Continuing the preview of the 2018 College Football Season, here is the rest of the conferences.
American Athletic Conference
University of Central Florida should be the favorite here as on paper they are undoubtedly the most talented squad in the conference. Their offense is incredibly good. After a 13-0 season under Scott Frost, expectations should still be high on this team. They will be challenged by University of South Florida and their great defense, Temple, University of Cincinnati, University of Connecticut, and East Carolina as they pose the biggest threat to UCF’s conference crown bid. On the other side of the conference there is Memphis who was a good enough side to win the conference had it not been a very successful UCF squad. Memphis has a very good offense, but they should make it to the conference title game. University of Houston poses the biggest threat to Memphis’ division title hopes with the likes of the best player in College Football, Ed Oliver, but Southern Methodist and Navy could be dark horses. Tulane and Tulsa will be the weakest teams in the division, but not necessarily the conference.
James Rowe: UCF vs Memphis in the conference championship game. UCF wins.
Thomas Martin: The Co-National Champion UCF Knights will continue their bid for perennial dominance in the AAC. They will face Memphis in the championship. UCF wins and makes another case for being put in the CFP.
Possibly the weakest of all the conferences, but there are some interesting stories here especially with Florida Atlantic as famed head coach Lane Kiffin leads FAU. The Owls are the consensus pick to win the conference, but there might be some competition from Marshall, Middle Tennessee, and Western Kentucky in their division. Others included in this division are Old Dominion, FIU, and Charlotte. In the West Division, it seems to be a little bit up for grabs with UTSA as the consensus pick to win it. They will be challenged by North Texas, Southern Mississippi, Louisiana Tech, UAB, UTEP, and Rice.
James: FAU vs UTSA in conference championship. FAU are the champions.
Thomas: I’m never going to put too much confidence in a Lane Kiffin team. Just ask Oakland and Tennessee and USC and Alabama about that. I see Marshall coming up and challenging FAU. Look for Marshall vs. UTSA in the championship, Marshall winning.
Not an actual conference, but Notre Dame is the biggest name here as they are 12th ranked team in the nation. Notre Dame had a disappointing end to the 2017 season after a promising start to it. Led by Brian Kelly, there will be a lot expectations for the program, but if they don’t live up to them, you could possibly see Kelly being shown the door. BYU will be trying find a new conference to call home soon. New Mexico State and Liberty will be doing the same, but Army, while seemingly destined to be in a conference soon, seem content to be an independent at the moment. UMass seems to be in limbo in finding a new conference as well.
James: Notre Dame will finish in Top 10.
Thomas: Notre Dame finishes strong, but just miss out on the New Year’s Six. A week after the season ends, rumors begin that BYU will finally be welcomed into the Big12, only to be disappointed once again. Everyone else? Who knows? Who cares?
The Mid-American Conference might be a step above Conference USA, but this is still a weak conference. That being said, it is a competitive and fun one to watch. In the East Division, the consensus pick to win it will be Ohio University, but will face heavy competition from Miami (OH), Buffalo, and Akron. The rest of the division will be rounded out by Bowling Green and Kent State. In the West Division, the pick to win the division is Northern Illinois, but will be challenged by Toledo, Western Michigan, and Central Michigan. Eastern Michigan and Ball State round the rest of the conference.
James: Ohio vs Northern Illinois in conference championship. Northern Illinois is the champion.
Thomas: MACtion strikes again with some surprisingly fun matchups both in and out of conference. I agree with James that the championship match will be between Northern Illinois (Go Huskies!) and Ohio. NIU pulls it out to win.
Mountain West Conference
One of the more underrated conferences in the league, this could be one of the more competitive in all of college football. Boise State is thought to not only be the best team in their division, but all of the conference as they are ranked 22nd in the Top 25. However, their division (Mountain) is tough with the likes of Utah State, Wyoming, Colorado, and Air Force vying to challenge them for the top spot. New Mexico is expected to struggle. In the West Division, it’s tougher to find to the consensus pick to win is as San Diego State and Fresno State will battle it out for the top spot. UNLV and Nevada will test them, while Hawaii and San Jose State are expected to struggle.
James: Boise State vs San Diego State in conference championship. Boise State are the champions.
Thomas: Look out for Utah State to make a bid for dominance on the back of their QB Jordan Love and their superb defense. They play SDSU in the championship. SDSU wins.
Sun Belt Conference
This should be an intriguing conference to watch as there is a lot of balance here. The East Division should be competitive with Troy being the favorite to win, but will be challenged by Appalachian State and Georgia State. Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina will be competitive, but will round out the bottom. The West Division on the other hand should be ultra tight four teams having a decent shot at winning the top spot. The favorite is Arkansas State, but ULM, Louisiana, and South Alabama will challenge. Texas State will struggle.
James: Troy vs Arkansas State in conference championship. Arkansas State are the champions.
Thomas: Ah, the Fun Belt! I agree with James about Troy vs. Arkansas State, but I think the Trojans could pull it out to win.