Welcome to our third annual Preseason College Football Conference Predictions! This list doesn’t necessarily project which team is better, but who will win their prospective division based upon the schedule they were given. Without further adieu, here are our 2017 Preseason College Football Conference Predictions!
American Athletic Conference
Though finishing 7-1 in conference last season, USF was not able to play in the AAC Conference Championship due to their lost at Temple. This year, with most of their core returning, we expect them to breeze into the title game. UCF and Temple are projected to finish second and third in the division and their match up on November 18th could determine each team’s fate.
The ACC West is expected to be one of the more competitive divisions in the college football this season! Though Tulane and SMU are slated to finish on the bottom of the standings, both teams aren’t bad and have the ability to upset some teams. The top four teams are all projected to have between 4.7 and 5.6 wins in conference. This means one game has the potential to change the fate of any of these teams, and we wouldn’t be shocked if any of them end up finishing the season at the top of the AAC West.
Atlantic Coast Conference
Some would argue that the ACC Atlantic is the toughest football division in America this season, and we wouldn’t disagree. Florida State is the clear-cut favorite, but Clemson is coming off a National Championship and Louisville brings back Lamar Jackson. NC State is not a team to sleep on either as they were a field goal miss away from beating Clemson last year and they bring back most of their starters.
In last year’s projections we said about the ACC Coastal: We sometimes feel like a broken record as year-after-year the ACC Coastal looks like a total crap shoot. This year, not too much has changed! We do think that there is a small split that has opened up though with Duke and Virginia being clearly worse than the top five in the division this year. Miami is the favorite, but you never know how a team will perform when trying to break in a new quarterback.
Big Ten Conference
Big Ten East
Once again, the Big Ten East looks to be very solid at the top of the division. Ohio State, with their incredible depth and talent, shouldn’t have too much of a problem winning the division. Penn State and Michigan are both very good teams, but are a clear second best to the Buckeyes. Michigan State is down a bit as they are a very young team.
Big Ten West
Outside of Illinois and Purdue, there appears to be a decent amount of parity in the Big Ten West in 2017. Wisconsin is projected to win 7.6 games in conference as they have a very good draw from the Big Ten East playing Michigan, Indiana and Maryland. We expect a logjam for places two through five as Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa and Minnesota all all very comparable teams.
Big 12 Conference
The Big 12 is consistently one of the more fun conferences to watch throughout the year. Our projections show Oklahoma up top as they are stacked on both sides of the ball. After years of overprojection, we think Texas is due for a big year under Tom Herman. Oklahoma State brings back Mason Rudolph and their November 4th game against Oklahoma could very well determine the conference champion this year.
In 2017, Western Kentucky appears to be the clear favorite to not only win their division, but the entire conference as well. Marshall took a pretty big step back last year going 3-9, but they should be back in a mix as we project them to go .500 in conference. Middle Tennessee has a great team with a lot of firepower, but they will have a tough time keeping up with WKU.
|2||UT San Antonio||5.9||2.1||32.8||22.0|
In Conference USA West, we have a tale of two groups. Rice, North Texas, UAB and UTEP are all projected to win less than three games in conference. In the top section of the division, Louisiana Tech, UTSA, and Southern Miss are all projected to win over five games. We are leaning on Louisiana Tech to twin the division, but this one could go a few different ways.
After dominating the conference in 2016, Western Michigan should take a step back as they break in a new QB and slew of receivers. Toledo does return their star quarterback and is projected to win seven of eight games in conference. It’s never smart to sleep on Northern Illinois since they seemingly are in the mix every year.
Yes, you read that right. We project Ohio University to win the MAC East with Frank Solich’s high powered triple option attack. As a whole, the MAC East is down a little bit as the only team that seemingly has a chance to challenge Ohio is Miami (OH). These teams play on Halloween (a Tuesday) in what could determine the winner of this division.
Mountain West Conference
Over the past ten years or so, we’ve become so used to seeing Boise State on top of the standings that this division has become almost an afterthought. So, it’s very exciting to see that this year will be a challenge at the top with Colorado State and Wyoming having a legitmate shot at the title.
|1||San Diego St||6.6||1.4||36.0||20.4|
|5||San Jose St||2.6||5.4||24.2||31.2|
Our projections, for the second straight year, have San Diego State running away with the West as they project out almost a full three wins ahead of second place UNLV. Both Nevada and Hawaii will have very good offenses that could surprise a bit in the division, but neither are good enough to match San Diego State.
The Pac-12 North is going to be a very fun conference to watch in 2017. Oregon State and Cal shouldn’t make too much noise, but both have enough talent to be good for one shocking upset on the year. Washington State and Oregon are in the second tier of the division and have talented teams that should easily make a bowl game. Washington is our favorite to win the division, but does play at Stanford on a Friday night in November that could give the Cardinal the edge.
USC is as deep and loaded as they have been in years, and we expect them to win 7.8 wins in conference. UCLA, with a healthy Josh Rosen, is the second-best team. Colorado will take a step back after a historic year in 2016. Arizona and Arizona State should bring up the bottom of the standings as both are expected to win around three games.
Like the SEC West, we expect three teams to compete for the division in the SEC East. Georgia brings back an All-American running back and talented Sophomore quarterback. Florida is expected to improve again in Jim McElwain’s third year. Tennessee, if they can get consistent quartback play, will be a team to contend with in the East.
Once again, the SEC West absolutely loaded at the top of the division. Alabama is our preseason #1 team and have a very good chance to win the division and conference. LSU and Auburn are both in our top 10, but aren’t quite in the class of Alabama. The rest of this group, though talented, shouldn’t make too much noise in the SEC West.
Sun Belt Conference
|10||New Mexico St||2.6||5.4||26.7||34.5|
Coastal Carolina joins the Sun Belt this year, but is expected to finish at the bottom of the table. Appalachian State, Troy and Arkansas State are all valid contenders for the Sun Belt title this year as they are all projected to win between 6.4 and 7.2 games in conference.