CFN breaks down the conference races

Where does each conference race stand going into the final month?'s Pete Fiutak breaks them down.

This story originally published on

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Part 2, Oct. 30, 2012

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- Oct. 30, Part 1 - It's USC's time to shine

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Where do all the conference races stand? Here are the likely scenarios and predictions for the final month of the season …

11. Sun Belt
ULM owns the top spot after an overtime win over WKU a few weeks ago, but it still has to deal with a trip to Arkansas State. The Red Wolves lost to Western Kentucky, but a win over the Warhawks could lead to a three-way tie on the season’s final week. Middle Tennessee is still in the thick of the chase, but it lost to ULM and has to go on the road to face WKU and Arkansas State. No one else is realistically still alive. In the event of a three-way tie, WKU, ASU and ULM will be share the title.

Predicted Finish: 1. ULM, 2. Western Kentucky, 3. Arkansas State

10. WAC
This one isn’t quite as easy as it might appear – at least not yet. San Jose State lost to Utah State, but it still has a showdown at home against Louisiana Tech to close out the regular season. The Bulldogs appear to be the class of the conference, but they struggled against a bad New Mexico State team last week and still have to deal with make-or-break final two games of the season against Utah State and the Spartans. If San Jose State beats Louisiana Tech, and Louisiana Tech beats Utah State, there will be a three-way tie for the title.

Predicted Finish: 1. Louisiana Tech, 2. Utah State, 3. San Jose State

9. MAC
It seemed like Ohio was going to waltz through the East, and then it gagged late against Miami University to open up the division race. Kent State leads the pack, but it has to go to MU and Bowling Green before hosting Ohio to close out the year. Bowling Green’s lone MAC loss came to Toledo from the West, but it handed MU its only conference loss. The Golden Flashes are the favorites to close out strong, but the division title should all come down to the regular-season finale against the Bobcats. However, if Bowling Green can beat Kent State it’ll likely win the three-way tie-breaker if the most likely scenarios play out and if Miami isn’t in the mix.

On November 14th, Toledo will go to Northern Illinois to decide the West. Both teams are 5-0 in division play, and while Ball State has an outside shot of being in the hunt with a trip to Toledo still to go, the loss to NIU and the shootout loss to Kent State from the East will probably be way too much to overcome.

Predicted East Finish: 1. Kent State, 2. Ohio, 3. Bowling Green
Predicted West Finish: 1. Northern Illinois, 2. Toledo, 3. Ball State
Predicted Championship: Northern Illinois over Kent State

8. Conference USA
UCF is alive and eligible in the East, and with a 40-20 win over East Carolina a few weeks ago and a win over Marshall last week, it has the division for the taking needing to lose two of the last four games to blow it. East Carolina has to win out against Houston, at Tulane and against Marshall.

Tulsa still has to play SMU and Houston to win the division, and it needs to get by a possible Conference USA title preview against UCF. SMU’s 72-42 win over Houston put the Mustangs in a nice position to rise up and take the West. However, like Tulsa, they have to play UCF, but they have to play on the road.

Predicted East Finish: 1. UCF, 2. East Carolina, 3. Marshall
Predicted West Finish: 1. Tulsa, 2. SMU, 3. Houston
Predicted Championship: UCF over Tulsa

7. Mountain West
Boise State beat Fresno State a few weeks ago, but the Bulldogs can get back in the chase if San Diego State beats the Broncos this week. Air Force and Boise State don’t play, but the Falcons have to go on the road to face Fresno State and SDSU. Nevada needs lots and lots of help after losing to San Diego State and Air Force in the last two weeks, but it could screw up Boise State’s season in the regular season finale.

Predicted Finish:
1. Boise State, 2. Fresno State, 3. San Diego State

6. Big East
This should be the wildest race of the bunch. All of a sudden, Syracuse has entered the discussion after a big win over South Florida. However, the Orange lost to the conference leader, Rutgers, and have to go to Cincinnati this week. The Bearcats lost to Louisville in overtime, but they still have a shot to get back in the race hosting Rutgers and Syracuse at home. Syracuse will likely duck out of the discussion with three of the final four games on the road – including a non-conference date at Missouri – but don’t be shocked if it comes up with a home win over Louisville.

