Welcome to our fourth annual Preseason College Football Conference Predictions! Our lists are based upon the projected strength of each team combined with a simulation run on their schedule. So, a team can be worse but still finish ahead of a stronger team based upon their schedule. This year, we will do our list in order from best projected conference to the worst. For further reading, we encourage your to enjoy our FBS ratings, game projections, and our bowl game projections. As always, we hope you enjoy!
#1 – Southeastern Conference (SEC)
The SEC is projected to be the best conference in college football for the 2018-2019 season. The season looks like it is lining up for us to see an Alabama against Georgia repeat in the SEC Championship.
SEC West Projections
Surprise! Surprise! We have Alabama at the top of the SEC West. We think that this is clearly the best subconference in all of college football with five of the seven teams falling in our preseason top-25. Alabama is our overall #1 and Auburn is our overall #7, but with the Iron Bowl being played in Tuscaloosa we think that the Tide should easily take the SEC West title. Ole Miss and Arkansas should bring up the bottom of the league though both are likely to be bowl eligible at year end.
SEC East Projections
Georgia is our #3 preseason team and no other SEC East team is in our top-35, so we project the Bulldogs to run away with SEC East. In fact, our projections have them winning the East by just over 2 games in conference with a projected 6.7-1.3 record. The second tier of the SEC East should be competitive between Florida, South Carolina and Missouri but we don’t see any really challenging for the top spot.
#2 – Big Ten Conference
The Big Ten barely squeaks by the ACC as our #2 conference for this season. Like the SEC, the Big Ten looks very likely to have a repeat from 2017 in their Championship game.
Big Ten East Projections
The top of the Big Ten East is loaded in their top four, with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State all projected to be at 6-3 or better. All four of these teams fall within the top thirteen spots in our preseason ratings and all could make a realistic push for conference champion. Maryland and Indiana aren’t too bad, but clearly fall in the second tier of the division.
Big Ten West Projections
In what is clearly the weaker side of the Big Ten, Wisconsin should be the team the beat. With a loaded O-line and Jonathan Taylor in the backfield, they are going to be a very tough team to compete with. The rest of the Big Ten West is seemingly up for grabs as we project places 2 through 6 to all be within 1.3 wins of each other. It would be a shock if Illinois didn’t bring up the rear.
#3 – Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
The head of the class in the ACC is without a doubt, Clemson. They might have the best defensive line in college football history and the tools on offensive capable of winning a National Championship.
ACC Atlantic Projections
The ACC Atlantic could be very entertaining and might be the division most likely to have a few surprises. The ceiling for FSU is high, but the floor is also very low. NC State may have the best QB in the country in Ryan Finley and could shock. Boston College, Wake Forest and Syracuse all outperformed expectations with young teams last year so the future may be bright for all of those programs.
ACC Coastal Projections
This is the first year in a long time that we have a clear favorite in ACC Coastal. The Hurricanes are our preseason #14 team and have been on a strong upswing since hiring Mark Richt. Virginia Tech is poised to be the biggest challenge to Miami, but have some players with off-field issues which can certainly hurt their chances to compete.
#4 – Big 12 Conference
The Big 12 Conference is our preseason 4th ranked conference in FBS.
Big 12 Conference Projections
The Big 12 Conference should provide us with another exciting year of competitive jockeying to be conference champ. Oklahoma is the team to beat, but they need to replace Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. We really think it will be a dogfight for second place as Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia all have very impressive teams going into the season.
#5 – Pac-12 Conference
They avoid each other in the regular season, but we think there are pretty high odds that Washington will meet USC in the Pac-12 Championship.
Pac-12 North Projections
The Washington Huskies are as strong as they have ever been and we project them to go 8-1 in conference. If Bryce Love can stay healthy for the Cardinal, then they might be able to challenge but this division is UW’s to lose.
Pac-12 South Projections
Top-to-bottom, the Pac-12 South is a pretty solid division. USC is clearly the best of the bunch and we have them rated #15 in our preseason ratings. Arizona burst onto the scene last year with some electrifying play by Khalil Tate and we project them to finish 2nd in the division.
#6 – Independents
This year there are six FBS Independent teams and the collection of them start the season at #6 in our conference ratings. Most of this is because Notre Dame buoys this group with their preseason #11 rating. Army looks to have a decent team this year and should be bowl eligible. The remaining teams BYU, New Mexico St, Massachusetts, and Liberty all fall in our bottom 30.
#7 – American Athletic Conference (AAC)
After a simply magical season last year, UCF should again take the AAC Championship in what we consider the 7th strongest conference in the FBS.
AAC East Projections
UCF clearly has the strongest team in the American Athletic Conference, but is starting the 2018 season with a new head coach. South Florida loses their star QB in Quinton Flowers, but picks up the highly touted Alabama transfer Blake Barnett. Temple has a solid squad as well, but the rest of the AAC East should struggle to stay in contention.
AAC West Projections
The AAC West is set to be a relatively competitive division as Memphis, Houston, and Navy are all within 12 spots in our preseason ratings. Memphis is the team to beat, but we wouldn’t be shocked to see any of those teams at the top of the standings at the end of the season.
#8 – Mountain West Conference (MWC)
Boise State is a dark horse BCS bowl team and is a strong favorite to win the conference.
MWC Mountain Projections
Boise State has the best squad in the MWC Mountain division and should easily win the division. There looks to be a pretty good battle for second place with Utah State, Wyoming, and Colorado State all having solid teams.
MWC West Projections
|1||San Diego St||5.7||2.3||31.8||22.4|
|6||San Jose St||1.8||6.2||21.7||34.1|
San Diego State and Fresno State should be neck and neck trying to finish in the top spot of the MWC West.
#9 – Sun Belt Conference
The Sun Belt Conference is our 9th strongest conference to start the season, but could fall behind the MAC and CUSA as the season goes on.
Sun Belt East Projections
We actually have Appalachian State and Troy listed as co-champions as both are expected to go 6-2.
Sun Belt West Projections
Arkansas State is the strength of the Sun Belt West and should run away with the division.
#10 – Mid-American Conference (MAC)
We have the Mid-American Conference listed as our #10 strongest conference in our preseason ratings.
MAC East Projections
With a high powered offense, Ohio University looks to be the class of the MAC East.
MAC West Projections
We project Toledo to win the MAC West division with a 6-2 record.
#11 – Conference USA (CUSA)
Starting the season, Conference USA is listed as our top-to-bottom weakest conference.
CUSA East Projections
FAU is rolling behind the best Twitter account in college football (Lane Kiffin), but will be challenged by a very good Marshall team.
CUSA West Projections
|5||UT San Antonio||3.5||4.5||25.1||27.3|
The CUSA West is the worst division in the entire FBS, but should be a good battle between North Texas, UAB, and Louisiana Tech.