Moving into late October we have a large enough sample size to gauge how the conference races will shake out.
SEC Favorite: Ole Miss
SEC Sleeper: Georgia
While the SEC West is getting all the attention, Georgia can still ruin everything and win the SEC championship game. The only team that can take the East from Georgia is Missouri and that’s only if the Tigers win out and Georgia loses a game. Going against Georgia in Atlanta for the SEC championship is a tough out. Ole Miss gets Mississippi State and Auburn at home so it is currently the favorite in the West.
PAC-12 Favorite: Oregon
PAC-12 Sleeper: Arizona
Oregon is the only team in the North with a winning conference record at 3-1. Stanford is close at 2-2 but still has to play at Oregon. The PAC-12 South is a traffic jam of four teams at one loss, but I like Arizona to come out of it. Arizona State must come to Tucson and traveling to UCLA on Nov. 1 seems less intimidating now for the Wildcats.
Big 12 Favorite: Kansas State
Big 12 Sleeper: West Virginia
The fact that the Big 12 does not have a championship game makes this conference race more interesting. While Kansas State is the last remaining undefeated team in conference play, West Virginia has a favorable schedule. The Mountaineers have just one conference loss and will host both K-State and TCU. If West Virginia can get past Oklahoma State in Stillwater Saturday then Mountaineer fans must like their chances of singing country roads a few more times.
Big Ten Favorites: Michigan State and Ohio State
Big Ten Sleeper: None
The Big Ten is straightforward, whoever wins the Ohio State at Michigan State meeting on Nov. 8 will win the conference. The Big Ten West is too shaky to pull off the upset this year as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska give different performances each week.
ACC Favorite: Florida State
ACC Sleeper: Duke
Florida State has practically won the ACC Atlantic but Clemson does have a small chance of catching up to it. The story though is in the Coastal where Duke is in the lead to repeat as division champions. The Blue Devils are down to two road games against Pitt and Syracuse (nothing to worry about) with Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest at home. Duke will be favored in all of those games and may sneak up on a napping Florida State in the ACC championship game.
Mountain West Favorite: Boise State
Mountain West Sleeper: Nevada
This conference is still fuzzy but Boise State is always a Mountain West favorite and gets San Diego State at home. The Broncos have already defeated Colorado State and should come out of the Mountain Division as Air Force has a tough schedule. San Diego State is 3-1 in conference play but has a tough slate ahead with Boise, Nevada and Air Force remaining. This opens the door for Nevada to come out of the West. The Wolfpack have defeated Washington State and BYU and should be favored in four of its final five games.
American Athletic Favorite: East Carolina
American Athletic Sleeper: Central Florida
The AAC is a two-team race with East Carolina being the pride of the conference so far at 5-1. UCF is 2-0 in conference play and will give the Pirates a test on Dec. 4. It’s hard to see any other school like Temple, Houston or Cincinnati winning the league but they are long shots.
Conference USA Favorite: Marshall
Conference USA Sleeper: None
CUSA is all about Marshall and no one else. The last undefeated team among the mid-majors, Marshall is looking at an Orange Bowl bid. Louisiana Tech is 3-0 in CUSA play but has lost to a FCS school so it’s hard to call it a threat.
Mid-American Favorite: Northern Illinois
Mid-American Sleeper: Akron
The MAC is a mess of unpredictability as Northern Illinois lost to Central Michigan at home. Yet I don’t see another team taking them out in the West. Central fell to 2-2 in conference play and Toledo and Western Michigan are unproven. In the East division, Akron’s final five games will be against underdogs as it gets Bowling Green at home. The Zips beat Pittsburgh earlier in the year and is well coached under Terry Bowden.
Sun Belt Favorite: Georgia Southern
Sun Belt Sleeper: Louisiana
Georgia Southern at the top of the Sun Belt at 4-0 in the conference. Louisiana Monroe at home to the end the regular season appears to be its toughest remaining game. Louisiana is 2-0 in Sun Belt play though and will host Arkansas State Tuesday who is also 2-0. The Ragin’ Cajuns are playing well in the Sun Belt after a disappointing non-conference campaign. I’m picking Louisiana to win Tuesday and perhaps grab a share of the Sun Belt with Georgia Southern.