In a round-robin fight, if Louisville wins at home against Cincinnati, Cincinnati wins at home against Rutgers, and Rutgers wins the regular-season finale at home against Louisville, and if they all end up in a three way tie, the tie-breaker in the “mini-conference” would go to the highest-ranked team, which would likely be Louisville. However, since Syracuse could beat the Cardinals …

Predicted Finish: 1. Rutgers, 2. Louisville, 3. Cincinnati

5. ACC
The Atlantic is all but set. Florida State beat Clemson to have the lead, and after a week off comes a nasty interdivisional showdown at Virginia Tech. Clemson should roll through the rest of the ACC slate to keep the pressure on, unless NC State can pull off a road upset in a few weeks. If the Wolfpack can get by Virginia and Wake Forest, they’ll win the division if they beat the Tigers and if Florida State loses again.

With North Carolina ineligible for the Coastal and the ACC titles, Duke, Virginia Tech and Miami are the three main contenders. The Hokies are already a win behind the divisions’ top teams, and they have to face Miami and Florida State. The Hurricanes can take control with a win over Virginia Tech, but they still have to get by Duke to close out the regular season. If the Blue Devils win out against Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami, they’ll win the division if the Hokies lose again.

Predicted Atlantic Finish: 1. Florida State, 2. Clemson, 3. NC State
Predicted Coastal Finish: 1. North Carolina (ineligible), 2. Miami, 3. Duke
Predicted Championship: Florida State over Miami

4. Big Ten
Wisconsin might not have its starting quarterback, Joel Stave, under center for the rest of the year, and it might not be half the team it was the last two seasons on its way to Pasadena, but it’s going to play for the Big Ten title because Ohio State and Penn State aren’t eligible and Purdue, Indiana and Illinois are miserable. If Indiana beats Iowa this week, the Leaders could come down to Wisconsin’s trip to Bloomington on November 10th – really. There’s also a chance that that Badges run the table and earn the Leaders without an asterisk if they beat IU, OSU and Penn State, and if the Buckeyes lose to Illinois or Michigan.

The Legends is a little bit tricky. Nebraska has the division for the taking, but it has to go to Michigan State this week and still has to deal with Penn State, Minnesota, and a trip to Iowa. The Hawkeyes aren’t playing well, but they control their own destiny by winning out against Indiana, Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska. Even at 1-3 in the conference, Minnesota wins by winning out and getting one other loss from Michigan and Nebraska. Michigan needs the Huskers to lose at least once and has to close strong against Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa before the big finale at Ohio State. Northwestern has to win out and needs Nebraska to lose twice. The prediction: Nebraska will lose to Michigan State, but will take the division when the Wolverines lose to the Buckeyes.

Predicted Leaders Finish: 1. Ohio State (ineligible), 2. Penn State (ineligible), 3. Wisconsin
Predicted Legends Finish: 1. Nebraska, 2. Michigan, 3. Michigan State
Predicted Championship: Nebraska over Wisconsin

3. Pac-12
The North is going to be simple. Oregon wins by winning out in division play with road trips to Cal and Oregon State wrapped around a date with Stanford. Everything else comes down the head-to-head dates between the Ducks, Beavers and Cardinal. Oregon State and Stanford are each a game behind Oregon, but they can each make up the stagger by beating the Ducks.

The South is a complete and total mess. USC has to go to UCLA and hosts Oregon and Arizona State. The Trojans win the division by winning out, but so does UCLA, who only plays one road game in the final four games, and it’s a winnable one at Washington State. Arizona State needs help after losing to UCLA, but it’s still alive – but barely. The Sun Devils have to go on the road for three of their final four games and have to beat USC and Arizona on the road.

Even at 2-3 in conference play, Arizona is right there with all three of its losses coming against the North and with a huge win over USC last week. With lightweights Colorado and Utah up next, and with Arizona State at home to finish things up, a win over UCLA and one more USC loss will send the Wildcats to the Pac-12 championship.

