By Ashley Guinan August 27, 2013
Here are my predictions for conference champions this year. I also put my confidence in that team winning, and percent chances of other conference contenders. As always, everything will be decided on the field, but it’s fun to predict!
American Athletic: Louisville (95%)–By far the favorite to win the conference, I think Louisville will meet the expectations. I see Cincinnati possibly challenging, but Louisville has the consistent coaching staff, and no quarterback controversy.
ACC: Clemson over Miami (50%)–Clemson gets Florida St. at home for what will be one of the deciding games in the Atlantic division. Florida St. also has to play Miami, which gives them a tougher cross-division schedule. Miami looks like the clear-cut favorite in the coastal division, and is able to play post-season games this year. Overall right now, I think Clemson has the most complete offense and should win the conference. Others: Fl St (25%), Miami (20%)
Big 12: Oklahoma (21%)–This could go to anyone this year. Considering the Baylor, Kansas St, Oklahoma, Okie St, TCU, and Texas schedules, I am going to go with Oklahoma. Baylor, Kansas St. and TCU have multiple road games against other top league teams. Oklahoma St. may have the best offense in the league, but is juggling QBs and never has had a great defense to go with their explosive offense. Texas has the schedule to set up for a good year, but I just don’t think they are ready to make the jump. Oklahoma is right where they want to be with no huge expectations to start the season. They seem to do better when others count them out. Their tough league road games are at the end of the season as well. If they are still in the race, they will find a way to win those. Others: Ok. St. (20%), Texas (20%)
Big Ten: Ohio St. over Nebraska (60%)–Both teams have exciting offenses, but questions on the defensive side. Each team will go as far as their defense allows, as long as their QBs remain healthy. Michigan has a tough schedule and could beat Nebraska but be left out of the CCG. Michigan State is also a contender in the Legends division, but has too many questions on offense at this point. I think the CCG can go either way, as Ohio State isn’t as good as people are predicting them to be. The first month of play will help show the capabilities of Ohio St. and Nebraska’s defensive replacements. Others: Nebraska (25%), Michigan (10%)
Conference USA: Tulsa over Marshall (70%)–Marshall returns the nations leading passer from 2012, but has huge holes on defense. Tulsa relies on a heavy ground attack and an experienced game manager at QB. While they return one of the nation’s lowest number of starters, Tulsa has become accustomed to winning. New league member Louisiana Tech is a challenger, but will be breaking in a new coach and new QB this year. Others: Marshall (15%), La Tech (10%)
MAC: Ohio over Northern Illinois (50%)–Both teams return 16 starters, including their big-time QBs. It’s a toss-up, but I will go with the team with the more experienced head coach. Ohio has been competitive for several years. Others: Northern Illinois (45%)
Mountain West: Boise St. over Fresno St. (70%)–Both teams return 13 starters, including their QBs. Some may expect Utah St. to make a push, but I think the Aggies will be sadly reminded of the quality of coach they just lost. While Fresno St. has a more experienced QB, I give the edge to Boise St. over Fresno St. because they have a more proven OL at this point. Others: Fresno St (25%)
Pac-12: Oregon over USC (30%)–The battle for the Pac-12 North comes down to Stanford and Oregon, both preseason top 5 teams. While Oregon has a new coach and new OC, they are coaches promoted from within. They play at Stanford, but I expect their offense to continue to be explosive and get the W. The game is during a tough 4 game stretch for Stanford as well, making Stanford’s overall schedule more difficult than Oregon’s. For the South, USC should win, as they aren’t as bad as last season’s record indicates. They underachieved a lot last year, but will still not be good enough to defeat the North representative. Others: Stanford (30%), USC (15%), UCLA (10%)
SEC: Alabama over Georgia (30%)–These two teams get the nod over LSU and South Carolina because they are the home teams for the big divisional matchups. Alabama has a much more favorable schedule than LSU this year, and I don’t expect TAMU to be a contender in the West. South Carolina has an easier schedule than Georgia, as they don’t play LSU, but I expect Georgia to win the head-to-head matchup. Both teams must not look past Florida regardless of the Sept. 7 game. While it would be great to see Georgia avenge their CCG loss from last year, Alabama just looks too loaded to lose. Others: Georgia (25%), South Carolina (20%), LSU (10%)
Sun Belt: LA-Monroe (50%)–The Warhawks were 6-2 in conference play last year and return 17 starters. They get Arkansas St. at home, but are the road team for the LA-Lafayette matchup. The final game of the season could decide the conference champion, and LA-Monroe looks like the stronger team. Others: Arkansas St (25%), LA-Lafayette (20%)