August 29, 2005

Let’s Play Some Football 2005: Non-BSC Conferences

I still don’t have a name for this bunch yet. I could call them “Mid-Majors”, but that’s more a college basketball term. Whatever they’re called, these guys had a breakthrough last year thanks to Utah. The Utes went undefeated and killed Big East champ Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. That probably won’t happen again this year, but if it does, look to the WAC. Boise State and Fresno State have the best of the little guys this season.

Conference USA East
1. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
2. Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
3. Memphis Tigers
4. Marshall Thundering Herd
5. East Carolina Pirates
6. Central Florida Golden Knights

Conference USA West
1. UTEP Miners
2. Tulane Green Wave
3. Houston Cougars
4. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
5. Rice Owls
6. SMU Mustangs

The C-USA loses its marquee program in Louisville, but tries to makes up for it with an expansion into the southwest. This league seems even more like a disparate entity now without the Cardinals, who left along with Cincinnati, South Florida, TCU, and Army. For now, UTEP is the best program here, but that might only last until a bigger program takes a chance on Mike Price. The bottom of the C-USA is awful. ECU bottomed out under John Thompson and now leaves his mess to Skip Holtz. George O’Leary at UCF and Phil Bennett at SMU need to show progress, and soon.

C-USA Champion: UTEP

Mid-American Conference East
1. Bowling Green Falcons
2. Miami Redhawks
3. Ohio Bobcats
4. Akron Zips
5. Kent State Golden Flashes
6. Buffalo Bulls

Mid-American Conference West
1. Toledo Rockets
2. Northern Illinois Huskies
3. Central Michigan Chippewas
4. Eastern Michigan Eagles
5. Ball State Cardinals
6. Western Michigan Broncos

The MAC jettisons Marshall and UCF, returning to a more Midwestern-centric group. That may change, as Temple (seriously, Temple?) is scheduled to join beginning next season. That matters little, as the power in this league is with four teams. The two top teams in each division, Bowling Green, Toledo, Miami and NIU have established themselves as among the best non-BCS programs in the country. Miami lost Terry Hoeppner to Indiana this season, and BGU’s Gregg Brandon could be next. Brandon’s Falcons are the best team this season, behind star QB Omar Jacobs.

MAC Champion: Bowling Green

Mountain West Conference
1. Utah Utes
2. Wyoming Cowboys
3. New Mexico Wolfpack
4. Colorado State Rams
5. Brigham Young Cougars
6. San Diego State Aztecs
7. Air Force Falcons
8. UNLV Rebels

With the departure of Urban Meyer and Alex Smith, Utah will fall back to the pack, just ahead of a surging Wyoming program. The top-4 of the MWC will be tightly bunched, as there isn’t much difference between Utah, Wyoming, NMU and Colorado State. The wildcards will be BYU with new coach Bronco Mendenhall and San Diego State, a talented team that probably needs a bowl game to save Coach Tom Craft’s job.

Sun Belt
1. North Texas Mean Green
2. Troy Trojans
3. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
4. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
5. Florida Atlantic Owls
6. Louisiana-Monroe Indians
7. Arkansas State Indians
8. Florida International Golden Panthers

The Sun Belt becomes quite a bit more geographically rational, dropping Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State for FAU and FIU. The new Florida teams will allow league schools access to lower-level Florida talent, much like North Texas does in Texas. The Mean Green has won 25 straight league games, and are the favorite again this season. Returning the last two national rushing championships will do that.

Western Athletic Conference
1. Boise State Broncos
2. Fresno State Bulldogs
3. Nevada Wolfpack
4. Hawaii Warriors
5. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
6. New Mexico State Aggies
7. Idaho Vandals
8. Utah State Aggies

This is without question the most lopsided league in college football. The top two programs, FSU and BSU, are top-25 caliber teams that have outside shots at BCS appearances. The other six teams are mediocre programs at best. The Broncos have an outstanding team returning after an undefeated season, but with a brutal early schedule (at Georgia, at Oregon State, Bowling Green) could find themselves 0-3 out of the gate. The Bulldogs have a game at USC, which does their BCS chances no favors either. As for the others, it’s a mixed bag. Nevada is improving. Hawaii is rebuilding. NMSU, USU and Idaho are just trying to survive

Previously: ACC, Big East, Big Ten

Posted by Frinklin at August 29, 2005 07:45 PM | TrackBack

Ay Ziggy Zoomba, Zoomba, Zoomba - Ay Ziggy Zoomba, Zoomba, Zay - Roll along BG warriors! Roll along and fight for B! G! S! U!

Go Falcons! God I wish football wouldn't have been a huge joke when I went to school at Bowling Green. Oh well, we had basketball. Now they have football, and sometimes basketball, and hockey. Damn, I got there too early.

Omar Jacobs is a stud. I nearly started an Omar Jacobs for Heisman blog, but never got around to it. Maybe I'll get it going this week, although it won't really do any good.

Posted by: Brandon at August 29, 2005 11:50 PM

How in the heck did you end up at Bowling Green?

Posted by: frinklin at August 30, 2005 07:16 PM

I wanted to study Sports Management, live closer to my then girlfriend, now wife that was going to college in New York (about six hours away), loved the fact that the school had the same initials as me(BGS and BGSU), college hockey and MAC basketball. I didn't realize just how boring and flat that town would be.

Posted by: Brandon at August 30, 2005 11:44 PM

Hey, I'm glad you didn't pick Arkansas State to finish last, Frinklin. Good work.

ASU will beat Mizzou on Saturday. Believe it.

Posted by: Jeremy at September 1, 2005 08:30 AM
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