Predicted North Finish: 1. Oregon, 2. Oregon State, 3. Stanford
Predicted South Finish: 1. USC, 2. UCLA, 3. Arizona
Predicted Championship: Oregon over USC

2. Big 12
Thanks to wins in the bank against Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas Tech, barring a total collapse, Kansas State can all but wrap it up by beating Oklahoma State this week. Texas needs to win out – getting Kansas State in regular season finale – and must get a second Wildcat loss to kick in the tie-breaking scenarios. Oklahoma needs to win out while praying for Kansas State to lose twice, while Texas Tech and West Virginia each need a major miracle to get into all the tie-breakers.

Oklahoma State is the X factor. If the Cowboys beat the Wildcats in Manhattan this week, they have the conference for the taking. However, it’s not going to happen with West Virginia, Texas, and road games at Oklahoma and Baylor still to deal with.

Predicted Finish: 1. Kansas State, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Texas Tech

1. SEC
If Georgia wins its last two games against Ole Miss and Auburn, it will win the East and be off to the SEC championship. However, one loss makes everything really wild and really crazy in a big hurry.

If Florida beats Missouri, and if South Carolina beats Arkansas, the Gators will win the East outright with one Georgia loss. If Florida is stunned by Missouri, and if Georgia loses once, then South Carolina will win the three-way tie-breaker and represent the East with a win over the Hogs.

Since the Gamecocks and Dawgs would each have one East loss, Florida would be out because its two losses would be against teams from the East. That means the tie-breaker would come down to the head-to-head South Carolina win over Georgia.

The West isn’t officially over and done with this week if Alabama beats LSU, but it’s close with the Tide needing to lose to Texas A&M and at home against Auburn to blow it. LSU wins the West by winning out, but there are still tests ahead against Ole Miss and Mississippi State. With a lot of luck, Ole Miss and Texas A&M can get close by winning out, but the tie-breaking scenarios don’t work out well. Realistically, everyone but LSU needs Bama to lose twice, and if that happens, then Mississippi State will become a major player.

To get a bit wacky, if Alabama loses to LSU and Texas A&M, Mississippi State will take the West by winning out against A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Since we might be predicting an Ole Miss win over Georgia …

Predicted East Finish: 1. Florida, 2. Georgia, 3. South Carolina
Predicted West Finish: 1. Alabama, 2. LSU, 3. Texas A&M
Predicted Championship: Alabama over Florida

Random Acts of Nutty …Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn’t feel like writing bigger blurbs for.

- Northwestern’s Venric Mark is the best player you’re never really paid attention to. Braxton Miller is the Big Ten Player of the Year, but Mark is throwing his hat into the ring.

- If you’re Maryland and you’re losing quarterbacks like Spinal Tap drummers, how do you not put Stefon Diggs under center and run the Wildcat?

- My God, how sad is my life? I’m way too fired up for the start of the NBA season.

- Watch out for Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib in the NFL draft process. By March and after the Combine, he’s going to be one of the hottest names on the board.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: The new kickoff rules this season … Underrated: Utah’s Reggie Dunn taking two kicks 100 yards for a score against Cal.
2) Overrated: Cincinnati QB Munchie Legeaux … Underrated: Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt
3) Overrated: Mario Cristobal ... Underrated: Krystal Ball
4) Overrated: Starting Tommy Rees and Case McCoy ... Underrated: Bringing Tommy Rees and Case McCoy off the bench
5) Overrated: Brady Hoke Year Two at Michigan ... Underrated: Rich Rodriguez Year One at Arizona

“If it were me, I'd bet everything. But that's me. I'm an aggressive gambler. Mr. Vegas. Come on. Go for it. Go for it. Yes, yes, there we go. I'm in.” … I’m not bailing. The double-digit late-season conference-game home dog theory came close last week, going 2-3, but the ones I rightly passed on – Auburn +14 over Texas A&M and Wyoming +16.5 over Boise State – really made it 2-5. I’m 25-13 ATS, so there’s some wiggle room to stick with the logic-defying annual super-trend.

- Duke +13.5 over Clemson (but be warned, I’m not really buying this one)
- Colorado +28 over Stanford (I’m a bit leery of this one, too)
- Idaho +19.5 over San Jose State
- Minnesota +12.5 over Michigan
- Iowa State +11 over Oklahoma

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … like the Maryland quarterback situation, everything was going well and I was on a roll, but I have a freshman linebacker stepping in to close things out.

- Oct. 30, Part 1 - It's USC's time to shine

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