With the flurry of upsets in Week 6, this seems like a good time for an updated look at college football conference champion predictions at about the midway point of the year.
There was an AP poll college football picks burial in Week 6 with four of the top six ranked teams going down, as second ranked Oregon, third ranked Alabama, fourth ranked Oklahoma and sixth ranked Texas A&M all tasted defeat. This was a week that may have also buried bettors that were holding conference championship future tickets on those teams, although none are officially done yet.
In fact, Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma could still win their respective conferences, although the latter two will need more help doing so and Oregon may have played itself out of the College Football Playoff picture even if it does win the Pac-12. Of those four upper ranked teams that tasted defeat, Texas A&M is the only one that we now give virtually no shot to coming back to win its conference, the brutal SEC.
Here is a look at how we see the five major college football conferences playing out going forward, as well as our current picks to win each conference.
The defending national champion Florida State Seminoles are the obvious favorites to repeat as they avoided the upset bug that plagued the rest of the top contenders last week to remain undefeated at 5-0 and extend their school record winning streak to 21 straight games overall.
However, Florida State has not looked nearly as dominant as it did last season, especially while ranking 54th in the country in rushing defense allowing 142,6 yards per game on the ground. And we feel that will cost them their winning streak when they visit the Louisville Cardinals on Thursday night, October 30th.
A defeat there would open things up for the Clemson Tigers to be the surprise winners of the ACC, and they have been the better team on the field this year in our opinion despite a tough overtime loss to the Seminoles on the road in Tallahassee. We now fully expect Clemson ti win out in the ACC, but even if they do, they would need another Noles’ loss to win the Atlantic Division and advance to the ACC Championship Game due to the head-to-head defeat.
That might be difficult but we are banking on it happening, as if we are correct about Florida State losing at Louisville, that loss may deflate the Seminoles as it would in all likelihood take them out of the running for the College Football Playoff, which could have a potential carryover effect with a possible loss vs. a good Virginia team the following week, or maybe even on the road at Miami the week after that.
Conference Pick: Clemson
Unlike some popular experts, we do not think that whoever wins the Big Ten will get an automatic spot in the Playoff, particularly with Michigan State’s early loss to Oregon now looking worse in the wake of the Ducks’ upset loss last week, not the mention the conference’s weak showing in general during non-conference play.
The weak showing included Ohio State losing at home to a mediocre Virginia Tech team, but getting back on topic, that poor showing had no bearing on who will win the conference title. And while we do not think that the Buckeyes are an elite team this year worthy of national championship contention, we do feel that they are the best and most balanced team in a weak conference.
We will learn more about Ohio State when they visit Michigan State in East Lansing, especially since the Spartans with undoubtedly be favored, but we are calling for an Ohio State upset there, which should give the Buckeyes a clear path to the Big Ten Championship Game, where they should prevail over the winner of what looks like the much weaker West Division of the Big Ten.
Conference Pick: Ohio State
If you recall in our preseason 2014 conference championship picks, this was the conference where we went out on a limb and called for the TCU Horned Frogs to shock the world and win the conference at +1400 betting odds. Well, so far, so good! TCU is 4-0 with a much improved offense just like we predicted, and the Horned Frogs were the team that upset fourth ranked Oklahoma last week at home in Fort Worth.
Now the Big 12 does not have a championship game like the other four major conferences do, but in our minds, the “real” Big 12 championship game is this week when TCU faces probably its toughest remaining test all year on the road at 5-0 Baylor and its high octane offense.
Remember though that the TCU defense held a Bears’ team that led the nation in total offense last year with over 500 yards per game to only 370 yards in their 2013 meeting and three offensive touchdowns, and the always tough TCU defense in now more experienced. We see no reason to change our preseason upset pick now as we look for the Horned Frogs to again shock many by winning at Baylor and going on the win the Big 12, even bullying their way into the Playoff picture!
Conference Pick: TCU
Much like the Big Ten, we do not feel that whoever wins the Pac-12 gets an automatic spot in the Playoff, especially since we still like Oregon to win this conference, as that loss to Arizona in Week 6 will in all likelihood be considered a worse loss than that of whichever one-loss team they would be compared to if the Ducks win out as we expect.
But looking at things strictly from a Pac-12 perspective, the loss to the Wildcats was not as damaging as some think because it was a cross-divisional game and the Ducks should really have no trouble winning the North Division, especially facing a somewhat down Stanford at home this year. We see the Cardinal as the only legitimate threat in the division despite California currently on top and Oregon State tied with the Ducks.
As long as Oregon gets its double-revenge win over Stanford, its spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game should be assured and it may even set up another revenge game, this time vs. Arizona!
Conference Pick: Oregon
As usual, we feel that the SEC is the best conference in the country and we feel there are five teams capable of winning the conference and going on to win the National Championship in the first ever College Football Playoff. That does also make this the toughest conference to pick however.
Of the five teams we see as contenders, only one of them comes out of the East Division, with that being the Georgia Bulldogs. Thus, Georgia is the one team we firmly expect will be in the SEC Championship Game. And that game being at the Georgia Dome does not hurt the Bulldogs’ cause either.
Now the West Division seems more wide open, especially since the team with the best scheduling is not what we feel that actual best team in the conference. We actually feel that Auburn and Alabama are the teams with the most talent, but Mississippi could have the inside track due to scheduling.
You see, the Rebels beat Alabama last week, and are again home when they host both Auburn and our other contender from the West, Mississippi State. It is not at all inconceivable that Old Miss wins both of those games, and that should be enough to win the division.
Since that is what we are predicting, we are picking Georgia to win the SEC as its terrific running game combined with playing close to home should be enough to beat either of the two Mississippi schools. However, we would probably be singing a different tune were they to match up with either of the two schools located in the state of Alabama!
Conference Pick: Georgia