve is still struggling for respect from the media and coaches in other conferences. Hurting the perception is the weak non-conference schedule of two of its three remaining unbeaten members, Texas Tech and Baylor. Oklahoma appears to be the only team of these misnamed ten which could possibly rise to the top two in early December. 

Conference USA members are having as much trouble keeping track of who is coming into and bolting from its conference as winning games. With only three of fourteen members holding winning records after the first five weeks, CUSA has a long route ahead to earn credibility. 

Northern Illinois is doing a great job at repeating its level of success as last season. Two wins over Big Ten teams give the Huskies a lot of momentum to repeat as conference champions of the Mid-American Conference. Bowling Green and Ball State, both 2-0 in conference so far, pose the most serious threats to NIU who has yet to enter conference play.

Fresno State has dreams of finally reaching a BCS bowl game as it has since 2001. The fact that no other Mountain West member has a winning non-conference record will hurt the Bulldogs' worthiness. Nevada and Utah State could de-rail Fresno State's BCS fantasies before the pollsters officially end them. 

The power in the Pacific Twelve lies in the North. The winner of the game between Oregon and Stanford will have the inside track to the conference crown. UCLA and Arizona State will battle for the right to be smacked around by either Ducks or Cardinal on the first weekend of December. 

Only two Southeastern Conference members survived September as unscathed. Due to a modest level of success in non-conference games (2-2 versus the ACC, 1-1 versus the Pacific Twelve, 1-0 against the Big Ten  and 2-1 against Big Twelve members), the perception nationally has been growing that a one-loss SEC champion will not automatically leap over undefeated champions of other conferences into the BCS title game. Georgia sits in the driver's seat to win the Eastern Division with Florida close behind the Bulldogs. Alabama's path to a rematch of last year's SEC title game is less certain with LSU remaining on the schedule.

Any delusions of the Sun Belt even being mentioned a contender for a BCS bid have already been obliterated. In fact, only one member has less than two losses after September. The Sun Belt's only realistic hope is to surpass Conference USA and avoid being the weakest FBS conference once again.


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